Tomato puree is a thick, rich tomato sauce made from partly cooked, pureed tomatoes.
While many people confuse it for tomato sauce, the main difference between tomato puree and tomato sauce is in the consistency. With tomato puree, you get a thicker, richer sauce ideal for soups, pasta sauce, and stews.
In case you aren’t really a fan of tomato puree, or you simply don’t have any at the moment, you can still achieve similar results with the tomato puree substitutes we’ve prepared for you.
The best substitutes for tomato puree
Tomato puree is made from briefly cooked, peeled fresh tomatoes that have been pealed, and usually their seeds are removed, too. The majority of tomato puree brands sell canned tomato puree, without any herbs and seasonings except for salt.
While it is thicker in consistency than tomato sauce, tomato puree is more on the liquid side as compared to tomato paste. However, it is one of the most widely used tomato products since it provides just the right amount of flavor richness and complexity, without taking over the entire dish.
Whether you decide to add just a small amount of tomato puree to your dishes, or you make it the main ingredient, it will take your cooking to the next level.
It also delivers that original, unique tomato taste, usually without many additives or added herbs and seasonings. Its neutrality allows you to experiment and create a flavor that suits your recipe the best.
It is a great choice for your pasta sauce, tomato soup, barbecue sauce, chili recipes, and even marinades. With so many tomato-based products on the market, it can be hard finding the right tomato puree substitute, but we’ve got a list of the best replacements ready for you.
1. Homemade tomato puree
Why rely on the store-bought stuff when you can make delicious, organic tomato puree at home?
When you think about it, you can only be sure of the quality of the production and the ingredients when you’re making something yourself. Don’t worry – this isn’t one of those recipes that will have you trapped in the kitchen for hours!
First, you want to choose and prepare the tomatoes for your homemade tomato puree. The best kind of tomatoes for a puree are Roma or Plum since they’re usually grown for preserving.
Also, keep in mind that you can use any imperfect tomatoes, as well, as long as you chop off all the bruised areas.
Next, halve your washed tomatoes, scoop out the seeds, and either peel the skins or leave them be – depending on whether you mind having them in your puree or not.
The peel will come off a lot easier if you soak the tomatoes in hot water prior to peeling them. For the pureeing process, you can use a mill, food processor, immersion blender, or a standard blender – depending on what works best for you.
Once you’ve removed the seeds and the skin (if desired), coarsely chop the tomatoes, and cook them in a heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat until they reach a boil.
Then you want to reduce the heat to medium-low and let the tomatoes simmer for about 10 minutes until they’re completely tender. Puree your tomato mixture using the device of your choice and process until smooth.
2. Tomato sauce
Tomato sauce is a much thinner substitute for tomato puree, but with the right cooking and the combination of herbs and spices, it can reach the desired level of flavor.
While tomato puree is already complex enough and doesn’t require any additional flavor development, you will have to cook tomato sauce a bit longer to get the desired consistency. When reduced, tomato sauce very much resembles tomato puree.
This is a great alternative for those of you who actually prefer a more subtle tomato flavor. It can be added to deep-flavored dishes for a note of acidity and freshness, especially with meat and seafood.
If you want to avoid store-bought tomato sauce and make some on your own, using organic tomatoes from your garden or your favorite local seller, here’s a quick recipe that works every time.
For tomato sauce from scratch, you’ll need:
- 5 pounds tomatoes
- 1 garlic clove
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 basil sprig
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- ¾ tsp salt.
Prepare the tomatoes by washing them and halving them horizontally. If you want, you can remove the seeds. Grate the tomatoes by pressing the cut side onto the grater and remove tomato skins.
Place the tomato pump into a saucepan over high heat, and then add your olive oil, herbs, salt, garlic, and tomato paste. Bring the mixture to a boil, then lower the heat and let your sauce simmer for a bit.
You want the sauce to reduce almost halfway, so you get a medium-thick consistency. Taste the sauce and make sure to add more salt or seasonings to adjust it to your liking.
3. Tomato paste
This substitution for tomato puree is perhaps the most convenient of them all.
Tomato paste is highly concentrated, which means that you get a lot of flavor in a single teaspoon of this stuff. Being that it is so concentrated and full of flavor, you want to adjust the dose accordingly and never go overboard, since it can come off a bit tart and bitter.
The base of tomato paste is a highly concentrated tomato sauce, completely cooked down until it reaches a paste-like consistency, and it can be easily made at home.
Manufactured tomato paste, on the other hand, often contains additional ingredients, including citric acid, salt, spices, and herbs.
4. Crushed tomatoes
Crushed tomatoes are a great substitute for tomato puree if you appreciate the tomato structure and don’t need the tomatoes to be blended.
They’re usually a combination of diced tomatoes and tomato puree or a paste, delivering both that full tomato flavor and texture. Crushed tomatoes are a great option for your lasagna, pizza sauce, pasta sauce, or vegetable stew.
The most common choice of tomatoes in crushed tomatoes are Roma tomatoes, which provide just enough acidity and tangy garden flavor.
You can also easily make this mixture at home, but the store-bought version is usually canned and quite convenient if you don’t feel like dicing the tomatoes yourself.
5. Marinara sauce/pizza sauce
While the alternatives we’ve mentioned so far usually just contain tomatoes, this sauce requires a certain mix of herbs and vegetables to be considered marinara sauce.
Usually, marinara sauce combines olive oil, dried oregano, garlic, salt, onion, and canned tomatoes, but you may come across different variations and recipes.
Marinara sauce is an amazing choice if you want an extremely rich, deep flavor, and a delicious aroma without having to add any other herbs to your dish. Yes, the marinara sauce will be the star of the show, but hardly anyone will complain about this flavor profile!
6. Fresh tomatoes
Fresh tomatoes may not be the most convenient tomato puree replacement, especially if you’re not looking to cook your own tomato puree or sauce.
However, by simply cutting up a couple of fresh tomatoes and adding them to your dish, you can get that unique acidity and tomato flavor you’re looking for.
Of course, keep in mind that tomato puree is a partly concentrated product, so you may need to add more fresh tomatoes to reach that flavor depth.
Fresh tomatoes can be used in soups, sauces, dips, vegetable stews, but they will require a bit more cooking than the products we’ve mentioned before.
Both the flavor and the consistency of ketchup will vary from brand to brand, but if you choose thicker ketchup, you can easily substitute tomato puree.
However, keep in mind that most kinds of ketchup contain a high percentage of sugar, which can completely transform your dish.
Opt for brands that have a higher percentage of tomatoes, and a more complex flavor – especially if you’re adding the ketchup to your dishes and not just using it as a condiment.
The main difference between tomato sauce and ketchup is in ingredients, since ketchup usually also contains vinegar or acetic acid, in addition to different kinds of herbs and spices. Also, ketchup on its own is never served hot.
How to choose a tomato puree substitute
Choosing the best tomato puree substitute depends on several factors: your recipe, your personal preferences, and your willingness to make your homemade versions.
Each of the options we’ve mentioned offers that fresh, bright, acidic tomato flavor, but the difference is mainly in the level of concentration and the consistency.
Also, certain options come with developed flavors and aromas, including a bunch of herbs and seasoning, while others are pretty neutral and offer more versatility.
If texture and thick consistency are something you’re not looking to compromise on, you can’t go wrong with homemade tomato puree, tomato paste, crushed tomatoes, or marinara sauce. They’re rich in flavor, highly aromatic, and easy to implement in all your dishes.
Tomato sauce and ketchup, on the other hand, may require more work in terms of getting the desired flavor and consistency. However, if you’re making homemade versions, or you choose high-quality brands, we’re quite positive that the flavor won’t be an issue.
Finally, fresh tomatoes may need more cooking time and a good combination of spices and herbs, but they offer unlimited versatility and countless options.