Tomato Paste vs. Tomato Sauce – Key Differences You Must Know

Avid cooks love to use tomato paste and tomato sauce, but do you know why they are different? The truth is, these two ingredients are not the same at all and have various purposes in life.

Before you start your cooking journey, learn why you should use either one of these foods.

Let’s dive into what tomato sauce vs. tomato paste can do for your meals!

What Is Tomato Paste?

Tomato paste is a thick paste that is made by cooking tomatoes for many hours until the water content is greatly reduced. The skin and seeds are strained out, and then the remaining liquid is cooked again until it becomes a thick, concentrated paste. This paste is part of Italian cooking and often takes part in pasta dishes, soups, and sauces.

This type of tomato seasoning is traditionally from Sicily, the south of Italy, and Malta. Tomato paste is part of many recipes because of its umami and sweet flavor, which is natural from tomatoes.

Usually, tomato paste goes in a dish at the beginning or middle part of the cooking process allowing it to dissolve and even caramelize.

This type of paste may also be the basis for making other foods, such as ketchup or tomato juice. Whether it is usable or not depends on the manufacturing process and acidity level.

In some countries, tomato paste may be referred to as tomato puree or concentrate, but it is the same product as a paste.

Nutrition Facts

Two tablespoons serving size (33 g) of tomato paste has the following nutritional content (*):

  • 30 calories
  • 1 g protein
  • 1 g fat
  • 6 g carbohydrate
  • 0.99 g fiber
  • 5 g sugar
  • 20.1 mg calcium
  • 9.9 mg sodium
  • 0.36 mg iron
  • 24 mg vitamin C
  • 500 IU vitamin A

Is Tomato Paste Good For You?

Tomato paste tends to be a rather harmless ingredient for the most part. Since recipes tend to call for only small amounts of this food, consuming tomato paste will not add many calories or sugars. However, certain brands may contain higher caloric and carbohydrate content, and you should be aware.

If you are preparing pasta, soup, braised meat, or a sauce, you will likely only use two tablespoons of tomato paste. This amount will render you about 30 calories, but it does have 6 grams of carbohydrate and 5 grams of sugar. While these amounts vary from brand to brand, you need to be careful, as these amounts can add up quickly.

When you use tomato paste, you get a good amount of vitamin C, vitamin A, calcium, and sodium. Vitamin C and A are powerful antioxidants that can help your body work better at fighting off damage and stress. Since tomatoes are a good source of these two, eating tomato paste can increase your daily amounts of these two vitamins.

Calcium, on the other hand, is essential in maintaining healthy bones. Not many foods that are not animal-derived contain calcium, so using tomato paste can increase your chances of obtaining the desired amounts. This mineral is also important in keeping your brain healthy.

While tomato paste is not a significant source of sodium, it contains enough that it could pose a threat if you are on a sodium-restricted diet. Otherwise, you should not be worried about the amount of sodium it brings to your meal. In some cases, manufacturers may add more sodium, such as when they want to sell canned tomato paste.

As you can see, tomato paste is relatively safe and can be part of your day-to-day life without much problem. You should still be mindful of the amount of sugar and carbohydrates it contains, as these are not necessarily a good addition to every meal you make. Always read the label of your chosen tomato paste before buying it.

What Is Tomato Sauce?

Tomato sauce is a term used to refer to many different things, but in its basic form, it is a sauce made with tomatoes and cooked down and simmered. This sauce is not meant to be used as is, but rather it is a base for other sauces or dishes. Tomato sauce is thinner and, in some cases, may have additional flavors and ingredients, such as salt and olive oil.

In some countries, tomato sauce may refer to a sauce that contains onions, garlic, and herbs. In the United States, however, tomato sauce is more concentrated and contains no seasoning, but is simply only cooked tomatoes that are simmered into a thin liquid. When it is homemade, tomato sauce may contain salt and a variety of spices.

This sauce is usually the base for other more elaborate sauces, such as marinara, bolognese, or pizza sauce. Some recipes may call for the use of both tomato sauce and tomato paste, as these two add different flavors and textures. Tomato sauce may also be used in the process of making homemade ketchup.

Nutrition Facts

One serving size (66 g) of a regular tomato sauce has the following nutritional content (*):

  • 20.1 calories
  • 1 g protein
  • 0 g fat
  • 4 g carbohydrate
  • 0.976 g fiber
  • 2 g sugar
  • 0 mg calcium
  • 280 mg sodium
  • 0.36 mg iron
  • 110 mg potassium
  • 2.38 mg vitamin C
  • 100 IU vitamin A

Is Tomato Sauce Good For You?

Unlike tomato paste, tomato sauce is very light, but this also means that it contains fewer nutrients. Since the tomatoes are cooked down, some of the nutrient content is lost as well. However, tomato sauce is a relatively good source of certain micronutrients.

For a serving size of 66 grams, you can get very few calories, sodium, potassium, vitamin C, and vitamin A. There is no calcium in tomato sauce and only a small amount of vitamin C, but it is still something. The potassium content in this sauce is also important and constitutes about 3% of your daily needs for this mineral.

As with tomato paste, this sauce contains vitamin C and vitamin A, both of which are good at preventing oxidative damage and inflammatory pathways. Still, the amounts for these two vitamins are relatively low, so you would need to consume a ton of tomato sauce to see the benefits. Adding tomato sauce, though, can make a meal a little more nutritious.

Unlike tomato paste, this sauce contains more sodium. For one serving size, you will obtain 280 mg of sodium, or about 12% of your daily value. High amounts of sodium can result in fluid retention, high blood pressure and may lead to heart and kidney damage.

Tomato sauce contains carbohydrates and sugar, and while these amounts are not high, they can add up in the long term. To avoid added preservatives and sugar, you can make your tomato sauce at home. Tomato sauce is also a great way to preserve your tomatoes.

Even though you can safely consume tomato sauce, you can still find that commercial brands may contain too much sodium and sugar. Use tomato sauce sparingly and watch for added ingredients any time you buy it. You can also find quick and easy recipes to prepare this sauce at home.

What Are The Key Differences Between Tomato Paste and Tomato Sauce?

The main difference between tomato paste and tomato sauce is consistency. Tomato paste is a very thick and concentrated paste. Tomato sauce is much lighter and more liquidy, sometimes containing a few chunks of tomatoes.

Tomato paste and tomato sauce taste different as well. Tomato paste is sweet and more intense, resembling the flavor of sun-dried tomatoes and with distinct umami. On the other hand, tomato sauce tastes more like the seasoning it uses or like a light version of canned tomatoes.

The ingredients used in these two products are also not the same. In making tomato paste, you can use tomatoes, olive oil, and salt. Tomato sauce requires tomatoes, salt, garlic, herbs, and other spices.

Finally, tomato paste and tomato sauce are used differently. Tomato paste is used in very small amounts and is usually added at the beginning or middle of the cooking process. Tomato sauce is used as a base for other sauces, including marinara, pizza sauce, or bolognese.

Main DifferencesTomato PasteTomato Sauce 
Origin Sicily, the south of Italy, and MaltaItaly
Aroma Sweet and slightly sourSweet, slightly pungent, and aromatic
ColorDark red, almost brownLight red
Price Between $0.75 and $2.50Between $0.55 and $1.50  
Taste Meaty, sweet, and umamiAcidic and sweet
How To CookAdd in the beginning or middle of the cooking process to allow tomato paste to dissolve and caramelize. Add at the beginning of the cooking process to be used as a base for another sauce.
Cook TimeCooking time: 30 minutes to 1 hourCooking time: 10 to 45 minutes
Calories per 100 gram serving91 calories33 calories

Is Tomato Paste or Tomato Sauce Healthier?

When it comes to tomato paste or tomato sauce, which one is healthier depends on what ingredients are used. Commercial tomato paste tends to be higher in sugar when compared to tomato sauce. If this is the case, then tomato sauce is healthier.

Tomatoes are very healthy and contain quite a few antioxidants. The main antioxidant in tomatoes is called lycopene. This antioxidant has been proven to work in reducing the risk for certain cancers.

Unlike what people may think, the presence of lycopene increases when tomatoes are cooked. This means that tomato paste has a higher lycopene content because it is cooked longer. Tomato sauce is cooked briefly, so it has lower lycopene content.

In the end, though, you should always check for the ingredients present in your tomato paste and tomato sauce. If you want to be safer, you can prepare either at home and avoid using too much sugar or salt. When you are buying commercial products, tomato sauce may be healthier, but since tomato paste is used in small amounts, you can get away with it sometimes.


Tomato paste and tomato sauce are not the same, and now you know exactly why. Take a look here next time you want to use either or both. You are ready to make the best Italian pasta dish ever!

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*image by alesealesphoto/depositphotos

*image by EsinDeniz/depositphotos

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