Though it comes in a rather small can or tube, tomato paste packs a powerful punch. It is a building block for many dishes, from simple pasta to chilis and beef stews.
However, the fact that it is essential does not make it irreplaceable. If you are looking for the best substitute for tomato paste, you’ll be surprised to find out how many options you have.
1. Tomato Sauce or Tomato Puree
If you are in the middle of cooking and realize you have no tomato paste, there is no reason to omit it from the dish altogether. If you have some tomato sauce or puree at hand, you’ll be all set.
Here is how to use these substitutes:
1 Tbsp tomato paste = 3 Tbsp tomato puree or sauce
These substitutes have a somewhat less thick consistency but worry not. As you cook everything and stir constantly, you’ll see the liquid thickening into a smooth mass, almost entirely similar to the one you’d get with the paste. The taste will be completely similar too. You’ll get a deep and savory flavor you love so much, and your dish will be ready!
2. Canned Tomatoes
The thin juice in canned tomatoes can also be a great substitute for tomato paste. The substitution can work whether the canned tomatoes are whole, diced, or crushed.
Here’s how to go about it:
1 Tbsp tomato paste = 3 Tbsp canned tomatoes juice
You will need to cook the juice a bit longer than the paste, and it is pivotal that you stir everything constantly. That way, the juice will thicken, and you’ll get the consistency you need. You might want to season the dish some more if you add the juice instead of your regular paste. But that is, of course, all up to you and what you prefer.
3. Fresh Tomatoes
Fresh tomatoes are one of the best tomato paste substitutes out there. In a way, with fresh tomatoes, you get to make your own paste from scratch.
You start by peeling and dicing your tomatoes. Then, you should put them in a bowl and puree them until they are liquified and the consistency is smooth. You can add a pinch of salt to the mass if you wish.
Once it is time to add the paste to your dish, you should follow the same instructions as in the first two substitutes above.
1 Tbsp tomato paste = 3 Tbsp fresh tomato puree
Stir everything until you see the paste thicken and smooth over, and you’ll be done. Since fresh tomatoes are fully unseasoned, you will definitely need to add some salt, pepper, or anything else you want to finish off your meal.
4. Tomato Passata
Tomato passata is, essentially, a puree made of tomatoes that’s been thickened and is fully smooth. It has no seasoning in it, and it is slightly more watery than tomato sauce or regular tomato puree.
This substitute is perfect for soups and pasta sauces, as it makes a fine base that you can build on. What separates passata from tomato paste is the fact that the passata is not concentrated. So, you will have to season it yourself to get that flavor you know and love.
Using the passata is pretty much the same as all the other substitutes mentioned so far, and you stir constantly until you get the consistency you want.
1 Tbsp tomato paste = 3 Tbsp tomato passata
The passata is a bit watery, so it is best to use it for soups. But if you want to use the passata for something other than that, you can simmer it in a pan for about five minutes before adding it to your dish. Doing so will help thicken it to perfection.
5. Marinara Sauce
If you are making pasta and need the paste for your sauce, you can use canned marinara to fill in the gaps. The sauce will usually have additional ingredients in it, such as onions, which make it perfect for pasta.
Here’s how the substitution works:
1 Tbsp tomato paste = 2 Tbsp marinara sauce
Stir everything until you get a smooth consistency. In most cases, you won’t need to add any additional seasoning. However, try it out and see how you feel before deciding anything.
When all else fails, condiments can come to the rescue as well. The one based on tomatoes is the obvious choice as a substitute for tomato paste. Of course, these two taste differently, since ketchup contains a lot more sugar. It also has a tangier aftertaste that’s quite recognizable.
Since ketchup is so overpowering, you should use it in the same amounts you would use tomato paste.
1 Tbsp tomato paste = 1 Tbsp ketchup
You will need to stir constantly for about five minutes until the mass really dries out. Moreover, you need to consider all the additional ingredients in ketchup, such as vinegar and sugar. If your recipe calls for these already, you might want to omit them when adding ketchup.
As with all substitutes, it would be best if you try out the dish after adding ketchup to see how it tastes. Then, you can add anything that might be missing and complete your dish.
If you don’t have anything tomato-based at hand or if you’re allergic to tomatoes, there are still things you can do to replicate the sweet taste of tomato paste.
1. Soy Sauce
Since tomato paste is so sweet, you can add a bit of soy sauce to whatever you are making to substitute it. However, bear in mind that soy sauce is saltier than tomato paste, so you will need to start slow.
When it’s time for your tomato paste, add your sauce in the following ratio:
1 Tbsp tomato paste = 1 Tsp soy sauce
As always, try it out as you mix to see whether you need more. It might also be a good idea to stop halfway through adding the sauce and gauge whether you need to add just as much as you would the paste or less.
Once the sauce is in, mix everything together nicely, and you’ll be done. Since the sauce is salty, you most likely won’t need any additional seasoning.
2. Olive Tapenade
Though olive tapenade tastes differently than tomato paste, it offers the same richness and consistency in a cooked meal. Thus, you can add the tapenade in the same amount as you would the paste. It will give your dish an exotic flavor you’ll fall in love with at first bite.
3. Extra Seasoning
If you are mostly chasing the flavor of tomato paste and don’t care for the texture as much, you can simply use seasoning to replace it. Add a pinch of salt and sugar to your dish, stir everything, and then try it out. When you do, you’ll know whether you need more.
In addition to sugar and salt, you can try adding in some sweet paprika as well. As long as the seasoning is both sweet and savory, it can be a great substitute for tomato paste.