Tomato paste is a super easy way to add some flavor to a dish. Its specific consistency means that it sticks well to pasta and other foods. This makes it a staple of most people’s kitchen cupboards.
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But, unfortunately, tomato paste bears little resemblance to the taste of a real tomato. Depending on the type of paste you use, it can have very high salt and sugar content.
This means that, despite the relatively low calorie content and high nutritional value of tomatoes, this doesn’t always come through in tomato paste. Especially if other ingredients have been added.
So, to give you the full flavor of tomatoes but with the ease of canned tomato paste, here are the best substitutes for tomato paste.
But don’t worry if you still want something very similar to tomato paste and just don’t have any at home. We have also included some substitutes that are similar in taste and texture to tomato paste.
This is a very easy substitute. Passata is essentially tomatoes that have been cooked and then blended. It very rarely has any other ingredients.
This makes it perfect for adding to pasta, ratatouille, or other dishes that require tomato paste.
Passata is much thinner than tomato paste. This is because it isn’t reduced down in the same way a paste is.
But passata is a much healthier alternative. This is because no additional ingredients are added. There might be some preservatives as it is often stored and sold in cardboard boxes.
Passata is even healthier than a tomato pasta sauce. A lot of tomato pasta sauces sold in jars have a lot of sugar and salt added to them. This helps to bring out the flavor.
Passata can even be a better option than tomato sauce because it is plain. So you will be able to add your own flavorings.
You can alter passata if you want something healthier but still similar in taste and texture to tomato paste. Heat the passata in a saucepan on a medium heat.
Then add in some soy sauce for saltiness. Heating the passata will cause it to coagulate and eventually reduce down to a thicker consistency.
If you enjoy cooking, you can make a substitute for tomato paste yourself. Take five fresh tomatoes and chop them up as small as you can.
Place them in a saucepan over a medium-high heat. Pour in recently boiled water until the tomatoes are covered.
Add in any salt, herbs, and spices that you would like. (Salt is important for flavor but also for reducing). Then heat until the tomatoes have softened and are breaking down.
Reduce the heat and continue to simmer and stir the tomatoes. Eventually, the tomatoes will reduce down and become thicker. Make sure to keep heating the tomatoes until all the water is gone.
If you want it to be thicker and closer to a paste, keep heating it. This will potentially cause the tomatoes to begin sticking to the bottom of the pan. So continue to stir the tomatoes and reduce the heat if necessary. You can add in a little oil if you need to.
Cooking tomatoes in this way gives you the most control. You can heat the tomatoes to make a pasta sauce. Or you can keep reducing it until you have something close to a paste. You can also add in whichever herbs and spices you like.
This is essentially like making a marinara sauce. If you’re concerned about the tomatoes not sticking to the pasta, add in some pasta water. This is the best way to make a sauce stick to the pasta.
Tomato purée can be easily confused with tomato paste. While they appear similar, they do have slightly different consistencies.
Tomato purée is essentially tomato paste before it has been fully reduced. This means that you can easily make your own using fresh tomatoes.
Or you can reduce down the tomato purée until it is a paste. So don’t worry if you accidentally bought tomato purée instead of tomato paste. It can be easily altered.
Simply heat the tomato purée on a low heat. There is no need to add in any water as when cooking the fresh tomatoes. This is only needed to help break down the tomatoes. In the case of tomato purée, the tomatoes have already been broken down.
If you want a similar taste to tomato paste, add in some soy sauce. If the purée doesn’t seem to be thickening as it reduces down, add in a thickening agent such as cornflour. This will work very quickly to thicken the purée. So make sure to add only a teaspoon at a time.
Otherwise, you will end up with something too thick and clumpy.
This one might be a little surprising. But, if you have no other option, you can add ketchup. Ketchup might be thinner than tomato paste. But it will have a similar taste. This is due to the high sugar and salt content in ketchup.
If you’re concerned about the consistency of ketchup, you can thicken it. Use cornstarch or another thickening agent. This won’t have any flavor. But will bring the ketchup to a more similar consistency to tomato paste.
Ketchup is very often looked down on. This is partly because of its intended use as a dip. This is why ketchup on pasta is so often derided. But, if you’re in a rush, spaghetti noodles and ketchup is a fantastic comfort food.
Depending on which brand you buy, ketchup can actually be a healthy and delicious option. If you buy from a more artisan brand, then it’s more likely to be freshly and carefully made. But, it is also more likely to be expensive.
So, if you want something cheap (or something that is already in your cupboards), ketchup is a great option.
Red Pepper Paste
If you don’t like tomatoes, then you can buy paste made from red peppers instead. This isn’t as commonly sold as tomato paste. But it will be worth it if you can find it.
Red pepper paste has a similar consistency to tomato paste. But will have a slightly different flavor. Red pepper paste is often thicker than tomato paste. This is mostly because of the lack of liquid in peppers compared to tomatoes.
Red pepper paste has a flavor that is slightly sweeter but also sometimes a little spicier than tomato paste. This depends on the kind of peppers used.
As well as the kind of seasoning. If you are very specific in your tastes, look for one without any particular flavoring. This will allow you to add in any kind of seasoning that you prefer.
This is also a good idea if you have not cooked with red pepper paste before and aren’t sure of its flavor. Buying plain paste will allow you to taste it first. Then you can add in the herbs and spices that you think will work best.
How to Make Your Own Tomato Paste
If you are looking for a substitute because you are halfway through a recipe and have realized that you haven’t any tomato paste, don’t worry. Making your own paste is a little bit of a process. But, if you don’t have any other options, it’s definitely worth having a go.
For this recipe, you will need a food mill. These are essentially sieves with a mechanical handle that pushes the food through. You can do this with a normal sieve.
But it will take a fair amount of time and energy. It also won’t be quite as smooth. Don’t be tempted to use a blender or food processor. Even if you remove the seeds. This causes the tomatoes to turn a pink-white color. And the taste will be milder.
Another option is to remove the skin and seeds before you cook the tomatoes. This is a bit difficult. But it is worth it if you don’t have a food mill.
The purpose of a food mill is to ensure that the seeds and skins of the tomatoes have been entirely removed. That said, there is the risk of the tomatoes bursting in the oven. So it’s up to you on the best way forward.
Follow these simple steps to make your own tomato paste.
- 10lbs tomatoes
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tbsp salt (flaked sea salt is best)
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Chop the tomatoes. As mentioned above, you have the option of removing the skin and seeds before roasting. If you plan to do this, chop the tomatoes in half and spoon out the seeds.
Then chop the tomatoes into quarters and peel the skin off. This is much easier as the skin has already been pierced. But be careful as the tomatoes will be very slippery.
- Place a large pot over a medium-high heat. Add in the oil and allow it to heat up. Once the oil is simmering, add in the tomatoes. Cook the tomatoes until they are soft. If you choose to leave the skin on, cook until the skin begins to peel off. Make sure to keep stirring the tomatoes. Even if you’re using a non-stick pan with the olive oil, the tomatoes can begin to cook and stick to the pan.
- If you have chosen to leave the seeds and skin on the tomatoes, now is the time to pass them through a food mill or sieve. Whichever device you use, make sure to spoon to tomatoes through carefully. They will be very hot and can burn your skin easily. Working slowly will also ensure that you don’t miss any seeds or skin.
- Once the pulp is completely free of seeds and skin, add the lemon juice and place the tomatoes in a baking pan.
- Bake the tomatoes until they are reduced. The paste will be ready once the tomatoes have reduced to half their original size. This can take around three to four hours. Depending on the number of tomatoes you’re roasting. This also depends on how you are roasting them. They will bake more quickly in smaller batches.