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13 Ways to Substitute for Tomato Sauce

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.

Tomato sauce in metal sauce pan over a rustic wooden table with green garnish.

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 in can next to garlic cloves and spoon of paste on white plate.

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

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

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 in a white bowl over a white plate with green garnish.

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.

4. Ketchup

Large Heinz Ketchup bottle standing upside down on a table in restaurant.

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

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

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

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

Marinara sauce is great for pizza and chili recipes. And like spaghetti and pasta sauce, it comes highly seasoned. It may alter the flavor of your dish so make adjustments accordingly.

7. Tomato Puree

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

Tomato puree is only slightly thicker than tomato sauce. If you don’t mind a little extra thickness to your dish, use it as a 1 to 1 substitute.

8. Fresh Tomatoes

Several plump, fresh red tomatoes on the vine over rustic wooden table.

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

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

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.

10. Passata

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

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.

Tomato-Free Substitutes

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

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

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.

12. Ajvar

Large jar of avjar next to roasted red bell pepper and seasonings.

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

Pureed red peppers in glass jar on toast next to fresh peppers on wood table.

Just have bell peppers? You can roast and blend red bell peppers into a tomato-like past 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.

Easy Homemade Tomato Sauce

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

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.

INGREDIENTS

  • 5 pounds of tomatoes
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt, herbs and seasonings to taste (garlic, basil, bay leaf, etc.)

DIRECTIONS

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.

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.

Easy Spaghetti with Chili Sauce (aka Cincinnati Chili)

Spaghetti with chili sauce (Cincinnati chili) on a white plate with kitchen towel.

Authentic Italian Spaghetti and Meatballs

Authentic spaghetti and meatballs and gold fork in white bowl on white table.
Pinterest graphic with text and collage of ingredients used to substitute for tomato sauce.
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