Tomato paste is a thick and concentrated ingredient made by cooking tomatoes over an extended period of time without any other ingredients -- even water. Tomato paste is most commonly used to thicken a dish and provide flavor, mainly in Italian dishes, such as pasta sauces. If you find yourself in need of tomato paste but without access, try these substitutes:

  • Make your own tomato paste
  • Tomato sauce or puree
  • Ketchup
  • Tomato soup

Make Your Own

Making your own tomato paste is a simple task. You can make tomato paste out of tomato sauce or canned tomatoes. You don't need any other ingredients and the result is identical to store-bought tomato paste, so your dish won't be impacted at all.

  • Pour a can (8 or 15 ounces) of tomato sauce or canned tomatoes into a saucepan over medium heat
  • Simmer and stir constantly until the sauce has reduced by 2/3 volume. This is usually around 7 minutes if using tomato sauce and 8-10 minutes if using canned tomatoes.

For a 8 ounce can, you will have 3 or 4 ounces of tomato paste; for a 15 ounce can, you should get 6 or 7 ounces of paste. Leftovers can last three to four days in the refrigerator before expiring.

tomato paste in a white bowl surrounded by tomatoes

Substitute Tomato Sauce or Puree

Tomato sauce and tomato puree are suitable substitutions for imitating the taste of tomato paste. But because tomato sauce and puree are not as concentrated as tomato paste, you need to double or triple the amount of this substitution. For every 1 tablespoon of tomato paste the recipe calls for, add 2-3 tablespoons of tomato sauce or tomato puree. You might also have to reduce the amount of other liquid ingredients to make the dish the correct consistency.

close up of wooden spoon in tomato sauce
Brian Yarvin/Shutterstock

Substitute Ketchup

Though not the greatest substitute, ketchup can be used in place of tomato paste if need be. Just substitute the condiment with the ingredient equally. Though tomato paste and ketchup look similar and are both made from tomatoes, ketchup has a different flavor than pure tomato paste, so the flavor of your final dish might be altered. To keep the taste more spot-on with tomato paste, try adding spices such as basil to the ketchup.

ketchup in white bowl with tomatoes

Substitute Tomato Soup

Tomato soup is the least best substitute, but when all else fails you can definitely use it in place of tomato paste as an equal substitute. Though the two have a similar flavor, tomato soup has much more liquid and adding it can make your dish very runny. To combat this, cut back on another wet ingredient in the dish by 1/4 cup.

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