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Richard Bradley’s red bean ketchup, which is really not ketchup but is really good

In 1728, Richard Bradley, first Professor of Botany at the University of Cambridge and creator of the concept that would be called ecology, attempted to replicate soy sauce. Soybeans were not then cultivated in Europe so Bradley attempted to substitute red beans, a relative newcomer to English gardens. His attempt failed because the red beans would not ferment, but the resulting perishable sauce is excellent for service with medallions of finfish, poultry, pork or veal.



  • a drained 15½ oz can of red beans
  • ¼ teaspoon each of cayenne, powdered clove, nutmeg, mace and pepper
  • 1 or two smashed and minced garlic cloves
  • 2-3 oz orange juice


Simply dump everything into a food processer and blast until smooth.


-You can of course use dried beans that have been soaked overnight and then simmered until tender. The process takes a long time, however, and we have discerned no difference in flavor between the ketchup made with dried as opposed to canned beans.

-When it comes to cans we like Goya.

-The original recipe appears both in Bradley’s Country Gentleman and Farmer’s Monthly Director (1728) and in his Country Housewife and Lady’s Director (1732).

-Bradley’s recipe, consistent with common practice at the time, contains no proportions and you can increase or even delete any of the spices.

-The sauce is the thing. As Bradley notes with characteristic aplomb: “There is a Kidney-Bean, we have here, which has a fine relish in it, as the Indians say, but in fact there is none but what they give it by Art.”