Are Condiments Okay on the Carnivore Diet?

Are condiments okay on the carnivore diet

Meat, salt, and water days in days out seem boring and a common question from people new to the carnivore diet is whether they can have condiments with their meat too.

The short answer is, because of their small serving sizes for flavoring purposes, you certainly can have condiments on the carnivore diet if you are healthy and can tolerate them well.

The best ones to have are single-ingredient condiments like salt, herbs, and spices and those that have as few ingredients as possible and are free from industrial seed oils (canola oil, soybean oil, corn oil, sunflower oil, etc.), added sugar, preservatives and other chemicals.

Manufactured condiments such as tomato ketchup, mayonnaise, salad cream and salad dressings are best avoided because they are basically a source of empty calories from vegetable oil and processed sugar and often contain harmful additives.

If you have health issues that you are trying to resolve with the carnivore diet, you should avoid all condiments. Eat ruminant meat, ruminant fat and organs and you will get all nutrients for your body’s needs while eliminating all plant antinutrients and toxins from your diet to give your body the best chance at healing.

If you are trying to lose weight, condiments are probably not a good idea for some people, even if well tolerated. Condiments may encourage you to eat more and it’s not what you want when you are trying to lose weight. Eat only when you are genuinely hungry and every bite of meat will be delicious on its own.

The remainder of the post covers what is in the 14 most popular condiments (tomato ketchup, mayonnaise, soy sauce, salsa, hot sauce, BBQ sauce, horseradish sauce, salad cream, etc.), whether you should have them on the carnivore diet plus suggestions on choosing the best condiments.

What are condiments?

A broad definition of condiments includes all seasonings and sauces that are added to food during cooking or after it has been prepared.[1]

A narrower definition of condiments includes seasonings and sauces that are added to food after it has been prepared. They are usually made available at the table and people can choose the kind and amount according to their preferences to add to their food before eating.[2]

Apart from salt, pepper, and sugar which are common in many countries, each culture has its own favorite condiments.

The most common condiments in the U.S. are ketchup, salsa, mayonnaise, soy sauce, mustard, and hot sauce.

Britain’s favorites are ketchup, mayonnaise, BBQ sauce, salad cream, mustard, horseradish sauce, and brown sauce.

Canadians’ popular condiments are guacamole, mayonnaise, maple syrup, mustard, bbq sauce, and soy sauce while Australia loves chicken salt, ketchup, bbq sauce, mayonnaise, mustard, and vegemite.

Soy sauce is very popular in some Asian markets such as China, Japan, and Indonesia while fish sauce is popular in Vietnam, Thailand and Myanmar. [3] Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is also popular in many Asian countries including China, Japan, and Vietnam.

You already know what is in single-ingredient condiments like salt, sugar, and various herbs and spices (e.g. basil, cilantro, chives, dill, mint, parsley, cinnamon, peppercorns, chili pepper, ginger, turmeric, paprika, coriander, and cloves).

However, the more popular condiments are mostly manufactured sauces and cream.

Because the nutritional contents of condiments vary significantly across manufacturers, in the section below, let’s have a look at what is in some of the popular brands to decide whether they are okay to have on the carnivore diet.

Popular condiments and whether they are okay on the carnivore diet

1. Heinz Tomato Ketchup

Ingredient: Tomato concentrate from red ripe tomatoes, distilled vinegar, high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, salt, spice, onion powder, natural flavoring.

Nutrition facts: One serving (17 grams) has 20 calories, 5 grams of carbs (4 grams is sugar).

Is tomato ketchup okay on the carnivore diet?

This tomato ketchup is just a source of empty calories mostly from processed sugar (high fructose corn syrup and corn syrup).

Its main ingredient, tomato, is also high in lectin. Lectins are a type of plant protein that binds to carbohydrates. In animal studies, lectins have been found to cause damages to the gastrointestinal tract, increase inflammation, and may have a certain role in some autoimmune conditions. [4, 5]

In a small study, 102 patients with various autoimmune conditions (rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, Sjogren’s, Crohn’s, colitis, scleroderma, mixed connective tissue disease, and biomarkers of endothelial inflammation) were put on a low lectin diet and supplemented with probiotics and prebiotics. After 9 months, 95 out of 102 patients achieved complete resolution of autoimmune markers and inflammatory markers while the other 7 patients all had reduced markers, but incomplete resolution.[6]

Although tomato itself has a small amount of essential vitamins and minerals, together with processed sugar, it becomes very unhealthy. [7]

In my opinion, given the above facts, it’s best to avoid tomato ketchup on the carnivore diet.

If you still like to have it, try to adhere to the suggested serving size and use only a small amount for flavor.

If you have autoimmune conditions, it’s best to avoid tomato ketchup. You can check if tomatoes and other nightshades trigger your autoimmune symptoms by testing them out with just fresh tomatoes and other produce.

If you test with tomato ketchup and find out you are sensitive to it, because there are so many ingredients in tomato ketchup, you wouldn’t know which one you are reacting to.

2. Hellmann’s Real Mayonnaise

Ingredient: Soybean oil, water, whole eggs, egg yolks, distilled vinegar, salt, sugar, lemon juice concentrate, calcium disodium EDTA (used to protect quality), natural flavors

Nutrition facts: One serving (1 tbsp, 13 grams) has 90 calories, all of which come from fat. Carbs and protein contents are listed as zero, probably due to negligible amounts.

Is mayonnaise okay on the carnivore diet?

This mayonnaise is mostly soybean oil with a bit of egg and flavors and void of essential nutrients.

It also contains a preservative (calcium disodium EDTA ) which has been approved by the FDA to be used in food, cosmetic products, industrial products and treatments of metal toxicity (e.g. lead poisoning). However, it has dangerous toxic effects through the chelation of essential metals and prolonged use can cause trace metal depletion. When used in the treatment of lead poisoning, potential side effects include a febrile reaction with headache, myalgia, nausea, and vomiting.[8]

Mayonnaise is also high in calories. One tablespoon of mayonnaise has 90 calories which will take approximately 20 minutes of brisk walking to burn off for an average person.

Because mayonnaise is basically just industrial seed oil plus flavors and preservatives, in my view, it is not a good idea to add it to your carnivore diet.

If you are trying to lose weight with this diet, it’s all the more reason to avoid mayonnaise and similar types of empty calories.

3. Great Value Less Sodium Soy Sauce

Ingredient: Soy sauce (water, wheat, soybeans, salt), lactic acid (preservative), sodium benzoate (preservative).

Nutrition facts: One serving (1 tbsp, 15 ml) has 5 calories from carbs and protein.

Is soy sauce okay on the carnivore diet?

Soy sauce can be made by naturally fermenting soybeans which will take months or through a quick and cheap chemical process using hydrolyzed soy protein.

A byproduct of the chemical process of making soy sauce using hydrolyzed soy protein is a contaminant called 3-MCPD which has been reported to be carcinogenic, nephrotoxic, and reproductively toxic in animal studies and has been registered as a chemosterilant for rodent control.[9, 10]

Furthermore, around 90% of U.S. soybeans are produced using genetically engineered seeds that are resistant to herbicides such as glyphosate, glufosinate, and dicamba.[11]  This means when farmers spay those “Roundup Ready” soybean plants with herbicides, weeds are killed but the plants would survive.

Roundup Ready GM-soybeans are found to contain high residues of glyphosate and AMPA (breakdown of glyphosate) compared to conventional and organic soybeans. They also have poorer nutritional profiles.[12]

While soybean crops may be resistant to those herbicides, humans aren’t. “In mammals, including humans, glyphosate mainly has cytotoxic and genotoxic effects, causes inflammation, and affects lymphocyte functions and the interactions between microorganisms and the immune system“. [131415]

In addition, it also contains preservatives, lactic acid and sodium benzoate. Sodium benzoate is used as a preservative agent in medications, cosmetic compounds and shampoos. It is clastogenic, mutagenic and cytotoxic to human lymphocytes in vitro. [16, 17]

Sodium benzoate combined with vitamin C forms benzene which is a known carcinogen. In a study on rats, it is found that sodium benzoate and vitamin C synergistically aggravate testicular dysfunction. However, the FDA is of the view that low levels of benzene found in beverages don’t pose a safety concern for consumers.[18, 19]

Soybean also contains antinutrients such as enzyme inhibitors, phytoestrogens and saponins.

Overall, it is definitely not a pretty picture for soy sauce.

While it is low in calories and has only a few ingredients, what’s not listed on the label is the concern and I think it’s best to avoid soy sauce unless you can find a naturally brew organic soy sauce.

4. Tostitos Salsa

Ingredient: Tomato puree (water and tomato paste), diced tomatoes in tomato juice, jalapeno peppers, onions, vinegar, salt, garlic powder, and natural flavor.

Nutrition facts: One serving (2 tbsp, 33 grams) has 10 calories from carbohydrates.

Is salsa okay on the carnivore diet?

Salsa’s main ingredient is high in lectins which, as discussed above, can pose health risks such as causing damages to the gastrointestinal tract, increasing inflammation, and triggering autoimmune conditions.

Apart from lectins, this particular salsa appears okay because it is free from vegetable oil, added sugar, and preservatives.

If you are generally healthy and free from gut or autoimmune problems, it’s okay to include salsa in your diet.

However, please keep your consumption to the suggested serving size because it is often the case that the dose makes the poison. Have it only when tomatoes are in season or on occasion to ensure you don’t consume too much lectin.

5. French’s Classic Yellow Mustard

Ingredient: Distilled vinegar, water, mustard seed, salt, turmeric, paprika, spice, natural flavor, garlic powder.

Nutrition facts: One serving (1 tsp, 5 grams) has zero calories.

Is mustard okay on the carnivore diet?

Similar to salsa, this mustard sauce has only a few ingredients and is free from vegetable oil, sugar and additives and it is okay to use in moderation if you can tolerate it well.

However, although mustard seeds contain some essential nutrients (potassium, magnesium, calcium, sodium, and iron) and antioxidant properties, they are also a source of antinutrients like phytates, phytic acid, oxalates, tannins, and phenols. [20]

Uncooked mustard seeds also contain goitrin which has been implicated in thyroid dysfunction. Mustard allergy is not uncommon. There was even a case of a woman who developed a severe anaphylactic reaction immediately after the ingestion of mustard.[21, 22, 23, 24]

This emphasizes the importance of having plant food including all types of condiments in moderation only even if you think you can tolerate it well.

Plants don’t want to be eaten and, although they are full of nutrients, they also have an abundance of natural pesticides to protect themselves from predators, humans included.

6. Frank’s RedHot Original Cayenne Pepper Hot Sauce

Ingredient: Aged cayenne red peppers, distilled vinegar, water, salt and garlic powder.

Nutrition facts: One serving (1 tsp, 5ml) has zero calories.

Is hot sauce okay on the carnivore diet?

Similar to mustard seeds, cayenne peppers offer some nutrients (vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, potassium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, etc.) but also contain some troublesome anti-nutrients like phytate, oxalate, alkaloid, saponins, and lectins. [25, 26] Capsaicin, the compound in cayenne peppers that produces the burning spicy taste, is a potent natural pesticide.

Cayenne red peppers belong to the nightshade family. Nightshades have been linked to intestinal permeability and autoimmune conditions. There isn’t a lot of quality studies in this area, however, people with autoimmune conditions have reportedly improved their conditions after eliminating nightshades from their diets. [27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32]

Because this hot sauce has only a few natural ingredients, is free from vegetable oil, sugar and additives, and the serving is very small, in my opinion, it’s okay to use in moderation if well tolerated.

However, it’s clear that if you have intestinal permeability or autoimmune conditions, it’s best to avoid hot sauce.

7. Kraft Horseradish Sauce

Ingredient: Soybean oil, water, vinegar, sugar, eggs, modified cornstarch, contains less than 2% of salt, high fructose corn syrup, horseradish, natural flavor (contains mustard), spices, guar gum, paprika, garlic, onions, hydrolyzed corn protein, oleoresin paprika (color).

Nutrition facts: One serving (2 tbsp, 29 grams) has 100 calories with 9 grams of fat and 4 grams of carbs (of which 3 grams are added sugar).

Is horseradish sauce okay on the carnivore diet?

Given the fact that this sauce contains several ingredients that you should avoid such as soybean oil, sugar, modified cornstarch, and high fructose corn syrup, it’s best to avoid it. It is practically just a source of empty calories from soybean oil and processed sugar.

8. Stubb’s Original Barbecue Sauce

Ingredient: Tomato puree (water, tomato paste), distilled vinegar, sugar, molasses, salt, spices (including black pepper, paprika, chili pepper), corn starch, brown sugar, contains less than 0.5% of: onion, garlic, guar gum (thickener), xanthan gum (thickener), natural flavor (including hickory smoke).

Nutrition facts: One serving (2 tbsp, 33 grams) has 30 calories from around 7 grams of carbs (of which 4 grams is added sugar).

Is barbecue sauce okay on the carnivore diet?

Similar to salsa, barbecue sauce’s main ingredient is tomato which is high in lectins. It also has added sugar of about 1 teaspoon of sugar per serving.

Barbecue sauce is very similar to tomato ketchup. Given its lectin and added sugar content, in my opinion, it’s best to avoid barbecue sauce, especially if you have gut or autoimmune conditions.

9. Hidden Valley Gluten-Free, Original Ranch Salad Dressings & Topping

Ingredient: Vegetable oil (soybean and/or canola), water, sugar, salt, nonfat buttermilk, egg yolk, natural flavors, less than 1% of: spices, garlic, onion, vinegar, phosphoric acid, xanthan gum, modified food starch, monosodium glutamate, artificial flavors, disodium phosphate, sorbic acid and calcium disodium EDTA added to preserve freshness, disodium inosinate & guanylate.

Nutrition facts: One serving (2 tbsp, 30 ml) has 130 calories from 14 grams of fat and 2 grams of carbohydrates.

Is salad dressing okay on the carnivore diet?

This salad dressing is very unhealthy because it contains vegetable seed oil, added sugar, and many additives such as monosodium glutamate, artificial flavors, preservatives and flavor enhancers.

It is also very high in calories with one serving delivering 130 calories.

In my view, it’s not a good idea to use salad dressing or salad cream on the carnivore diet considering its list of unhealthy ingredients.

If you are trying to lose weight with the carnivore diet, this unhealthy and calorie-dense salad dressing should be avoided.

If you are trying to fix some health issues with this diet, given the long list of unhealthy ingredients and additives, you should definitely avoid it too.

10. HP Brown Sauce

Ingredient: Tomatoes, malt vinegar (from barley), molasses, glucose-fructose syrup, spirit vinegar, sugar, dates, modified cornflour, rye flour, salt, spices, flavorings, tamarind.

Nutrition facts: One serving (15 grams) has 18 calories from 0.1 gram of protein and 4.2 grams of sugar.

Is brown sauce okay on the carnivore diet?

Brown sauce is not as bad as mayonnaise and salad dressing because it doesn’t contain seed oil or preservatives but it is just another source of lectin and empty calories and I think it’s not a good addition to your diet.

I would say if you are healthy and if it helps you stick to your meat-based diet, it’s okay to use a small quantity on occasion.

However, due to the presence of a nightshade plant and other plant compounds, if you have an autoimmune condition, you should avoid all manufactured sauces including brown sauce.

11. Freshness Guaranteed Guacamole, Mild

Ingredient: Hass avocado, tomatillo, dehydrated onion, sea salt, jalapeno pepper, dehydrated garlic, garlic, dehydrated cilantro, dehydrated jalapeno pepper, cilantro essential oil.

Nutrition facts: One serving (2 tbsp, 30 grams) has 45 calories from 4 grams of fat and 3 grams of carbs.

Is guacamole okay on the carnivore diet?

I have written a post on whether avocado is okay on the carnivore diet. In my view, it is fine to occasionally add avocados to a meat-based diet. This is because the avocado flesh is rich in many essential nutrients, high in good fat, low in sugar, and free from troublesome anti-nutrients like gluten, phytate, lectins, oxalates, tannins, saponins, and trypsin inhibitors. Avocados can also help you meet some nutrient needs easier if you don’t eat organ meat, dairy products or like to eat well-cooked meat.

Guacamole’s main ingredient is avocado. This particular guacamole has a few other spices but is free from industrial seed oils, added sugar and preservatives. Therefore, if you enjoy guacamole and have no issues with it, it is one of a few okay condiments to add to your diet.

However, please note that avocado is considered a high-salicylate fruit.

Salicylate is a phenolic compound that plants produce to protect themselves. [33]

Some people can have salicylate intolerance and symptoms in those cases include headaches, migraines, respiratory irritation, gastrointestinal discomfort, irritability, joint pain, swelling and fluid retention, mouth ulcers, sore and itchy eyes, etc. [34]

If you are one of those who are sensitive to salicylate, you should avoid both guacamole and avocado and other salicylate-rich food.

12. Butternut Mountain Farm 100% Pure Vermont Maple Syrup

Ingredient: Pure maple syrup, all natural, no preservatives.

Nutrition facts: One serving (2 tbsp, 30 ml) has 110 calories, all of which come from sugar.

Is maple syrup okay on the carnivore diet?

Maple syrup is a condensed sugar made from the sap of maple trees.

Maple syrup is especially high in manganese and zinc. A 30-gram serving delivers 50% of RDI for manganese and 8% of RDI for zinc. [35]

Maple syrup also has a small amount of minerals such as calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, and copper.

Although it provides some minerals and antioxidants, you will need to consume a lot of sugar to get some meaningful intake. You really don’t need to use maple syrup as a source of essential nutrients on a meat-based diet because meat will provide you with plenty of those.

Overall, because maple syrup is a less bad form of sugar, it’s okay to use in moderation.

If you are trying to lose weight, it’s best to avoid maple syrup due to its high sugar content which stimulates appetite. In addition, any food with a significant amount of carbohydrates will spike blood sugar and insulin secretion. If you find it hard to portion-control when it comes to carbs, avoiding it in the first place is the best option.

If you are treating health problems with the carnivore diet, it’s better to stay away from maple syrup too – you don’t know what plant compounds are left in the maple syrup. If you really want to have some form of sweetener, raw and unfiltered honey may be a better choice.

13. Kraft Vegemite

Ingredient: Yeast extract (from yeast grown on barley and wheat), salt, mineral, salt (508), malt extract (from barley), color (150c), flavors, niacin, thiamine, riboflavin, folate.

Nutrition facts: One serving (5 grams) has 9 calories from 1.3 grams of protein and less than 1 gram of fat and sugar.

Is vegemite okay on the carnivore diet?

Vegemite is made from leftover brewer’s yeast with added B vitamins, folate, salt and flavor.

Although it has added vitamins to make it look more healthy, you don’t need to eat vegemite for these, animal-based food is already a rich source of highly bioavailable vitamins.

Given vegemite is free from vegetable oils, sugar and preservatives, if you enjoy its salty and savory flavors, it’s okay to add to your carnivore diet.

As with all other condiments, if you are trying to resolve a health issue with this diet, it’s best to stay away from all condiments, including vegemite. Eat fresh meat and stay away from anything that comes out of a box or a jar.

14. Squid Brand Fish sauce

Ingredient: Anchovy (stolephorus), extract fish 77%, salt 29%, sugar 3%.

Nutrition facts: One serving (15 ml) has 8 calories from 1.7 grams of protein and 0.3 grams of carbs (of which 0.2 gram is sugar).

Is fish sauce okay on the carnivore diet?

Fish sauce is made by mixing fish (usually anchovy) and salt and leaving the mixture ferment in big wooden barrels. The mixture begins to liquify in a few weeks and the liquid is drained and recirculated back into the barrels. The whole process can take months.

Fish sauce has a very small amount of some essential vitamins and minerals. [34]

Fish sauce is a big part of many Asian cultures’ cuisines and is an exception because it is perhaps the most carnivore diet friendly amongst the above popular condiments.

There is some added sugar but the amount is very small and you can also buy fish sauce that is purely fish extract and salt.

Fish sauce is an acquired taste, some people love them, some people can’t stand the smell. If you like it, it’s definitely fine to use it on the carnivore diet.

Choosing the best condiments

In summary, if you are a healthy individual, it is generally okay to use condiments in very small quantities for flavoring purposes.

However, some condiments are better than others and some are best avoided altogether. As a general rule, when looking for condiments, look for the ones that are:

  • Animal-based (e.g. butter, bacon bits, fish sauce, shrimp paste, pate, honey)
  • Single ingredient or as few ingredients as possible
  • Fresh, whole, least processed (e.g. fresh herbs or ground up spice seeds)
  • Without vegetable oil (canola oil, corn oil, soybean oil, sunflower oil, etc.)
  • Without added sugar
  • Free from preservatives
  • Free from artificial colorings, flavors, sweeteners
  • Non-GMO and organic if possible.

Condiments like tomato ketchup, bbq sauce, salad dressing, salad cream are best avoided due to the added sugar, vegetable oil and preservatives.

There can be significant differences in nutritional contents between different brands, so it is important to read labels carefully if you want to add condiments to your diet.

Who should avoid condiments

If you have health issues that you are trying to resolve with the carnivore diet, it’s best to avoid all condiments until your health problems are completely resolved.

As mentioned in this post, when you are trying to fix an underlying health problem like a compromised gut, diabetes, autoimmune conditions, and obesity-related health issues, you need to eat the most nutrient-dense food and eliminate or minimize toxin intake. This means eating ruminant meat, fat and organ and avoiding all plant food.

When your health problems are completely resolved, of course you can experiment with adding back plant food including condiments to see which one is safe to add back.

If you are trying to lose weight, it is best to stay away from condiments. Because they enhance flavors and stimulate appetite, some people may eat more as a result.

When you are trying to lose weight, food is best treated as a source of sustenance, not a form of entertainment.

In my opinion, if you need condiments to eat a piece of steak, you are not genuinely hungry and you don’t really need to eat in the first place. If you only eat when you are genuinely hungry, meat by itself will taste amazing.

After you’ve reached your ideal weight, you can add condiments again to see if they affect your food intake and your waistline.

Although some condiments can be high in sodium contents, I have intentionally ignored this issue because, based on my research, high sodium intake does not appear to increase health risks to the general public. Please check out this post on salt on the carnivore diet if you have any concerns.


If you find this post helpful, please consider sharing this post and my site with your family, friends, and followers. That would be much appreciated. Please also check out my library of articles on the carnivore diet here which is updated regularly.

DisclaimerThe information in this post is for reference purposes only and not intended to constitute or replace professional medical advice. Please consult a qualified medical professional before making any changes to your diet or lifestyle.

Photo creditVictoria Shes On Unsplash

Sophia Le, PhD

I'm Sophia Le. A few years ago, I came across the carnivore diet by accident. I was intrigued and tried to find out as much as I can about this way of eating. On this site, I write about what I know so people who are interested can learn about it and make decisions that are best for their health.

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