Substitutes for Tomato Paste: Effective and Tasty Alternatives

Tomato paste is a widely-used ingredient in many savory dishes, adding a delightful depth of rich tomato flavor and thickness. However, there may be moments when you find yourself without it in your pantry, or maybe you’re cooking for someone with dietary restrictions. Fret not, there are several tomato paste substitutes you can turn to in such situations.

Understanding the role tomato paste plays in your recipe will help you determine the best substitute to achieve similar results. From popular alternatives, such as tomato sauce or canned tomatoes, to flavorful options like sundried tomatoes and red pepper paste, finding the right substitute will depend on factors like consistency, dietary needs, and personal taste preferences.

Key Takeaways

  • Numerous substitutes, such as tomato sauce, canned tomatoes, and sundried tomatoes, can be used in place of tomato paste.
  • The right substitute should consider the desired flavor, consistency, and dietary requirements of the recipe.
  • Experiment with different alternatives to achieve the perfect balance and taste for your dishes.

Understanding Tomato Paste

Properties of Tomato Paste

Tomato paste is a concentrated, thick puree made from tomatoes. Due to its rich and intense flavor, it is commonly used in various dishes like soups, stews, and sauces.

The consistency of tomato paste is much thicker than that of tomato sauce or puree, as most of the liquid content is removed. This concentrated form allows for a more robust tomato flavor, making it an essential ingredient when you want to achieve a strong, bold taste in your dish. It also adds a vibrant color to the dish, enhancing its visual appeal.

Usually found in small jars or convenient tubes, tomato paste is a pantry staple for many home cooks. Compared to other tomato products, it is relatively low in calories and rich in potassium, making it a healthier choice for various recipes.

While tomato paste is a versatile ingredient, sometimes you may find yourself without it or prefer a different option. In that case, several substitutes can effectively replicate the properties of tomato paste while still providing the desired flavor and consistency for your dish. These alternatives can include ketchup, tomato sauce, and even blended fresh tomatoes, depending on the cooking situation and recipe requirements.

Popular Substitutes and Their Making

Tomato Sauce as Substitute

You can easily substitute tomato paste with tomato sauce in many recipes. To create a homemade tomato paste substitute using tomato sauce, simply simmer the sauce down to a thick consistency. For every 1 tablespoon of tomato paste needed, reduce 2-3 tablespoons of tomato sauce. This process will concentrate the flavor and provide a similar texture to tomato paste.

Fresh Tomatoes as Substitute

Using fresh tomatoes is another great way to substitute tomato paste. Choose ripe, red tomatoes for the best flavor. You can either puree the tomatoes in a blender or food processor, or cook the tomatoes down with a bit of salt and then pass them through a sieve to remove seeds and skins. You might need to cook the pureed tomatoes longer to achieve the desired thickness. Generally, use 2-3 ripe tomatoes to replace 1 tablespoon of tomato paste.

Roasted Red Peppers as Substitute

Roasted red peppers offer a distinctive substitute for tomato paste. They can lend a similar color, texture, and slightly sweet taste to your recipes. To use roasted red peppers as a substitute, blend or process them into a smooth puree. You can use store-bought roasted red peppers or make your own by roasting fresh red bell peppers. For every tablespoon of tomato paste, use 1-2 tablespoons of roasted red pepper puree.

Store-Bought Tomato Paste

If you’re looking for a quick and convenient solution, store-bought tomato paste is always an option. These products are typically found in small cans or tubes. Remember to check the ingredients list and opt for a brand with minimal additives.

By understanding these popular substitutes for tomato paste, you can easily adapt your recipes to use what you have on hand.

Substitutes’ Flavor Profiles

Tomato Sauce Flavor

When substituting tomato paste with tomato sauce, you will find that tomato sauce has a similar flavor profile but with a milder taste. Tomato sauce is generally sweeter and less concentrated compared to tomato paste, which has a more intense tomato flavor. You may need to reduce the tomato sauce to achieve a thickness closer to that of tomato paste. This will also help intensify the flavor and bring out the umami notes.

Fresh Tomatoes Flavor

If you choose to use fresh tomatoes as a substitute for tomato paste, you need to understand the difference in flavor profiles. Fresh tomatoes are known for their juicy and sweet taste. They lack the concentrated tomato flavor and umami richness found in tomato paste. To compensate for this, you may want to cook down your fresh tomatoes to reduce the water content and concentrate the flavors. This will help you achieve a closer resemblance to the flavor and texture of tomato paste.

Roasted Red Peppers Flavor

Roasted red peppers make for an interesting alternative to tomato paste. While they do not have the exact same tomato flavor, they possess a distinct depth of flavor. Roasted red peppers can bring a smoky and sweet taste to your recipes, giving your dishes a unique twist. Keep in mind that this substitute will not provide the umami notes of tomato paste, so incorporating other umami-rich ingredients like soy sauce or Worcestershire sauce can help to balance out the flavor profile.

Utilizing Substitutes in Cooking

When you don’t have tomato paste on hand, there are a variety of substitutes that can be used in your cooking with excellent results. Here we’ll explore how to use these substitutes in different dishes, such as stews, chili, and pasta sauce.

In Stews

In stews, tomato paste enhances the depth of flavor and provides a rich color. If you’re out of tomato paste, you can substitute with one of the following options:

  • Canned tomato sauce: Use one tablespoon of tomato sauce for every tablespoon of tomato paste required in the recipe. You may need to cook down the sauce to reduce the liquid and achieve a thicker consistency.
  • Ketchup: Use a bit more ketchup than the amount of tomato paste called for in the recipe, accounting for the higher sugar content and thinner consistency.

In Chili

Chili dishes often rely on tomato paste for thickness and flavor concentration. To maintain the dish’s consistency and taste, consider these alternatives:

  • Tomato puree: In place of one tablespoon of tomato paste, use two tablespoons of tomato puree. This substitute has a similar taste but is less concentrated, so adjust the quantity accordingly.
  • Crushed tomatoes: Add half a cup of crushed tomatoes for every tablespoon of tomato paste required. Cook down the chili longer to achieve the desired consistency.

In Pasta Sauce

Tomato paste adds richness and depth to pasta sauces, especially marinara sauce and other Italian dishes. Consider these substitutes for tomato paste in your sauce:

  • Canned diced tomatoes: You can blend one cup of diced tomatoes until smooth and use it as a substitute for one tablespoon of tomato paste. Cook the sauce longer to achieve the desired thickness.
  • Sun-dried tomatoes: Blend four to five sun-dried tomatoes with a small amount of olive oil for a concentrated flavor. Use this mixture to replace one tablespoon of tomato paste.

Remember, when substituting tomato paste, the consistency and flavor of your dish might change slightly. Adjust the quantity accordingly and keep an eye on your dish’s texture and taste as you cook to achieve your desired results.

Factors Affecting Consistency

When substituting tomato paste in recipes, it’s essential to be aware of the factors that can affect the consistency of your dish. Two main aspects to consider are excess liquid from substitutes and using diced tomatoes as an alternative.

Excess Liquid from Substitutes

To achieve the desired consistency in your dish, you need to manage the excess liquid that some tomato paste substitutes might contain. For instance, if you’re using canned tomatoes or tomato sauce, it’s important to reduce the liquid content to mimic the thick consistency of tomato paste. You can do this by:

  • Simmering the substitute. Cook your tomato paste substitute over low heat, allowing the excess liquid to evaporate gradually. This method helps to thicken the substitute without overcooking it.
  • Draining the excess liquid. If using canned tomatoes or other liquid-heavy substitutes, pour them through a strainer or sieve to remove any excess moisture before adding them to your dish.

Using Diced Tomatoes

Diced tomatoes can be a viable alternative to tomato paste, offering a similar flavor profile and a chunky texture to your dish. However, there are some considerations to ensure the consistency remains close to what tomato paste provides:

  1. Blending the diced tomatoes. If chunky texture is not preferred for your dish, blend the diced tomatoes to a smoother consistency using a food processor or blender. This process breaks down the chunks and creates a more paste-like texture.
  2. Cooking down the diced tomatoes. To further control their consistency, cook the blended diced tomatoes on a low heat, allowing any excess liquid to evaporate. This step results in a thicker, more condensed product similar to tomato paste.

By carefully addressing issues related to excess liquid and properly using diced tomatoes, you can maintain an optimal consistency in your dish when substituting for tomato paste.

Dietary Considerations

For Vegans

When choosing a substitute for tomato paste, it’s important to consider if the product is vegan-friendly. Most tomato paste substitutes, such as tomato sauce or puree, are naturally vegan. However, be cautious of premade products that may contain additional non-vegan ingredients. Always check the label to ensure that the product you choose aligns with your dietary preferences.

Considering Calories

If you’re mindful of your calorie intake, it’s worth noting that alternatives to tomato paste can vary in caloric content. Here’s a comparison of some common substitutes:

SubstituteCalories per 100g
Tomato Paste82
Tomato Sauce29
Tomato Puree39
Crushed Tomatoes32

In general, tomato sauce and puree have lower calorie counts compared to tomato paste due to their higher water content. Considering your portion size and how much of the substitute you use can help you stay in line with your calorie goals.


Tomato products are a good source of potassium—an essential mineral that supports various body functions, including nerve and muscle activity. While tomato paste is relatively rich in potassium, its alternatives may have different potassium levels:

SubstitutePotassium per 100g
Tomato Paste1015 mg
Tomato Sauce317 mg
Tomato Puree509 mg
Crushed Tomatoes375 mg

If you require more potassium in your diet, using tomato paste or puree may be a better option for you. Conversely, if you need to limit your potassium intake, choosing tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes might suit your needs better.

Remember to consider these dietary aspects when selecting a substitute for tomato paste to ensure that it aligns with your nutritional goals and preferences.

Other Notable Substitutes

When searching for alternatives to tomato paste, consider these options, which offer a variety of flavors, textures, and nutritional values:

Tomato Puree: To create a similar texture to tomato paste, you can use tomato puree. It has a thinner consistency but still packs a strong tomato flavor. You may need to adjust the amount or reduce the liquid content in your recipe to achieve the desired consistency.

Passata: Passata is another tomato-based substitute with a smoother texture, made by sieving crushed tomatoes. It can be used as a replacement for tomato paste; however, remember to adjust the seasoning and liquid content in your recipe.

Mushroom Sauce: Mushroom or umami sauce can provide an earthy, robust flavor instead of tomato paste. This option works well in recipes where a rich, savory taste is desired, such as stews or pasta sauces.

Garlic and Basil: When the tomato taste is not crucial, consider using minced garlic and fresh basil for a flavorful alternative. This combination can produce a fragrant, herbal depth to your dish without impacting the overall texture.

Harissa: Harissa is a spicy North African condiment made from red chilies, garlic, and spices. It can be used to substitute tomato paste to add a kick of heat and complexity to your dish. Keep in mind its spiciness when adjusting the recipe accordingly.

Salsa Verde: Salsa verde, a Mexican green sauce made from tomatillos, can be used as a tangy and zesty alternative to tomato paste. This option is ideal for adding a dynamic flavor profile to your dish while maintaining a similar texture.

Remember to consider how the alternative affects the overall flavor, texture, and appearance of your dish. You may need to adjust the seasoning, including salt or juice, to achieve the perfect balance. By exploring these substitutes, you will be able to create tasty, versatile dishes without relying solely on tomato paste.

Frequently Asked Questions

What can be used as a substitute for tomato paste in beef stew?

If you don’t have tomato paste on hand, you can use tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes as a substitute. Use two tablespoons of tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes for every tablespoon of tomato paste needed. Alternatively, try using a couple of tablespoons of ketchup or two teaspoons of tomato powder as a substitute.

What is a good replacement for tomato paste in chili?

A suitable replacement for tomato paste in chili is tomato sauce. To use tomato sauce as a substitute, double the amount of tomato paste required. For a more concentrated tomato flavor, you can try using crushed tomatoes, tomato puree, or even a mix of ketchup and water.

How much tomato sauce can replace 6 oz of tomato paste?

To replace 6 oz of tomato paste with tomato sauce, you’ll need 12 oz (1.5 cups) of tomato sauce. This is because tomato sauce is less concentrated than tomato paste, so using double the amount will achieve a similar flavor and consistency.

Can ketchup be used as an alternative for tomato paste?

Yes, ketchup can be used as an alternative for tomato paste. However, ketchup is sweeter and has a less intense tomato flavor. To substitute, use one tablespoon of ketchup for every tablespoon of tomato paste required, and adjust the sweetness in your recipe if needed.

Is marinara sauce a suitable substitute for tomato paste?

Marinara sauce can be used as a substitute for tomato paste, but it may change the flavor profile of your dish. Since marinara sauce is thinner and has added spices, you may need to use more sauce and adjust the other seasonings in your recipe. Typically, use three tablespoons of marinara sauce for every tablespoon of tomato paste needed.

How can I make tomato paste from tomato sauce?

To make tomato paste from tomato sauce, simply simmer the tomato sauce on low heat in a saucepan, stirring frequently to prevent burning. Continue simmering until the sauce has reached the desired thickness, which may take about 30-45 minutes. This will allow the excess water to evaporate, creating a thicker, concentrated tomato paste-like consistency.

Our Best Substitute for Tomato Paste

These options are sure to be a hit. So, gather your family and friends and enjoy. Let us know your thoughts!
5 from 6 votes
Total Time 4 minutes
Course Seasoning, Substitute
Cuisine American
Servings 4
Calories 210 kcal


  • Passata
  • Fresh Tomatoes
  • Tomato Purée
  • Ketchup
  • Red Pepper Paste


  • Try our kitchen tested tomato paste substitutes.


Select your option.
Use in or with your favorite recipe.


Calories: 210kcal
Keyword tomato paste substitute
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Cassie brings decades of experience to the Kitchen Community. She is a noted chef and avid gardener. Her new book "Healthy Eating Through the Garden" will be released shortly. When not writing or speaking about food and gardens Cassie can be found puttering around farmer's markets and greenhouses looking for the next great idea.
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