4 Best Substitutes for Tomato Paste

Homemade tomato sauce in a glass jar

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Tomato paste is made from fresh tomatoes that have been cooked down for several hours and reduced to a very thick, red paste. The tomatoes are cooked first to reduce their moisture content, then they are strained to remove their skins and seeds, and finally cooked again to reduce them further to achieve a brick red, thick paste. Simply put, tomato paste is a highly concentrated version of tomato sauce.

Tomato paste is used in many Italian dishes to enhance the color, consistency, and flavor of tomato sauces as well as soups, chilis, and stews from all over the world. It is typically sold in cans, jars, or resealable tubes, though tubes are often the more convenient option to avoid mess and waste. You can also make homemade tomato paste with fresh summer tomatoes and enjoy the rich flavor all winter long.

If you find yourself in a situation where you need tomato paste and do not have it on hand, no need to rush out to the grocery store. You likely have a suitable substitute already in your pantry. You may also need a tomato paste substitute if you are allergic to tomatoes or suffer from acid reflux when eating tomato-based products.

Why Use an Alternative?

Tomato allergies are extremely rare despite being one of the commonly consumed foods in the Western diet. Symptoms include skin rash or hives, abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea, coughing, sneezing, and swelling of the face and throat.

If you are concerned you have a tomato allergy, contact a healthcare provider who specializes in allergies. There are several ways allergies can be confirmed including a skin prick test and a blood test.

Tomato paste gives recipes an intense tomato flavor so you will want to look for a substitute with a similar flavor profile. You may also want to consider the color, as tomato paste gives dishes a deep, red hue.

While you may not be able to match the thick consistency exactly with your substitutes, flavor and color are important factors. If you cook tomato sauces, chilis, and stews often, you may find yourself going through tubes of tomato paste quickly and needing other options on hand in the event you run out.

Tomato Paste Nutrition

The nutrition information for 1 tablespoon (16 grams) of tomato paste is provided by the USDA.

  • Calories: 13.1
  • Fats: .07g
  • Sodium: 9mg
  • Carbohydrates: 3g
  • Sugars: 1.9g
  • Fiber: .6g
  • Protein: .6g
  • Potassium: 162mg

Tomato paste is not a significant source of calories, macronutrients, or micronutrients and fits into a variety of eating styles. It is a suitable addition to recipes for vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free diets.

Popular Substitutes

If you do not have any allergies to tomatoes, the best substitutes for tomato paste are other tomato-derived ingredients you likely already have at home. Using these substitutes will promise a similar rich tomato taste and red color, though consistency of the end result may differ slightly. The amounts of the ingredients used may also vary based on their consistency.

Canned Tomatoes

If you are someone who cooks homemade tomato sauce, stews, and chilis, you likely have cans of diced or crushed tomatoes stocked in your pantry. Simply take your can of tomatoes, strain out all of the liquid, and mash the tomatoes into your dish as it cooks.

Due to its thinner consistency, which yields a less concentrated flavor, you'll need more canned tomatoes than tomato paste. Start with 2 tablespoons of canned tomatoes for every 1 tablespoon of tomato paste until you reach the desired consistency.

Tomato Sauce

The jarred tomato sauce you have in your pantry can be used for so much more than just over pasta. The consistency may be on the thinner side and not give as concentrated of a tomato flavor, but if you simmer your dish for a bit, the sauce reduces down to resemble tomato paste.

Jarred tomato sauce may also contain other flavorings like basil and garlic, which you may or may not want depending on what you are making. You will want to adjust your ratio similar to canned tomatoes, using 2 tablespoons of pasta sauce per 1 tablespoon of tomato paste until you reach the desired consistency.

Ketchup

While ketchup is not as thick as tomato paste, it is thicker than tomato sauce making it a great substitute for tomato paste. It also adds a tanginess and sweetness from vinegar and sugar, which may be desirable for the recipe you are making.

For example, chili does not rely on tomato paste exclusively as a thickener and the tangy flavor of the ketchup may complement other flavors in the chili. Ketchup can be substituted in a one-to-one ratio to tomato paste.

Ketchup does not contribute a significant source of nutrition given the amount you are likely using.

Roasted Red Peppers

If tomato is not a crucial flavor in your dish or you are allergic, roasted red peppers are an excellent alternative. Open up a jar or roast them yourself and puree in the food processor.

They will add a pop of color and flavor but will not offer the same thickness as tomato paste. Use roasted red pepper puree in a one-to-one ratio to tomato paste, but you may want to reduce your dish down a bit to thicken it.

A Word From Verywell

When cooking a recipe and finding yourself needing tomato paste, it can be tricky to know the right replacement without running to the grocery store. When substituting tomato paste, the best substitutes are other tomato products or other ingredients that give your dish a depth of color and flavor.

Not all substitutes will give you the same thick consistency, but you can simmer your stew or chili longer to reduce it to get the consistency you want. While allergies to tomato products are rare, you may want to substitute tomato paste if you experience acid reflux. Roasted red pepper puree is a good option to give your dish a delicious flavor without added acidity.

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3 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Asero R. Tomato allergy: clinical features and usefulness of current routinely available diagnostic methods. J Investig Allergol Clin Immunol. 2013;23(1):37-42. PMID:23653972

  2. USDA, FoodData Central. Tomato products, canned, paste, without salt added.

  3. USDA, FoodData Center. Ketchup.