Nothing says delicious comfort meal quite like a giant plate of spaghetti with marinara sauce and maybe a side of garlic bread.
Making your own spaghetti sauce is great, but with the busy modern world, we don’t all have the time to dedicate to from-scratch-cooking all the time.
That’s where bottles of spaghetti sauce can fill the gap. There are lots of brands on the market that make savory, comforting sauces that are the perfect pick me up after a long day.
But what if you’re trying to watch your sugar intake? Should you be concerned about your spaghetti sauce?
Many popular brands rely on sugar to add flavor and texture to their sauces.
While tomato-based spaghetti sauces benefit from a little dash of sugar to cut the acidity of the tomatoes, some of these brands can get a little heavy-handed with their added sugars.
So, how much sugar is in your favorite jar of spaghetti sauce? Unless you specifically buy a no sugar added brand, there can be anywhere from 7-12 grams of sugar per half-cup serving. If you’re buying regular spaghetti sauce with added sugar, then you do not need to add any more.
Read on to discover how much sugar is in popular store-bought brands of spaghetti sauce, whether you should add more sugar to your sauce, and low sugar alternatives to spaghetti sauce!
How Much Sugar Is In Store-Bought Spaghetti Sauce?
When it comes to added sugars in our food, most of us are familiar with the common culprits like cereals, soda, fruit juices, candy, and baked goods.
However, another common place to find added sugars is in sauces, like store-bought spaghetti sauce.
When food manufacturers create a product, their goal is to make it taste as delicious as possible with a smooth and satisfying texture so that their customers will choose them over other brands.
One of the ways they up the flavor is by adding sugar to their products.
There’s no argument that sugar is delicious, but it can also stimulate pleasure centers in our brain, which can drive us to consume more and more and more.
While I love desserts, I don’t necessarily think that my spaghetti sauce should fall into this category.
Unfortunately, there are brands out there that contain up to 12 grams of sugar per half-cup serving of spaghetti sauce.
When you compare that to some of the lower sugar brands I’ve shared below, those 12 grams are anywhere from 2 times to 6 times much as you will find in other sauces.
Below I’ve shared some brands with the highest sugar contents, each one is over 7 grams per half-cup serving.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t eat these brands, but it’s just to give you some more information to make decisions around what you’re eating.
1. Bertolli Tomato & Basil Sauce
This regular tomato and basil sauce from Bertolli clocks in at a whopping 12 grams of sugar per half-cup serving of sauce.
Considering most of us probably eat a lot more than half a cup per serving, that can really add up fast.
2. Prego Traditional Italian Sauce
Prego is one of the more popular brands on the market, but their traditional sauce is loaded with sugar, containing 10 grams per half-cup serving.
Luckily, if you’re a Prego fan they have a no sugar added option that I’ve linked below.
3. Del Monte Traditional Pasta Sauce
Another popular brand, Del Monte’s Traditional Pasta Sauce contains 8 grams of sugar per half-cup and the added sugar they use is high fructose corn syrup.
This sweetener is high in fructose, which can place an extra burden on your liver to process.
4. Ragu Old World Style Traditional Sauce
This pasta sauce contains added sugar (not high fructose corn syrup, though) and clocks in at 8 grams of sugar per half-cup serving of sauce.
So while it’s not the worst on the list, it’s still worth looking for no sugar added brands if you’re watching your sugar intake.
Should You Add More Sugar To Your Spaghetti Sauce?
If you’re making your own spaghetti sauce at home, it’s important to add some sugar to cut the acidity of the tomatoes and to round out the flavor profile of the sauce.
For the most part, the recipes you’ll see online suggest adding 2 teaspoons up to a couple of tablespoons of sugar.
When divided between the entire batch of spaghetti sauce that works out to a pretty small amount of sugar per serving. Each teaspoon has 4 grams of sugar, so you’ll likely be getting a gram or less of added sugar per serving.
Store-bought brands of spaghetti sauce are a different story. Manufacturers rely on sugar to give their foods more flavor since they aren’t always using the freshest ingredients.
It also helps to make their sauces more crave-able, since sweet foods light up pleasure centers in the brain signaling “more.”
Many popular brands on the market have between 7 grams and 11 grams of sugar per half-cup serving.
And most people are probably going to have more than half a cup of sauce on their spaghetti, especially if you’re going back for seconds.
That amount of sugar really adds up, so no, I don’t think you need to add extra sugar to store-bought brands of spaghetti sauce for a couple of reasons:
- They have been formulated by food scientists to make them taste as delicious as possible, so more sugar would throw off the balance they’ve created.
- The brands have worked hard to come up with a texture that their customers love, so adding more sugar could change the texture, and not for the better.
- They are already jam-packed with added sugars and you’ll probably want to save the extra sugar for dessert.
What Are Some Low Sugar Spaghetti Sauce Brands?
Luckily for those of us who may be short on time and love the convenience of a store-bought sauce, with the low sugar and delicious flavor of a homemade sauce, there are quite a few low sugar brands on the market now.
Each sauce on this list has 6 grams of sugar or less per half-cup serving. I’ve started with the lowest in sugar and worked up to the highest.
If you’re out looking for a sauce that isn’t on this list, check that it says no added sugar or that it doesn’t include sugar on the ingredient list.
1. Yo Mama’s Marinara Pasta and Pizza Sauce
This delicious spaghetti sauce has only 2 grams of sugar per half-cup serving and doesn’t have any added sugar in the ingredient list. The only sugar you get in this sauce is the naturally occurring kind found in the tomatoes, onions, and garlic
2. Hoboken Farms Basil Marinara Gourmet Sauce
Hoboken Farms is another brand that doesn’t have any added sugar in the ingredient list and only has 2 grams of sugar per half-cup serving. The fresh ingredients taste like you made it at home, without any of the mess or effort.
3. The Vine Organic Simply Marinara
While The Vine organic marinara sauce has 3 grams of sugar, none of that comes from added sources.
In fact, all the ingredients in this sauce are organic and they even manage to sneak some carrots in there for natural sweetness and extra nutrition.
4. Rao’s Homemade Marinara Sauce
The reviews on this sauce are great: it tastes just like grandma used to make!
But you can pick it up at the store and it only contains 4 grams of sugar per half-cup serving of sauce. It’s a great choice for folks who are watching their sugar and looking for that slow-cooked Italian taste.
5. Muir Glen Organic Pasta Sauce
Muir Glen is another organic, low-sugar spaghetti sauce made with whole ingredients for that traditional taste.
It makes use of lots of herbs and spices instead of relying on sugar as its primary flavor. Each half-cup serving has only 4 grams of sugar.
6. 365 by Whole Foods Market Tomato Basil Organic Pasta Sauce
Whole Foods house brand 365 makes a lot of delicious and nutritious products, including their Tomato Basil Pasta Sauce.
It’s made with organic ingredients and lots of herbs for a punch of flavor. It has no added sugars and contains only 4 grams of sugar per half-cup serving.
7. Classico Tomato & Basil Pasta Sauce
For fans of the Classico line of spaghetti sauces, their Tomato & Basil sauce is a great low-sugar option. It doesn’t have any added sugars and contains only 5 grams per half-cup serving.
8. Marinara Premium Italian Pasta Sauce by Botticelli
While this sauce from Botticelli is a little higher in sugar with 6 grams per half-cup, it’s worth the extra splurge.
There is no added sugar and it is made with tomatoes from the Parma region in Italy and real Italian olive oil for that traditional taste.
9. Prego Pasta Sauce
Finally, for our Prego lovers, there’s a no-sugar-added version of their traditional sauce.
It won’t be as sweet as the regular style, but it’s great if you’re looking for that comforting Prego taste without all the unnecessary sugar. It comes in at 6 grams of sugar per half-cup serving.
What Are Low-Sugar Alternatives To Spaghetti Sauce?
There are a couple of options you can choose from if you want to find some lower sugar alternatives to traditional packaged spaghetti sauces.
Make Your Own Spaghetti Sauce
My first suggestion is to try making your own spaghetti sauce at home. Instead of using high sugar tomato sauce, try using fresh tomatoes or a can of crushed tomatoes without any added sugar.
You can then control the amount of sugar you add to your sauce so that it isn’t overwhelming.
By making it at home you can add just enough sugar to balance out the acidity of the tomatoes, without turning your pasta sauce into a dessert.
I suggest starting with 1 teaspoon of sugar or sweetener of choice (I actually love maple syrup in my sauce) and working up from there.
Try An Alfredo Sauce
If you’re concerned with the amount of sugar in spaghetti sauce, you could always try making your own Alfredo sauce.
Alfredo is going to be higher in fat since it is a cream-based sauce, but the fat from the sauce can balance out the carbohydrates in the pasta for a more balanced meal.
I’ve been making an Alfredo with goat milk instead of cream lately and it adds a really lovely tanginess to the sauce and is a little lower in fat.
You can stir in some soft goat cheese to make it a little creamier and add things like mushrooms or bacon to make it decadent.
Try A Pesto Sauce
Another low-sugar option that you can enjoy with your spaghetti is pesto sauce. This sauce is a delicious combination of pine nuts, Parmesan cheese, fresh basil, and olive oil that is just so savory and low in sugar.
I also like pesto sauces because they are endlessly customizable. Don’t have pine nuts at home?
Try walnuts, toasted pumpkin or sunflower seeds, almonds, or even pecans for a twist on a classic. You can also combine your basil with parsley and other herbs.
Like the Alfredo sauce, it will be higher in fat as opposed to sugar, but it also contains protein.
When combined with your pasta it gives you a complete meal with all of your macros, which will help fill you up and keep your blood sugar stable.
Try A Carbonara Sauce
While you might think that carbonara is made with cream, a classic version of this dish is made only with bacon or pancetta, pecorino Romano cheese, eggs, and garlic.
It’s a really simple sauce, but so flavorful thanks to all the savory ingredients.
Like pesto, it is going to combine fats and protein to help balance out the carbohydrates in your pasta, so you’ll feel full and satisfied after your meal.