Marinara sauce is a popular and versatile ingredient used in various dishes like pasta, pizza, or even dips for breadsticks!
However, there might be instances when you run out of it or want to try something different.
Thankfully, several delicious marinara sauce substitutes can bring a new twist to your meals while maintaining a similar tomato flavor profile.
In this article, we'll explore some fantastic alternatives to marinara sauce that you can easily use.
Read on to discover tasty options that can help elevate your dishes without marinara sauce.
|Texture (compared to marinara)
|Similar flavor profile to marinara
|Thinner and more liquid
|Retains the taste of tomatoes as in marinara sauce but without any seasoning
|Similar to marinara; interchangeable with marinara in most recipes
|Sweeter than marinara; contains vinegar, sugar, and other spices
|Mild and tangy
|Much thicker and pastier
|Rich, intense taste with an umami kick
|1:1 ratio of equal parts tomato paste and water and marinara
|Thinner and smoother
|Less intense tomato flavor
|Distinctly potent tomato flavor
|Meaty and rich
|Tangy and fresh
|Bright, herbaceous, and nutty
|Adjust to taste
|Carrot and beet puree
|Sweet and earthy
|Adjust to taste
The Best Substitute for Marinara Sauce: 11 Incredible Options
Running out of marinara sauce can be a frustrating experience, especially when you're in the middle of preparing a dish.
Fortunately, there are a few substitutes that can save the day.
While these alternatives may not be exactly the same as marinara sauce, they can still add delicious flavor to your dish and save you from a kitchen disaster.
1. Pizza Sauce
Pizza sauce is a convenient and delicious alternative to marinara sauce due to the similarities they share in flavor and texture.
Both sauces are tomato-based and contain similar ingredients, such as fresh garlic, onions, and herbs.
In fact, many pizza sauces are simply marinara sauces with a few additional ingredients, such as sugar.
Since it is already seasoned, you don't have to worry about additional herbs and seasonings.
How to use pizza sauce as a marinara sauce substitute: Use it in a 1:1 substitution ratio. Take note that it may be a bit thicker than marinara sauce.
2. Tomato Juice
Tomato juice can be used as a marinara substitute in a pinch.
It can be used as a base for pasta sauce or meat stew.
Note that there is an evident difference in texture: marinara sauce is thicker and more concentrated, while tomato juice is thinner and more liquid.
There's also a difference in seasoning. Marinara sauce typically contains garlic, onions, and herbs like basil and oregano, while tomato juice is usually unseasoned.
If you use tomato juice as a substitute for marinara sauce, you will need to add the seasonings mentioned above to achieve a similar flavor profile.
How to use tomato juice as a marinara sauce substitute: Use it in a 1:1 substitution ratio.
3. Tomato Sauce
Marinara sauce is tomato sauce by definition.
But not all tomato sauces are marinara. So if you discover that the can you grabbed from the store is plain old tomato sauce and not marinara, don't fret.
There are only slight differences in seasoning and thickness between tomato sauce and marinara sauce, so they are generally interchangeable in most pasta recipes, like spaghetti and meatballs or baked ziti.
This means that you can use tomato sauce as a substitute for marinara sauce without significantly altering the flavor profile or texture of your dish.
How to use tomato sauce as a marinara sauce substitute: Use the same amount as you would marinara sauce.
4. Tomato Ketchup
Tomato ketchup can be used as a marinara substitute, but take note that there is a difference in seasoning.
Primarily, ketchup contains vinegar, sugar, and other spices not typically found in marinara sauce.
This means that if you use ketchup as a substitute for marinara sauce, you will need to adjust the seasoning to achieve a similar flavor profile.
So you can swap out marinara sauce for properly seasoned ketchup in dressings or dipping sauces for snacks like mozzarella sticks.
How to use tomato ketchup as a marinara sauce substitute: You can use a 1:1 ratio if you like your dish sweeter.
5. Pureed Tomatoes
For a more natural approach, use pureed tomatoes as a base for your sauce, then just add desired seasonings to mimic the flavor of marinara.
This alternative is practically just cooked, strained, and pureed. If you have dried oregano, onion, garlic, and olive oil, you can make your own marinara!
But you can also use it unseasoned in different recipes, such as tomato soup or baked chicken parmesan.
How to use pureed tomatoes as a marinara sauce substitute: Use a 1:1 ratio for your recipes.
6. Tomato Paste
Only got tomato paste in the fridge?
Worry not because you can thin its pasty texture with water, add basil and oregano, and voilà, you have a substitute that's just as good as your classic marinara sauce!
By adding water and adjusting its flavors by pouring in seasoning and herbs, tomato paste can be used to replace your marinara sauce in pasta dishes.
How to use tomato paste as a marinara sauce substitute: Use a 1:1 ratio of tomato paste and water as a substitute for marinara.
7. Tomato Soup
Tomato soup can also fill in for marinara sauce, though it has a thinner and smoother consistency.
Regardless, if it's the tomato taste you're after, this is the way to go.
Its consistency also makes it well suited as a marinara sauce substitute for soupy dishes like minestrone soup.
Plus, tomato soups are less seasoned, so you can slowly build on their flavor. You just have to add extra herbs and other ingredients in a marinara sauce.
How to use tomato soup as a marinara sauce substitute: Use a 1:1 substitution ratio.
8. Canned Tomatoes
Canned tomatoes are a versatile option too.
You can make it taste like a perfect marinara sauce, whether crushed or pureed, by adding garlic, onion, and other herbs.
However, note that canned tomatoes are thinner and have more liquid than marinara.
Simmering your canned tomatoes would be ideal to reduce their water content.
You may also add a thickening agent, such as tomato paste, to achieve the desired marinara's thicker consistency.
How to use canned tomatoes as a marinara sauce substitute: Use an equal quantity of canned tomatoes to replace marinara sauce in any recipe.
9. Tomato Passata
Another one on the list of the best marinara sauce substitutes is tomato passata, a puree made from fresh tomatoes often used as a base for pasta sauces, soups, and several other recipes.
It differs from other types of tomato puree in that it involves using uncooked tomatoes, and it's typically unseasoned.
This is why it's generally much thinner and more watery than marinara.
Still, tomato passata can serve as an alternative to marinara sauce in several recipes. It can be seasoned to your liking until its flavors match your regular marinara.
You can also simmer it in low to medium heat or add a thickening agent to achieve the desired consistency.
How to use tomato passata as a marinara sauce substitute: Use the same amount as you would marinara.
10. Spaghetti Sauce With Meat
Another tomato-based sauce that can replace your marinara is spaghetti sauce.
However, you need to keep their differences in mind since using spaghetti sauce instead of marinara can affect your final dish.
One of the main differences between spaghetti sauce and marinara sauce is the thickness. Spaghetti sauce is usually thicker and heartier than marinara sauce.
This means that if you use spaghetti sauce as a substitute for marinara sauce, you may need to thin it out with water or broth to achieve the desired consistency.
Another difference between spaghetti sauce and marinara sauce is that spaghetti sauce often contains meat such as ground beef or sausage, while marinara sauce is typically made only of tomato.
How to use spaghetti sauce as a marinara sauce substitute: Use it in a 1:1 ratio.
11. Tomato Salsa
If you're looking for a slightly tangier marinara sauce substitute, choose salsa!
It's ideal for dishes that can accommodate its stronger flavor profile, such as Tex-Mex lasagna.
You can also use it to substitute marinara as a dipping sauce for various fried and baked foods.
But it may not be the best option in all cases.
Not only is it chunkier, but salsa also often contains additional ingredients like onions, peppers, and cilantro, which can change the dish's overall taste.
If you're looking to substitute marinara sauce with salsa, it's important to consider the specific recipe and determine if the flavors and texture will work well together.
How to use salsa as a marinara sauce substitute: Use a 1:1 ratio.
12. Pesto Sauce
When is pesto an excellent alternative to marinara sauce?
If you need a flavorful pasta sauce, marinade, or dipping sauce, go for pesto!
However, always consider the taste and nutritional content of the dish you're aiming for.
Remember that pesto sauce is typically higher in fat and calories than marinara sauce.
Additionally, as you know, it doesn't have the tomato flavor of marinara.
So you may only be able to substitute marinara for pesto sauce in select recipes.
How to use pesto as a marinara sauce substitute: Adjust the amount according to your preference.
13. Carrot and Beet Puree
For a non-tomato-based option, carrot and beet puree can be a good alternative for marinara sauce in some dishes, especially if you want a healthier, lower-calorie alternative.
This puree can be used in pasta dishes as a dipping sauce or as a base for vegan pizza.
However, it has the texture of puree, which is smoother than marinara sauce, so it may not work well in dishes that require a chunkier sauce.
How to use carrot and beet puree as a marinara sauce substitute: Adjust the amount according to your taste.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Marinara Sauce Healthy?
Yes, marinara sauce is generally considered to be a healthy option. It is made primarily from tomatoes, which contain essential nutrients, such as vitamin C, potassium, and fiber.
Additionally, the onions and garlic in the sauce have been shown to have significant health benefits, such as reducing inflammation and boosting the body's immune function.
However, it's important to note that store-bought marinara sauces can sometimes contain added sugars, preservatives, and unhealthy fats.
So checking the label or making your sauce at home is best to ensure it has the highest-quality ingredients.
Can You Freeze Marinara Sauce?
You sure can! Freezing marinara sauce is a convenient way to preserve and enjoy its freshness later.
To do this, allow the sauce to cool completely after cooking, then transfer it to an airtight container or heavy-duty freezer bags.
Be sure to leave some space at the top of the container to allow for expansion as the sauce freezes.
Frozen marinara can last up to six months in the freezer.
Give Marinara Substitutes a Try!
Out of marinara sauce or want to try something different? Now you know that there are plenty of delicious marinara substitutes to choose from.
Whether you opt for a tomato-based sauce or liquid, a vegetable puree, or a flavorful pesto, you will surely find an alternative that will work well in your favorite dishes.
With these marinara substitutes at your disposal, there's no more worrying about running out of marinara sauce when you have this plethora of alternatives at your fingertips.
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