Who hasn’t used tomato paste every now and then? I certainly use it often—sometimes multiple times a week. However, it can be disastrous to realize if you are out of tomato paste right before making your favorite Italian meal.
Instead of panicking or rushing out to a store, you can choose other ingredients that can work equally well. It is all about finding a balance between flavors and texture, but we’ll help you figure it out.
What Is Tomato Paste?
As the name suggests, this paste is made of concentrated tomatoes, which are seeded, peeled, and cooked down. These are then strained until they form a thick, gooey consistency. You can find tomato paste almost anywhere, and it will probably have low sugar content.
Tomato paste is used to add color, flavor, and texture to many dishes. It is particularly important in Italian food, but it can also be part of Mediterranean and European cooking.
What Can I Replace Tomato Paste With?
When you run out or simply can’t use any, these are the best tomato paste substitutes for every dish you need:
Best For Salsa, Soup, Pizza Sauce, and Chili
#1. Tomato Sauce
This sauce is simply crushed tomatoes and tomato paste combined to make a soft sauce. You can thicken tomato sauce by simmering over low heat, but it is usually more watery and less concentrated. This is a great replacement when you are going to make salsa, soup, chili, and some pasta sauces.
You can buy tomato sauce in a grocery store—usually canned or in glass jars. However, it is also easy to make it at home, simply by cooking crushed canned tomatoes, seasoning, and water. You can use the same amount the recipe calls for, but make sure you adjust for the extra liquid.
See More: Tomato Sauce Alternatives
#2. Crushed Tomatoes
Like tomato sauce, crushed tomatoes are much less concentrated and have high water content. Canned crushed tomatoes, though, are very easy to find in any grocery store, and they are packed with sweetness.
These tomatoes are a good alternative for cooking chili, soups, making salsa, and can be thickened down to have a softer pizza sauce.
We suggest you use about half of what the recipe indicates, but you can add more as you go if you feel like it is necessary.
If you’d like to thicken crushed tomatoes, you can simmer them for a while over low-medium heat, and add a bit of cornstarch as well. You can see this list of cornstarch alternatives if you don’t have it.
This choice is sweet and high in sugar, but it works well in certain dishes, particularly chili. Commercial ketchup is full of preservatives and it is very thin.
However, when in a pinch, it can add a nice flavor to your sauces. Use two tablespoons of ketchup for every tablespoon of tomato paste.
There is a high chance that you already have ketchup at home, but if not, it is easy to find everywhere.
If the flavor is too sweet, consider adding a bit of acid and water, and mix well. Use ketchup is recommended in making salsa, chili, meat stews, and Boston baked beans.
Best For Curry Dishes, Stew, Lasagna, Bolognese, and in Salads
#4. Cooked Tomatoes
This choice is somewhat easy to make. It is also flavorful which makes it great to use in curries, stews, lasagna sauce, and even salad dressings.
You can make your stewed tomatoes at home easily. To do that, all you need is either cherry tomatoes or any other kind, seasoning, and time. Simply spend more time cooking them down to a thicker consistency.
You can also buy canned stewed tomatoes, but the flavor may be sweeter. Use about four tablespoons for every tablespoon of tomato paste, but always adjust for the extra liquid.
#5. Fresh Chopped Tomatoes
Now, this is a pretty obvious choice that most people ignore, but fresh chopped tomatoes add citrus, texture, and tons of flavor. You can use chopped tomatoes in curry, meat stews, and salads.
We recommend that you buy cherry or tomatoes and chop them up into small pieces so that the texture doesn’t change too much.
Finding tomatoes is easy. You can try the produce section of your local grocery store, an organic supermarket, or a farmer’s market. If you need the flavor to be more concentrated, cook the tomatoes down a bit.
#6. Puréed Red Bell Peppers
Roasted red bell peppers have a fantastic flavor and texture, which makes them easy to use in many dishes.
If you have roasted red peppers at home, or you can make them at home, then you can add a bit of water and purée them down into a paste. The thickness and flavor will be a bit different, but it adds color and sweetness to your meal.
We recommend that you use the same amount of puréed roasted red peppers in place of tomato paste. Use this choice especially when you are making curry, stew sauces, salad dressings, or in lasagna filling.
#7. Mashed Butternut Squash
While not a tomato product, this option is a great choice for making a recipe feel like it has tomato paste. Butternut squash has a distinct nutty and sweet flavor, but you can add seasoning to make the taste resemble tomato paste.
We suggest you cook the butternut squash until it is soft, then mash it down to a purée or paste texture, and add about two tablespoons for every one of tomato paste.
You can use mashed butternut squash in a vegan bolognese, lasagna, curry, and stews. This vegetable is also very healthy, as it is high in vitamins and minerals, as well as fiber. You could even mix butternut squash with other vegetables, like zucchini or carrots for color and variety.
Yes, you can use ketchup in some dishes that require tomato paste. Some good options include meat stews, chili, and sauces. You do need to consider the extra sugar content and the thin texture.
To thicken a sauce, all you need to do is cook the tomatoes down over low heat for a period of time. However, for more thickness, you can add cornstarch or flour along with the sauce, making it into a thicker version.
Tomato paste is a traditional Italian ingredient, that is also used widely to add color, flavor, and texture to sauces. It is also added to certain soups and marinades for more vibrancy and tomato flavors.
Yes absolutely. You can replace tomato paste with tomato sauce and achieve a similar consistency by thickening tomato sauce using cornstarch or simply simmering it over low heat.
Using tomato paste is an everyday occurrence for some of us, but when we run out or can’t find any, there are other options you can use. These seven substitutes are perfect for different recipes, and in some cases, you can even mix them for a more intense flavor.
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