Substitute for Marinara Sauce

Marinara sauce, also known as mariner’s sauce and alla marinara, is a famous Italian tomato sauce that you can use in dozens of recipes. There is also the American-Italian variation. When you require a marinara sauce substitute there are excellent options for any variation of this popular sauce.

What Is Marinara Sauce?

Marinara Sauce is a tomato-based sauce with Italian origins. It combines fresh ingredients, including tomatoes, onion, garlic, olive oil, oregano, and occasionally crushed red peppers. The sauce is thinnish in its consistency and red in appearance. Marinara takes around an hour to cook when made at home.

What Does Marinara Sauce Taste Like?

A correctly prepared marinara sauce has a slightly sweet flavor from the tomatoes and an excellent savory taste from seasoning and cooking well.

What Does Marinara Sauce Go With?

  • Lasagna
  • Chicken Parmesan
  • Pizza
  • Mozzarella Sticks
  • Subs / Hoagies / Sandwiches
  • Meatballs
  • Spaghetti

Substitutes for Marinara Sauce

The best substitute will depend on the recipe and situation. Are you looking for a healthy substitute for marinara sauce? What flavors are involved? Have a look at some of these similar and suitable options.

Substitute:Recommended for:
Canned TomatoesLasagna, Chicken Parmesan.
Pasta SaucePizzas, Ratatouille, Soups
Tomato SauceSpaghetti, Meatballs, Chicken Parmesan
Tomato PureeSoups, Sauces.
Tomato PastePizzas, Lasagna, Subs.

1. Canned Tomatoes

Canned tomatoes

In most recipes, you can use canned tomatoes as an alternative to marinara sauce. For example, you can use these in lasagna, chicken parmesan, and other typical marinara recipes.

Canned tomatoes have a good texture and consistency, similar to marinara sauce. 

You can also add additional ingredients to your canned tomatoes during the cooking process that will help improve the flavor and make it more similar to marinara sauce. For example, try adding garlic, oregano, and olive oil to your canned tomatoes to make the taste closer to a regular marinara sauce.

2. Pasta Sauce

Pasta sauce in a bowl

Pasta Sauce is more of an umbrella term for a number of sauces that are used in recipes like pizza, ratatouille, and similar. You can make it with canned tomatoes, onions, garlic, carrots, and a few additional herbs and spices, almost identical to a marinara.

Many people ask if they can substitute pasta sauce for marinara. The answer is yes. Have a look at the ingredients list on any shop-bought pasta sauces and stick to the ones with garlic, onions, and similar ingredients to a traditional marinara sauce.

Pasta Sauce is one of the most versatile substitutes on this list, requiring little additional work with adding herbs and spices.

3. Tomato Sauce

Homemade tomato sauces are often made from canned plum tomatoes. Commercial ones are usually made from fresh plum tomatoes. Either option is fine when considering a substitute for marinara sauce.

If you are wondering whether you can use tomato sauce instead of marinara sauce in a recipe, then you absolutely can. However, the flavor isn’t the same because tomato sauce often has additional ingredients such as basil, black peppers, or chili peppers.

Tomato sauce works well in place of marinara sauce in Italian pasta dishes. It also works well in soups.

4. Tomato Puree

Tomato puree in a dish

Tomato Puree is liquid tomatoes that have been reduced and strained to remove any chunks. You can use tomato puree in place of marinara sauce as a dipping sauce for mozzarella sticks and similar.

The puree isn’t very thick in consistency, so that should be kept in mind when comparing it to marinara.

You can substitute tomato puree and marinara sauce with a 1:1 ratio.

5. Tomato Paste

Tomato paste in a dish

Tomato Paste is an ideal substitute for your marinara sauce in lasagna. The thick paste is rich and sweet, which makes it suitable for something like lasagna.

You can also use tomato paste in meatballs and spaghetti. You can combine tomato paste and tomato puree and stir them together to create an ideal sauce substitute for pizza.

Related: Tomato Puree vs. Tomato Paste – Differences Explained

Another great thing about tomato paste is that with a few herbs and spices, you can quickly achieve the savory flavor of a marinara.


You shouldn’t have much of an issue finding a suitable replacement for a marinara sauce in any situation. The alternatives above should ensure that you can find a substitute that works for you.