4 Tomato Sauce Substitutes

What To Use If You Don't Have Tomato Sauce in Your Pantry

Tomato Sauce From Fresh Tomatoes in jars

The Spruce / Diana Chistruga

Are you out of tomato sauce and trying to avoid a trip to the grocery store? Thankfully, you probably have something in your pantry or fridge that you can use in its place. Let's look at four possible substitutes for tomato sauce: The two best are tomato paste and canned tomatoes, while ketchup and tomato soup can be used for certain recipes when you are really in a pinch.

Substitute Tomato Paste For Tomato Sauce

If you have a can of tomato paste in your pantry, you are in luck—this is the best substitution for tomato sauce. All you need is the tomato paste and water.

Mix together 1 part tomato paste and 1 part water until well blended. Then, season your "sauce" to taste. Tomato sauce is typically seasoned with herbs, garlic, and onion. You may even find the sauce benefits from a drizzle of olive oil or a pinch of sugar.

For the most authentic tomato sauce taste, cook some garlic and onion in oil until they're soft, add the tomato paste and water mixture, and heat through. Taking the time to add a few extra ingredients will greatly enhance the flavor and texture of your finished sauce.

Substitute Canned Tomatoes

To make your own tomato sauce out of a can of tomatoes, you can use whatever type of canned tomatoes you have on hand, whether they be whole, stewed, diced, or crushed.

First, drain off the liquid in the can and put it aside. Then give the tomatoes a quick whirl in your blender or food processor. If the resulting purée seems wetter than a typical tomato sauce, just drain off some of the excess liquid, or cook the mixture down until you reach the desired consistency. If using crushed tomatoes, cook down until it thickens a bit.

Some canned tomato products have added seasonings and some don't. Taste your sauce and tweak the flavor if needed, adding salt, oregano, basil, or whatever spices you prefer. Cook your sauce just long enough to warm it through for a fresh tomato sauce, or cook it until it develops a dark color and thick texture if you want more of a jarred sauce consistency. If the sauce gets too thick, add some of the reserved liquid.

Tomato Sauce Substitutes

The Spruce / Jiaqi Zhou

More Tomato Sauce Substitutes: Ketchup and Tomato Soup

The following substitutes won't stand in for tomato sauce if you're making a pasta dish, but they will give you satisfactory results if the tomato sauce is being mixed into a crockpot recipe, casserole, or something similar that just needs that touch of tomato taste. Here are a couple of options to try.

  • Ketchup: Use 1 cup of ketchup in place of 1 cup of tomato sauce. Add spices to tweak the flavor as needed. A bit of basil is a good choice.
  • Tomato Soup: Add a 10 3/4-ounce can of tomato soup. Then, cut one of the wet ingredients in the recipe back by 1/4 cup to account for the extra liquid. Tomato soup tends to be sweeter than most tomato sauces, so you may need to make some flavor adjustments.

Make Your Own Tomato Sauce

To make sure you always have tomato sauce on hand, why not have some homemade at the ready? It's easy to whip up a batch of tomato sauce—ideal when you have a bounty of fresh tomatoes in your garden. It requires no peeling, blanching, or coring, and it freezes beautifully.

Divide it up into meal-size portions in airtight containers so it's easy to grab just what you need from the freezer. Allow it to thaw overnight, or defrost it in the microwave if you're in a hurry.