Is Tomato Paste The Same As Sauce? ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW!

image of tomato sauce versus tomato paste

We’re sure you have noticed that when you walk down the grocery aisles, it’s very common to see ingredients that are labeled similarly but seem to be different products. 

That is a common issue with tomato sauce and tomato paste. But how can you tell which to buy and how to use them? So, what is the difference between tomato sauce and tomato paste?

Short Answer: 

Tomato sauce is made from tomatoes that have been cooked down to create a runny sauce. Tomato paste is a concentrate made by cooking down tomatoes over hours to create a thick paste.

We are not surprised that you got these two ingredients confused; we did, too, in the beginning. But luckily, we are here today to sort out this confusion.

In this article, we are going to sort out the difference between tomato sauce vs paste and the way to use each one.

Without further ado, let’s get into it.

What is Tomato Sauce?

image of Tomato Sauce

Tomato sauce is a sauce made from cooked-down tomatoes that can be used as the main sauce for a dish like pasta. [*]

This is a common sauce that has a few different forms, including being the base for Mexican salsa and Italian pasta sauces.

Tomato sauce is a popular type of sauce because it thickens naturally without the need for added thickeners like flour or masa.

The ideal tomato sauce is delicious and can be used straight out of the jar with no added ingredients. However, some tomato sauces will only feature broken-down tomatoes that you need to cook further to add flavor.

To create a delicious sauce that can be eaten straight from the jar, extra ingredients need to be added. 

Additional ingredients added include aromatics like onions, garlic, and chili, as well as herbs like parsley or oregano.

We love making tomato sauce at home with leftover tomatoes because it is so easy and cheap to make. It also hardly takes any time to create, and it is very healthy.

Tomato sauce can be used as a sauce on pasta, meat, or vegetables.

This sauce is also known as salsa Roja, salsa di Pomodoro, sauce tomate, or passata.

In some countries like South Africa and New Zealand, tomato sauce is a term used for ketchup. 

Tomato sauce is usually sold in glass jars that hold a few servings.

What is Tomato Paste?

image of  Tomato Paste

Tomato paste is a concentrate made by cooking tomatoes for many hours to extract the excess moisture. [*]

Chopped tomatoes are cooked together for several hours until they begin to break down and create a sauce-like consistency. Then the seeds and skins are strained out, and the tomatoes are cooked down even further until most of the moisture has been extracted.

This results in a thick paste with a deep red color.

Most of the time, the only ingredient in tomato paste is tomatoes and occasionally a preservative. 

Tomato paste is not an ingredient that is usually made in home kitchens because of how laborious the process is, so we recommend buying it at the grocery store. It is very affordable for the flavor kick it brings.

This concentrate is popular in Italian cooking, but it can be used to add a deep umami flavor to many dishes.

We like using it in soups, stews, bolognese, and slow-cooked meat.

In the UK, tomato paste may also be labeled tomato concentrate.

Since it is so potent, tomato paste is usually sold in very small cans or sachets. Excess tomato paste should be transferred to an airtight container and refrigerated. 

Is Tomato Paste The Same As Tomato Sauce?

So now that we have explored these two ingredients in depth let’s compare them directly to really look at the difference:

  • Both of these products feature tomatoes as the main ingredient.
  • Both sauces are made from blanched tomatoes that have had the skin removed.
  • Tomato sauce can be used as a sauce on its own, while tomato paste is used as the base of sauces.
  • Tomato paste tastes very strong, while tomato sauce is milder.
  • Tomato sauce is viscous but runny in consistency, while tomato paste is thick and spreadable.
  • Tomato sauce has added ingredients, while tomato paste is pure tomatoes.
  • Tomato sauce is sold in larger jars, while tomato paste is sold in small sachets or cans.


Can I use tomato paste in place of tomato sauce?

Due to its strength, we don’t recommend substituting these ingredients directly for one another.

Instead, we suggest using ½ cup of tomato paste and ½ cup of water to replace 1 cup of tomato sauce.

To swap the other way, you should use three tablespoons of tomato sauce for every tablespoon of tomato paste.

This will change the flavor of your dish overall, but it will be a close enough replica in a pinch.

What to do with leftover tomato paste?

Luckily, tomato paste comes in small containers, so there should only be a small amount to use up.

Try stirring a spoon into a stew to strengthen it, add to homemade marinara sauce, or maybe even make your own BBQ sauce.

Can you freeze tomato sauce?

Yes, tomato sauce and tomato paste freezes very well.

Suggest transferring the sauce or paste to an airtight container and label it with the date before popping it in the freezer for up to 6 months.


After exploring the world of tomatoes, what have we learned able the sauce and paste?

  • Tomato paste is a concentrate where most of the moisture has been removed from cooked-down tomatoes.
  • Tomato sauce is a condiment made from cooking tomatoes into a thick sauce.
  • Tomato sauce is used as a sauce on its own, while tomato paste is a sauce ingredient.

Now the next time you end up in the shops, you know what to look for and exactly what each ingredient needs to be used for.

About The Author

Scroll to Top