9 Best Tomato Sauce Substitutes

Have you ever been in a pinch and needed to make tomato sauce but couldn’t find any tomatoes?

We all know that there are some days where we don’t have the time or energy to go grocery shopping. That’s why I wanted to share with you 9 substitutes for tomato sauce that can be found in your kitchen or you can make it yourself (recipe shared below!)

The best tomato-based tomato sauce substitutes are Tomato Paste, Canned Tomatoes, Tomato Juice, Tomato Ketchup, Tomato Soup, Fresh Tomatoes, and Marinara Sauce. A combination of Carrots and Beets, and Ajvar are non-tomato-based substitutes you can use!

These substitutes will help you get creative in the kitchen without having to worry about running out of ingredients!

You can use these swaps as an ingredient, topping, or just eat them straight up! They are so versatile and delicious. Plus they’re easy on your wallet too!

What is Tomato Sauce?

Tomato Sauce Substitutes

Tomato sauce, also known as tomato gravy, is a savory sauce made from tomatoes and herbs. Tomato sauces are used as a topping for spaghetti or any kind of pasta dish. They can also be used in many different recipes like soups, stews, pizza, and marinara dishes.

The most common ingredient added to tomato sauce is onions. Some recipes also include garlic, oregano, basil, and other spices to enhance the flavor of the sauce.

9 Best Tomato Sauce Substitutes

If you are in a situation where you are looking for something that can substitute tomato sauce, these 9 alternatives are here for you.

1. Tomato Paste

Tomato Paste Substitutes

If you have a can or tube of tomato paste in your pantry, you’ve already got the perfect substitute for tomato sauce.

Tomato paste is a very concentrated form of tomato sauce so you need to thin out the paste by adding an equal amount of water and blending it until smooth.

As for usage, you can use 1/2 part tomato paste blended with 1/2 part water to replace 1 cup of tomato sauce.

To add more flavoring to the mixture, add herbs, garlic, and onion. If you want to match your grandma’s authentic tomato sauce, you need to saute garlic and onion in olive oil until soft, and then add them to the tomato paste blend.

2. Canned Tomatoes

Canned Tomatoes

Canned tomatoes are a very easy natural and organic substitute for tomato sauce.

They have all the essential ingredients for a great tomato sauce but they come in a liquid form already which is why you need to strain it and use the solid tomatoes.

The best thing about canned tomatoes is that you can use them straight out of the can or reheat them if necessary.

Due to the low concentration of canned tomatoes, you’ll need to use double the amount in your recipes. So, if the recipe calls for 1 tbsp tomato sauce, use 2 tbsp of canned tomatoes as a substitute.

3. Tomato Juice

Tomato Juice Substitutes

If you are looking for a substitute for tomato sauce, but don’t want to use something that’s not as processed then tomato juice is the way to go.

You can easily find canned tomato juice in any grocery store and it comes in different flavors like plain, basil, spicy, organic, and more. When you’re done using tomato juice, you can also use it as a base for homemade marinara sauce.

Tomato juice is usually thinner than tomato sauce so you may want to simmer it down until it reaches a similar consistency level.

1/2 cup of tomato sauce mixed with 1/2 cup of water can be used to replace 1 cup of tomato juice.

However, keep in mind that tomato juice is made from freshly squeezed or crushed tomatoes so it doesn’t have a long shelf-life. It’s free from preservatives or additives so you should use it as quickly as possible.

4. Tomato Ketchup

Tomato Ketchup

The terms tomato ketchup and tomato sauce are synonymous in a lot of recipes. But, the truth is that they aren’t exactly the same thing.

Tomato ketchup is used as a condiment and most people use it for dipping french fries. It is also thicker than tomato sauce but not as thick as tomato paste.

The best part about using tomato ketchup as a substitute is its availability. You can easily find it and I can bet ten dollars that you already have it in your kitchen.

While a lot of recipes use tomato ketchup as a replacement for tomato sauce, you should be cautious with this alternative because it has vinegar, sugar, and spices added to the recipe.

Tomato ketchup also acts as a universal substitute for both a marinara sauce or barbecue sauce – depending on how you’re using it.

You will need to use 1 tablespoon of ketchup as a substitute for every 1 spoon of regular tomato sauce that the recipe calls for.

5. Tomato Soup

Tomato Soup Substitutes

Tomato soup is more than just a staple in your kitchen; it’s also a great substitute for tomato sauce.

You can use the canned or boxed version of tomato soup so you don’t have to worry about anything else like buying fresh tomatoes or spices.

If you’re cooking homemade mac and cheese, stir in some tomato soup to add extra flavor. You can also make a hearty and nutritious chicken parmesan with tomato soup.

You’ll need to use 1 can of tomato soup as the substitute for 1 cup of tomato sauce and 1/4 cup of water.

However, if you want your dish to have a thicker consistency, then cook tomato soup down until it’s reduced by at least half the volume.

6. Fresh Tomatoes

Fresh Tomatoes

Fresh tomatoes can be used as a substitute for tomato sauce, but the process is different from using canned tomatoes.

You need to peel them first then dice them up and place them in boiling water for about 15 minutes.

Let them cool down until you get rid of any excess liquid from all the fresh tomatoes that you used. After that, you can use them in place of canned tomatoes.

You’ll need about 1 large fresh tomato for each 1 cup of tomato sauce that your recipe calls for.

7. Marinara Sauce

Marinara Sauce

This is a popular Italian-style sauce that’s usually used in pasta recipes. It has a heavier consistency and has rich flavors with herbs mixed in.

Marinara sauce is usually prepared with tomatoes as the base and seasoned with garlic, crushed red pepper, and basil. But you can also find some recipes that use other sauces like those made from vegetables.

Marinara sauce can also be used in other types of dishes such as pizza, spaghetti squash, or even atop chicken parmesan as a replacement for tomato sauce.

You can use a 1:1 substitute i.e., replace 1 cup of marinara sauce with 1 cup of tomato sauce. Just keep in mind that this substitute will change the flavor and consistency of your dish.

Let’s move forward and discuss some of the non-tomato-based substitutes for tomato sauce.

8. Carrots and Beets


Believe it or not, you can use a blend of carrots and beets to replace tomato sauce.

Carrots have a sweeter taste than tomatoes and beets have the perfect consistency for a tomato sauce substitute.

You can roast or boil carrots and beets then blend them with a small amount of water until they are smooth enough to use as a condiment.

Use one part of this carrot-beet mixture and one part of water to get the equivalent amount of tomato sauce.

If you want to make your own ketchup, then add some garlic, vinegar, and spices to your delicious tomato sauce alternative.

You can use this as a substitute for any recipe that calls for tomato sauce. The only thing that you need to do when using this option is to add some salt and pepper to adjust the taste.

9. Ajvar


Ajvar is a traditional Balkan relish that’s usually made from red bell peppers.

You can make this, as well as its cousin, called Ćevapčići, or even use store-bought varieties to replace tomato sauce in your recipes.

For instance, you can add ajvar to your grilled chicken sandwich or make a healthy veggie dip out of it by mixing it with cream cheese and serving it with crackers.

You can use 1/2 cup of ajvar with 1/2 cup of broth (or water) to replace 1 cup of tomato sauce in your recipes.

What Does Tomato Sauce Taste Like?

The taste of tomato sauce is similar to that of ketchup, but it’s more savory and tangy.

By adding other ingredients like garlic, herbs, or blends of vegetables and fruits, you can enhance the flavor and depth of your tomato sauces.

Tomato sauce is an essential ingredient in many recipes including Italian pasta dishes such as marinara or Bolognese.

But as you’ve learned, this is an easy ingredient to substitute and you can use different ingredients depending on your preferences.

How to Make the Best Tomato Sauce At Home

Here are some simple steps on how to make the best tomato sauce at home.

1. Choose your ingredients:

Use vine-ripened tomatoes that are well-fleshed and flavorful, preferably from local farmers. If you want to buy fresh tomatoes in a season when they’re plentiful and less expensive, then you can definitely go for it!

2. Prepare your tomatoes:

To make the best tomato sauce, you have to get rid of the excess water first then chop them up. You can also puree them or roast them and use a blender to mix everything well.

3. Use fresh herbs:

Fresh basil, oregano, and thyme will really bring out the flavor of your tomato sauce. You can use dried herbs as well but it won’t be the same. It’s best to have these chopped and ready before mixing with the other ingredients.

4. Add salt:

For a better and more flavorful result, salt your sauce first then bring it to a boil before cooking it for 30 minutes over medium heat. Just be careful not to add salt earlier because it will draw water from the tomatoes.

5. Add red pepper flakes:

This gives your sauce that extra kick and also a great taste. You can adjust the amount depending on how spicy you want or don’t want it to be.

Remember to simmer over medium-low heat for at least an hour before adding any other ingredients.

6. Add a little sugar:

The last thing to do is to add a teaspoon of sugar before you turn off the heat so that it will thicken and have enough consistency for your recipes. It also makes it taste better!

Can You Use Tomato Paste Instead of Tomato Sauce?

You can definitely use tomato paste instead of tomato sauce.

If you’re using it in a recipe that calls for tomatoes, just be sure to add some water so that it will have enough liquid for the recipe. You can also add more salt to compensate for the minimal amount of salt in tomato paste.

You can also use tomato paste to make delicious sauces, soups, stews, and even burgers.

Is Tomato Puree the Same as Tomato Sauce?

Tomato puree is often used interchangeably with tomato sauce in recipes but they’re actually different.

Tomato puree is made from skinned, chopped, and cooked tomatoes that are then run through a food mill or processed in a blender or food processor.

This makes it thicker than tomato sauce, which retains some of its tomato pulp. You can use tomato puree in dips, soups, sauces, and stews.

What Can I Substitute for Tomato Sauce in Spaghetti?

To substitute for tomato sauce in spaghetti, you can use canned or fresh chopped tomatoes with some spices added to them.

Basil, parsley flakes, cumin, and oregano are some of the best spices to use for flavoring tomato sauce or fresh tomatoes.

Can You Substitute Tomato Juice for Tomato Sauce?

You can definitely use tomato juice instead of tomato sauce in some recipes.

It’s better to add more salt and sugar if needed because you won’t have the concentrated flavor of tomato sauce.

A good idea is to add a spoonful of sugar and half a teaspoon of salt if needed when you’re using tomato juice.

Final Words

Tomato sauce is the basis for many recipes, but it can be hard to find in some locations.

In this blog post, I have shared the 9 best tomato sauce alternatives with different ingredients and cooking methods so there should be no problem finding one suitable for your needs.

Whether you want to make fresh sauces or use canned tomatoes as an easy substitute, these options will work great!

I hope this post has helped you find some new recipes for dinner tonight! If it did please share it with your friends and family who might need a little inspiration in the kitchen too.

I’m a passionate food blogger on a journey to become a go-to person who can help others prepare delicious foods. I share recipes, food substitutes, and other cooking tips. Read more about my journey...

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