What Is the Best Tomato Paste Substitute?

You can use canned tomatoes, tomato sauce or even ketchup when you don't have tomato paste. Here's how.


Photo by: BURCU ATALAY TANKUT/Getty Images


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By Leah Brickley for Food Network Kitchen

Leah is a senior culinary editor at Food Network.

Tomato paste may come in a small can (or tube), but it packs a powerful punch and is an essential flavor building block for dishes like chili and beef stew. Try to always have a can on hand; after you’ve opened it, extra paste can easily be frozen: pack it into an ice cube tray, freeze, pop out and transfer to a resealable freezer bag. But if you find yourself in a pinch without tomato paste, don’t just omit it – you’ll lose all that important tomato umami flavor. Most likely you have another form of tomato that can easily substitute tomato paste (and no one will be the wiser).

Fresh tomato sauce on bowl and spoon on white marble table. Top view


Fresh tomato sauce on bowl and spoon on white marble table. Top view

Photo by: Andres Victorero/Getty Images

Andres Victorero/Getty Images

How to Substitute Tomato Sauce or Puree for Tomato Paste

You don’t have to dash out to the store if you’re out of tomato paste; tomato sauce and tomato puree are both an excellent substitute.

For every 1 tablespoon of tomato paste needed, use 3 tablespoons of tomato puree or sauce. Add the puree or sauce in place of the tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly, until the puree or sauce has reduced and thickened. You’ll have a similar deep, savory flavor.


Photo by: Carlo A/Getty Images

Carlo A/Getty Images

How to Substitute Canned Tomatoes for Tomato Paste

The thin tomato juice in canned tomatoes (diced, crushed, or whole) can be used in the same way as tomato sauce or puree.

For every 1 tablespoon of tomato paste called for in a recipe, use 3 tablespoons of the canned juice. Add it in place of the paste and cook, stirring constantly until the juice has reduced and thickened.

a colander of roma tomatoes


a colander of roma tomatoes

Photo by: Jim Craigmyle/Getty Images

Jim Craigmyle/Getty Images

How to Substitute Fresh Tomatoes for Tomato Paste

Fresh tomatoes can also stand in for tomato paste: puree until liquified and then follow the same formula: for every 1 tablespoons of tomato paste, use 3 tablespoons of the fresh juice. Add it (along with a pinch of salt) when the recipe calls for tomato paste, and cook, stirring constantly, until the fresh juice has reduced and thickened.

Ketchup ramekin.


Ketchup ramekin.

Photo by: ALEAIMAGE/Getty Images

ALEAIMAGE/Getty Images

How to Substitute Ketchup for Tomato Paste

Sometimes condiments can come to the rescue. With the appropriate tweaking, a recipe can use ketchup in place of tomato paste. It’s important to remember that ketchup has more sugar than tomato paste and packs a tangier zing. If your recipe calls for sugar and/or vinegar, you may have to lower the amounts to accommodate what ketchup brings to the party.

Add equal parts ketchup in place of the tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly, until it really dries out.

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