There are many reasons why your pasta sauce is too sweet and it’s not always your fault. Nonetheless, not everyone enjoys sweet tomato sauce and especially if you have guests, you will want to have a more balanced flavor in your sauce.
In order to take the sweetness out of your spaghetti sauce, you can use several tricks as you cook it. However, if your sauce is usually too sweet, next time you may want to choose different raw ingredients altogether.
How to make spaghetti sauce less sweet?
It is actually pretty simple to fix spaghetti sauce that is too sweet, even if it’s a last-minute mistake and you don’t have time for grocery shopping.
In fact, you can counteract sweetness in the sauce with several ingredients you already have at home.
The keyword when fixing sweet spaghetti sauce is moderation. For every one of these ingredients, start small and taste the sauce afterward. If it is still too sweet, keep adding ingredients gradually until you get the desired flavor.
In order to reduce sweetness in the sauce, it’s usually enough to increase the amount of the other ingredients. This is an easy and quick way to dilute the sauce and bring balance to its flavor.
There are two main successful methods to do that:
– Add one or two main ingredients along with the spices to increase the volume of your sauce and tone down the sweetness at the same time. If you’re making spaghetti sauce, you can add more fresh/crushed/canned tomatoes.
– Make a separate sauce with all the base ingredients minus the sugar. This is a good trick if you are afraid of overdoing it with the sugar. Just add the sugarless sauce in the normal one little by little, making sure to taste it after every addition so you know when to stop.
The second method may leave you with more leftovers and a good amount of sauce to use, but it’s very effective and recommended especially if you’re not an expert.
When you want to unsweeten spaghetti sauce, the most logical solution would be to use non-sweet ingredients.
There are many acid ingredients you can use to tone down the sweetness of your spaghetti sauce, but vinegar or wine are the best options for this type of sauce.
Add ¼ of a tablespoon at a time, until you reach the desired balance, then let it simmer and blend it regularly until you reach the ideal consistency.
Other tart ingredients that can be used to counteract extra sugar include:
– Citrus juice
– Lime juice
– Tamarind paste
– Lemon juice
This method can be used alone or you can add volume and acid ingredients to the sauce at the same time for more effective results.
A pinch of salt can make a great difference in a sauce. If your spaghetti sauce is too sweet, add a little salt to balance the sweetness.
Just as you need to be careful with sugar, don’t overdo it with salt either. It’s true that our body needs salt to keep the electrolyte balance, but too much salt can cause damage to our health in the long run.
Good alternatives to salt that will not only decrease the sweetness of your dish but also add that sought-after umami flavor to it are soy sauce and miso.
As in the best Italian tradition, a bit of parmesan cheese or Pecorino Romano can do wonders for your tomato sauce and it’s hardly ever a bad choice.
It is not necessary to add it as you make the sauce, you can add it as a topping once the dish is ready.
Cheese can be used to mask sweetness, but also other minor mistakes made when cooking. Its usefulness is not limited to spaghetti sauce: you can fix a sweet chili adding a little yogurt or sour cream, and you can even fix a dessert with unsweetened whipped cream.
Make it spicy
Another trick to mask the sweetness of your spaghetti sauce is to make it spicy. Chili peppers work really well with tomato sauce and can be a flavorful addition to your pasta. On top of that, chili peppers have many health benefits for us:
– It helps blood circulation and is good for the heart
– It’s natural pain relief, especially for those who suffer from osteoarthritis and neuropathies, because it contains many active ingredients
– It fights inflammation and helps a sore throat
– It helps lower your cholesterol level
– It activates metabolism and helps digestion
– It’s antibacterial and antioxidant
– It contains mineral salts such as potassium, phosphorus, and calcium
– It contains vitamins A, B, C, E, and K, which help boost your immune system and fight infections and allergies
– It makes you lose weight because its spiciness increases heat production (which burns calories) and oxygen consumption for up to 20 minutes after the ingestion
However, it really depends on your personal preference. For some people, even a small chili pepper can be too much to handle, so make sure to start by adding just a pinch of chili pepper flakes.
Sugar substitutes to make tomato sauce less acidic.
We usually add sugar in our tomato sauce to fight off the acidity of the tomatoes, but if you’re not careful enough you may end up using too much sugar, which not only will make your spaghetti sauce too sweet, it can also harm your health.
There are a few alternatives to sugar when it comes to making a tomato sauce less acidic, some of them may be easier to moderate than normal sugar.
Not all of them are as effective as sugar and they may not give your sauce the same taste, but you may want to give it a try. In the end, it’s all about personal taste!
A pinch of baking soda can tone down the acidity of your tomato sauce because it changes its pH.
Baking soda is used for many different purposes in the kitchen and it also helps your digestion if you drink it mixed with water after a particularly heavy meal. It is a good substitute for sugar and it’s surely healthier.
Adding ⅛ teaspoon of baking soda can already tone down the acidity of your spaghetti sauce quite a bit and you will get a similar result as when you use sugar.
However, baking soda lacks that je ne sais quoi that sugar brings to your sauce, and the flavor given by baking soda might be considered a little too flat by some people.
Sugar should be consumed with moderation and you should watch out for industrial sugar in particular.
Luckily, there are many natural alternatives to make your spaghetti sauce sweeter without using the famous white grains:
– Fresh tomatoes
– Bay leaves
– Grape jelly
– Orange peel
Carrots are especially good to sweeten spaghetti sauce, but each of these ingredients can sweeten your sauce while also adding that extra flavor that will make your dish more enjoyable.
Of course, the fact that these ingredients can make your sauce sweeter means they do contain sugars, so moderation is once again key.
You’re probably thinking — tomato paste has more tartness than tomato sauce! How can tomato paste be a good substitute for sugar?
Some people add a pinch of sugar in their sauce not because it needs to be sweeter, but because they feel like it lacks something in terms of flavor. In that case, tomato paste is a better alternative.
Tomato paste differs from tomato sauce because it’s a more concentrated form of tomato sauce that has been cooked to lose all the moisture. As a result, its taste is much stronger than normal tomato sauce.
Tomato paste is found in small jars or tubes, which usually discourages people from buying it. Actually, you don’t need a lot of tomato paste to give your meal more flavor and it is not recommended to use much either, hence why the smaller package.
Tomato paste can be a substitute for tomato sauce, but it shouldn’t, because they’re two different things. However, if you feel like your tomato sauce lacks flavor, a knob of tomato paste can fix your sauce and give it the umami flavor you’re looking for.
Why is your tomato sauce too sweet?
Store-bought tomato sauces usually already have added spices and sugar, so when you add your own spices and sugary ingredients, the sauce turns out too sweet.
When it comes to raw tomatoes, the flavor really depends on the type of tomato and its freshness. Fully ripe tomatoes are usually sweeter than less ripe ones, but tomatoes are generally pretty acidic, so they do need some help in reaching the flavor you desire.
How to choose the right tomato sauce.
If you don’t have time to make your own tomato sauce, you can only go through the process of trial-and-error by trying different canned tomatoes.
Always check the ingredients on the package, because some tinned tomatoes swim in juices that contain a lot of different things, not all of them being a healthy addition to the sauce.
The more “natural” your tomato sauce is, the more you will have to work at home, but it also means you have more control over the flavor of your sauce.
When you can, try to buy fresh tomatoes when it’s the season (usually from May to October). Good tomatoes will be sweet enough as they are, but not too sweet, and with little additions, they will make the perfect sauce for your meals.