When you find yourself in the midst of preparing dinner, only to open your pantry and realize that you’re fresh out of tomato sauce, a substitute for tomato sauce can be a real lifesaver. This article delves into exploring eight excellent alternatives to tomato sauces, encompassing tomato-free options as well.
Tomato sauce, a sauce known for its thin consistency, thicker than tomato juice yet thinner than tomato purée, serves as a foundational ingredient for various sauces, soups, as well as meat and vegetable stews. It contributes flavor, acidity, moisture, and color to these dishes. Notably, it is a common component in many Italian pasta recipes. When seeking a tomato sauce substitute, it’s crucial to find an option that can replicate at least some of these key qualities.
There are two primary types of tomato sauce – store-bought and homemade, each with its own set of characteristics. Homemade tomato sauce holds an advantage as it allows complete control over the ingredients used, ensuring fresher and more delicious results. In contrast, store-bought tomato sauce often contains high levels of salt and sugar for preservation, which may not align with dietary preferences or restrictions. Therefore, homemade tomato sauce emerges as the top choice when substituting for store-bought tomato sauce.
To craft homemade tomato sauce as a replacement for store-bought, you can simmer chopped or puréed tomatoes for several hours until they lose their raw taste, remove seeds, and strain the cooked tomatoes. The sauce’s flavor profile largely hinges on the quality of the vegetables used for simmering; sweet tomatoes yield a sweet sauce, while sour ones may require neutralizing with sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, potatoes, carrots, or vegetable broth. Enhancements like salt, onions, garlic, wine, and herbs such as oregano, bay leaf, and basil are typically added to elevate the aroma of tomato sauce.
However, there are situations where using homemade tomato sauce might not be feasible due to various factors, such as a lack of access to fresh tomatoes. In such cases, when a recipe calls for homemade tomato sauce, the best substitute becomes store-bought tomato sauce.
Canned tomatoes, tomato paste, tomato purée, ketchup, tomato soup, marinara, beet-carrot paste, and ajvar stand out as excellent alternative ingredients when you’re running low on homemade or store-bought tomato sauce. Below, you’ll find useful information about each of these options:
1. Canned tomatoes
Canned tomatoes are an exceptional substitute for tomato sauce, closely resembling the attributes of fresh tomatoes. They offer greater concentration than fresh tomatoes yet less than tomato paste. Moreover, canned tomatoes are densely packed and cook well, making them an ideal replacement for fresh tomatoes when making a quick batch of tomato sauce.
You can conveniently purchase canned tomatoes in various forms, whether diced, stewed, or crushed, to use in place of tomato sauce.
To prepare tomato sauce from canned tomatoes, simply blend them until smooth, simmer the mixture, and season to taste. Keep in mind that canned tomatoes already contain some salt as a natural preservative, so it’s advisable to taste the resulting sauce before adding additional salt.
When substituting canned tomatoes for tomato sauce, maintain a 1:1 ratio. In other words, use 1 cup of cooked and seasoned canned tomatoes to replace 1 cup of tomato sauce.
2. Tomato paste
Tomato paste ranks among the top tomato-based substitutes for tomato sauce. It offers versatility as you can also use tomato sauce as an alternative to tomato paste.
Compared to tomato sauce, tomato paste boasts higher concentration and a thicker consistency. It is commonly used to thicken sauces while imparting the rich, bold, and slightly sweet tomato flavor.
When substituting tomato paste for tomato sauce, there are two options: store-bought and homemade tomato paste. You can conveniently purchase tomato paste in tubes or cans, with tubes being preferable for extended shelf life due to minimized exposure to air. To prepare tomato paste at home, extract seeds from tomatoes, slow-cook and strain the vegetables, retain the resulting thick paste, and discard any excess liquid. Tomato paste maintains freshness for 3-4 weeks in the fridge and up to 9 months in the freezer.
When using tomato paste as a substitute for tomato sauce, adhere to a 1:3 ratio. For example, add 1⁄3 cup of paste for every 1 cup of sauce. To achieve a thinner consistency closer to tomato sauce, blend 1⁄4 cup of tomato paste with 1⁄4 cup of water to replace 1 cup of tomato sauce. Additionally, season the tomato paste with your preferred herbs.
3. Tomato purée
Tomato purée serves as a suitable substitute for tomato sauce in dishes requiring a touch of acidity. It contains citric acid, which contributes to its unique flavor profile. In terms of consistency, tomato purée is thicker than tomato sauce yet thinner than tomato paste, placing it closer to blended canned tomatoes.
When opting for tomato purée as a replacement for tomato sauce, you can choose between store-bought and homemade options. Purchasing tomato purée in tubes or cans is convenient, with tubes being the preferred choice due to extended freshness resulting from reduced air exposure. To prepare tomato purée at home, cook the tomatoes, strain them to remove seeds and skin, and blend the vegetables with a pinch of salt and a citric acid source like lemon juice or vinegar. If you prefer a less tangy taste, omit the citric acid when making homemade tomato purée. When using store-bought tomato purée, consider adding a small amount of sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, potatoes, carrots, or vegetable broth during cooking to counterbalance the acidic taste.
When substituting tomato purée for tomato sauce, maintain a 1:1 ratio. For example, use 1 cup of tomato purée to replace 1 cup of tomato sauce. For a thinner consistency, blend 2⁄3 tomato purée with 1⁄3 cup of water to replace 1 cup of tomato sauce.
Ketchup offers a decent substitute for tomato sauce, as it shares a similar consistency with tomato purée. Ketchup typically contains tomatoes, sugar, acetic acid, and spices. Notably, it carries a significant amount of sugar (1 teaspoon of sugar per 1 tablespoon of ketchup), with the sugar source being corn rather than tomatoes, which can affect its nutritional profile.
When replacing tomato sauce with ketchup, maintain a 1:1 ratio. For instance, use 1 cup of ketchup to replace 1 cup of tomato sauce. While using ketchup, cook it and incorporate herbs as needed. To mitigate excessive sweetness, consider adding a touch of lemon juice or vinegar to taste, gradually increasing the amount as necessary.
5. Tomato soup
Tomato soup proves to be a fairly good substitute for tomato sauce, although it tends to be less flavorful and notably thinner in consistency.
When using tomato soup to replace tomato sauce, you have two options – store-bought or homemade tomato soup. Store-bought tomato soup boasts a longer shelf life (18-24 months) but is often high in sodium. In contrast, homemade tomato soup grants you full control over the ingredients used, allowing you to customize the sodium content. Properly stored, homemade tomato soup remains fresh for 3-4 days in the refrigerator and 3-6 months in the freezer.
When substituting tomato soup for tomato sauce, adhere to a 1:1 ratio. For example, add 1 cup of tomato soup for every 1 cup of tomato sauce, adjusting seasoning as required. To thicken tomato soup, incorporate a thickening agent such as 1-2 tablespoons of cornstarch or tapioca.
Marinara serves as a good alternative to tomato sauce, despite differing in texture, ingredient composition, and cooking time. While tomato sauce boasts a smooth and runny consistency, potentially featuring a wide array of ingredients, and typically requiring several hours of cooking, marinara maintains a runny consistency, contains tomato chunks, incorporates red pepper, garlic, and basil, and is prepared in less than an hour.
The flavor profile of marinara is milder compared to tomato sauce, making it an ideal choice when substituting in pizza, pasta, and meatball recipes.
When opting for marinara as a substitute for tomato sauce, you have two options – store-bought or homemade marinara. The primary difference lies in the sodium content; store-bought marinara tends to be higher in sodium, while homemade marinara allows for precise control over salt levels.
When using marinara in place of tomato sauce, maintain a 1:1 ratio. For instance, add 1 cup of marinara for every 1 cup of tomato sauce. Enhance the marinara’s flavor by seasoning it with additional herbs and consider blending the marinara if you prefer a smoother texture.
7. Beet-carrot paste
A beet-carrot paste proves to be an excellent substitute for tomato sauce, especially if you’re seeking an option devoid of tomatoes (nomato sauce). Both beets and carrots impart a sweet, earthy flavor that complements a wide range of dishes, and the deep red hue of beets compensates for the color of tomato sauce.
To prepare a beet-carrot paste and use it as a replacement for tomato sauce, simmer both vegetables with garlic, olive oil, and your favorite herbs for several hours, then blend the mixture to achieve a paste-like consistency. If the paste is too thin for your dish, consider cooking it for a few extra minutes with a thickening agent like tapioca or cornstarch.
When substituting beet-carrot paste for tomato sauce, maintain a 1:1 ratio. In other words, use 1 cup of this paste to replace 1 cup of tomato sauce.
Ajvar emerges as a superb no-tomato substitute for tomato sauce, boasting a sweet, tangy, and smoky aroma. This condiment is crafted from roasted red peppers and eggplant, and it holds a traditional place in Serbian cuisine while enjoying popularity across the Balkan region. Ajvar possesses a thicker consistency compared to tomato sauce.
When using ajvar to replace tomato sauce, there are two options – store-bought and homemade ajvar. The difference store-bought ajvar is typically pungent, and it’s rare to find sweet ajvar. So if you don’t like the spiciness of store-bought ajvar, make your own ajvar at home using grilled red peppers and eggplant, garlic, vegetable oil, white vinegar, salt, and pepper.
When using ajvar in place of tomato sauce, apply the 1:2 ratio. For example, use 1⁄2 cup of ajvar to replace 1 cup of tomato sauce. For a thinner consistency, mix 1⁄2 cup of Ajvar with 1⁄2 cup of water or vegetable broth to replace 1 cup of tomato sauce.