Can I Use Ketchup Instead Of Tomato Puree Or Paste?

When you are cooking up a storm and realize you are out of tomato paste, you may find yourself raiding the pantry looking for a replacement. Ketchup is one option out of all the possible substitutes you may find. With fresh tomatoes, canned tomatoes, and more, you might be wondering; can I use ketchup instead of tomato puree or paste?

Ketchup is not a good substitute for tomato puree or tomato paste because it has added vinegar and sugar making it a stronger tasting condiment that could overpower the dish. Try reducing down fresh tomatoes, canned tomatoes, or canned tomato sauce as a substitute instead.

Don’t panic if you are out of tomato paste. As you can see in this article, if you have tomatoes in just about any form, you can still create a tasty, tomato-infused dish.

Let’s dive into a world without tomato paste (until the next trip to the store, of course) and into the realm of replacements. We cover what tomato paste really is and what we can use as a substitute in a few favorite dishes.

Tomato Paste Vs Puree Vs Sauce

Firstly let’s get some definitions out the way. The confusing thing is that they can be called different things in different countries. Most readers of this site are US-based so I will focus on that but mention other countries too.

  • Tomato paste – thickest tomato concentrate that is dark red, strong in flavor, and has a slightly bitter aftertaste. Used to add rich flavor to dishes but be wary of overpowering.
  • Tomato puree – a thinner consistency than tomato paste that is made from cooked and strained tomatoes (in the UK and other countries the item called tomato puree is usually just tomato paste).
  • Tomato sauce – a canned sauce that is smooth and thinner than tomato puree.
  • Passata – a raw tomato puree that contains no seeds or skins.

What Can I Use In Place Of Tomato Paste?

There are a few options we can use as substitutes for tomato paste. What you use depends on your taste, budget, and what you have in your kitchen or pantry. We have compiled a list of alternative options for you and a quick explanation for each.

I would recommend reducing any of these down in a pan first if you have time – that will make it more similar to tomato paste. Otherwise, try adding twice as much substitute for tomato paste to your recipe and let it reduce there.

1. Use Fresh Tomatoes Instead Of Tomato Paste

Fresh tomatoes may seem like the furthest thing from tomato paste. Still, it is possible to use them in place of tomato paste if needed. To use fresh tomatoes, remove the skins and seeds, then puree or blend them until smooth. Add your tomatoes to the dish when the recipe calls for tomato paste.

Consider reducing the tomatoes for a closer substitute – stir continuously until the fresh tomato has reduced to a paste-like consistency.

Check out my post on the best tomatoes to use for different recipes.

2. Use Tomato Sauce Instead Of Tomato Paste

Suppose you have a can of tomato sauce at your disposal. In that case, you are well on your way to successfully replacing your tomato paste. Simply add the sauce to the recipe and stir continuously until it has reduced. Use two to three tablespoons of tomato sauce for every tablespoon of paste called for.  

If you need to use a large quantity of tomato paste, consider reducing the tomato sauce separately before adding it to the recipe.

3. Use Canned Tomatoes Instead Of Tomato Paste

Canned tomatoes can come in handy as a replacement for tomato paste. If you are using this option, you can try the tomatoes themselves or the juice that comes with them.

The liquid in the can contains a lot more water than tomato paste. Once you have added it to your recipe, keep stirring until it has reduced. Add three tablespoons of juice from your canned tomatoes for every tablespoon of tomato paste.

I did a post on the comparison of canned tomatoes vs fresh when making sauces which you should check out.

4. Use Passata

Passata is another thin tomato sauce that is raw and unconcentrated. It is similar to tomato puree or tomato sauce and is best reduced down to mimic the intensity of tomato paste. You can of course add it as is for a kick of fresh tomato taste.

Is Tomato Puree And Tomato Paste The Same Thing?

Tomato paste is much stronger and thicker than tomato puree. It is used to add flavor and thickness to tomato-based dishes. Tomato puree is thinner and usually used to make sauces.

Tomato puree and tomato paste are somewhat similar, which can lead to confusion when using the terms. While the words puree and paste are often interchangeable, the two tomato products are different. Let’s clear up the confusion. 

The most noticeable difference between tomato puree and tomato paste is in the consistency. 

Tomato puree is somewhat watery. It’s used mainly for sauces and dips, though it can also be added to dishes like meatloaf and taco filling. It adds tomato flavor to a dish but with less water than other canned tomatoes.

Tomato paste

Tomato paste was initially made in Italy. We do not make it in quite the same way as it was initially created; however, the taste we get from our modernized version is just as strong. Tomato paste gives us an intense tomato flavor and adds this flavor to many dishes. It is best to add tomato paste to the other ingredients early to get the most out of the taste.

We make tomato paste by cooking tomatoes for many hours, the skins and seeds are removed and then the tomatoes are cooked again. The process allows the tomatoes to form a thick concentrate or paste. Tomato paste is excellent for sauces, soups, and certain meat dishes.

Substitute For Tomato Paste In Chili

Try adding tomato puree, canned or fresh tomatoes, and let the dish simmer for longer. Use 2 tablespoons of tomato substitute for 1 tablespoon of paste and omit some other liquid in the recipe. This will ensure a deep tomato flavor and thick consistency.

Tomato paste is a common and tasty addition to chili dishes. The intense flavor compliments meat and beans and adds tang to the taste. Tomato paste is a shortcut to intense flavor but it can be achieved by reducing down other tomato products.

Tomato paste is thick and adds some thickness to chili. To make your chili thicker, consider adding corn starch or all-purpose flour mixed with a bit of water.

Substitute For Tomato Paste In Soup

Depending on what soup you are cooking, there are a few options for alternatives to tomato paste. I have found a few great-tasting options for you, both tomato and non-tomato-based. Try out the option that looks the best to you, and remember to account for the changes these substitutes will make to the flavor of the original dish.

  • Pureed roasted peppers
  • Olive tapenade
  • Soy sauce
  • Pureed fresh tomatoes
  • Juice from canned tomatoes
  • Tomato sauce
  • Tomato puree

You may wish to skip the substitute altogether, depending on your soup. Soup is often delicate in flavor so can work well without a strong tomato paste.

Substitute For Tomato Paste In Stew

You can make your own tomato paste by reducing a little tomato sauce in a pan before adding it to the stew. Use a ratio of 1:1 for this option.

Who can turn down a warm and hearty stew on a cold day? Many stews call for tomato paste in addition to tomato sauce or fresh tomatoes. You can easily substitute tomato paste in stew as it usually cooks so long and develops deep flavors.

Other options include beer, wine, tomato sauce, canned tomatoes, or even pureed roasted peppers. Consider the end taste of your soup as you add ingredients and adjust the seasoning to match your taste.


Hopefully, now you know that ketchup is not a viable substitute for tomato paste in most dishes. Its strong vinegar content usually does not sit well in dishes like pasta, soups, and stews.

Remember that tomato puree contains slightly more water than tomato paste. If you use tomato puree as a substitute for paste, allow for it to reduce as you cook it into your dish.

Have any questions? Ask me in the comment section below and I’ll get back to you.

Tom Hambly

Tom Hambly is the founder of Boss The Kitchen. With a background in cooking and building websites, he enjoys running this site to help other cooks improve. About Tom Hambly.

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