tomato sauce

4 Delicious Tomato Sauce Substitutes For Your Italian Meal

Tomato sauce is used in virtually any recipe. It is a staple in Italian food and can be part of many sauces, soups, and stews. But we all have times when we run out of tomato sauce, and what if you can’t go get more? Or your local store has run out of it? 

The good thing about tomatoes is that they can be mimicked in terms of flavor and texture, so don’t worry as there are many options to choose from that will bring out the best ingredients in your recipe.

What Is Tomato Sauce?

Let’s talk about tomato sauce first, what is it exactly?

This is probably one of the most common sauces that come from tomatoes. This sauce is made from cooking tomatoes in medium heat until they become a thick sauce, which can be then strained to remove the seeds and peels.

The consistency of this sauce makes it a great natural thickener and that’s why it is common in certain cuisines, like Italian, Greek, or Middle Eastern. 

Most commercial tomato sauces are made from tomato flesh with olive oil, salt, and in some cases, garlic. Usually, tomato sauce isn’t served alone, it is used as a component in other dishes.

Don’t confuse it with tomato paste, as this is a much more concentrated tomato product, and keep in mind that it is also not the same as tomato puree, which may also have peels and seeds and is much chunkier.

What Can You Replace Tomato Sauce With?

Okay, let’s get cooking! Here are the best tomato sauce substitutes: 

#1. Tomato Paste

As we just mentioned, this is not the same as tomato sauce. Tomato paste is a thick concentrate made from tomatoes, but if you have some of this in your pantry, then you can transform it into a sauce easily.

All you have to do is mix one part tomato paste and one part water and blend these two until you reach the desired consistency.

Because tomato sauce tends to be seasoned, you can add some herbs, such as basil and thyme, and olive oil and garlic for an added taste.

If this homemade sauce is too acidic, consider adding a pinch of sugar too, and blend it again so it dissolves completely.

#2. Canned Tomatoes

Most people have at least one can of canned tomatoes, whether crushed, diced, or stewed. This is another great way to make your tomato sauce with an ingredient you already have in handy.

To start, drain the liquid from the canned tomatoes, then pass the tomatoes through the blender, and there you have the sauce.

Sometimes you may want to add water or blend the tomatoes further. If your canned tomatoes already had seasoning, there is no need to add more, but if they were canned plain, then you should add herbs, salt, garlic, and olive oil.

For a further thickness, you can slowly simmer your blended tomatoes on the stove for a few more minutes. 

#3. Ketchup

This alternative isn’t ideal, but it is an option if you don’t have any other ingredients at home. Ketchup is sweetened and can be very sugary, so to dilute it. You should use one cup ketchup with about ⅓ water, and blend it all.

If you want some of the citric flavors from tomatoes, consider adding a bit of lime juice to your ketchup, and garlic as well. You can also add dry or fresh basil to mimic the original flavor of tomato sauce.

#4. Tomato Soup

This substitute is not a common one, but it can work when in a pinch. If you have canned or boxed tomato soup then you can add it to your recipe as is, but make sure to adjust for the extra liquid and cut out about ¼ liquid from the recipe.

Tomato soup tends to be very sweet, so you can add lime juice, garlic, and herbs to your cooking process, or blend the soup with these before adding it.

We suggest you also add olive oil to the recipe for a little bit of extra Italian flavor. Also, if you feel like the soup is too thick and too sweet, then consider adding ¼ cup of water per 1 cup of the tomato soup.

When you can’t find any other ingredients, tomato soup may be the right choice because it is readily available anywhere.

How To Make Your Own Tomato Sauce at Home

Since tomato sauce is used in various recipes, then why not make some of it at home? If you have a slow cooker, then the process is much easier and pretty low maintenance.

Ideally, you should use fresh tomatoes, and simmer them at low heat for a long time, until they become very loose, and can be drained.

You can experiment with ingredients, but most of the homemade tomato sauce recipes ask for basil, garlic, salt, and olive oil.

All you have to do is make sure you drain out the peel and seeds so the sauce doesn’t taste bitter. Keep it in airtight containers once cold and store them in the fridge for a few days, or freeze them for longer use. 


Is tomato sauce the same as pasta sauce?

No, they are not the same thing. Tomato sauce refers to the sauce made from cooked tomatoes with some seasoning. Pasta sauce is often more condensed and contains many more ingredients, depending on what is added during manufacturing. Pasta sauce tends to have a very particular flavor, which is why it can’t be used in all recipes.

What is the difference between tomato sauce and tomato ketchup?

Ketchup is made from vinegar, tomatoes, sugar, and acid. Tomato sauce is very simple, as it is just cooked tomatoes with seasoning. Ketchup is thicker and has much higher sugar content. It also has some stabilizing chemicals to make it last longer.

What does tomato sauce taste like?

This depends on the commercial brand or if you make it at home. The importance of tomato sauce is that you balance sweetness and acid, which is why some tomato sauces add olive oil and garlic too. This sauce is slightly acidic and slightly sweet, but overall it is very neutral, which grants it the ability to be used in many dishes.


Tomato sauce is a staple of many dishes, so it is always good to have some in your pantry. But if you don’t have any and can’t find it anywhere, these are some good substitutes that will make your recipe equally tasty. Consider the added thickness or sweetness and change your ingredients accordingly.

See also: What is the difference between tomato paste and tomato sauce

tomato sauce substitutes

*Photo by studioM/depositphotos

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