Tomato Sauce Substitute

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Tomato Sauce

If you need tomato sauce for a recipe, and you don’t have any in your pantry, there are several other tomato products that you can substitute with good results.

But to make the proper substitution, you first need to understand what a recipe is asking for when it calls for tomato sauce.

In most cases, when you see tomato sauce in an ingredient list, it’s referring to canned tomato sauce, not jarred tomato sauce. And there’s a pretty significant different between the two. Jarred tomato sauce has lots of added ingredients, which may include sugar, salt, onions, peppers, olive oil and a variety of herbs and spices. It’s a finished sauce, with a thick consistency that’s intended to be used atop cooked pasta dishes.

Canned tomato sauce is a much simpler product. It’s typically made by slowly cooking down tomatoes; then, straining out the seeds and peels; and blending the tomatoes, until they reach a smooth consistency. In most cases, this type of tomato sauce doesn’t have any added sugar, spices or herbs, and isn’t as thick as jarred tomato sauce. Since it’s intended to be used as an ingredient in a recipe, it’s purposely left plain, so that it’s flavor profile can be customized to your needs.

Tomato Sauce Substitutes

To replace canned tomato sauce in a recipe, there are several excellent substitutions to consider. Here are your options:

-Mix together equal parts tomato paste and water to create the amount of tomato sauce that’s called for. This is actually how some manufacturer’s make tomato sauce.

-Replace the tomato sauce in your recipe with an equal amount of tomato puree. It’s only slightly thicker than tomato sauce, so the difference will be nearly undetectable.

-Blend a can of crushed tomatoes. Then, use in place of the tomato sauce in your recipe. Crushed tomatoes have a slightly thicker consistency than tomato sauce, but will still work well.

-Blend a can of diced or stewed tomatoes. Then, cook the resulting puree down, until you reach the right consistency. If you use stewed tomatoes, this will add onion, bell pepper, celery, salt, sugar, plus several Italian herbs. Consider whether these additional flavors will work well with the other ingredients in your recipe.

-Cook down a can of whole, peeled tomatoes over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until they tomatoes are transformed into sauce. This will take approximately 20-30 minutes. If you want your sauce to have a smooth consistency, run it through a blender, before using.

How Much Should I use?

If your recipe calls for one 8-oz. can of tomato sauce, use one cup of your chosen substitute in its place.

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Tomato Sauce

Tomato Sauce Substitute

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Here’s how to use other canned tomato products as a substitute for tomato sauce, when you discover you don’t have any on hand.

  • Total Time: 2 minutes
  • Yield: Varies


  • Tomato paste, tomato puree, crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, stewed tomatoes or whole peeled tomatoes


  • From Tomato Paste: Combine equal parts tomato paste and water
  • From Tomato Puree: Replace 1:1
  • From Crushed Tomatoes: Blend, and replace measure for measure.
  • From Diced or Stewed Tomatoes: Blend; then, cook, until right consistency is achieved.
  • From Whole Peeled Tomatoes: Cook over medium-high heat, until tomatoes turn into sauce. (approx. 20-30 mins.)


1 cup of substitute is equal to one 8-oz. can of tomato sauce.

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One Comment

  1. Thank you for the simple instructions on what can be substituted for tomato sauce. I have diced tomatoes I was hoping to use soon and it sounds like they will do just fine.

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