How to Make a Tomato Paste Substitute

Tomato paste in a container along with a spoon on a wooden table

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Tomato paste, a thick mixture of puréed tomatoes that is cooked down for hours, adds concentrated flavor to recipes without watering them down. It's typically sold in small cans or tubes next to the canned tomatoes and is a handy ingredient for soups, stews, sauces, and more.

If you've started a recipe and realized you don't have tomato paste in your pantry or fridge, don't panic. Add it to your grocery list and make one of these home substitutions.


Watch Now: How to Make Your Own Tomato Paste

Tomato Paste Substitute From Tomato Sauce

Canned tomato sauce can be transformed into a substitution for tomato paste in a relatively short amount of time. Start with plain (unseasoned) tomato sauce if possible.

Pour a small can (8 ounces) of tomato sauce into a saucepan and bring it to a brisk simmer over medium heat. Simmer, stirring constantly, for about 7 minutes, or until reduced by about two-thirds. Use a splatter screen to avoid a mess from the bubbling as the mixture thickens. 

You should have about 3 ounces of tomato paste from an 8-ounce can. You can also use a larger can of tomato sauce, but you will need to cook the mixture for longer to reduce by at least two-thirds.

How to make tomato paste illustration
The Spruce / Miguel Co.

Tomato Paste Substitute From Canned Tomatoes

You can also use a can of whole or diced tomatoes to make tomato paste. Blend a 14.5-ounce can of tomatoes in a blender or food processor until smooth. Pour the tomato mixture into a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Continue cooking, stirring constantly, for about 10 minutes, until thickened and reduced by about two-thirds.

You should get about 2/3 cup or 6 ounces of tomato paste from a 14.5-ounce can of tomatoes. You can also use less of the canned tomatoes to make less tomato paste. Purée the canned tomatoes and only use half of the can, cooking for 7 to 10 minutes until reduced. You can set aside the rest of the purée for another use or freeze for later.

Using Tomato Paste Substitutions

It's worth noting that whether you make a homemade tomato paste substitution from tomato sauce or canned tomatoes that the results will not be quite as thick as real tomato paste. Real tomato paste is cooked for hours, reducing until it forms a thick, concentrated paste. These substitutions will work in a pinch, but you may want to use a little more than the recipe calls for since the flavor won't be quite as concentrated. Depending on the recipe, you may also want to reduce the liquid in the recipe very slightly.

Homemade vs Store-Bought Tomato Paste

Tomato paste is traditionally made from fresh tomatoes that are cooked down for hours. If you're feeling ambitious and have an excess of tomatoes, you can make your own and can or freeze any extra for later.

While homemade tomato paste will capture the incredible flavor of fresh tomatoes and concentrate it for use later, it does take a very long time to make. That's why most home cooks purchase their tomato paste at the store—it's affordable and has a long shelf-life. We recommend buying the tomato paste in a tube whenever possible since it will keep in the refrigerator for about a month.