Skip to Content

15 Easy Ways To Substitute for Marinara Sauce

Here are 15 easy ways to substitute for marinara sauce, including non-tomato-based options, plus yummy recipes with marinara sauce to try!

Marinara sauce is very popular in Italian-American cuisine.

You can use it for pasta dishes, as a dipping sauce, on Italian subs, and in meat recipes like chicken parmesan.

But, you may not always have it on hand when you need it.

Luckily, there are lots of similar products and household staples that you can substitute in a pinch.

Below you’ll find 15 easy marinara substitute ideas, including non-tomato-based options.

And we’ve also shared some of our favorite recipes that use marinara that we know you’ll love!

What is marinara sauce?

A large cream bowl filled with marinara sauce topped with green garnish.

Marinara is a tomato-based sauce that typically includes garlic cloves, onion, and basil.

It has a fairly thick and smooth consistency that makes it perfect for pasta dishes, dips, casseroles, and more.

It’s slightly acidic from the tomatoes, with a subtle sweetness, and a hint of spice from the garlic. It pairs well with other ingredients like parmesan cheese, mozzarella, crusty breads, and Italian seasonings.

If you’re not a fan of classic marinara sauce, you can always personalize it with your favorite ingredients and even sub out the tomatoes in the sauce altogether.

Different types of marinara sauces made with various types of tomatoes like sun-dried tomatoes, pureed vegetables like carrots and chili, red bell peppers, sweet peppers, herbs or spices like red pepper flakes, and sweet components like sugar or honey are becoming increasingly popular.

Easy Substitutes for Marinara Sauce

Below, you’ll find several easy ways to substitute for marinara sauce if you happen to run out or just don’t like the taste.

The best substitute will depend on your unique tastes and personal preference, and the type of dish you intend to make.

1. Pizza Sauce

Large white bowl filled with pizza sauce, green garnish, and a metal spoon.

Pizza sauce is very similar to marinara. But, the main difference is that it has a thicker consistency. And some versions may have a bolder flavor.

Try to find a version that doesn’t include too much oregano and Italian seasoning and use it as a 1-to-1 substitute anywhere you would marinara sauce.

2. Tomato Juice

Cup of tomato juice next to whole tomatoes on the vine in kitchen.

You can use tomato juice to substitute for marinara in soup recipes such as minestrone soup. However, you may lose some thickness in your broth.

Substitute one cup of tomato juice for one cup of marinara.

3. Tomato Ketchup

Heinz ketchup bottle standing upside down on its cap on restaurant table.

Ketchup may seem like an odd substitute for marinara sauce, but it can make a suitable substitute in certain cases.

However, you do have to be careful when using ketchup because it typically contains corn syrup and it has a fairly sweet flavor.

It’s a great substitute for marinara for mozzarella sticks, fried ravioli, and zucchini sticks.

4. Tomato Sauce

Metal sauce pot filled with homemade tomato sauce surrounded by fresh tomatoes and garnish.

Tomato sauce is a popular ingredient in stews, sauces, soups, and pizza. And it has a similar consistency to marinara.

Use it as a 1-to-1 substitute anywhere you would marinara sauce.

5. Tomato Paste

Opened can of tomato paste with lid sticking out and wooden spoon inside.

If you’ve got a can of tomato paste in your pantry, you’ve got the perfect marinara sauce substitute right at your fingertips.

Tomato paste is often an ingredient in marinara, so you’ll only need to make a few modifications to get the flavor and texture right.

Mix the paste with equal parts water and add seasonings and spices like onions and garlic to your taste.

Simmer on low-medium heat until the mixture thickens to the consistency you desire, and then you can use it as a 1-to-1 substitute.

6. Pureed Tomatoes

Large mound of tomato puree on a metal spoon over a wooden table.

Tomato puree is a thick red sauce made from cooked tomatoes. And it’s a great base for any red sauce.

However, it is less seasoned and thicker than marinara.

Add liquid to create a thinner sauce and throw in some seasonings like onion powder, garlic powder, black pepper, and dried herbs to taste and use it as a 1-to-1 substitute.

7. Canned Tomatoes

Canned, diced tomatoes in a large metal mixing bowl next to fresh cut veggies.

Any canned tomato variety like diced tomatoes, stewed tomatoes, or crushed tomatoes makes a great substitute for marinara in a pinch.

Simply blend the tomatoes, or use your food processor to break down the tomatoes to your desired consistency.

Then add your favorite herbs and seasonings.

Once your sauce is complete, you can use it as a 1-to-1 substitute for marinara.

8. Tomato Soup

Tomato basil soup in a white bowl on a white saucer with metal spoon.

If you have a can of tomato soup, you can use it for sauces like Vodka sauce or to add flavor to another soup recipe like minestrone.

Condensed tomato soup can be used as a 1-to-1 substitute for marinara.

9. Tomato Passata

Tomato passata in orange dish next to vine ripened tomatoes and red checkered kitchen towel.

Tomato passata is made from raw pureed tomatoes without skins and seeds. It has a fresh tomato flavor and a similar consistency to marinara sauce.

You can use it as a 1-to-1 substitute with the addition of your favorite herbs and seasonings to taste.

10. Spaghetti Sauce

Unopened jar of spaghetti sauce next to pile of uncooked spaghetti noodles.

You can use this well-known pasta sauce almost anywhere you would marinara. It’s great for pasta dishes and you can even use it for pizza or as a dipping sauce.

Just keep in mind, it does have a slightly thicker consistency compared to marinara sauce and a sweeter flavor.

And some versions of spaghetti sauce may contain meat.

11. Tomato Salsa

A miniature black clay pot filled with chunky salsa on a wooden table.

If you’re really in a pinch you can use tomato salsa to substitute for marinara when used as a dip.

Salsa and marinara both use tomatoes as their key ingredient, and they have similar seasonings so it’s not too much of a stretch.

If your salsa isn’t smooth, you can blend it in your food processor until you get your desired consistency.

12. Alfredo Sauce

Large bowl of alfredo sauce on a bed of uncooked noodles with green garnish.

Alfredo sauce is a great substitute for those with a tomato allergy or for people who simply don’t like marinara sauce.

You can use it almost anywhere you would marinara sauce including pasta recipes, casseroles, on pizza, and as a dip.

Use as a 1-to-1 substitute.

RELATED: Healthy Greek Yogurt Alfredo

13. Pesto

Pesto sauce in white bowl surrounded by garlic, parmesan, basil and pine nuts.

Pesto is another great option for those who can’t eat tomato products.

You can describe pesto as any paste-like substance made by blending. Basil pesto and olive pesto are the most common preparations.

This sauce is great for pasta dishes like Pesto Pizza Pasta Salad, as a meat marinade, and as a dipping sauce.

Pesto has quite a bit more flavor than marinara, so a little goes a long way!

14. Carrots and Beats Puree

Several fresh carrots and beets held together with burlap cloth on a rustic wooden table.

If you’re looking for a healthy substitute, try carrots and beets marinara!

This marinara sauce features stewed and blended carrots and beets with aromatics and seasonings like bay leaves, garlic, and onion.

If you make your own, you can also add some lemon juice for acidity.

You can use this as a 1-to-1 substitute anywhere you would traditional marinara.

15. Homemade Marinara Sauce

Clear glass jar filled with fresh marinara sauce with green basil garnish.

Finally, you can always make your own marinara at home using fresh tomatoes. There are lots of different marinara sauce recipes out there, and most take under 30 minutes.

How to Make Your Own

Below, you’ll find a simple sauce recipe to make and keep on hand so you never run out!


  • 2 pounds of fresh tomatoes (preferably pear-style tomatoes)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 5-6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup of onions-diced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh oregano (or 1 teaspoon dried oregano)
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • ¼ teaspoon chili pepper flakes, optional
  • 10 fresh basil leaves

See the full directions here.


Is marinara sauce the same as pasta sauce?

They are very similar, but not the same.

Pasta sauce usually has more flavor and a slightly thicker consistency.

However, they’re similar enough to be used interchangeably.

Can I substitute spaghetti sauce for marinara sauce?


You can substitute spaghetti sauce almost anywhere you would use marinara.

Just keep in mind that it may have a little more flavor and a slightly thicker consistency. When preparing your dish, you may need to scale back the other seasonings.

Yummy Recipes to Try

Now that we’ve covered the best ways to substitute for marinara sauce, here are some of our favorite recipes using marinara to try!

Italian-Style Mozzarella Stuffed Burgers

Mozzarella stuffed burger on bun with lettuce and tomato, all on wood plate.

Simple and Delicious Creamy Pasta Bake

Wood spoon in baking dish full of creamy pasta bake topped with mozzarella cheese.

Air Fryer English Muffin Pizzas

Several English muffin mini pizzas on parchment paper lined baking sheet next to kitchen towel.

More like this:

Pinterest graphic with text and collage of ingredients used to substitute for marinara sauce.