Best Tomato Paste Substitute

Don’t have tomato paste and need an alternative while you’re cooking? Here’s the best tomato paste substitute to use in recipes.

Tomato paste substitute

Making a recipe that calls for tomato paste and don’t have it? Don’t worry, there are few alternatives that are perfectly suited as a substitution. Tomato paste is a paste made from tomatoes that are cooked for hours until they reduce into a thick, rich and lightly sweet paste. It’s used for enhancing the flavor of tomato sauces and stews, and also thickening them.

Tomato paste comes in a very small, thin can. You can also find it in a squeezable tube (our favorite). Don’t have time to shop for it, or cooking and just realized you don’t have it? Here are some alternative substitute ideas.

Best tomato paste substitute

1. Tomato puree or sauce

The best substitute for tomato paste? Canned tomato sauce or tomato puree. These sauces are not nearly as thick as tomato paste, and they don’t have the lightly sweet flavor either. To make up for both, use this substitution ratio:

  • For 1 tablespoon tomato paste, use 2 tablespoons tomato puree or sauce mixed with ¼ teaspoon sugar, and remove 1 tablespoon of other liquids in the recipe.

2. Ketchup

Don’t have tomato sauce or puree? No problem. The next best tomato paste substitute is ketchup! Ketchup has a consistency similar to tomato paste, but it has a saltier, tangier, and sweeter flavor. Most recipes use tomato paste in small quantities, so using a 1:1 substitution should not affect the integrity of the recipe too much. If the recipe calls for large quantities of tomato paste or if the vibe doesn’t lend itself to ketchup flavor, you should not use this substitution idea.

3. Marinara Sauce

If you have it on hand, marinara sauce is a good alternative to tomato paste. Keep in mind that it often has Italian herbs added, like basil or oregano. Use it as a 1:1 substitution.

4. Sugar (a few pinches)

Making a soup or tomato sauce where tomato paste is used to add a hint of sweetness? You can use sugar as an alternative to help round out the flavor of the recipe. Use a small amount of sugar to substitute. For 1 tablespoon tomato paste, substitute ¼ to ½ teaspoon sugar.

5. Cornstarch (and sugar)

Making a soup or sauce where tomato paste is used for thickening? Cornstarch can work as a tomato paste substitute, though you’ll need to use it carefully. For 1 tablespoon tomato paste, dissolve 1 teaspoon cornstarch into 2 teaspoons water in a small bowl. Pour into the hot liquid and heat until thickened. You may also want to add ½ teaspoon sugar to simulate the flavor of tomato paste.

What not to use

Tomato paste substitutes we don’t recommend? Avoid canned tomatoes: they don’t have the right texture and might end up adding compromised flavor or texture to the recipe.

Good luck and let us know if any of these tomato paste alternatives worked in your recipe!

Here are some recipes where you could use this tomato paste substitution:


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Don’t have tomato paste, or realized you’re all out while you’re cooking? Here’s the best tomato paste substitute to use in recipes.

  • 2 tablespoons tomato puree or sauce
  • ¼ teaspoon sugar 

  1. Mix the tomato puree or sauce with ¼ teaspoon sugar. When you’re cooking, remove 1 tablespoon of other liquids in the recipe.
  2. Alternate method: you can also use ketchup as a 1:1 substitute for tomato paste. 

  • Category: Essentials
  • Method: Stirred
  • Cuisine: American
  • Diet: Vegan

Keywords: Tomato paste substitute