First things first, what is tomato paste? Tomato paste is basically concentrated tomatoes. It usually has a very thick consistency. Manufacturers make it by cooking the tomatoes for a long time, getting rid of the tomato skin and seeds, and cooking it again to form a thick paste.
Tomato paste usually has a lot of flavors. Most recipes require that you use only a little bit of it since a small amount of tomato paste goes a long way. In their raw state, tomatoes have a lot of acidities. Consequently, the taste is a little bit intense in concentrated form.
When you ran out of tomato paste in the kitchen, you can easily replace it with red bell peppers, canned tomatoes, ketchup, tomato sauce/puree, or fresh tomatoes.
You may have noticed that cans containing tomato paste are smaller compared to those of canned tomatoes. The simple explanation is that a little bit of tomato paste usually goes a long way. I have not yet come across any recipe that requires me to use a large amount of tomato paste.
There are several different varieties of tomato paste in the market. So many brands to choose from. Some even have some additional ingredients like garlic inside them. However, I prefer buying plain tomato paste and adding other ingredients myself, the results are usually better. Most brands have pretty much the same flavor so it is up to you to decide which one you like best.
Some brands even have tomato paste that is double concentrated and triple concentrated. Their flavor is usually more intense so if you are going for a more intense flavor use the double concentrated or triple concentrated tomato paste.
Tomato paste gives your dish the much desired deep flavor of tomatoes and also gives it a great color. Its thickness makes it perfect for dishes that do not require a lot of water. Tomato paste has little to no water content, which sets it apart from tomato sauce and tomato puree. Its taste is also more intense compared to tomato sauce and tomato puree.
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You can use tomato paste in a lot of dishes including tomato soup, sloppy Joe’s, fries, and chicken just to mention but a few.
I use tomato paste in a lot of my dishes, I absolutely love the flavor it gives my dishes, but for some reason, I don’t always have it stocked. Sometimes I realize I don’t have any tomato paste in hand when I am midway through a recipe. For this reason, I had to come up with possible substitutes of tomato paste. The substitutes may not give the same results as the tomato paste but they come pretty close.
Here are a few tomato paste substitutes and how to use them.
Red bell peppers
Red bell peppers are also a good substitute for tomato paste. However, you will have to use more red bell peppers to achieve similar taste and consistency.
You also have to put in some work since you are required to peel them, remove the seeds and simmer them to remove the water content in them and make them more concentrated.
Substitute one tablespoon of tomato paste with five tablespoons of red bell peppers. This substitute is great for those that cannot tolerate the taste of tomatoes.
Canned tomatoes are a great substitute because other than giving you the much desired tomato flavor, it will also thicken your dish the same way tomato paste does. When you use canned tomatoes, the flavor of your dish might be slightly different. The texture also won’t be the same.
I recommend straining the liquid out of the canned tomatoes before using them to achieve the thickness and taste that you desire. Alternatively, just smash the tomatoes for better results.
While using canned tomatoes as a substitute for tomato paste, you will have to use twice the amount required. This is because canned tomatoes are not as concentrated as tomato paste and the taste is not as intense.
This substitute is great for stews and chicken. You can also use it to make marinara sauce.
I hardly ever use ketchup as a substitute for tomato paste because it has several ingredients that alter the flavor of the dish. However, if it is the only possible substitute in my pantry, I use it.
Ketchup has a lighter consistency compared to tomato paste. You may have to simmer it to reduce it to a thicker consistency.
I recommend mixing ketchup with tomato sauce to achieve a burst of tomato flavor.
Tomato puree or tomato sauce
Tomato puree and tomato sauce are a great substitute for tomato paste if your aim is just adding tomato flavor to your dish. Although tomato puree is thicker than tomato sauce, they both work pretty much the same. If you want to thicken things up in your dish, they may not be the perfect substitute because they are less concentrated compared to tomato paste.
To use tomato puree or tomato sauce as a substitute, you will have to use twice the amount in the recipe. For instance, if the recipe requires that you use 2 tablespoons of tomato paste, you will use 4 tablespoons of tomato sauce or tomato puree.
If you want your dish to have a thicker consistency, you can heat the tomato paste or tomato puree until its volume reduces in half. Doing this reduces the water content in them. Alternatively, just cook the dish for a little bit longer than you normally would.
Tomato sauce and tomato puree are great substitutes in dishes like spaghetti, stews, and soups.
Farm Fresh tomatoes
Fresh tomatoes can also be a substitute. However, you will need to put in some work. Unlike tomato paste and canned tomatoes, the skin and seeds are still present in fresh tomatoes. Additionally you have to make them concentrated.
First, peel the tomatoes and remove the seeds using a food mill. To peel the tomatoes easily, you can place them in water and let them boil for approximately one minute. Cool them in ice water and then start peeling. The skin will come off very easily. Alternatively, you can roast them in an oven at 425 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes. The skin will peel off easily.
Once you peel the tomatoes you will have to heat them to remove the excess liquid. Substitute one tablespoon of tomato paste with one whole tomato.
This substitute is great for sauces and stews.
Making your own tomato paste
Luckily, tomato paste is one of the few ingredients you can make at the comfort of your home. Making tomato paste is relatively easy, but it requires lots of time and patience. It is not one of those ingredients you make out of the blue just because you want to make a dish that requires the use of tomato paste and you don’t have any in hand. While making tomato paste, achieving the right consistency is essential.
You need to make sure that the tomatoes are concentrated enough to achieve the intense flavor of tomato paste.
Anyone with tomatoes and a stovetop can make tomato paste. That is literally all you need to get the thick and flavorful goodness of tomato paste. Some people add a little bit of extra virgin oil to the tomato paste, but it is not a necessary ingredient. One pound of fresh tomatoes will give you approximately 10 tablespoons of tomato paste.
Homemade tomato paste captures the flavor of fresh tomatoes. Unfortunately, its shelf life is not as long as that of store bought tomato paste.
Here is how you can make your own tomato paste at home.
What you will need;
- One pound of tomatoes
- Food mill
- High- powered blender
Peel the tomatoes
Peel the tomatoes by boiling them for approximately one minute and then place them in an ice bath and remove the skin using your hands. Alternatively, cut them in half and roast them in an oven for 30 minutes before removing the skin.
Remove the seeds
Remove the seeds in the tomatoes by running the tomatoes through a food mill.
Blend the tomatoes
Once you have removed the seeds, place the tomatoes in a blender and blend them until they are smooth.
Simmering reduces the water content in the tomatoes. Place the tomatoes in a saucepan and turn your heat to medium. Stir the tomatoes and let them simmer. Reduce the heat to low when the water starts to evaporate and keep stirring until the volume of the tomatoes are less than half of what you started with.
Turn off the heat and let the tomato paste cool down before you use or store it.
How to store homemade tomato paste
After making your tomato paste, it is essential that you store it properly for it to have a longer shelf life. I store my tomato paste in half-pint jars.
To do this, I pour my tomato paste into the jars and then add a layer of extra virgin olive oil on top of the tomato paste. I then cover the jars with lids and store them inside the refrigerator.
Homemade tomato paste can last for several months.