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10 Tomato Paste Substitutes (Best Alternatives)

The best tomato paste substitutes include tomato sauce, tomato puree, canned tomatoes, and more.

And they’re about to save your culinary day! 

10 Tomato Paste Substitutes (Best Alternatives)

A little can of tomato paste can do so much. Just a dollop will transform your chili, stew, or marinade into something with a ton of depth.

But sometimes, it’s nowhere to be found.

It happens to the best of us, so don’t panic. There’s a high chance you have something in your pantry you can use as a replacement. 

Best Substitutes for Tomato Paste

Ready to dive into some tomato paste substitutes?

Before you scroll and pick one, just remember that these alternatives won’t all work for every recipe.

For example, harissa paste is strong and loaded with incredible flavor. But it’s also pretty spicy, so I wouldn’t use it in a dish for kids.

Plus, the consistency of many of these swaps isn’t the same as tomato paste. So you may need to adjust the liquids in the recipe.

A Bowl of Tomato Sauce and Slice Tomatoes on a Wooden Table

1. Plain Tomato Sauce + Sugar

Plain tomato sauce is my top choice as a tomato paste substitute for a few reasons:

  • It’s readily available
  • It’s inexpensive
  • It’s got the same tomato-forward flavor as tomato paste

Of course, it’s not as thick as paste, nor is it as sweet. That means you’ll need to cut back on the liquids in the recipe and add a bit of sugar.

Also, getting plain tomato sauce is key. If you grab garlic or herby sauce, it will change the overall flavor of your recipe.

How to Substitute: Swap 1 tablespoon of tomato paste with 2 tablespoons of tomato sauce + 1/4 teaspoon of sugar.

Also, remove 1 tablespoon of liquid (water, stock, etc.) from the recipe.

Ketchup on a Side Dish with Garlic Celery and Tomato on a Wooden Table

2. Ketchup

Ketchup isn’t just for fries, you know? It’s a handy substitute for tomato paste, and the most readily available, too. 

America’s favorite dipper evolved from a Chinese fish sauce to the favorite we know today, thanks to companies like Heinz. 

And while it’s not as thick or concentrated as tomato paste, it does bring layers of depth, acidity, and sweetness to a dish.

I recommend only using this in small amounts (1 tablespoon or less). And it works best in recipes with lots of bold flavors.

Ketchup is sweeter and has more tang, after all. So you need a recipe that will help balance that out, like chili.

That said, you could add 1/2 tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce to even out the sweetness.

How to Substitute: Swap 1 tablespoon of tomato paste with 1 tablespoon of ketchup.

A Bowl of Canned Tomatoes and Spices on a Wooden Table

3. Strained Canned Tomatoes

Strained canned tomatoes work great as a substitute for tomato paste, particularly for their thick texture.

They react well to heat, and with options like fire-roasted, you can even give your dish a smoky twist! 

Canned tomatoes often come with a lot of liquid, so you’ll need to strain that out before using them.

And if you have the time, I suggest mashing and simmering them for a few minutes.

This will thicken them up and make them a better swap for tomato paste.

If you do that, you’ll only need two tablespoons in place of one tablespoon of tomato paste.

If not, you’ll need three.

How to Substitute: Swap 1 tablespoon of tomato paste with 3 tablespoons of strained canned tomatoes.

Also, remove 1 tablespoon of liquid (water, stock, etc.) from the recipe.

A Jar of Tomato Puree and Spices on a Wooden Table

4. Tomato Puree

Made from crushed tomatoes, tomato puree is another obvious choice for a tomato paste replacement.

It’s thinner and has fewer flavors than tomato sauce. But it packs the same tomato punch. 

This swap works like a charm in mushroom sauces, stews, soups, and salads. Just cook and stir until it thickens up, and enjoy that savory flavor!

How to Substitute: Swap 1 tablespoon of tomato paste with 3 tablespoons of cooked tomato puree.

Note: If you don’t cook it until thick, remove 1-2 tablespoons of liquid from the recipe.

A Bowl of Tomato Soup and Fresh Tomatoes on a Wooden Table

5. Tomato Soup

Tomato soup can save the day when you’re out of tomato paste. 

It’s full of healthy vitamins and makes a decent stand-in because you’ll get a similar tomato flavor with a touch more sweetness. 

Of course, tomato soup is more liquid. So it’s best for recipes with plenty of wet ingredients like soups or sauces. 

How to Substitute: Swap 1 tablespoon of tomato paste with 3 tablespoons of tomato soup.

Also, remove 1/4 cup of liquid (water, stock, etc.) from the recipe.

Harissa on a Ceramic Bowl with Wooden Spoon

6. Harissa

Harissa, a North African chili pepper paste, is made with roasted red peppers, garlic, coriander, and caraway seeds.

It adds heat and a smoky kick to a ton of different dishes. 

It’s also versatile. From Moroccan cuisine to Middle Eastern delights like falafel, it’s a flavor powerhouse. 

The texture of harissa is similar to tomato paste, making it an easy substitute. But remember, it’s way spicier and has a distinct pepper taste. 

How to Substitute: Swap 1 tablespoon of tomato paste with 1/2 tablespoon of harissa.

A Bowl of Soy Sauce and Raw Soy Beans on a Rustic Cloth

7. Soy Sauce

Soy sauce might not be the first thing on your mind when you run out of tomato paste. But it’s a secret weapon for adding umami goodness. 

Known for its role in East Asian dishes, it packs a punch with its rich, salty flavors.

Now, let’s be clear: soy sauce isn’t sweet like tomato paste, and it’s more liquid. That means you’ll only need a small amount.

And if you want to bring a kick of sweetness, try mixing in a teaspoon of brown sugar or tamarind paste. 

How to Substitute: Swap 1 tablespoon of tomato paste with 1 teaspoon of soy sauce.

A Bowl of Homemade Salsa Verde on a Wooden Table

8. Salsa Verde

It has a different color, but salsa verde is another flavorful ally when you’re out of tomato paste. 

With green tomatoes at the base, salsa verde mixes in other green buddies like avocado, jalapeño, and cilantro. 

This green sauce is not just for chips and tacos, though! The tomato element gives it a similar taste profile as tomato paste. 

Just keep the color in mind. It shouldn’t be an issue in most dishes, but you might see it in creamy recipes.

How to Substitute: Swap 1 tablespoon of tomato paste with 1 tablespoon of salsa verde.

Also, remove 1-2 tablespoons of liquid (water, stock, etc.) from the recipe.

A Bowl of Marinara Sauce With Basil Leaf on Top

9. Marinara Sauce

Marinara sauce is made from whole peeled tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, and basil.

It has a light and fresh flavor. And it’s different from tomato sauce, which is typically thicker and has a richer taste.

Because of its milder taste, marinara sauce isn’t suitable for recipes that require a strong tomato flavor. 

And since it’s quite thin, it’s best in recipes that have a high amount of wet ingredients, like soups and stews.

How to Substitute: Swap 1 tablespoon of tomato paste with 3 tablespoons of marinara sauce.

Three Bowls of Worcestershire Sauce on a Table

10. Worcestershire Sauce

Worcestershire sauce is made with ingredients like molasses, vinegar, garlic, and tamarind. So it has a robust mix of sweet, sour, and umami flavors. 

And while it’s not thick and paste-like, you can use it as a substitute for tomato paste.  

How to Substitute: Swap 1 tablespoon of tomato paste with 1 teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce.

Easy Tomato Paste Substitute (Best Alternative)

Cuisine: American
Servings

1

serving
Prep time

3

minutes
Total time

3

minutes

The best tomato paste substitutes include tomato sauce, tomato puree, canned tomatoes, and more. And they’re about to save your culinary day!

Ingredients

  • Option 1 – (Best Overall) Plain Tomato Sauce + Sugar
  • 2 tablespoons 2 tomato sauce

  • 1/4 teaspoon 1/4 sugar

  • Option 2 – (Best for Availability) Ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon 1 ketchup

  • 1/2 tablespoon 1/2 Worcestershire sauce, optional

Instructions

  • (Best Overall) Plain Tomato Sauce + Sugar
  • Swap 1 tablespoon of tomato paste with 2 tablespoons of tomato sauce + 1/4 teaspoon of sugar.
  • Remove 1 tablespoon of liquid (water, stock, etc.) from the recipe.
  • (Best for Availability) Ketchup
  • Swap 1 tablespoon of tomato paste with 1 tablespoon of ketchup.
  • For added depth, mix in 1/2 tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce.
Tomato Paste Substitutes 

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INSANELYGOOD

Hey there! I'm Kim. I love running, cooking, and curling up with a good book! I share recipes for people who LOVE good food, but want to keep things simple :)

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