As many restaurants switch to a takeout-centric business model, it was only going to be a matter of time before something in the supply chain had to give.  Styrofoam boxes? Sporks? The secret ingredient boasted by every restaurant: Love?

Nope, it’s ketchup packets, apparently.

If you go to the store, you may notice that there’s actually still plenty of ketchup bottles to go around.  So how hard could it be to just make more packets?  Well, if I may go on a brief tangent, I believe I may have some industry-insider intel that could shed a little light on things.  My job at a grocery store sushi counter recently had an issue where our supplier had to discontinue the individual packets of pickled ginger for about a month, while still providing us large buckets of loose ginger.  There’s something going on at the putting-things-into-packets level of the supply chain that Big Packet doesn’t want us to know about.   

One could argue that this is probably a sign that we need to move away from such unnecessary forms of single-use plastics, and that if you really go through that much ketchup you should just buy a bottle of ketchup?  Like you’re probably eating takeout at home anyways, just get some regular ketchup.  But that doesn’t help anyone…. or at least it wouldn’t make a funny post.  Instead, let’s turn our attention towards finding the best replacement packet.  

At first, I wanted to make this about how we should all just start using Taco Bell sauce packets for fries from now on, since they seem to always give me about 50 of them anytime I ask for a couple.  But why stop there, when there’s a whole fridge shelf full of different discarded sauce packets to choose from?

Also, just so we’re clear: I’m exclusively talking about packets here.  None of those little tubs allowed here.  Like, we already know that ranch or this mysterious thing of cheese sauce from Sonic would probably be better with fries.  Where’s the fun in that?  

Taco Bell Fire Sauce

If quantity has a quality all its own, then this packet is the king of the condiment drawer.  Even if it didn’t have that going for it, the Fire Sauce has enough of a vinegary kick that it could feasibly be considered a decent replacement to ketchup, in addition to the spice.  My only real complaint here is that it does have some chunks of peppers in it, so dipping fries in it is a little more complicated than ketchup.  4/5 

Arby’s Sauce

I actually don’t know how to describe Arby’s Sauce off the top of my head.  Like, runny BBQ sauce? So like, theoretically it should make a decent ketchup substitute.  And, aside from my belief that the three-pepper sauce is the superior Arby’s condiment, this sauce really is probably the most ketchup-like sauce on this list. It’s sweet, it’s tangy.  It’s thicc (-er than the other contenders).  Sort of a rare find in terms of junk in the packet stash, though.  I don’t think this is one of those things that they typically just throw in the bag at random.  5/5

Chinese Mustard

Well, it’s thick enough to dip fries in.  But, even if it can match the spiciness of the Fire Sauce, the earthiness of the mustard just seems kind of… not right with anything that isn’t an eggroll. 2/5


I’ve had poutine with truffle honey on it before, this should more or less be like that, right?  Well, it has the sweetness of ketchup, and it’s easier to dip into than the fire sauce, but I’m not sure if I’d want to do this ever again.  Try it if you’re one of those people that dip fries in milkshakes, I guess. 3/5

(Pro tip: dipping a fry in honey and then the Chinese mustard does not make honey mustard.  It ends up just taking like both of those things, but separate. It’s just…weird.)

Soy Sauce

I didn’t think this was going to work in any way whatsoever.  And surprisingly, I was right.  Granted, it lended some “umami” flavors or whatever, but it spilled out all over the plate, and if these fries hadn’t already been a little undersalted, this mess would have been way too salty. 1/5

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