Tomato puree is a thick paste-like sauce made from tomatoes that have been juiced, strained to remove the skin and seeds, then cooked and reduced. It differs from tomato sauce in its consistency, in that tomato puree is thicker (though not as thick as tomato paste) and has a more intense flavor. It is commonly used in Italian cuisine, pasta dishes, and is added to various sauces and soups as a base flavoring and/or thickening agent.
Tomato Puree Substitutes
Although tomato puree is a very common ingredient that can be cheaply purchased or easily prepared at home, it can always be substituted if needed. There are many other options with which you can substitute, for an equally delicious outcome.
Take a look at our list below for some great tomato puree alternatives to use in your cooking.
1. Tomato Sauce
As we have already mentioned, tomato sauce differs from tomato puree mostly in its consistency. Tomato sauce has a thinner, more watery texture than puree and as a result, usually has a slightly weaker flavor. This can be easily remedied by simmering gently on a medium heat, stirring well, until you achieve the desired thickness.
Tomato sauce also tends to be more acidic than tomato puree and not as sweet, though once cooked these differences shouldn’t be hugely noticeable. Often tomato sauces are also seasoned with additional herbs and spices such as basil, oregano, or even garlic. This is to add the richness of flavor that tomato sauce sometimes lacks and is important to bear in mind as these flavorings can vastly change the overall outcome of your dish.
2. Tomato Paste
Another easily substituted ingredient to tomato puree is tomato paste. Tomato paste differs from puree in a few ways, it is cooked for far longer and consequently has a thicker, stiffer consistency and a deeper, less acidic flavor while maintaining some sweetness.
Tomato paste is very concentrated and recipes, therefore, tend to use it in small amounts. When substituting it for tomato puree, add a little water and/or olive oil and mix well to thin out the texture. Make sure to only add a little at a time so as not to make it overly watery.
If you find the mixture isn’t combining well, simmering gently on a low heat whilst mixing can help bind the ingredients until you achieve a thickness equivalent to that of tomato puree. You’ll want to use slightly less paste than you would puree to account for the difference in flavor intensity.
3. Pizza Sauce
Pizza sauce is an umbrella term for all manner of different tomato-based sauces, which vary according to recipe or brand. Generally, tomato sauces are made up of chopped tomatoes, tomato sauces, and/or paste as well as additional seasonings such as chopped onions, garlic, bay leaf, and basil.
This kind of rich sauce is often spread onto a pizza base before adding cheese but is also used in a variety of different dipping sauces and salsas. It can also be used in many meat or pasta-based recipes.
Once again, using pizza sauce as a tomato puree substitute will vary based on the individual sauce that you have. Take into account the herbs and seasonings it contains when trying to achieve your desired flavor.
As with tomato sauce, you can easily thicken your pizza sauce by simmering gently in a pan to produce a texture more similar to that of puree.
4. Fresh Tomatoes
Fresh is best as some say, so if you have the option, fresh tomatoes can make for a lovely, intensely flavored substitute. You will need a fairly large quantity of tomatoes. Plum or Roma tomatoes are best for creating a long-lasting and thick sauce, but you can use whatever you have on hand.
Depending on your specific preferences you can keep or remove the seeds and skin, before juicing or chopping and simply placing them in a pan as is. Bring the tomato or tomato juice to a boil, then allow to simmer.
Removing the seeds and pulp before cooking will achieve a less tart and overall smoother outcome, whereas leaving them in can add texture and give a more true tomato flavor.
Cook until you achieve the desired consistency, a thick yet spreadable paste is best if trying to emulate tomato puree, then cool and blend before adding to your dish.
5. Canned Tomatoes
Canned tomatoes are another great alternative. They are a cheap and convenient option that can be found in most stores. You may even have a tin or two sitting in the back of your cupboard.
Much like fresh tomatoes, you can blend and simmer canned tomatoes to achieve a more puree-like consistency, then when cooled add to your recipe as you would tomato puree.
While ketchup’s primary ingredient is tomatoes, it doesn’t always work as the best substitute for recipes requiring tomato-based sauces. Ketchup is a table condiment, designed to be added to food after it has been cooked to add flavor, rather than a sauce which is often added as part of the cooking process.
Ketchup is made up of various ingredients besides tomatoes including sugar, vinegar, salt, and varied seasonings and spices. This combination is what makes up ketchup’s unique sweet and tangy flavor. However, when using in place of puree, you may find the sugar and vinegar a little strong compared with puree which is essentially just tomato. Tomato ketchup also has a thinner consistency than puree, closer to a thick sauce.
Of all the possible substitutes, ketchup is probably the least suitable and will achieve a flavor and texture least true to tomato puree, however, if you like the taste it can be used in a pinch.