Tomato sauce is a very versatile ingredient. You can use it in many recipes, including making pasta, meat, lasagna, and pizza, just to mention a few. They all need tomato sauce for that extra flavor and great texture. But, what if you want to diversify your cooking? What if you do not have tomato sauce in your pantry? What can you do? Is there a tomato sauce substitute?
The answer is yes. There are a few tomato sauce substitutes that you can use as a replacement. We will look at what these substitutes are and also how you can make your own tomato sauce at home. Later on, we will look at what you can substitute for tomato sauce when making lasagna. Let’s dive in.
Tomato Sauce Substitutes
There are many tomato-based substances that you can use to replace tomato sauce to get the same or almost the same taste out of it. They include:
1. Tomato Paste
Tomato paste is a strong tomato-based concentrate that adds incredible flavor to your food on its own, and it can also step in for tomato sauce should the need arise. However, since the paste is stronger than sauce, you will need to reduce the portion when cooking so as not to overpower the food.
When substituting tomato paste for tomato sauce, use a tablespoon of the paste for every two or three tablespoons of tomato sauce. If you want to get the same consistency as tomato sauce, add a cup of water to a three-quarter cup of tomato paste and mix. Doing this not only dilutes the paste but also gives you the same thickness as tomato sauce.
You can use this substitute when making chicken in a slow-cooker and taste the difference yourself.
2. Tomato Juice
A fresh product, tomato juice is the best substitute when making something from scratch. You can easily get tomato juice from squeezing or crushing fresh tomatoes. Use a blender to get the desired thickness but make sure not to over blend as that could make it too watery. Since the juice is made from fresh tomatoes, it might go bad faster, so make sure to squeeze the correct amount.
You can also add a little flavor to your substitute by adding salt and sugar. When substituting, use 1 cup of tomato juice for every ½ cup of tomato sauce and ½ cup of water. This substitute does not contain additives or preservatives, so get your measurements right to prevent ruining the tomatoes.
You can use tomato juice as a replacement in any recipe that uses tomato sauce. The freshness of the juice is what makes it just a little different. You can also add a little vinegar for that extra kick.
3. Tomato Soup
One of the least used substitutes, tomato soup, can also hold its own. It tends to be sweeter than tomato sauce, so make sure to make the correct adjustments to adapt it to your recipe; for example, you can add a little salt or pepper to give it more zing. You can also put a little lemon juice to cut the sweetness down.
Use one can of tomato soup to replace a cup of tomato sauce and ¼ cup of water. When done right, you will not even be able to tell the difference in your dish. Tomato soup is a great substitute, especially in spaghetti and chili sauces. You can also use it in any recipe that needs a little tomato sweetness.
It is an easy-to-find product that is common in almost every kitchen. Its consistency is the closest to tomato sauce; it is thicker than tomato juice but less thick than tomato paste. You will have to remember that ketchup has additives like sugar, vinegar, and spices in it, so be careful when using it as it could alter the flavor.
The best measurement to use is a tablespoon of ketchup to replace the same amount of tomato sauce. If you do not like the strong ketchup flavor, you can reduce the measurements to get your desired taste. Tomato ketchup works well with sweet dishes, such as sweet and sour ribs or spicy pulled pork.
5. Canned Tomatoes
Canned tomatoes are another worthy substitute for tomato sauce. They have the correct flavor and consistency as tomato sauce. Since they are stored in cans, they will have a lot of liquid to help keep them fresh. Drain the liquid and use the tomatoes themselves when using them.
Canned tomatoes are not concentrated, so you will need to double the portion when cooking. Substitute two tablespoons of the tomatoes for a tablespoon of tomato sauce, for the same taste. You can, of course, adjust the measurements as you see fit.
These tomatoes can come in larger chunks depending on the brand that you use. If your canned tomatoes are larger, you can let them boil in the water for a while until they reduce in size, or you can use a blender, preferably an immersion blender, to get the right consistency.
You can use this substitute in any dish, the most common being dishes that require a sauce. It is a great substitute when making chicken bean stew or roasted eggplant spread. You won’t have to worry about the texture or flavor, so you can use it as you want.
6. Fresh Tomatoes
What better to substitute tomatoes than fresh tomatoes themselves? You can use fresh tomatoes to make your tomato sauce. You get more control over their preparation as well, allowing you to create the tomato sauce that meets your needs.
You can use either paste tomatoes or freshly picked tomatoes. Paste tomatoes have fewer seeds and less water, perfect for making a thick tomato sauce. Fresh tomatoes are also good for making the sauce, but they require more work; you will have to peel them and remove the seeds.
When creating the sauce, let the tomatoes simmer until they reduce by half, then remove the excess liquid. When substituting, use one big tomato for a tablespoon of tomato sauce.
You can use this substitute in any dish that requires tomato sauce, it is healthier, and you will still get the same flavor. You can add a few ingredients to spice it up according to your liking. The sauce can be used in pasta dishes or when making creole and other meat dishes.
Homemade Tomato Sauce Recipe
You can easily make your own tomato sauce at home. All you need is time and a few tomatoes. Here is one of the easiest tomato sauce recipes you can make at home:
- Whole tomatoes with juice, peeled, seeded, and chopped.
- One finely chopped onion
- Crushed garlic, 3 cloves
- Chopped celery and carrot (optional)
- 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
- 2 tablespoons oil
- Salt and pepper as per your taste
1. Start by heating the oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the onions, celery, and carrots and stir. Cover the pan and leave its contents to cook for 15 minutes or until the vegetables soften.
2. Add in the garlic and sweat it for about 30 seconds over high heat.
3. Add the tomatoes with their juice. If you are using fresh tomatoes, blanch them in boiling water for a minute before adding them to the pan.
4. Add basil and your seasoning, then bring to a low simmer. Cook until the mixture reduces and becomes thicker.
5. Add the parsley and let it cook for another minute. Now your sauce is ready for use.
Tomato Sauce Substitute When Preparing Lasagna
Tomato is one of the main ingredients when preparing lasagna. If you are not a big tomato fan, you might be looking for a substitute to make the lasagna taste just as great but with a little difference. Well, worry not; you can use a few substitutes that will give your lasagna a great taste without using tomatoes.
If you are going the vegetable way, you can use eggplant as zucchini. You can easily use these two as tomato replacements and still get tasty lasagna. You can also change things up a little by using tapenade or olive paste instead of tomato sauce in-between the layers.
Meaty mushrooms are another replacement you can use if you are going for a vegetarian lasagna or are out of tomatoes. To make the dish even tastier, use béchamel sauce (a sauce made from flour, butter, and milk), add your mushrooms with wine to the mixture, and cook.
For a healthier and slightly different look, you can try a spinach and béchamel combination. This will result in a tasty lasagna that is both healthy and has a fun green look.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Are tomato sauce and tomato puree the same thing?
A: The two are very similar but have a slight difference in their taste and culinary use. Tomato puree has a stronger taste when compared to tomato sauce. You can also use the puree as a recipe ingredient and combine it with other flavors when making a dish, and it will blend well. Tomato sauce, on the other hand, is a standalone ingredient that is used as-is.
Q: How do you tell if the tomato sauce is bad?
A: The smell is the easiest thing to determine if your tomato sauce is good or it has gone bad; a sauce with a funky smell has already gone bad. You can also check if the sauce has a weird appearance or some mold, it is a sign that it has gone bad, and you should throw it away.
Related: How To Thicken Tomato Sauce