7 Clever And Surprising Substitutions For Tomato Paste To Make You Hungry

Tomato paste is a very common ingredient in many popular recipes today, and is front and centre in a wide variety of cuisines. It makes appearances in bolognese sauce and pizzas, it pops up in beef bourguignon and borsht. What’s more, it’s awesome in chili and sauces for ribs, it graces burritos, meatballs and cottage pie. And that’s just the beginning.

But what if you’re deep in the preparations for dinner for your husband’s boss (because it’s the fifties), or you’re doing mini pizzas to go with the margaritas you made for your friends, and you discover you’ve run out of tomato paste? Or what if you’re allergic to tomatoes, what will happen to your recipe then?

​It does really depend on what you’re making, but you can think outside the box and definitely save your recipe using something that you already have at home. It helps if you understand what exactly tomato paste is in the first place.

Well What Exactly Is Tomato Paste Anyway?

​Tomato paste is basically concentrated tomatoes. Tomatoes are cooked down slowly for a few hours to reduce the water in the liquid, and then the skins and seeds are strained out, leaving you with a thick rich paste.

It can be used whenever a recipe calls for a big hit of tomato flavour.Understanding what it is and why exactly your recipe calls for it is where you start.

​Take Extra Precautions Not To Run Out In The First Place

You can plan ahead and take extra precautions not to run out in the first place. Tomato paste is easy to keep in your kitchen because you no longer need to buy it in massive quantities, which will then go off if not used in a few days.

You can now buy tomato paste in handy one and two tablespoon serves such as little tubs and tubes.

Also to prevent you running out of it, you can buy it in larger quantities like cans and can then freeze tomato paste in ice cube trays and then keep them in the freezer in freezer bags. You can use these frozen straight into your dish.

But telling you how not to run out doesn’t help you if you’re reading this article because you’ve run out. So here are:

​7 Zany Substitutions For Tomato Paste

​#1.Various Other Types Of Tomato Product

This is the easiest way to solve your problem. It is highly likely you will have tomatoes in another form in your kitchen. Or you borrow some from one of your neighbors, could be a good way to get to know them.

Instead of tomato paste you can try using any of the following; a can of tomato soup, tomato sauce, crushed or whole tomatoes, ketchup, chopped and cooked fresh tomatoes or bottled pasta sauce. All of these are in the right flavor family, but will vary slightly.

You will need to cook the sauce down for an extra 30-60 minutes to reduce the extra water you have added and produce the more depth of flavor and concentrated tomato hit that you want. Using these substitutions tomato will still be the basis of your dish.

A really good guide to tomato substitutions can be found here.

#2.Other Types Of Vegetable Puree

What purpose is your tomato paste serving in your dish? If it is not necessary that you have tomato flavor as such, but the paste is needed for acidity, or sweetener, or thickener, or texture, or color you may be able to think creatively and use something else.

Be brave in your choices, remember this is just cooking after all, if you get it wrong you can just grab the phone and order take out. You can use pumpkin, butternut squash or sweet potato puree quite easily and these will provide you with thickener, sweetener and acidity.

Cooked down carrot, eggplant or beetroot will taste different but still be a lovely alternative in your recipes.

Roasted and pureed bell peppers keep the color and still add a big taste, but it will be different to tomatoes, generally sweeter but without the acidity. You could add bell pepper puree and paprika or chipotle to add big smokiness.

For some great uses for vegetable and other purees check out this webpage here


Molasses is a thick, dark brown syrup that is an exceptional side product of sugar refinery. This has a distinct flavor, so you will definitely know you’re using it, and make sure you only use very little, but it works well as a substitute sweetener, moistener or flavour enhancer.

You can also get this in pomegranate or date form. And it is an antioxidant.

#4.Peanut Butter

Depending on the recipe this can act very well as a flavor enhancer or as a thickener. It won’t taste at all like tomato paste but it can add a great flavour to meatballs or stews. Just stay away from this if anyone has a nut allergy.

This marvellous ingredient has been used in other cuisines such as Thai and West Africa for generations, and is not just good with chocolate and jelly. Other butters work well too such as almond butter or cashew butter, and the flavors will differ again. Get cooking with PB by checking out here


Mix a little cornstarch or flour with cold water and then add this into your stew or sauce as a thickening agent. This will thicken only and will be not the substitute tomato paste in any other way. It will also lighten the sauce a touch in color, so is better for sauces that have a creamy aspect like stroganoffs or soups. For more instructions see here.

#6.Umeboshi Paste Or Tamarind Concentrate

Umeboshi paste is made by pickling a tart Japanese plum in brine and then grinding this into paste. It is very salty and you only need to use the tiniest amount.

Tamarind Concentrate is made by soaking and squeezing down the pulp of the tamarind. It is a common ingredient in Thai cooking and can be readily found at most good supermarkets.

On the off chance that you have either of these at home they are apparently very good substitutes for tomato paste, having the same sweetness and tartness. I haven’t tried either of these, so if you do, feel free to let us know in the comments section what you think.

For ideas and instructions on buying, storing and using these go here

​#7.Be Creative

Think about your specific recipe, but there are so many substitutions that you can use in the traditional place of tomato paste. For pizza or pasta you can use cheese based sauces or pestos, or dips such as guacamole, hummus or beetroot relish.

Cauliflower, kidney bean, or white bean puree can often be added for a different effect on sauces, making them creamier. For more ideas for pizza, which I find translates well into a lot of other tomato based sauce uses, try this link here.

If you cook a lot and find yourself looking for substitutions for things a bit you might like to buy a book by David Joachim called “The Food Substitutions Bible” (Robert Rose) which has the answer to this question and a great many more.


​One of the keys to being a great cook is feeling the confidence to experiment and try out new tastes. While you’ve probably used tomato paste before, you may never have thought extensively about all the roles it plays and all the things you could use instead.

I hope you’ve enjoyed our list and been inspired to get creative. Let us know in the comments section how your creations turned out.

Jessica Leary

I’m Jessica, I’ve been a foodie since I was young. That explains my passion for the food movement and food blogs. In addition to being a content creator and recipe developer, I’m also into food photography and blogging. I’m an exercise enthusiast, wine aficionado, and green smoothie addict. The fact that I’ve tried countless recipes is what makes me passionate about food blogging. I write on anything related to food.

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