9 Tasty Substitutes for Tomato Sauce

Substitutes for Tomato Sauce
Photo by Kateryna Moskalova

Everyone loves tomato sauce’s rich, tangy flavor on their spaghetti or lasagna. Still, some people choose to avoid it because they are concerned about the acidity in tomatoes (this can be a problem if you have gout). 

Luckily, plenty of other substitutes for tomato sauce provide similar flavors, whether you’re simply looking to avoid tomato sauce or have specific dietary restrictions or sensitivities.

This list covers 10 of the best substitutes for tomato sauce, so you don’t have to miss out on all your favorite Italian dishes!

1. Pureed Eggplant

Eggplant is a versatile vegetable that can be used as a replacement for tomato sauce. When eggplant is pureed, it has a similar consistency to tomato sauce and can be used in many of the same dishes. 

Eggplant is also a good source of fiber and antioxidants. To make a pureed eggplant sauce:

  1. Start roasting the eggplant in the oven with olive oil.
  2. Once the eggplant is soft, add it to a blender with garlic, onion, and tomato paste.
  3. Season the sauce with salt, pepper, and oregano, and blend until smooth.
  4. Use this sauce on pasta, pizza, or as a dip for breadsticks.

2. Marinara

If you’re looking for substitutes for tomato sauce with a little less acidity, try swapping in marinara. A marinara is also a good option if you want to reduce sugar. This sauce is typically made with tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, and herbs, packed with flavor.

You can find jarred marinara at most grocery stores or make your own by simmering tomatoes and other ingredients on the stovetop. Be sure to look for a recipe that doesn’t include added sugar.

If you need a quick and easy option, Rao’s Homemade Marinara Sauce is a delicious choice that’s widely available in stores.

3. Pureed Bell Peppers

Bell peppers are a fantastic option when you’re looking for a replacement for tomato sauce. They offer sweetness and freshness that can brighten up any dish and are packed with nutrients.

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To use them as substitutes for tomato sauce, puree them in a blender or food processor until smooth. You can use this puree as you would tomato sauce in any recipe.

4. Pureed Beets & Carrots

Tomatoes aren’t the only fruits that can be made into a delicious sauce. Beets and carrots are two other great options.

Pureed beets can give your sauce a beautiful pink or red color, while carrots will add a touch of sweetness.

Plus, both of these vegetables are packed with nutrients. Six recipes use beets or carrots as substitutes for tomato sauce.

  • Roasted Red Pepper Beet Feta Pasta 
  • Carrot Cashew Coconut Curry 
  • Creamy Carrot Pasta Bake 
  • Carrot Kale Pesto Hummus Pizza 
  • Creamy Carrot Quinoa Salad 
  • Vegan Cream Cheese Veggie Burger Sliders

5. Ketchup

You probably have a ketchup bottle in your fridge right now and didn’t even think to use it as a tomato sauce substitute. Well, think again! Ketchup can be used as a base for all sorts of tomato-y dishes. This makes it one of the best substitutes for tomato sauce.

Add some water to thin it out, and you’re good to go.

  • A long-simmering period will give the sauce a deeper color, but this is unnecessary if you want to keep the recipe quick and easy. 
  • You’ll want to adjust the flavor with more salt or spices after adding them if desired.
  • If you don’t have any tomatoes on hand but still want a red-colored dish, try adding some tomato paste instead of regular canned tomatoes.

If using ketchup alone is too sweet for your taste buds, try mixing in a little bit of soy sauce or Worcestershire sauce before serving; both are rich in umami flavor that pairs well with the sweetness from the tomatoes.

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6. Nomato Sauce

Nomato is a thick, chunky sauce made from roasted red peppers. It’s got a bit of a smoky flavor and a touch of sweetness from the peppers. It’s delicious on grilled meats, in sandwiches, or as a dip.

There are many versions of this dish, so feel free to make your version with roasted red bell peppers. You can buy jarred versions at most grocery stores if you don’t have time to burn your peppers. 

Just read the ingredients list before buying to ensure that it contains only peppers and oil! The first time I tried this was when I ordered an eggplant sandwich at a restaurant in Sarajevo and found out it came with tomato sauce and yogurt! They put yogurt on all their sandwiches.

7. Molasses

Molasses is a thick, dark syrup that’s a by-product of refining sugar cane or sugar beets into sugar. It has a strong, slightly bitter flavor that can be used as part of the substitutes for tomato sauce.

When substituting molasses for tomato sauce, you may need to add additional spices to balance out the sweetness. 

You could also use unsweetened cocoa powder in place of the molasses. Try adding onion and garlic powders, chili powder, cumin, oregano, and basil to mimic the flavors in a classic spaghetti sauce recipe.

8. Pasta Sauce

If you’re in a pinch and need a quick tomato sauce substitute, simply reach for some pasta sauce. Chances are, you already have a jar of it in your pantry. 

While pasta sauce can work in a pinch, it’s not the best long-term solution. After all, it is designed to be used as a pasta sauce, not a tomato sauce. 

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If you want a more authentic tomato sauce substitute, try making your own using crushed tomatoes. Another option is to use canned tomatoes. This is an excellent option if you want to control the ingredients and make sure there are no added preservatives.

9. Passata

Why not try passata if you’re looking for substitutes for tomato sauce? Passata is a smooth sauce made from strained tomatoes.

It’s thicker than tomato juice but not as thick as tomato paste. Plus, it has a lovely fresh flavor that pairs well with all sorts of dishes.

All you need to do is swap out the store-bought tomato sauce for your favorite store-bought brand of passata! Easy peasy and so much healthier!

  • In place of 1 can (800g) of canned tomato sauce: Put in 2 cups (480 ml) of passata.
  • Instead of 1/2 cup (125 g) canned tomatoes: Use 1/4 cup (60 ml) or two tablespoons (30 ml) of tomato paste plus one tablespoon (15 ml) of water.

OR use two tablespoons (30 ml) of puréed canned tomatoes plus one tablespoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice and olive oil. OR use four tablespoons of puréed canned tomatoes plus two tablespoons each olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Conclusion

Give one of these a try if you’re in a pinch and need substitutes for tomato sauce. Chances are you have most, if not all, of the ingredients. And if you don’t have a particular element, simply leave it out or swap in something else. 

The same goes for if you don’t like an ingredient listed. Get creative and make the dish your own. After all, that’s what cooking is all about!

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