Tomato Paste Substitute

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Tomato Paste

Making a soup, chili or sauce that calls for tomato paste? If you don’t have any on hand, it’s easy enough to whip up a quick substitute. Here are several things that will work.

Tomato Puree or Tomato Sauce

Grab a can of tomato puree or tomato sauce from your pantry, and measure out an amount that’s equal to twice the tomato paste called for in the recipe. Then, place it in a saucepan, and cook it down over low/medium-low heat, stirring regularly to prevent burning. Continue cooking, until the sauce or puree thickens, and is reduced by half. Use your quickie tomato paste in place of the tomato paste called for in the recipe.

In a hurry? Skip the stove time, and simply add twice as much tomato puree or tomato sauce. Since, this will add extra liquid to the dish, reduce the liquids in the recipe by the same amount to compensate. This will give you the tomato flavor you’re looking for, but it won’t contribute any thickness.

Diced or Stewed Tomatoes

Strain a can of diced or stewed tomatoes to remove the excess liquids. Then, use twice as much of your chosen tomato product in place of the tomato paste that’s called for. This will serve as a stand-in for both the flavor and thickening power of the paste.

Note: This substitute will add some texture to the finished dish. If your goal is a completely smooth soup or sauce, run it through a blender or food processor before serving. Using stewed tomatoes? This will also add bell peppers, onions, celery and spices to your recipe.


In a pinch, ketchup can also be used as a substitute for tomato paste. Replace it measure for measure to give your recipe a burst of tomato flavor and thickness. Since ketchup also contains vinegar, sugar and spices, it will change the flavor profile of your recipe a smidge. Consider whether this will work well with the other ingredients in your recipe.

How Much Substitute Should I Use?

One can of tomato paste is the equivalent of 6 oz. or 3/4 cup. If you’re making a recipe that calls for one can of paste, use these measurements as a starting point to determine how much substitute you need to use.

How to Avoid Tomato Paste Waste

Often times, recipes only call for a couple tablespoons of tomato paste, which leaves the better part of a can unused. Instead, of sticking the rest in the fridge, and hoping you’ll come up with a use for it later, start freezing your extras. An ice cube tray is perfect for this. Every cube that you fill is the equivalent of two tablespoons of tomato paste. Just pop the tray in the freezer, and transfer the cubes to a freezer bag once they’re frozen. Be sure to label the bag, so you’ll know what’s inside later.

To use your frozen tomato paste: Simply pull out the number of cubes you need. Then, add them to the pan when you add your spices. This will give the tomato paste a chance to caramelize as it thaws. If you’re adding the tomato paste to a soup, stew or chili recipe, you can simply toss the frozen cubes directly into the pot. They’ll thaw as your soup cooks.

Here’s how to determine how many cubes you need for your recipe:

• 2 cubes = 1/4 cup
• 4 cubes = 1/2 cup
• 6 cubes = 3/4 cup
• 8 cubes = 1 cup

Another way to avoid waste, is to switch to buying tomato paste in a tube. This product keeps in the fridge for months, and allows you to measure out just what you need.

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Tomato Paste

Tomato Paste Substitute

Don’t sweat it, if you’re out of tomato paste. Here are several substitutes you can use.

  • Total Time: 1 minute
  • Yield: Varies


  • Tomato puree, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, stewed tomatoes or ketchup


  • From Tomato Puree or Tomato Sauce:  Measure out twice as much puree or tomato sauce into a saucepan, and cook down over low/medium-low heat, until thick and reduced by half. Stir regularly to prevent sticking and burning. If you don’t have time to spare, just use twice as much puree or sauce, and cut the liquids in the recipe by the same amount.
  • From Diced or Stewed Tomatoes: Strain the juice from the can; and use twice as much of the tomato solids.
  • From Ketchup: Replace 1:1


*Nutrition facts based on using no-salted added tomato sauce.

Keywords: tomato paste substitute, tomato paste substitution

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One Comment

  1. Thank you so much! I needed a 6 oz. can of tomato paste to make my favorite chili, a packge called Best Darn Chili by Bear Creek. Not needing anything else at the grocery store, I started to wonder if there was a substitute. I am very thankful that I got to your website. However, I did not have either canned tomatoes or tomato sauce. So I elected to reduce some marinara sauce. It worked fabulously! One of the best lessons I learned from my mother was to “make do”. It taught me to be creative and think outside the box. Thank you!

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