If you’ve ever made homemade tomato sauce at home, you’re probably familiar with tomato paste. A highly concentrated tomato sauce, tomato paste is made by chopping up tomatoes, removing the skin and seeds, and cooking them down until the final product is thick and dark red, which is the product you typically buy by the can or the tube in the grocery store. While we firmly believe tomato paste is an essential pantry ingredient, sometimes you just make too much tomato sauce in one week and eventually you run out.
Thankfully, there are other tomato-based products that can easily sub in for tomato paste without losing any integrity or flavor in your dish. If you’ve got any other tomato products in your fridge or pantry – think diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato puree, even ketchup – you can replace tomato paste in virtually any recipe without making another grocery trip. Check out our guide to 5 substitutes for tomato paste and never be left high, dry, and tomato paste-less again.
1. Canned Tomatoes
Tomato puree and tomato sauce are both perfectly acceptable substitutions for tomato paste in a pinch, as long as you make sure to reduce the rest of the liquid in your recipe. You can substitute one tablespoon of tomato paste with two tablespoons of tomato puree or tomato sauce, or you can use two tablespoons of strained canned tomato liquid from a can of diced or whole tomatoes for every one tablespoon of tomato paste, and then reduce the rest of the liquid in your recipe by two tablespoons to make sure everything evens out.
2. Fresh Tomatoes
Since tomato paste is made from cooked down tomatoes, it’s only logical that a fresh tomato could replace tomato paste with some alterations. For every tablespoon of tomato paste you’ll need one medium tomato, mashed or blended, then cooked down to concentrate the flavor for about 10-15 minutes.
Tomato paste may not be a staple in your pantry, but chances are there’s a bottle of ketchup lurking somewhere in your refrigerator. Ketchup’s robust flavor and thick texture is a great substitution for tomato paste in cooking, and you can easily swap it in with a one-to-one ratio. Because of ketchup’s added seasoning and sugar, you may get a slightly different flavor profile in your final result, so if you’re able to taste as you go, make sure you do.
4. Pureed Red Peppers
Yes, we know, red peppers are not tomatoes, and they’re not even really in the tomato family, but a specific tomato flavor isn’t required in the dish, look outwards. Grab that jar of roasted red peppers that’s been sitting in your pantry unused, blend them in your food processor until smooth, then add the puree to your recipe. The red peppers may not add the same thickness that tomato paste would, but they will add a depth of flavor, and you can swap out one for the other with a one-to-one ratio.
5. DIY Tomato Paste
If you’re an ingredient purist, perhaps you want to make your own tomato paste and avoid any store-bought ingredients entirely. While homemade tomato paste isn’t difficult to make, it is time consuming, so prepare to purchase several pounds of tomatoes as part of the process. Your recipe is simple: quarter the tomatoes, remove the skin and seeds, and simmer with a tablespoon of olive oil until they’ve reached the desired consistency. This can take up to six hours, but if you’ve got the time, it’s totally worth it to make this essential ingredient at home.