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15 Best Easy Ways To Substitute For Tomato Sauce | Anya’s Eats

Do you want to know what to substitute for tomato sauce? Learn some of the best alternatives here.

10 Best Substitute For Tomato Sauce Plus 5 Tomato-Free Alternatives

Have you ever experienced running out of tomato sauce in the kitchen? It’s nerve-wracking, right? Tomato sauce is a staple to most recipes, so not having just one of it in the pantry could drive someone into a frenzy.

There are actually many options to try as a substitute for tomato sauce

You can use a more concentrated tomato paste or a healthier tomato juice. For pasta dishes, you can use spaghetti sauce or marinara sauce for pizza. Other possible substitutes are canned tomatoes, tomato soup, tomato ketchup, fresh tomatoes, crushed tomatoes, and tomato puree.

What Is Tomato Sauce?

Tomato sauce is one of the staples in the kitchen because it can be served in many dishes. It’s a popular base for pasta dishes and salsas, but it can also work well with meat and vegetables. The texture is almost grainy, sauce-like, as it liquefies the whole tomato into its almost liquid form with some fleshy parts.

This sauce is made of tomatoes, spices, and herbs. Its flavor is a combination of sweetness, tangy, and umami. When choosing a good tomato sauce, look for a brand that balances all that flavor. 

When unopened, the shelf life of tomato sauce can last as long as 18 months. Once opened, a can of tomato sauce is only suitable for 5-7 days.

10 Best Easy Ways To Substitute For Tomato Sauce

If you run out of tomato sauce in your kitchen, don’t panic. Try these ten tomato sauce substitutes, and your guests won’t notice any difference.

1. Tomato Paste

Tomato Paste

Sometimes, tomato sauce tastes way too acidic for me, so I always keep a tomato paste in my pantry. While tomato sauce has that sharp acidity taste, tomato paste has a richer flavor with a hint of sweetness due to its long hours of cooking.

The consistency of tomato paste tends to be thicker than tomato sauce, but you can quickly thin it out with water. To substitute a recipe that calls for 1 cup tomato sauce, use ½ cup tomato paste and ½ cup water to make a 1:1 ratio.

Others may already be satisfied with the plain flavor of diluted tomato paste. But not me. I like to season my tomato paste with onions, garlic, and other spices to get the exact flavor of tomato sauce. 

For best results, saute garlic and onion with tomato paste and water. The output goes well with recipes containing taco filling, creamy tomato soup, and meatloaf. Refrigerate any leftover tomato paste in an airtight container for storage.

2. Tomato Juice

Tomato Juice

I always thought tomato juice was a healthy beverage, so imagine my joy when I discovered that I could use it to replace tomato sauce in cooking. It doesn’t only make stews and sauces tasty but also nutritious.

Tomato juice is a rich source of vitamin C, vitamin A, and other nutrients. It also has high antioxidants to protect the body from cell damage.

The best way to substitute tomato juice is to cook it down until it’s about half its volume. If you don’t like the hassle of extra cooking, substitute tomato juice in the same amount as tomato sauce and liquid required in the recipe. For example, use two cups of tomato juice in a recipe for one cup tomato sauce and one cup water.

The taste of tomato juice may be slightly tartier than tomato sauce. Add a bit of sugar, salt, and other spices to get as close to the tomato sauce’s seasoned flavor. Keep any leftover juice refrigerated or frozen to extend its life.

3. Canned Tomatoes

Canned Tomatoes

Unlike tomato sauce, canned tomatoes have a fuller flavor that tastes great in sauces and stews.  These tomatoes are picked fully ripe from the vine, providing a richer taste. I prefer the Italian or Spanish canned tomatoes over the American ones because they taste sweeter and make good stewed tomatoes substitute.

These processed tomatoes are packed in many versions, like diced or whole. Regardless of the type, you can substitute it for tomato sauce with a few tweaks.

  • Open the can and drain off the liquid. Set the juice aside.
  • Puree tomatoes in a blender or food processor.
  • If the result seems wetter than tomato sauce, drain off the extra liquid or cook down until it achieves the desired consistency.
  • Add the set-aside juice to the mixture if it’s too thick.

Some canned tomatoes come plain without any seasonings. Add some seasonings, herbs, and spices to achieve the authentic tomato sauce flavor. Use a 1:1 ratio to substitute for recipes that call for tomato sauce.

4. Tomato Soup

Tomato Soup

Tomato soup is one of my favorite comfort foods, so knowing it can work as a tomato sauce substitute delights me. Like tomato sauce, a homemade tomato soup may give that slight tarty flavor with a hint of richness. However, the consistency tends to be more fluid, even in a concentrated form. 

Tomato soup also has less flavor, whether homemade or canned. I bet it could work as a tomato product supplement in beef chili or other dishes with pronounced modified flavors, but not as a stand-alone pasta or pizza sauce.

Condensed tomato soup works better with its extra tomato puree. To substitute tomato soup for tomato sauce, use the 2/3:1 ratio. Since it’s slightly sweeter, reduce it a little when a recipe uses any sweetener.

5. Tomato Ketchup

Tomato Ketchup

Since tomato ketchup consists of tomatoes, I think it might as well take the place of tomato sauce in recipes. I don’t mind its extra sweetness on my pizza sauce. However, its substitution only goes unnoticed if you use it in recipes with tomato sauce as a secondary ingredient. 

There’s a little difference in flavor. While tomato sauce has overpowering acidity, ketchup tastes sweet because it uses sugar as an ingredient. In some instances, ketchup uses tomato paste, making it thicker and richer than its tomato sauce counterpart.

To substitute ketchup for tomato sauce:

  • Use a 1:1 ratio. 
  • Replace one cup of tomato ketchup for every cup of tomato sauce called in a recipe. 
  • Add more seasonings like basil as necessary to get close to the tomato sauce flavor.

On the counter, an unopened bottle of tomato ketchup may last for several months. Once opened, keep the bottle in the fridge for 6-12 months.

6. Fresh Tomatoes

Fresh Tomatoes

Tomato sauce is basically tomatoes, so why not use fresh tomatoes, right? Fresh tomatoes give that tart, tangy, and slightly sweet flavor without the preservatives. They’re a healthier option, but they need some tweaks to be as close to the thick consistency of tomato sauce.

The key to a good-tasting tomato sauce is to use high-quality tomatoes. Pick tomatoes with a smooth, uniform ripeness. 

Here are the following steps to make tomato sauce out of fresh tomatoes.

  • Peel and toss tomatoes in a blender to crush them into bits. 
  • Add a bit of olive oil to achieve that smooth consistency and some spices to replicate that aromatic flavor of tomato sauce. 
  • Heat the mixture in a pan over high heat for several minutes until it reduces by half.

Once done, cool the fresh tomato sauce. Freeze the sauce in an airtight container for up to three months. I like to use fresh tomato sauce on lasagna or pizza recipes in a 1:1 ratio. 

7. Marinara Sauce

Marinara Sauce

I always confuse marinara sauce with tomato sauce. Both are tomato-based sauces, but I found out that marinara is a simpler version of tomato sauce. The marinara sauce has only a few ingredients (e.g., garlic, basil, etc. ) and is only cooked in less time.

Because of marinara’s less complex flavor, I like to use it as a tomato sauce substitute for pizza and pasta dishes. Use 1-¼ cup marinara to every cup of tomato sauce in every recipe. To achieve the authentic tomato flavor, add more seasonings like salt pork.

I like to swap tomato sauce with marinara sauce once in a while because it contains more vitamin K, B3, and magnesium.  It’s also an excellent way of making a recipe more vegetarian-friendly. 

8. Crushed Tomatoes

Crushed Tomatoes

I have plenty of crushed tomato cans in my pantry, so it makes me wonder whether I can use them as a replacement for tomato sauce. Fortunately, those cans won’t be wasted because they work as an excellent tomato sauce substitute in pasta dishes.

Crushed tomatoes have a slightly soupier consistency than tomato sauce. They can have chunky tomato pieces, so you may need to smoothen them out in a blender. The flavor is fresher and brighter than the sauce, especially those packed in tomato juice.

Don’t use crushed tomatoes as is. Add other ingredients to make a tasty pasta sauce. 

  • In a pot, add olive oil, then saute garlic and onion. 
  • Add the crushed tomatoes with some dried herbs, red pepper flakes, and seasonings. Stir to mix.
  • Simmer the sauce until it reduces to a thicker consistency.

Once the sauce is done, substitute in a 1:1 ratio for pasta dishes that call for tomato sauce.

9. Spaghetti Sauce/Pasta Sauce

Spaghetti Sauce - Pasta Sauce

Making pasta sauce takes a lot of effort, so I like to use spaghetti sauce when in a pinch. It works well for pasta dishes, but you’ll notice a slight difference in flavor. Compared to tomato sauce, spaghetti or pasta sauce has a more enhanced flavor with the addition of more spices and herbs.

You can use pasta sauce as a replacement for tomato sauce in pizza, but with a few alterations. Simmer the pasta sauce to remove the excess water and thicken the consistency. To remove the chunky pieces, smoothen in a blender or sieve in a mesh strainer.

Use a 1:1 ratio for substitution. When a recipe asks for one cup of tomato sauce, use the same amount of spaghetti sauce or pasta sauce.

10. Tomato Puree

Tomato Puree

Some manufacturers use tomato puree to make tomato sauce, so it’s only apparent that both can replace each other in a recipe. A classic puree is made mainly of tomatoes, while tomato sauce brings a more savory flavor with the additional seasonings. As for the consistency, it’s thicker than tomato sauce but thinner than tomato paste.

If a recipe only calls for a small amount of tomato sauce, you can use a 1:1 ratio, and you won’t notice a tiny difference. However, if the recipe asks for a more immense amount of tomato sauce, thin it out with water and add a bit of spice for flavor.

Tomato puree is available in cans or tubes. I prefer the tubes because they last longer than their canned counterparts.

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Tomato-Free Substitutes

If you’re allergic or for any reason hate tomatoes altogether, you can pick any of these tomato-free substitutes below. These substitutes use healthy vegetables, like bell peppers, eggplant, and beets.

1. Zergut Mild Ajvar

Zergut Mild Ajvar

Tomatoes caused my brother allergies, so I had to find a similar red sauce to substitute tomato sauce in pasta and pizza. Fortunately, I found this Zergut Mild Ajvar, a vegetable spread consisting of red peppers, eggplant, and spices. Much like canning tomato salsa, ajvar is jarred after roasting the red peppers and eggplant.

The appearance looks like tomato sauce, but the pepper flavor leaves a lingering aftertaste. The texture makes little difference, so you can use a 1:1 ratio of ajvar for tomato sauce. If you can’t take the heat, reduce the amount of ajvar and add some liquid to mellow the flavor.

2. Pureed Bell Peppers

Pureed Bell Peppers

Another way to make pasta sauce or dishes without tomatoes is to use pureed bell peppers. To make, simply roast red bell peppers in the oven, then remove the skin and seeds. I like to roast the peppers because they smell delicious and are easier to peel.

Next, puree the flesh and the liquid in a blender or food processor with salt and olive oil. Keep the bell pepper puree in an airtight container and store it in the fridge or freezer for up to a month.

The roasted red peppers offer a subtle sweetness like tomato sauce with some smokiness that tastes vibrant in every dish. The color is as red as tomato sauce, so anyone won’t notice that you use red pepper puree instead of tomatoes. Use a 1:1 ratio to substitute tomato sauce with pureed bell peppers.

3. Beets And Carrots

Beets And Carrots

Beets and carrots are the unexpected combos that I think can replicate the appearance of tomato sauce in recipes. When pureed, they offer that same red tomato sauce color that looks unnoticeable in stews, soups, and pasta.

However, this vegetable combo offers a more subdued flavor and a thicker texture than tomato sauce. These vegetables provide tons of health benefits, including better gut health, balanced blood sugar levels, and skin glow.

Season with spices and herbs to improve the bland flavor of pureed beets and carrots. You might want to thin the pureed beets and carrots with liquid to have the same consistency as their tomato sauce counterpart. Once done, use a 1:1 ratio for the ideal substitution of the puree for recipes that call for tomato sauce.

4. Eggplant

Eggplant

I love eggplants because they’re versatile, and one of the endless proofs is their ability to take the place of tomato sauce in recipes. You need to do some work, though, because they’re not as close as tomato sauce as is. To achieve the same consistency as tomato sauce, puree eggplants.

First, roast the eggplants to peel the skin easily. Put the peeled eggplants in a blender with olive oil, spices, and herbs for that complex flavor. Blitz to blend and add water until it reaches the same smooth consistency as tomato sauce.

The color may not be the same as tomato sauce. Add red pepper flakes or peeled roasted red peppers to give a red color to pasta dishes. After making the puree, substitute it in a 1:1 ratio in recipes. 

5. Pesto

Pesto

I love the fresh flavor of pesto, so I’m pleased to use it as a tomato-free substitute. It tastes incredibly fantastic with chicken pasta and lasagna. This sauce can also be spread onto pizzas and pitas.

The traditional green pesto consists of many fresh ingredients, such as fresh basil, garlic, and Parmesan, to balance the flavor. It also includes some pine nuts and olive oil to smooth the consistency.

If you like to make red pesto, add roasted red peppers. The mixture could have been better with sun-dried tomatoes, but you need to omit that because we’re trying to make a tomato-free substitute. This red pesto sauce tastes rich, while green pesto tastes more robust.

To make pesto, simply blitz all the ingredients until smooth. Add enough liquid to make a similar consistency to tomato sauce and use a 1:1 ratio in recipes.

Easy Homemade Tomato Sauce Recipe

What better way to substitute tomato sauce is to make your own batch and have it ready at all times. A good tomato sauce works for any dish, from pasta to stews and dips. This homemade tomato sauce recipe is easy to make and may taste better than those sold in stores.

Yield: 3 cups

Preparation Time: 30 minutes

Cooking Time: 4 hours

Ingredients

  • 4 lbs of fresh tomatoes or four 14-oz canned whole tomatoes
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¼ cup fresh basil
  • ¼ cup parsley
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  •  2 tbsp tomato paste (if using fresh tomatoes)
  • Baking soda (optional)

Instructions

  1. Cut into quarters and coat with olive oil if you use fresh tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper and roast at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 35 minutes. Puree the roasted tomatoes in a blender.
  2. Put onion, celery, and carrots into a food processor and blitz into tiny pieces.
  3. Heat pan with 2 tbsp olive oil. Saute onion with celery and carrots. 
  4. Once the vegetables have softened, form a well to add the remaining 1 tbsp olive oil and garlic. Cook for another minute.
  5. Mix in the tomatoes, parsley, and basil.
  6. Once it starts to boil, simmer for 30 minutes in low heat.
  7. Add salt, sugar, and pepper. 

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5 Recipes With Tomato Sauce

Do you want some lovely recipe ideas using tomato sauce? Here are five surefire recipes to impress your family.

1. Easy Spaghetti With Chili Sauce

Spaghetti with chili offers a hearty dish for a fantastic night. Enjoy the meaty chili and tender spaghetti topped with creamy cheese and sour cream. You’ll need ground beef, spices, and kidney beans for this recipe.

2. Mozzarella Chicken In Tomato Sauce

If you want something simpler than Parmigiani, then this recipe of mozzarella chicken in tomato sauce seals the deal. This simple recipe can improve your dinner to restaurant quality. Simply pan fry chicken breasts, pour the marinara sauce with seasonings, and top with cheese in the oven.

Voila! You have chicken dinner in less than 15 minutes.

3. Pepperoni Pasta Bake

Do you want to serve many people on a short budget? Pepperoni pasta bake enthralls a rich pepperoni pizza flavor with any type of dry pasta you have. There are many pasta sauce variations, but you can start with marinara sauce, Mozzarella cheese, and pepperoni.

4. Easy Ratatouille

Who could forget the animated movie-inspired ratatouille? This easy ratatouille recipe is oven roasted with other seasonal vegetables, like zucchini and squash. You’ll have a hearty meal full of nutrients in several minutes. 

5. Baking-Sheet Pizza 

If you love pizza like me, then you’ll surely love this version of pizza with olives and sun-dried tomatoes. The tomato pizza sauce uses three types of cheese- Parmesan, provolone, and mozzarella. The marinated olives will pump up the flavor of your store-bought pizza dough.

FAQs

1. Can you substitute tomato soup for tomato sauce?

Yes, you can swap tomato sauce with tomato soup as both use tomatoes in their ingredients. The condensed version may offer the best alternative to tomato sauce among all types of tomato soup. This condensed form tastes slightly sweeter, so cut back on the amount of the recipe that uses another type of sweetener.

2. Can I substitute ketchup for tomato sauce?

You sure can use ketchup when tomato sauce is unavailable. Ketchup taste can be sweeter than tomato sauce, but it’s pleasant for the kids. It goes unnoticed as long as the recipe doesn’t use tomato sauce as the main ingredient.

Conclusion

Now that you know what to substitute for tomato sauce, you don’t have to panic whenever you run out of it in the kitchen. Among all of the substitutes, my favorite is tomato paste because it’s basically tomato sauce but in concentrated form. You only need to thin it out to make the same consistency as its tomato sauce counterpart.

 

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Anya Kaats

Hi! I’m Anya, a San Diego-based Holistic Health Coach and Marketing Consultant on a mission to share good food, health & happiness with as many people as possible. I am a graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN) and have worked in the natural & organic products industry for my entire professional career with companies such as Suja Juice, Brad’s Raw Foods, and Mamma Chia. While my life may be totally consumed with healthy food now, nutrition wasn’t always a passion of mine.