We are sharing some of the best substitutes for tomato sauce and how to substitute them in your favorite recipe.
We’ve all been there; we have a craving for Spaghetti and Meatballs, or we have our eye on a recipe that calls for tomato sauce. But when we open our pantry, the shelf holding our tomato sauce is (gasp!) EMPTY!
Barring an unexpected, unplanned, and inconvenient run to the grocery store (especially if, like me, you were just there 2.5 hours ago!), you want to find some good substitute for this common ingredient.
Before we discuss substitutes, bear in mind that some of these substitutes will work better for your recipe than others. Think about the end product and the taste you want when figuring out which of these to use in place of the tomato sauce.
What is Tomato Sauce?
Knowing what typical tomato sauce ingredients are is helpful when looking for suitable substitutes for tomato sauce in your recipe.
The ingredient list on most cans of commercial tomato sauce will read very similar to this: Tomato Puree (Water, Tomato Paste), Water, Less Than 2% Of Salt, Citric Acid, Onion Powder, Garlic Powder, Red Pepper.
NO BRAINER TOMATO SAUCE SUBSTITUTES
So, now we know what’s in tomato sauce. Let’s compare its ingredients to the first two tomato sauce substitutes, which I consider ‘no brainer’ substitutes. In other words, if you have either of these in your pantry, you essentially also have tomato sauce in your pantry.
- Tomato Puree – The ingredient list on most cans of commercial tomato puree will read something like this: Tomato Puree (Water, Tomato Paste), Citric Acid. With a very similar ingredient list, making tomato sauce from tomato puree is the easiest substitute. And truthfully, it is probably the ideal substitute; you would just need to add a little water to your puree to get to the tomato sauce consistency. A dash of red pepper, a pinch of garlic powder and onion powder will add to the flavor profile, getting it even closer to tomato sauce.
- Tomato Paste – The ingredient list on most cans of tomato paste will read: Tomato Paste, Citric Acid. So, working backward, if you needed a tomato puree substitute, you could make it by adding a little water to your tomato paste. Then you could make tomato sauce by adding a little red pepper and some garlic and onion powder to your tomato puree!
- I recently made a pot of my Cream of Tomato Soup by substituting tomato paste for the tomato sauce. I didn’t add either the garlic or the onions; there are onions in the soup. It was as delicious as always. If you are looking for a very low (almost no) fat, no dairy, Cream of Tomato Soup, give it a try!
To Make Tomato Sauce from Tomato Paste:
- Since tomato sauce is part tomato paste anyway, it is easy to make it. Mix two parts of water for one part paste, plus a dash of onion powder, garlic powder, and red pepper. For instance, mix 1/3 cup of tomato paste and 2/3 cup of water with a dash of the spices for every cup of tomato sauce you need. Use a whisk or an emersion blender to get your ‘tomato sauce’ smooth consistency.
This little freezer tray gets used regularly for those dibs and dabs left in a can of tomato paste. I rarely use a whole can, but I always have several frozen tomato paste cubes with this tray.
Other Great Substitutes for Tomato Sauce
Canned tomatoes whether whole tomatoes or diced tomatoes, are typically just: Tomatoes, Tomato Juice, Less Than 2% Of: Salt, Citric Acid. In order to make tomato sauce from canned tomatoes, you would want to cook them down and thicken them. While the canned tomatoes will have been heated during processing, they haven’t been cooked down like tomato sauce, puree or paste.
- To substitute canned tomatoes for tomato sauce, first, drain the extra liquid, but set it aside. Then cook your tomatoes, a dash of red pepper, garlic, and onion powder over low heat for 20-30 minutes until reduced. Use your blender or immersion blender to turn the tomatoes into a sauce of thick consistency. Add back any liquid as necessary. If you want to go the extra step, pour the sauce through a sieve to strain out the seeds.
Stewed Tomatoes (Tomatoes, Tomato Juice, Sugar, Less Than 2% Of: Salt, Dried Onions, Dried Celery, Dried Green Bell Pepper, Citric Acid, Calcium Chloride, Natural Flavor), as you can see from the ingredient list, has additional seasoning beyond straight-up tomato sauce. Not that that’s a bad thing, just bear that in mind. If you use stewed tomatoes in place of tomato sauce, your end product will have flavor profile influenced by hte vegetables included.
- To make tomato sauce from stewed tomatoes, cook it the same way you would the canned tomatoes. Again, if you want to go the extra step, pour the sauce through a sieve to strain out the seeds.
Crushed Tomatoes, typically Unpeeled Tomatoes, Tomato Puree, Less Than 2% Of: Salt, Citric Acid, will likely be a little thicker than canned tomatoes, but less than tomato sauce.
- Again, cook the crushed the same way as the canned tomatoes, but add a bit more liquid to the cooking process. If you want to go the extra step, pour the puree through a sieve to strain out the seeds.
Passata, also called Strained Tomatoes, is just an uncooked tomato purée that has been strained of seeds and skins.
- To substitute passata for tomato sauce, cook it down a bit and add a dash of onion and garlic powder, as well as red pepper.
If you have a bumper crop of Fresh Tomatoes, but no tomato sauce, then make your own tomato sauce. Here is a very simple, basic recipe from The Kitchn. This recipe doesn’t have any additional spices, I would add a little garlic and onion at a minimum.
Tomato Ketchup or Catsup
Tomato Ketchup (or Catsup, is made from Tomato Concentrate, Sugar, Distilled Vinegar (acetic acid), Salt, Less Than 2% Of Onion Powder, Spices. The addition of sugar in ketchup is unique among most of these other products. If making something like Barbecue Sauce that typically is sweetened, I think ketchup would work fine. Just cut back on the other sweeteners a bit.
- If the sweetness won’t be a problem, then dilute with a little water to get your sauce consistency. It’s not as thick as tomato paste, so would need less water.
- As a side note, with its thicker consistency, ketchup would work in a pinch as a tomato paste substitute. Use it in a 1:1 ratio, so for every one tablespoon of tomato paste, use one tablespoon of ketchup.
In a pinch, Tomato Juice can be a substitution for tomato sauce. Obviously, the juice is much thinner than the sauce.
- You could either simmer it down, add some tomato paste to thicken it or decrease other liquids in your recipe. For example, if your recipe calls for one cup of tomato sauce and 1 cup of another liquid (broth, water, etc…), use 2 cups of tomato juice and don’t add the other liquid.
Along the same lines, V8 Juice can be used as a tomato sauce substitute. Use it as you would tomato juice. But, bear in mind that the addition of carrots, celery, beets, parsley, lettuce, watercress, and spinach juice will add a different flavor profile. For something like Sloppy Joes that can have a rich flavor from all the other added spices and seasoning, you probably wouldn’t even notice the flavors from the V8. A Vegetable Soup recipe would also be another recipe in which V8 (or tomato juice) would be a perfect substitute.
Tomato Soup could also be used as a substitute for tomato sauce in certain circumstances. If I needed to, I would use it in a recipe, like a casserole, especially if the tomato flavor is not supposed to be dominant. But, with a can of condensed tomato soup, comes a lot more than just tomatoes! (Tomato Puree (Water, Tomato Paste), High Fructose Corn Syrup, Wheat Flour, Water, Contains Less Than 2% Of: Salt, Potassium Chloride, Flavoring, Citric Acid, Lower Sodium Natural Sea Salt, Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C), Monopotassium Phosphate.) are the ingredients of canned tomato soup. So use it only if there are no other options.
A Jar of Marinara can be used to substitute tomato sauce. Depending on the marinara, it might have many of the same ingredients. I used to be that person who only ate my homemade marinara sauce. I was convinced that it was far superior to anything that could be purchased in the grocery store. Then I discovered Rao’s Marinara. It didn’t take long for me to realize that it was really just as good and a whole lot easier! That being said, the ingredients in Rao’s Marinara sauce are Italian Whole Peeled Tomatoes, Olive Oil, Onions, Salt, Garlic, Basil, Black Pepper, Oregano. With the exception of oregano and basil, this marinara is very similar to regular tomato sauce. It may be a little thinner than the canned tomato product, but you could easily simmer it down if you need the thickness.
Along the same lines would be a jar of Pizza Sauce which has very similar ingredients. Typically, pizza sauce contains Organic Tomato Puree (Water, Organic Tomato Paste, Citric Acid), Organic Soybean Oil, Salt, Organic Spices, Organic Dried Garlic, Organic Dried Basil, Organic Dried Onion, Organic Dried Parsley.. Check what you have in your pantry. If it similar to this example, it would be a very close substitute. Most pizza sauces have a similar consistency to marinara sauce.
TOMATO-FREE SUBSTITUTES FOR TOMATO SAUCE
If you have a nightshade allergy and are looking for some substitution for tomato sauce, try this sauce of pureed veggies. In this recipe for Nomato Sauce, a variety of non-nightshade vegetables combine to mimic tomatoes. They are sauteed in a little olive oil and then cooked down with your choice of liquid. The vegetables are pureed to the desired consistency in a blender. Use one cup of nomato sauce for one cup tomato sauce for a great substitute that is also AIP compliant.
For thickening and texture, both pureed pumpkin and pureed squash are great substitutes. A dash of vinegar will add some of the acidity you would normally get with a tomato product.
Pureed Red Bell Peppers
Roasted red bell peppers provide both the tang and color of tomato sauce. Place the warm, roasted bell peppers in a covered bowl for 1/2 hour to easily remove their
- To Roast Bell Peppers
- Preheat oven broiler and place an oven rack 5-6 inches from the top heating element.
- Cut peppers in half lengthwise and remove the seeds and stems.
- Place pepers cut side down on a lightly oiled sheet of parchment paper and drizzle or brush lightly with oil.
- Put peppers in the oven, so that the tops of the peppers are about 3-4 inches from the heating element.
- Check in about 7 minutes. When the peppers are evenly blistered and blackened remove from the oven. This may take 8-11 minutes.
- Place hot peppers in either a paper bag or a bowl. Seal the bag or cover the bowl and wait 15-20 minutes, after which time the peppers will be cool enough to handle and the skins should be easy to remove.
- Puree the peppers in a blender or food processor to desired consistency.
So there you have it, my friends! Sixteen fantastic tomato sauce substitutes. Did I forget any? Do drop a line and let me know to keep this resource updated.
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