Best Tomato Sauce Substitute Ideas

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Tomato sauce is a favorite ingredient for many recipes. It is made by cooking tomatoes into a medium thick sauce that is then strained to remove seeds and peels. However, there may come a time when you realize you don’t have that emergency can in the back of your pantry, and will have to quickly find a substitute.

Luckily, we have done the legwork and found the best substitutes for tomato sauce. Most can be prepared with items you already have on hand!

Can of tomato paste and bowls of tomato sauce.


The best Tomato Sauce Substitute ideas

It’s always a good idea to have a backup plan and a backup to the backup plan while cooking! You never know when you’re going to need to substitute an ingredient using other items in your kitchen. Since tomato sauce is a frequent ingredient in many recipes like pink pasta sauce, you may find yourself having to substitute it with something else at one point or another and it’s best to be prepared!

We have found eleven awesome substitutes for tomato sauce, using a medley of ingredients that many kitchens already have on hand. From spaghetti sauce to blended red bell peppers (trust me on this one), there are many ways you can create a tomato sauce substitute! This guide will provide you with an arsenal of ideas that you’ll be able to pull from if you notice that the can of tomato sauce you swore you had in the back of the cupboard is nowhere to be found.

Best Substitute for Tomato Sauce ideas

Each of these great options can be used as a 1 to 1 substitute.

1. Canned Tomatoes

Turning canned tomatoes into a substitute for tomato sauce is as easy as draining the can, dumping them into a blender, and then reducing the mixture over heat (this step is optional). 

I also recommend adding Italian seasonings into the mixture to make it a great substitution, as tomato sauce is packed with them.

Canned tomatoes spilling out of can.

2. Tomato Paste

If you have tomato paste in your kitchen, you are in massive luck! This is probably the best substitute for tomato sauce because when mixed with water, the consistency is the most similar.

Mix together equal parts tomato paste and water, and voila! Tomato sauce. Taste as you go and add seasoning as desired.

Open can of tomato paste.

3. Spaghetti Sauce

This seems like the obvious substitution for tomato sauce because of the similar consistency, but just be aware because these jarred spaghetti sauces and pizza sauce are typically loaded with flavor! Due to this, you may have to adjust any other ingredients in your recipe accordingly to make sure no one flavor is too overpowering.

Bowl of spaghetti sauce and dry pasta.

4. Tomato Puree

This is a wonderful tomato sauce substitute, although it is a little bit of a thicker consistency. To thin it out, simply add splashes of water in increments until it is at your desired consistency. Or, you can leave it as is and create a new, thicker texture to the final dish! 

Bowl and spoon of tomato puree.

5. Tomato Soup

A can of tomato soup would work great as an emergency substitute! However, since soup tends to be more thinned out than classic tomato sauce, remove ¼ cup of liquid from the overall recipe to make sure it’s more coagulated. 

Also, I recommend creating your sauce substitute with tomato soup in a separate dish rather than adding it directly into your dish, so that way you can play with the flavor and consistency.

Bowl of tomato soup.

6. Ketchup

I know what you’re thinking: Ketchup, really? But when you’re in a bind, tomato ketchup can definitely work as a substitute for tomato sauce! 

It does have a bit more of a sweet flavor, so if that’s what your meal calls for, like meatloaf, then this works great! If not, I would use this sparingly.

Bottle and bowl of ketchup.

7. Marinara Sauce

Marinara sauce is a good option to use for recipes like pizza and pasta. Similar to spaghetti sauce, it is typically full of seasonings.

Jars of marinara sauce.

8. Tomato Juice

Tomato juice can be used in most recipes calling for tomato sauce. However, since it is very thin, simmer the juice over heat to thicken it up. You can also do this by making a roux, mixing in fat and flour to get it to the consistency you desire. 

Glass of tomato juice.

9. Tomato Passata

Tomato passata is similar to tomato sauce in that it is pureed tomatoes with the seeds and skin removed. This makes it an awesome tomato sauce substitute! You can also reduce it over heat to thicken it up and get a more concentrated tomato flavor. This is a staple in many Italian kitchens, so you know it’s a good option!

Bowl of tomato passata.

10. Fresh Tomatoes

If you have some time, fresh tomatoes can work really well. Soak them in warm water to get them soft, then remove the skins and seeds and mash them into a pulp. Add the tomato mash into a saucepan and simmer until reduced by at least half and add olive oil and seasonings to your liking.

Bunch of fresh tomatoes.

11. Pureed Red Bell Peppers

This may seem surprising but the results yield a great substitute for tomato sauce! Roast the red peppers until charred and softened, puree them in a food processor until smooth and you have a tomato sauce substitution! Add water if it needs to be thinner, but typically it will be a great consistency and can be used in any recipe that calls for tomato sauce.

Bowl of pureed roasted peppers.

Easy Tomato Puree Substitute for tomato sauce

I have found that my favorite way to substitute is by mixing 1/2 cup of tomato paste and 1/4 cup of water. This makes a homemade tomato sauce by thinning out the paste.

Recipes with tomato sauce

More substitute ideas

Can of tomato paste and bowls of tomato sauce.
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Easy Substitute for Tomato Sauce

By Heather
Substitutes for tomato sauce plus this easy homemade substitute.
Prep: 5 minutes
Total: 4 minutes
Servings: 1


  • 1/2 cup tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup water


  • Stir the tomato paste and water and use as a tomato sauce substitute.


Calories: 107kcal | Carbohydrates: 25g | Protein: 6g | Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 1038mg | Potassium: 1328mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 16g | Vitamin A: 1998IU | Vitamin C: 29mg | Calcium: 49mg | Iron: 4mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
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