14 Substitutes for Marinara Sauce [Recipe Included]

Substitutes for Marinara Sauce
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Originating in Italy and popularized by Italian-American cuisine, the marinara sauce has become known and loved worldwide. Still, if there’s one downside of this delicious sauce, it’s that it takes over an hour to make at home, and it isn’t something you regularly buy to have in stock. In cases like that, you will have to use a marinara sauce substitute. So what are some substitutes you can use instead of marinara sauce? 

Tomato ketchup, tomato puree, tomato paste, tomato sauce, canned tomatoes, tomato passata, fresh tomatoes, alfredo sauce, pesto, tomato juice, tomato soup, pizza sauce, pasta sauce, carrots, and beets marinara are some of the best tomato and non-tomato based marinara sauce substitutes. 

Since the marinara sauce is so versatile, you can substitute it for another tomato or non-tomato-based sauce according to what you will be using it for. Therefore, you can think out of the box and see what would fit the dish in terms of consistency, texture, and flavor effect. In the following text, I will list some of the best substitutes for marinara sauce and provide a marinara sauce recipe in the end. 

Tomato Ketchup 

Tomato ketchup is a great marinara sauce substitute for two reasons- you must have it lying around in your fridge, and it is highly customizable. However, because it contains added sugar and vinegar, be prepared that your ketchup marinara substitute will be more acidic than a regular marinara sauce. 

You can add water to thin up the ketchup consistency and bring it as close as possible to the marinara sauce consistency, add salt, basil, and garlic and use it instead of marinara for pasta or pizza. 

Tomato Puree

Tomato puree is more neutral-tasting, meaning that you can make it taste as you want. At first glance, tomato puree looks pretty thick and dense, but you can easily make its consistency thinner by adding water or tomato juice. 

To make your tomato puree resemble marinara sauce as much as possible, you can pop it over the stove and add one tsp of olive oil. Also, add the signature marinara herb- basil, and spice things up with garlic and salt. 

You can use this marinara sauce substitute for pizza, pasta, or marinara chicken breast. 

Tomato Paste

Very similar to tomato puree and often mistaken for it, tomato paste is quite different. While tomato puree is juicier because the tomatoes are cooked for a shorter amount of time, the tomatoes in tomato paste are cooked longer and are finally reduced to a concentrate-like substance. 

Therefore the tomato paste is more intensive-tasting than the puree, which you might want to consider when substituting marinara sauce for tomato paste. Since the natural tomato juices have evaporated, the taste of the tomato paste is strong with an expressive bitterness. 

Therefore, if you plan on substituting marinara sauce with tomato paste, you may want to add some sugar to the tomato paste to milden the bitterness. Also, you will need to thin the consistency; water alone won’t do the job. Add water to the paste, add some olive oil too and simmer the paste for a few minutes. 

You will need to be careful with the spices, as the bitterness won’t go away but just subside a little. Therefore, don’t add too much salt and garlic, but increase the basil quantity. The garlic and salt will only intensify the bitterness without any imprint on the taste. At the same time, the basil will balance everything out and give the paste a nice and refined dimension.

Tomato Sauce

Nothing more than fresh blended and cooked tomatoes, tomato sauce is an excellent marinara sauce substitute. It has kept the natural freshness, sweetness, and sourness of the tomatoes intertwined with the thin and cream-like consistency. 

The tomato sauce usually contains onions, chili, or other peppers spiced up with salt and oregano. This is an excellent substitute for marinara sauce for two reasons- the consistency is more or less the same, with the tomato sauce being a bit thicker, and the use of the tomato sauce is the same as the marinara. 

Therefore, wherever you want to use the marinara sauce, feel free to use the tomato sauce. 

Canned Tomatoes 

You will love this marinara sauce substitute as it is genuinely effortless. Like the tomato sauce, the canned tomato marinara substitute blended and simmered canned tomatoes. The taste of the canned tomato marinara is different than the tomato sauce, as the canned version is sweeter. 

Nevertheless, the final result will be excellent and will double great for marinara. The blended canned tomatoes will produce a much thicker substance than what you need for a marinara sauce; therefore, add the can liquid into the simmering pan to get the right consistency. Don’t forget to save the tomato water from the can after you strain the tomatoes, as you will need this liquid to adjust the thickness of the sauce. 

Substitutes for Marinara Sauce

Tomato Passata

Tomato passata is essentially pureed tomatoes without the skin and seeds. The tomato puree is then simmered with spices of choice, as the tomato passata isn’t restrictive regarding the seasoning, but rather, the making. 

Add salt, garlic, perhaps anchovies, and, of course, basil, and enjoy. This marinara substitute works best with pasta. 

Fresh Tomatoes

Freshly peeled and blended tomatoes seasoned with garlic, salt, and basil, enriched with some olive paste, are an excellent marinara sauce substitute. Somewhere between a salsa salad and a sauce, the blended fresh tomatoes will do great as a pasta sauce or a marinara sauce substitute for something meaty. 

Since this sauce tastes sweet and sour, which is the signature tomato taste, the seasoning will be a piece of cake. Feel free to experiment and add other spices, such as black pepper or even curry. 

Alfredo Sauce

Although Alfredo sauce isn’t tomato-based, it made it on this list because, in terms of use, there are situations where it fits the dish as the marinara would. It goes great with chicken drums or chicken breast, mushrooms, or pasta. 

Alfredo sauce is thicker and stickier than marinara sauce, but it is just as creamy and spreadable. You cannot substitute Alfredo for marinara everywhere, but when you can, feel free to do so; the results are excellent.


Pesto refers to any pate-like substance made by blending. The most famous pesto types are basil pesto, olive pesto, and a combination of the two. The basil and olives are blended until they homogenize, and then they are seasoned with salt and garlic, whereby olive oil is added to the mixture to tie everything up. 

Even though the pesto isn’t precisely what you’d call sauce, it still doubles well for marinara because it carries the pungent garlic and basil flavor, and it goes excellent with meaty meals and plain pasta. 

Tomato Juice

Thinner and more liquid than the marinara sauce, tomato juice can double for marinara only when combined with pasta. It will become denser after you simmer it, and you can more or less copy the marinara’s taste by adding garlic and basil. 

However, the juiciness of the tomato juice will still transpire and be noticeable, so don’t expect it to taste exactly the same. Still, the tomato juice is a great marinara sauce substitute for pasta, and with some parmesan on top, it could be a finger-licking experience. 

Tomato Soup 

Tomato soup resembles marinara sauce to a great extent, but it is undoubtedly sweeter than marinara. The marinara sauce also retains the tomato freshness, which isn’t as represented in the tomato soup, especially if you’re making it with soup powder instead of fresh tomatoes. 

However, the garlic and basil will do just fine to double for the marinara. In terms of use, thanks to the similar consistency, you can use tomato soup instead of marinara everywhere where you would use marinara sauce.

Pizza Sauce 

Pizza sauce is very close relative to marinara sauce, but the pizza sauce has an expressive oregano aroma and flavor. Still, you can adjust the taste and make it more marinara-like by adding some basil, but not too much. 

Even though oregano and basil seem compatible, they don’t tend to mix especially well when combined into a single sauce. Therefore, carefully adjust the basil quantity to avoid giving the sauce an overly herbal aroma, as you may risk it smelling and tasting like tea. 

Pasta Sauce

Pasta sauce is а very customizable; you can tailor the density, thickness, and consistency by adding water and oil. You can use the pasta sauce instead of marinara as it is, or you can simmer it a while longer. 

Generally, you can use pasta sauce instead of marinara in pasta, of course, but also on pizza or dip. 

Carrots and Beets Marinara 

Another non-tomato-based marinara sauce substitute that will double excellently for marinara. The beets are watery, and they mash up perfectly with the blended carrots. They are also highly compatible with marinara seasoning and do great with pasta. 

What Is a Healthy Substitute for Marinara Sauce?

Marinara sauce is healthy, and if you are mindful of healthy eating, you don’t have to look any further. Since the sauce is simmered, it doesn’t lose the nutritional quality, nor does it absorb the oil to an excessive extent. The tomatoes, garlic, and basil all have an anti-inflammatory effect and boost the immune system. 

However, if you are looking for an even healthier alternative, I’d recommend the last substitute on our list, beets and carrots marinara. The beets and carrots are incredibly nutritious and more beneficial than the tomatoes. The nutritional quality of the beets and carrots combined with the garlic and basil will do wonders for your immune system. 

Other healthy variants are tomato juice (homemade, not store-bought), tomato puree, and blended fresh tomatoes. 

What Is the Difference between Tomato Sauce and Marinara Sauce? 

You could say that the marinara sauce is more straightforward than the tomato sauce, combining fewer flavors. The tomato sauce contains onions and peppers and is usually thicker than the marinara sauce. The marinara sauce is fresher and zestier, but the tomato sauce is richer and silkier. 

You can use both tomato sauce and marinara sauce for pizza or pasta. However, the marinara can be too thin for stuffed eggplants or zucchinis, and the tomato sauce could be too thick for pizza. Often, the pizza dough is topped with marinara sauce, and the pizza sauce is used after the pizza is done. 

How to Make Marinara Sauce?

Marinara sauce is very easy to make, and what’s more, it is a true enjoyment to make it. Adjust the quantity of the ingredients according to the people you’re serving and the flavor intensity you prefer. Don’t worry if you have leftover marinara sauce, as it is so delicious it won’t last more than a day.

You will need tomatoes, salt, garlic, and basil leaves. Always use fresh basil leaves if you can, as the taste is gentler and more refined. Dry basil tends to give the sauce a tea-like aroma and flavor, but it too will do if you can’t get fresh basil. 

Substitutes for Marinara Sauce

Marinara Sauce Recipe

Laura Bais from Julie’s Cafe Bakery
Marinara sauce is very easy to make, and what’s more, it is a true enjoyment to make it.
5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Settle time 15 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 25 minutes
Course Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine Italian
Servings 2 cups sauce
Calories 278 kcal


  • 5 fresh tomatoes
  • 1/2 medium sized onion peeled and halved
  • 2 large cloves garlic peeled but left whole
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • pinch of salt if necessary


  • Start by washing and cleaning the tomatoes, and I'd recommend you peel them, as they will be much creamier that way.
  • Cut the tomatoes into chunks and place them into a big mixing bowl.
    Substitutes for Marinara Sauce
  • Squeeze them instead of blending them, as the blender will turn them into liquid, and you want to feel the small tomato chunks in the marinara.
  • Place the squeezed tomatoes in a non-stick saucepan after you put some olive oil on it.
  • Turn the plate on medium heat and let the tomatoes heat up.
  • Stir the tomatoes while they are cooking and add olive oil little by little.
    Substitutes for Marinara Sauce
  • Follow the consistency and don’t add too much oil as you will notice grease floating on the surface; you don’t want that.
  • Now, depending on the speed and capacity of your stove, the simmering may take from 40 minutes to an hour.
  • Observe the color of the sauce, as it should be bright red. If the color starts to get darker, you have either gone too far with the simmering or used too much oil. If you have used too much oil, try and strain the excess oil, and if you went a little too far with the cooking, remove the marinara sauce immediately from the stove, blend a tomato and add it to the sauce to freshen it up.
  • A few minutes before you remove your marinara sauce from the stove, add the minced garlic, the salt, and the basil leaves and stir them in.
    Substitutes for Marinara Sauce 8
  • Stir for up to five minutes and remove the pan from the stove.
  • Let the sauce settle for ten to 15 minutes, and enjoy.


Serving: 1cupCalories: 278kcalCarbohydrates: 15.5gProtein: 4.4gFat: 21.2g
Keyword marinara sauce, marinara subsitutes, tomato sauce