Whataburger Ketchup Verdict

A Texas grocery store now stocks the popular ketchup… but is it the same?

The west coast has In-N-Out, the east coast has Five Guys, and in the south we have Whataburger… To be honest, if you live in DFW, you can have all three… and I’ve actually thought about doing a breakfast-lunch-dinner trifecta, but I haven’t… which is probably why I’m still alive to type about ketchup.

Whataburger is one of the places you really miss when you move away. It is open 24 hours, the burgers are great, a 2:00 am taquito always hits the spot, but the thing that always keeps them top of mind is the perfect blend of hot salty fries and their fancy ketchup.

Something about the little ketchup tubblets stand out from the typical Heinz packets. I think it is slightly sweeter, a little thicker, and blends perfectly with a hot french fry.

In the past year or so, Whataburger has finally acknowledged the love for their sweet sauce. They introduced a limited run spicy version in their restaurants. Packaged in a black container, this spicy cousin had hints of jalapeño and a subtle heat that lingered on your tongue Where most restaurants treat ketchup as a generic outsourced condiment, Whataburger created a ketchup so good, that people show up just to see how it has changed.

About a month ago, Whataburger made a big announcement. Not only was Spicy Ketchup coming back as a permanent menu item, it was hitting the shelves at HEB, a Texas grocery chain (HEB has started partnering with several Texas icons… They are selling Franklin BBQ sauces as well).

Today I gave myself the opportunity to compare: one medium fry vs 4 Whataburger Ketchups.

Original Whataburger Fancy vs HEB Whataburger Fancy and Original Whataburger Spicy vs HEB Whataburger Spicy.

The first thing I noticed was that the HEB retail versions of the ketchups were brighter red than the Whataburger Tubblets, and the consistency was slightly runnier. Visually, the HEB versions looked similar to what you might find from Heinz… all this is to say that HEB’s fancy ketchup wasn’t feeling quite as fancy as Whataburger’s original recipe.

As for taste, the spicy versions were nearly identical. The Whataburger tubblet may have had a slightly more pronounced jalapeño flavor, but they were very close. Other than the slightly thicker mouth-feel of the tubblet version… I’d consider spicy a virtual tie.

Fancy is a different story. HEB’s version is good, maybe even great… it just isn’t the same. In my mind I see one big ketchup factory squeezing sauce into different shaped containers, but I’d be wrong. The bottled version isn’t quite as sweet. Perhaps this is so it pairs better with other foods, or satisfies a wider range of palates… but it doesn’t have the same perfect pairing with hot fries as the original. Combine that with the runnier consistency and brighter color… and you have a completely different product… maybe not completely different, but not a replica.

I understand that things change once a product is produced with massive scale, but I can’t imagine that the original Whataburger Fancy Ketchup tubblets were churned and packed by hand. This was already taking place in some kind of factory… so why isn’t it exactly the same?

The real question here: is it worth it? While it is different, I still say yes. If you’re a native Texan who finds yourself displaced for a while, order yourself some Blue Bell and a case of Fancy Ketchup, and you’ll be set for a while. If you live close to an HEB, you’ll still likely be happy with the new squeeze bottles… but you’re also lucky enough to stock up on tubblets when you need a taste of the real thing.

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