If you’re looking for tomato sauce substitutes, I have you covered.
Whether you’re out of tomato sauce or just tired of it, there are alternatives. You just have to check the pantry!
Top 10 Substitutes for Tomato Sauce
Some of these substitutes work better for certain recipes than others.
For example, you could turn fresh tomatoes or marinara sauce into yummy pizza sauce.
But you probably don’t want to use ketchup in the same way.
Additionally, some need a little tweaking before you can add them to a recipe. Nothing major, but they’re not all quick one-for-one swaps.
Still, try these tomato sauce substitutes the next time you run out of the real stuff. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how well they work.
1. Tomato Paste + Oil + Water
Tomato sauce is usually tomato puree with salt, spices, and oil. But unlike pasta sauce, it’s not as thick, and it’s not as complex.
Instead, it’s tomato-forward, with not much else going on. That’s why it’s used as an ingredient rather than the main event of a recipe.
And that’s why tomato paste is at the top of this list.
The taste is already pretty close to perfect. And it’s got a punch of tomato flavor. The only problem is the consistency.
To remedy that:
- Mix 1/4 cup of tomato paste with 1/4 cup of water.
- Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil, salt & pepper, then warm it over low heat.
How to Substitute: Swap 1/2 cup of tomato sauce with 1/4 cup of tomato paste + 1/4 cup of water + 1 tablespoon of olive oil + salt and pepper to taste.
2. Canned Tomatoes
When substituting canned tomatoes, you can use diced or stewed varieties. Either way, they make an excellent substitute for tomato sauce.
Of course, you have to drain them first. Otherwise, anything you try to make with them will be too soggy.
After draining them, simply dump them in a food processor and puree them until they reach your desired consistency.
Then, cook them on low heat until they thicken.
Just remember that if you get fire-roasted tomatoes or something with seasoning, it will affect the taste of your dish.
How to Substitute: Swap 1/2 cup of tomato sauce with 1/2 cup of cooked and pureed canned tomatoes.
For the above to work, you need to drain and puree the canned tomatoes before cooking them.
But did you know that passata is basically drained and pureed canned tomatoes? So half the work is already done!
This stuff is 100% pure tomato. So you may need to add salt and pepper, and maybe even some onions if you want a bit more depth.
But if it’s going into a soup or stew, you can just add it right in.
How to Substitute: Swap 1/2 cup of tomato sauce with 1/2 cup of passata.
Marinara is my favorite tomato sauce substitute. After all, it’s a type of tomato sauce, so the two are pretty interchangeable.
It’s a little thicker and may have more flavorful ingredients. But in a pinch, you can easily use one for the other without much trouble.
Just remember that marinara doesn’t need as much cooking time as tomato sauce. So be careful not to overdo it.
Also, if your recipe calls for extra herbs, like basil, you might want to skip them. Marinara has you covered there.
And on the same note, I don’t recommend this for every recipe. The herbs are very Italian, so they might not play well in something like chili.
How to Substitute: Swap 1/2 cup of tomato sauce with 1/2 cup of marinara sauce.
5. Tomato Soup
Other than marinara, another pre-seasoned swap is classic tomato soup.
You can use chunky or smooth, depending on the recipe. But the smooth kind will incorporate more easily.
Unlike many options on this list, soup won’t change consistency if you heat it. So you might need to cut down on some of the liquids in your recipe.
That means removing 2-4 tablespoons of stock or water per 1/4 cup.
Finally, try to find as neutral a soup as possible. That way, you don’t have to worry about contrasting flavors.
How to Substitute: Swap 1/2 cup of tomato sauce with 1/2 cup of tomato soup.
Believe it or not, ketchup doesn’t make the worst tomato sauce substitute.
If you know how to “doctor” it up, it’s actually pretty good.
It works best in recipes where tomato sauce isn’t a primary ingredient. Still, you’ll need to add water and plenty of herbs, since it’s quite sweet on its own.
The seasonings will depend on the recipe, but they should mellow out the acidity.
How to Substitute: Swap 1/2 cup of tomato sauce with 1/2 cup of ketchup + 2 tablespoons of water + 2-3 teaspoons of herbs/spices.
7. Fresh Tomatoes
Fresh tomatoes make an excellent tomato sauce substitute if they’re in season. It’s an insanely easy substitution, as well.
Simply dice them up and toss them in a food processor. It’ll do the rest of the work for you.
The result is a juicy, 100% tomato-flavored delight that you can add to anything.
If you want to toss in garlic salt, onion powder, etc., you can. You could even slice up some fresh veggies to make it a thicker, more robust sauce alternative.
It tastes pretty amazing as-is, though.
How to Substitute: Swap 1/2 cup of tomato sauce with 1/2 cup of pureed fresh tomatoes.
8. Pureed Bell Peppers
This one is probably the strangest one on the list. But it works pretty well.
The trick is to roast them before pureeing them. That way, you mellow out the flavor and add a ton of depth.
Add a splash of water, then blend until you get the right consistency.
The flavor will be different, of course. But I think you’ll enjoy it.
How to Substitute: Swap 1/2 cup of tomato sauce with 1/2 cup of pureed and roasted bell peppers.
9. Nomato Sauce
No, that isn’t a typo. If you’ve never heard of Nomato sauce, allow me to introduce you!
Per the website, it’s a “medley of root vegetables and seasonings.” And it’s essentially a tomato-free tomato sauce.
I had a hard time finding it in the store, so I just made my own. Here’s the recipe:
- Sauté 1 chopped onion in olive oil, then add 2 minced garlic cloves.
- Roughly chop 4 carrots, 4 stalks of celery, and 2 red beets.
- Add the veggies to a big pot with the onions, garlic, and 1 can of pumpkin puree.
- Pour in 1-2 cups of stock or water, then cook until the veggies are soft.
- Puree the mix and use it as a tomato-free sauce.
You can, of course, make this recipe your own. So feel free to add sweet potatoes, spices, and more.
How to Substitute: Swap 1/2 cup of tomato sauce with 1/2 cup of Nomato sauce.
10. Spaghetti Sauce
This is last on the list because it’s not my favorite swap.
Yes, you can swap it out at a one-to-one ratio for tomato sauce. And the texture and consistency are pretty much the same.
But, like marinara, this will change the flavor of your dish. In fact, the umbrella term for spaghetti sauce opens you up to all kinds of flavors. Such as:
- Spaghetti sauce with meat
- Green peppers and onions
- Parmesan and Romano
- Roasted garlic
- Mushrooms and green peppers
So you’ll need to be sure to grab plain old spaghetti sauce if you don’t want to alter the flavor too much.
How to Substitute: Swap 1/2 cup of tomato sauce with 1/2 cup of spaghetti sauce.
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