There are few things more frustrating as an eager cook than deciding on a dish, having your heart set on it, and then discovering that you don’t have a vital ingredient when taking a closer look at the recipe.
Tomato sauce is one of the key ingredients for a wide number of dishes, whether you’re making pasta, chicken, fish, and so on. It not only provides a delicious, fresh taste, it also perfectly compliments other flavors.
However, there’s no need to panic if you don’t have any tomato sauce on hand, as there are plenty of tomato-based alternatives you can use instead.
This guide will take a detailed look at six of the most effective substitutes for tomato sauce, including all the information you need to know about their taste, texture, and the quantity needed for the replacement.
We’ll also take a look at the easiest way to make the perfect homemade tomato sauce, as well as some of the frequently asked questions related to using and replacing the popular ingredient.
Canned tomatoes are the first substitute on our list, mainly due to the fact that they’re able to give you a similar taste and thickness to the tomato sauce that you’re trying to replicate.
Just be mindful that because this ingredient is packed into cans with a considerable amount of liquid, you’re best off straining the juice and just using the tomatoes solid.
In terms of the quantity you’ll need when using canned tomatoes as a direct replacement, the recommended amount is two tablespoons of canned tomatoes for every tablespoon of tomato sauce.
Following on from the previous substitute, tomato paste is more concentrated than canned tomatoes, making it one of the best and easiest replacements for tomato sauce.
However, because tomato sauce is also less concentrated than tomato paste, you’ll probably need twice as much just to achieve the right depth of flavor.
Therefore, when substituting tomato sauce with tomato paste, for every two to three tablespoons of tomato sauce, use just a single tablespoon of tomato paste.
If, however, you want your tomato paste substitute to provide the same thickness as tomato sauce, you can mix one cup of water to a ¾ cup of tomato paste to achieve the desired thickness and texture.
This next substitute is essentially pureed tomatoes, but with their skins and seeds removed. Tomato passata is easily available in most grocery stores and is renowned for providing a unique fresh tomato flavor.
While the texture of tomato passata can vary between chunky and smooth depending on the brand you choose, it’s generally more like tomato puree than tomato paste.
Therefore, when substituting the ingredient for tomato sauce, the recommended ratio is one to one.
If, however, you’re looking for a more concentrated tomato flavor in your dish, you can reduce passata by simply simmering it in a pan.
This should be done until the passata is roughly ⅓ of its original volume, resembling more of a paste-like substance.
If you’re looking for one of the best fresh substitutes for tomato sauce, there are few options better than tomato juice.
Made from freshly crushed or squeezed tomatoes, they’re packed full of flavor, and don’t contain any of the preservatives or additives that many of the other alternatives do.
Just keep in mind that because tomato juice is typically used fresh, there’s the downside that it can turn bad much at a much quicker rate than the other substitutes on this list.
In terms of quantity, every half cup of tomato sauce and half cup of water can be suitably substituted with one cup of tomato juice. Moreover, you can also add some salt and sugar to balance out the flavor.
The best overall substitute for tomato sauce is using fresh tomatoes. Not only is making your own tomato sauce from fresh tomatoes a lot healthier, it also allows you to know exactly what you’re putting into your dish.
When using freshly picked tomatoes, it’s important to peel them and remove all of the seeds before cooking.
You’ll also need to simmer them until they’re reduced by around half, and then get rid of any of the excess liquid that you don’t need for your sauce.
In terms of deciding on how many fresh tomatoes to use, the recommended amount is one large tomato for every tablespoon of tomato sauce. If you follow this ratio, you’ll be just fine.
The final tomato sauce substitute on our list, and by certainly no means the least, is tomato soup.
While it isn’t used as commonly as many of the other alternatives on this list, it still remains a valid replacement in terms of all-round flavor.
However, one thing to keep in mind is that tomato soup often provides a sweeter taste than most traditional tomato sauces. Therefore, it’s important to adapt the taste so it suits your specific recipe.
When using tomato soup as a replacement, you should use one can of soup for every cup of tomato sauce and ¼ cup of water.
If you follow these measurements closely, your dish will be just as tasty as if you’d used tomato sauce.
Making A Homemade Tomato Sauce
There are few things more important to learn in a kitchen than knowing how to make a delicious homemade tomato sauce.
Therefore, listed below are the main ingredients and the basic cooking method you should keep in mind when trying to create the perfect homemade tomato sauce for your dish.
What You Need
- Whole peeled, seeded and chopped tomatoes
- Chopped onion
- Crushed garlic
- Carrot and celery (optional)
- 2 x tbsp olive oil
- 2 x tbsp chopped parsley and basil
- Appropriate seasoning (salt, pepper, etc)
- To begin with, heat your pan over a medium heat with the olive oil in it, and then add the onion, celery, and carrot. You can stir this occasionally for the first couple of minutes, before covering and leaving for another 15 minutes until the vegetables have softened.
- Next, you should uncover the pan and add in your garlic. Turn up the heat once you’ve done this, and cook for another 30 seconds to a minute.
- Then, add your tomatoes and the juice into the pan with the rest of the ingredients. If, however, you’re using fresh tomatoes, it’s a good idea to boil them for a minute or two before doing this.
- With all the ingredients cooking in the pan, season the sauce and add some of your basil and parsley. Bring it to the simmer for around 15 minutes until the sauce thickens, and then it’s ready to add to your dish.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can Tomato Ketchup Be Used As A Replacement For Tomato Sauce?
The vast majority of people have tomato ketchup in their fridges, and it can be used as a suitable substitute for tomato sauce in a number of dishes.
In terms of consistency, ketchup isn’t quite as thick as tomato paste, but it provides a thicker sauce than fresh tomatoes.
Just keep in mind when you add ketchup to your recipe that it also contains vinegar, sugar, and a number of other spices. So, try not to add more than you need because there’s every chance that it’ll change the flavor of the dish.
As a rough estimate, one tablespoon for every spoon of tomato sauce should be enough for most recipes.
Can Beets And Carrots Be Used As A Tomato Sauce Substitute?
If you want to try out a non-tomato-based alternative, beets and carrots are a great option.
Most recipes using beets and carrots first saute the vegetables in some olive oil, before braising them in water with a combination of balsamic and white vinegars.
The end result is a paste-like substance, similar to a proper tomato paste, with a sweet and tangy flavor.
Combining one part of this beet and carrot puree with another part of water will produce the same amount of tomato sauce for you to use in your recipe.
How Can You Tell If Tomato Sauce Has Gone Bad?
More often than not, your senses will give you the best indication of whether it’s okay to eat or not. So, take a smell of the sauce and have a thorough inspection.
If the tomato sauce has an odd smell, or the appearance of the sauce looks different to usual, you should throw it away immediately. Also throw away any packages or cans that are leaking or rusting.
Are Tomato Puree And Tomato Sauce The Same Thing?
While the two share many of the same similarities, there’s a couple of differences to keep in mind. These are mainly related to flavor and culinary use.
For example, tomato puree is best used as a recipe ingredient due to the fact that it blends so well with other flavors, while tomato sauce is typically
used as it is.
What Can I Substitute For Tomato Sauce In Lasagna?
Some of the most popular substitutes for tomato sauce in a lasagna are zucchini and eggplant. However, you can use pretty much any vegetables so long as you cook them correctly.
All you need to do is roast the vegetables, then use either an olive paste or tapenade (in place of the tomato sauce) in between the layers for a similar, pungent flavor.
If you’d prefer a milder flavor, you can always use bechamel sauce instead.
Can I Use Pizza Sauce Instead Of Tomato Sauce?
Tomato sauce is always tomato-based, whereas pizza sauce can often be cream-based or pesto-based. Therefore, while tomato sauce can be added to a wide range of dishes such as meat, pasta, and vegetables, pizza sauce is only really suitable for pizza.
Why Is Rao’s So Good?
Rao’s is one of the most popular tomato sauces in the world. This is mainly due to the fact that it uses high quality tomatoes and olive oil without the interference of any added preservatives or coloring.
As a result, you’re left with a well-balanced sauce that’s made solely from tomatoes, garlic, and onion.
What Tomatoes Does Rao’s Use?
Rao’s homemade tomato sauce uses certified organic whole plum tomatoes. These are imported from southern Italy and are served in tomato puree with basil leaf.