Tomato Paste Substitutes

If you’re in the middle of preparing a recipe and discover you’re out of tomato paste, there’s no need to panic. Your kitchen likely holds several alternative ingredients that can stand in for this concentrated flavor enhancer.

Tomato paste is used in cooking for its rich color and deep, tangy flavor, but it’s not irreplaceable.

Understanding the characteristics of tomato paste can guide you towards suitable substitutes that achieve similar results in your dishes.

Various ingredients like sun-dried tomatoes, red bell peppers, and carrots arranged next to a jar of tomato paste

Tomato paste is a highly concentrated product made by simmering tomatoes for hours to reduce the moisture content, then straining and pureeing the remaining pulp into a thick paste.

Consistency is key in tomato paste, as it’s significantly thicker than other tomato-based products. This denseness lends a texture to sauces and stews that’s crucial in achieving the desired richness.

Due to its concentration, tomato paste also possesses a robust tomato flavor that can intensify the taste profile of your dishes without watering them down.

ConsistencyThick, dense, and smooth, ideal for adding body to recipes.
FlavorDeep, rich, and robust, it greatly enhances the tomato presence in dishes.
ConcentrationContains less water and more tomato solids than other tomato products.
VersatilitySuitable for a multitude of cuisines and recipes requiring a tomato base.

Remember, when incorporating tomato paste into your cooking, a small amount can go a long way due to its intensity. This makes it an indispensable pantry staple, capable of transforming the character of soups, marinades, and more with just a tablespoon or two.

Common Tomato Paste Substitutes

When you run out of tomato paste, there are several reliable substitutes you can use to maintain the flavor and consistency of your dishes. Below, you’ll find options ranging from other canned tomato products to items already in your pantry.

Canned Tomato Products

  • Canned Tomato Sauce: Reduce 2-3 tablespoons of canned tomato sauce down to the thickness of paste to replace 1 tablespoon of tomato paste.
  • Crushed Tomatoes: Simmer until thickened; use twice the amount of tomato paste called for in your recipe.
  • Stewed Tomatoes: Blend or process to a smooth consistency, then cook down to a paste-like thickness.

Fresh Tomato Variants

  • Ripe Fresh Tomatoes: Remove seeds and skin, puree in a blender or food processor until smooth, then simmer to reduce by half for a thick, pastelike substitute.
  • Homemade Tomato Paste: Concentrate the flavors and consistency of fresh tomatoes by slow-cooking them with a pinch of salt and sugar until a paste-like texture is achieved.

Other Pantry Staples

  • Ketchup: A 1:1 substitute in terms of tablespoon measurement, best used when extra sweetness isn’t an issue.
  • Tomato Soup: Reduce until thick like a paste, but watch for seasonings that may alter the intended taste of your recipe.
  • Salsa Verde: Although not tomato-based, its tangy taste can serve as an interesting stand-in when a different flavor profile is acceptable.
  • Soy Sauce: In small quantities, it can provide the umami depth that tomato paste adds to dishes. Use 1 teaspoon of soy sauce to substitute for 1 tablespoon of tomato paste.

Specialized Substitutes

In this section, you will discover substitutes tailored for Italian dishes and those that offer distinct flavor profiles, allowing for culinary versatility within specific recipe requirements.

Italian Dishes

For your traditional Italian recipes that call for the depth of tomato paste, there are few specific alternatives that can offer similar results without compromising the dish’s integrity.

Marinara sauce or tomato purée can often provide a milder taste while maintaining a similar texture. They are readily available and can be reduced to match the thicker consistency of tomato paste.

Another option, tomato passata, is uncooked tomato purée that has been strained of seeds and skins, often used in Italian cuisine to add a fresh, vibrant tomato flavor to pizzas and pasta sauces.

  • Marinara Sauce: Use in a 3:1 ratio, reduce to thicken.
  • Tomato Purée: Substitute in a 1:1 ratio, may need reduction.
  • Tomato Passata: Ideal for a nuanced, fresh tomato flavor, use in a 1:1 ratio.

Distinct Flavor Profiles

When your dish can benefit from or accommodate a distinctive twist, there are flavor-rich alternatives that contribute more than just the red, ripe essence of tomatoes.

For a touch of zest and umami flavor, salsa verde, made with green tomatoes and ingredients like jalapeños, can be used to enliven dishes with its tangy character.

If you’re seeking a sweeter profile with a smoky backdrop, consider roasted red peppers or harissa, a North African chili pepper paste packed with heat and layers of complexity.

  • Salsa Verde: Offers zesty and slightly tangy notes, yet lighter in color.
  • Roasted Red Peppers: Blend to a paste for a sweet and smoky substitute.
  • Harissa: Brings heat and a concentrated blast of smoky umami flavor. Use sparingly due to its intense taste and spiciness.

Adjusting For Nutritional Concerns

A chef swaps out tomato paste for alternative options like roasted red pepper puree and blended sun-dried tomatoes, adjusting for nutritional concerns

In seeking substitutes for tomato paste, it’s important to consider how alternatives align with your nutritional needs. Whether you’re monitoring calorie intake, adhering to a vegan or vegetarian diet, or managing a tomato allergy, you’ll find suitable options that cater to these specific concerns.

Reducing Calories and Carbohydrates

If you’re aiming to reduce your calorie and carbohydrate consumption, consider the following:

  • Tomato Puree: While it does have more water content, it is lower in calories than tomato paste. Use a ratio of 2:1 when substituting with puree.
  • Crushed Tomatoes: They can also serve as a low-calorie alternative. Use half a cup in place of every tablespoon of tomato paste for fewer calories and carbohydrates.

Vegan and Vegetarian Options

For those on vegan and vegetarian diets, ensuring that the substitute does not contain animal products is key:

  • Canned Tomatoes: These are a straightforward replacement, containing only the natural essence of tomatoes with no additives, hence suitable for both vegans and vegetarians.
  • Roasted Red Pepper Puree: This provides a rich flavor without any animal-derived ingredients, making it a hearty vegan and vegetarian-friendly choice.

Alternatives for Tomato Allergies

If you have a tomato allergy or sensitivity, some non-tomato-based alternatives include:

  • Roasted Red Pepper Puree: Provides a similar robustness to dishes, while being free from tomato allergens.
  • Beetroot or Carrot Puree: These can impart a similar texture and natural sweetness without the allergenic components present in tomatoes.

Remember to always check labels for potential cross-contaminants if you have severe allergies.

Cooking Tips for Substituting Tomato Paste

When you’re out of tomato paste and need to maintain the integrity of your recipe, understanding how to effectively substitute it is crucial. Here are some practical ways to adapt other ingredients and recreate the desired effects of tomato paste.

Modifying Consistency

To achieve the thick, rich texture that tomato paste imparts, you’ll want to reduce excess liquid from substitutes to concentrate their flavors.

If you’re using strained canned tomatoes or tomato sauce, simmer them down until they reach a paste-like thickness.

For thicker sauces, stews, and chilis, cornstarch can be added as a thickening agent; a general guideline is 1 teaspoon of cornstarch per cup of liquid.

Balancing the Flavor

Tomato paste brings a deep, savory flavor and slight sweetness to dishes.

If you are substituting with ketchup, be cautious with the sugar and salt content, as ketchup already contains both. To counter the sweetness, a small pinch of salt might be necessary.

When making soups, using fresh tomatoes can require extra seasoning to reach the depth of flavor tomato paste would provide.

Preserving Color and Properties

The rich red color of tomato paste is significant for the visual appeal of certain dishes.

Using ketchup as a substitute retains much of the original color and properties, as it is a concentrated tomato product.

When utilizing alternatives like pureed fresh tomatoes, remember to cook them long enough to darken in color, thus more closely matching the hue that tomato paste would offer.

Frequently Asked Questions

A variety of ingredients surround a can of tomato paste, including tomato sauce, crushed tomatoes, and sun-dried tomatoes. A measuring spoon and a mixing bowl are nearby

When replacing tomato paste in your recipes, you have several options to maintain flavor and consistency.

Whether you’re dealing with allergies, dietary preferences, or simply an empty pantry, the right substitute can save your dish.

What are common alternatives to tomato paste for thickening recipes?

You can use tomato sauce or tomato puree to thicken recipes as both have a similar flavor profile.

Generally, you would need to reduce these alternatives by simmering to achieve a thicker consistency akin to that of tomato paste.

How can you manage a tomato paste allergy when cooking?

For those allergic to tomatoes, consider using roasted red peppers blended into a paste or pumpkin puree as alternatives.

They offer a similar texture and can be seasoned to complement your dish.

What is the recommended amount of tomato sauce to replace 6 oz of tomato paste?

To replace 6 oz of tomato paste, use 18 oz of tomato sauce and simmer it until reduced to the thickness and concentration of tomato paste, which is typically one-third of the sauce volume.

What ingredients can be used in place of tomato paste for beef stew?

When making beef stew without tomato paste, try using Worcestershire sauce or a combination of soy sauce and a small amount of sugar for depth and umami flavor.

Which substitutes work well for tomato paste in Shepherd’s pie?

In Shepherd’s pie, a good replacement for tomato paste is ketchup, as it provides a similar color and sweetness.

Adjust the amount according to your taste preference, since ketchup is sweeter and more tangy.

Are there suitable replacements for tomato paste when making tomato-based dishes?

For tomato-based dishes, alternatives like canned tomatoes, tomato puree, or a small amount of ketchup can work well.

Remember to adjust the amount and cooking time since these substitutes may be more liquid and less concentrated than tomato paste.

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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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