Here are 13 easy ways to substitute for tomato sauce, including tomato-free options, how to make your own, plus tasty recipes with tomato sauce.
Tomato sauce is a popular ingredient we find in many of our favorite recipes including chili, pasta sauce, sloppy joes, and even meatloaf. It’s made by cooking down fresh tomatoes into a medium-thick sauce. The peels and seeds are then strained and sometimes seasonings are added.
You’ve likely enjoyed tomato sauce with the addition of herbs, garlic, and onion flavor. It is less concentrated than tomato paste and thinner than tomato puree, making it a unique product with versatile utility.
But, what do you do if you run out of tomato sauce, your store is out of stock or you need a tomato-free alternative?
Below are 13 easy ways to substitute for tomato sauce when you’re in a pinch and for those who want to steer clear of tomato altogether.
Common Ways to Substitute for Tomato Sauce
Here are 10 common ways to replace tomato sauce, using other tomato-based products and ingredients. When choosing a substitute, keep in mind the texture and overall flavor of the dish.
Also note that one 8 ounce can tomato sauce = 1 cup.
1. Tomato Paste
Tomato paste is probably the easiest tomato sauce substitute. It has a similar flavor and when thinned out with water, has a very similar texture and consistency.
Mix 1 part of tomato paste with 1 part of water and add seasonings if desired for a 1 to 1 substitute.
2. Canned Tomatoes
You likely have some form of canned tomato in your pantry right now. Whether that be stewed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, or crushed tomatoes. You can use any of these options to create tomato sauce. Simply drain, blend and reduce down your mixture (if desired) and add seasonings.
Use as a 1 to 1 substitute.
3. Tomato Soup
Tomato soup makes a great substitute for tomato sauce in a pinch. However, these soups tend to be thinner than your typical tomato sauce. To remedy this, remove 1/4 cup liquid from the recipe ingredients for every 10.75 ounce can of tomato soup used.
This substitute may seem a little odd, but if you have no other option, ketchup can work well for certain recipes. It has a sweet flavor, so it works well to replace tomato sauce in dishes that are meant to be slightly sweet.
In these cases, you can use ketchup as 1 to 1 substitute.
5. Spaghetti Sauce/Pasta Sauce
We often use tomato sauce to make pasta sauces or spaghetti sauce, so it makes sense to use one of these options as a replacement. These sauces are packed with flavor, so be sure to adjust the other ingredients and flavors in your recipe accordingly.
Use as a 1 to 1 substitute.
6. Marinara Sauce
7. Tomato Puree
8. Fresh Tomatoes
You can use fresh tomatoes to replace tomato sauce with a little work. If you have the time, follow the instructions for homemade tomato sauce below. This is a great way to use up tomatoes from your garden.
9. Tomato Juice
Tomato juice is readily available in stores, or you can make your own with fresh tomatoes from your garden or market. Just add salt and sugar and reduce other liquids in the dish.
For every ½ cup of tomato sauce and ½ cup of water (or other liquid in the recipe), replace with 1 cup of tomato juice.
This tomato product is closer to the consistency of puree but can be used as a suitable tomato sauce replacement. It’s less common in the United States but can still be found online and in some grocery and specialty stores.
Use as a 1 to 1 substitute.
Below are 3 tomato-free substitutes for those looking to steer clear. If you don’t like the taste of tomato, have an allergy to tomatoes or nightshades, or want to use up some other garden vegetables, these are great options to try.
11. Beets and Carrots
These veggies may seem like an odd substitute for tomato sauce, but when cooked the right way, they have a similar taste and texture. Though, the color will be different.
Simmer with garlic and oil, blend into a paste and add water the same way you would tomato paste for a nightshade-free, 1 to 1 substitute.
Ajvar is a store-bought red bell pepper and eggplant spread. (Though you can also make it at home.)
If you need one cup of tomato sauce, combine 1/2 cup of Ajvar with 1/2 cup water or broth for a 1 to 1 substitute.
13. Pureed Bell Peppers
Just have bell peppers? You can roast and blend red bell peppers into a tomato-like paste or blend a store-bought jar of roasted red peppers. Simply thin with water or broth as needed for a 1 to 1 substitute.
Use anywhere you would tomato sauce.
How to Make Your Own
Here’s a quick recipe to make your own tomato sauce to use up those fresh tomatoes. You can jar and save this recipe to have on hand.
- 5 pounds of tomatoes
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- Salt, herbs and seasonings to taste (garlic, basil, bay leaf, etc.)
SOAK your tomatoes in a hot bath of water to soften and loosen the skins for several minutes. REMOVE the skins and seeds from the tomatoes and MASH into a pulp.
ADD the pulp to a saucepan with your olive oil and seasonings. SIMMER until reduced by half.
REMOVE from heat and SEASON with salt to taste.
NOTE: 5 pounds of tomatoes yield about 2 ½ cups of sauce.
You can use ketchup instead of tomato sauce, but it should only be substituted if tomato sauce is not the main ingredient and you want your dish to be slightly sweet. Ketchup has added ingredients like sugar and vinegar that aren’t found in tomato sauce, so keep that in mind.
Tomato paste is one of the best substitutes for tomato sauce because tomato sauce is often made with a puree of tomato paste and water.
To substitute tomato paste for tomato sauce, add 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup tomato paste to a small saucepan and blend over low heat. You should also add spices to the paste like onion powder, garlic powder, and red pepper flakes since those are found in traditional commercial tomato sauce.
An 8-ounce can of tomato sauce equals 1 cup so you can mix 1/2 cup of tomato paste with 1/2 cup of water as directed above to get 8 ounces of tomato sauce.
Tomato sauce is mainly made up of tomato puree and spices while condensed tomato soup is made of tomato puree, flour, and sugar. Tomato soup is sweeter than tomato sauce and also has a thinner texture.
If you’re going to substitute tomato soup for tomato sauce, you’ll need to remove 1/4 cup of liquid from the ingredients for every 10 ounce can used. And don’t forget to take into account the sweet flavor of the soup.
If you need a tomato sauce substitute that has no tomato in it, try these options:
-Pureed beets and carrots
-Pureed red bell peppers
-Ajvar (red pepper and eggplant spread)
Recipes with Tomato Sauce
Here are two tasty recipes that call for tomato sauce. Use these to try out your favorite way to substitute for tomato sauce, above.