6 Substitutes for Tomato Sauce If You Run Out of the Pantry Staple


Not everyone has the time or culinary skills to make homemade tomato sauce from scratch, but luckily, there are high-quality pre-made tomato sauces readily available. These sauces can be a lifesaver when you’re looking to save time in the kitchen. Whether you’re making lasagna, pizza, or a shakshuka-inspired skillet, pre-made tomato sauce can be a versatile ingredient. However, if you find yourself without tomato sauce or unable to find your preferred brand, fret not! There are several alternatives that can provide the same sweet, savory, and velvety effect. Here are six substitutes for tomato sauce that you can rely on when you’re in a pinch.

Canned Tomatoes

You can easily prepare a quick tomato sauce using a can of tomatoes in approximately 20 minutes. Begin by sautéing finely chopped onion in a pot with olive oil until softened. Then, add minced garlic to the pot. Incorporate the tomatoes and season with salt, pepper, and chili flakes according to your taste. If the tomatoes are whole or too chunky, crush them with your hands, a fork, or a potato masher. Allow the sauce to simmer for 10-15 minutes or until it reaches your desired consistency. For a smoother sauce, you can blend it in a blender or food processor. Congratulations! You’ve made your own homemade tomato sauce in no time. You can use this sauce as a 1:1 substitute for pre-made tomato sauce in various recipes, such as Skillet Polenta in Creamy Tomato Sauce and Fresh Cavatelli with Garlic Tomato Sauce.

Fresh Tomatoes

Fresh tomatoes can serve as an excellent 1:1 substitute for tomato sauce, and they also offer a fantastic recipe to utilize an abundance of summer tomatoes.

To create a sauce with fresh tomatoes, it’s advisable to remove the skins, as they can contribute to a different texture even after blending. The simplest method is to halve the tomatoes, grate them on the cut side, and discard the skins afterward. Then, proceed with the same steps outlined earlier for canned tomatoes. The only variation is that you don’t need to cook fresh tomatoes for as long, particularly if they are ripe and sweet. Enjoy the delicious flavor of homemade tomato sauce using fresh tomatoes as a versatile ingredient in your cooking!

Tomato Paste

Tomato paste is a concentrated and thick paste obtained by cooking tomatoes for an extended period, straining them, and then cooking them again. This process yields a paste with a rich umami flavor that can be transformed into a makeshift tomato sauce by diluting it with water.

To create a tomato sauce using tomato paste, start by sautéing the paste (keeping in mind its strong flavor) in olive oil along with minced garlic, salt, pepper, and chili flakes. Add water in a rough ratio of 1:1, combining one part tomato paste with one part water. Stir well to blend the ingredients and allow them to simmer for approximately 10-15 minutes to allow the flavors to meld. It’s important to note that tomato paste is not a direct substitute for tomato sauce, but a tomato paste-based sauce can be used as a substitute. You can try out this technique by preparing our Braised Fish with Spicy Tomato Sauce recipe. Enjoy the flavorful results!

Tomato soup

Tomato soup is not a perfect substitute for tomato sauce due to its sweeter and more liquid consistency. While it may not work well for pasta sauce, it can add a delightful tomato flavor to recipes like One Pot Italian Sausage Gnocchi Soup or Cheesy Baked Beans and Tomatoes. Start by using less tomato soup than you would tomato sauce and adjust the quantity according to your taste preferences.


Ketchup, with its sweet and tangy flavor and gel-like texture, is not a suitable replacement for tomato sauce in pasta dishes. However, it can add a touch of tomato sweetness to certain recipes. For instance, Sweet-and-Sour Tofu utilizes a sauce based on ketchup, and our go-to secret sauce for burgers includes ketchup.

Tomato purée

Tomato purée is thicker than tomato sauce but thinner than tomato paste. It can be transformed into tomato sauce using a similar method as tomato paste, but with less water added. Keep in mind that tomato purée is not a direct substitute for tomato sauce, but a sauce based on tomato purée can be used as a substitute.

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