Tomato paste is a common ingredient in many dishes, like tomato sauce. It is used to thicken the sauce and add color. In order to make a tomato paste substitute, you need a few ingredients that are relatively easy to find. These ingredients contain a lot of water and will cause your sauce or paste to have an oily consistency.
What is Tomato Paste?
Tomato paste is one of the most commonly used fresh ingredients in cooking, so it’s no wonder that it becomes a part of many dishes such as lasagna, pasta sauce, and ratatouille. Tomato paste is typically made from crushed tomatoes blended with spices and other ingredients such as herbs, garlic powder or onion powder, salt and sugar. It may be labelled as a “paste” but it does not have a smooth texture like pastes do (powdered vegetables for example). Tomatoes are about 78% water which means that 11% of the water content has been removed by boiling down the tomatoes into this thick liquid. In order to produce tomato paste, a tomato has to be processed into about 2 cups of tomato puree. For each cup of paste, one gallon of tomatoes must be processed.
In addition to being used as a base for many dishes, tomato paste also serves as a powerful antioxidant. The concentration of the antioxidants in tomato paste is much higher than that of the original whole tomato. It also has nearly twice the amount of lycopene. Lycopene is the red pigment that is responsible for the color of tomatoes and other healthy fruits and vegetables such as watermelon and papaya. Lycopene has been proven beneficial to human health in research studies, especially in preventing cancer due to its ability to inhibit cell division.
Tomato paste is used to season, thicken, and give texture to foods. Now that you know the many benefits of tomato paste it’s time to learn how to substitute for it.
The 6 Best Tomato Paste Substitutes
#1 Fresh Tomatoes
This is a very good substitute for tomato paste. Fresh tomatoes are just as easy to find. The only difference is that you need to wash them. You can also cut them into chunks before cooking with them to help break down the chunky fibrous skin barrier and make it easier to digest.
In order for your sauce or pasta dish to benefit from the acidity of the tomatoes, it is important that you add some acid such as vinegar or lemon juice.
In order to make your dish as authentic as possible, use fresh whole tomatoes instead of canned tomatoes. Before using, rinse them under cold water and remove any bad spots between the skin and the flesh. Don’t peel them.
Also, try to use firm, thick-skinned tomatoes for the best flavor. The main difference between fresh tomatoes and canned whole plum tomatoes is the texture inside. Fresh whole tomatoes will have a more coarse texture than the pulp of canned plum-style tomatoes.
It’s important to note that fresh tomatoes will have an acidic taste. But they do not require any additional acidity like vinegar because they are naturally acidic. You only need to add vinegar if you are using paste or puréed canned tomatoes instead of fresh ones.
You shouldn’t cook fresh whole tomatoes for too long or the texture will turn rubbery and tough. Instead, you just need to cook them until they become tender.
#2 Tomato Purée
Purée is one of the best substitutions for tomato paste. It has a similar texture and consistency. It is a bit thinner than tomato paste and will have a different flavor. This makes it more versatile because you can use it in different types of recipes.
Using puréed tomatoes will also work to thicken your sauce or soup without making the dish too acidic because there are no additional acidic ingredients added to the dish before cooking it.
This is great if you want to cut back on your intake of acid by eating less vegetables like tomatoes or adding less vinegar and lemon juice in your dish.
#3 Canned Tomatoes
This is one of the best substitutions for tomato paste. It is one of the easiest substitutions because it is just as easy to access. You can use it anywhere that you need to add a tomato-y flavor to your dish.
You can also use canned tomatoes for sauces and soups in place of fresh tomatoes or purée (depending on how you want your sauce to turn out).
You just need to rinse the cans under cold water and drain them before opening them up. Then use a knife or fork to scrape away the rest of the tomato from inside each can before pureeing it.
You can buy canned tomatoes that are packed in purée. You should also look for ones that are packed in tomato sauce instead. This will help to make your dish richer in flavor and color instead of using the canned puree with no acidity added at all.
#4 Red Pepper Paste
This is another good substitute for tomato paste. Red pepper paste is a type of sauce made from crushed roasted tomatoes and chunks of chili peppers, onions, garlic, and various spices.
It is thick because it contains crushed red peppers, which are added as a thickener after the paste has been cooked down on a low heat for a long time.
The texture of red pepper paste is similar to tomato paste but it is much milder in flavor. You shouldn’t use it anywhere that you need a tomato paste flavor. It will add a sweet, roasted taste to your recipe instead.
Ketchup is very easy to find, unlike tomato paste. A lot of people use it as a substitute for tomato paste in recipes. You can do this too but only when you need a ketchup flavor.
This is another condiment that you can use to thicken your dish without adding any acidic ingredients at all.
You can use ketchup on its own to thicken your sauce or stew (without any other ingredients) by cooking it on the stove for a long time. Make sure that you stir it occasionally until the liquid has evaporated and the ketchup has reduced down to a thicker consistency. It usually takes about 20 minutes of cooking for every 1 cup of ketchup used.
You can also use ketchup (puree) as a substitute for tomato paste in any recipe that you would like to have a ketchup flavor without the acidity of tomatoes. This will only work with recipes that contain no tomato sauce or puree.
Passata is a popular substitute for tomato paste. It is a product that is made by cooking down tomatoes and then straining them.
Generally, passata has an ‘eggy’ taste to it. This is because it doesn’t have tomatoes in the purest form. They have been cooked down to create a thicker and more concentrated product, thus giving it its eggy flavor.
Since passata doesn’t have the same amount of water in it as tomato paste does, you need to simmer it for longer than you would normally cook tomato paste. So make sure to follow your cookbooks instructions carefully when replacing tomato paste with passata.
You can use it in the same way you would tomato paste. It makes for a great substitute as it is easy to find.
How to Make Your Own Tomato Paste
This one is a no-brainer for making your own tomato paste. Here are the steps:
- Large handful of fresh tomatoes (or tomato purée)
- Add in fresh tomatoes
- Heat the tomatoes on a high heat until they start to break down
- Stir in spices and other herbs of your choice (optional). Heat until the water has gone. If necessary, you can add oil to prevent sticking and make sure that everything is simmering at once
- Reduce heat and continue to reduce down until it turns into paste
- Keep heating and stirring it periodically until it becomes smooth and thick. If it is too thick, add some water or vegetable stock to loosen up well enough to mix with other ingredients (pasta sauce, etc.)
How To Store Tomato Paste
Once you have made your tomato paste, make sure to store it properly. This is because tomato paste is susceptible to molding when exposed to air.
Tomato paste is often used as a base for sauces and gravies. You don’t want it to go bad through storage, so we suggest storing it in the fridge or freezer.
In the fridge, make sure to place it in an airtight container. This will prevent it from developing any unwanted odors. Tomato paste should keep for about 3 months in the fridge.
In the freezer (if you have no other choice), try placing your tomato paste into smaller containers so that there is more space for air circulation to prevent freezer burn. This way, it should keep for up to 3 years in the freezer.
You should be able to find smaller containers that fit smaller portions of tomato paste. When it comes to freezing tomato paste, we suggest freezing it in small containers so that you are using fresh batches.
This way, when you buy a new container of tomato paste for your sauce, you can take the amount you need out and freeze the rest of the jar until you are ready to use it.
Also make sure to label the date on your tomato paste containers so that you know how old they are. This will prevent any accidental wastage.
What Is the Best Way to Use Tomato Paste?
There are many ways you can use this ingredient and one way is as a thickening agent. Wipeout a bowl and add 1/2 tablespoon of tomato paste (1/2 tablespoon = 1 ounce). Add equal amounts of butter, margarine or vegetable oil, and salt. Mix well. Then add 3/4 cup hot water and the equivalent amount of cooked pasta (spaghetti, macaroni or plain noodles). The final product will be a thick sauce you can use to coat and bake chicken or beef.
Another way to use it is in the form of a glaze for meats. Add 1 teaspoon of lemon juice, 1 tablespoon of cornstarch (and more if desired), 1/4 cup water, and 2 tablespoons tomato paste. Mix well and cook in the oven until the liquid has reduced by half.
The above options are great substitutes for tomato paste because they are simple to use and require minimal ingredients. Do not over-use them, as these items contain water and will cause your paste or sauce to have a greasy taste. Unless you have a specific recipe that needs an oily sauce or paste, you can use any other ingredient.