Tomato Paste Vs Sauce – What’s The Difference?

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There are many differences between tomato paste and tomato sauce. In fact, the only similarity is that both are made from tomatoes.

What is the difference between tomato paste and tomato sauce? Tomato paste, as opposed to tomato sauce, has a more concentrated flavor, is much thicker in texture, and is used in dishes to enhance other flavors. Unlike tomato sauce, the paste doesn’t act as the ‘tomato’ ingredient in dishes but more of a base ingredient to provide rich flavors.

Read on to learn what makes this, at first sight, similar items different and how you can use them effectively. 

Differences Between Tomato Sauce and Tomato Paste

Have you ever seen tomato paste in small jars and tubes in supermarket aisles? You have probably thought that such a small amount of product isn’t worth a buy. 

Surprisingly enough, a teaspoon of tomato paste goes a long way. It is a rich concentrate made of tomatoes that have been cooked to lose all the moisture. 

Tomato sauce, on the other hand, is not as concentrated. It contains briefly boiled tomatoes in a fair amount of liquid and can make a tasty sauce for pasta, pizza, meatballs, etc. 

Here is how tomato paste and tomato sauce are different.  


One of the key differences between tomato sauce and tomato paste is the consistency. 

Tomato sauce is quite watery. If you pour it onto a plate it will spread out very quickly. Tomato paste, on the other hand, is very thick.

It will start loosening up only if you mix it with some kind of liquid or put it on a heated pan with oil. 

The consistency of the two products differs based on the number of tomato solids they contain. 

Tomato sauce has a much looser and lighter consistency than tomato paste. It contains up to 24% tomato solids. 

Tomato paste, however, contains more than 24% tomato solids. The thickness of the tomato paste has to do with the process of making it.

Tomatoes are cooked so long that the water content reduces to a minimum, leaving a thick paste behind. 

Both products are made with peeled tomatoes. Seeds are also removed. 


The taste of tomato paste is similar to that of dried tomatoes. It has noticeable tartness which is not present in tomato sauce. The latter has a taste resembling fresh tomatoes. 

Because tomato paste is so concentrated, it has a very meaty taste. It is often added to dishes to bring an umami flavor to it or enhance the flavor of other ingredients. 

Generally, tomato paste is considered to have a remarkable flavor potential. If a recipe calls for one teaspoon of tomato paste, don’t add more. The smallest amount of this paste brings a burst of flavors to the dish. 

Tomato sauce tastes more like fresh tomatoes, although in the majority of the cases it is cooked. 

It is common for store-bought tomato sauces to contain salt and other seasonings, such as garlic and onion powder, and various herbs. 

Homemade tomato sauce might be even more flavorful with the addition of fresh garlic and onion, and high-quality olive oil. 


Both tomato paste and tomato sauce can be easily found in stores. While there are differences in store-bought and homemade items, the ingredient list for these two tomato products is fairly simple if you choose to make either of them at home. 

Tomato paste is known for its acidic flavor. The secret is in the ingredient list. Unlike tomato paste that gets flavor from spices and herbs, tomato paste doesn’t contain any except for the salt. 

The citric acid used in tomato paste enhances the tart and acidic flavors. Citric acid is also a natural preservative that prevents food deterioration. 

Olive oil is another key ingredient if you are making tomato paste at home. 

The ingredient list of tomato sauce is slightly longer and more ‘flavorful’. Here is the list of ingredients used to make a delicious tomato sauce:

  • Garlic (or garlic powder)
  • Onion (or onion powder)
  • Salt 
  • Sugar
  • Herbs 
  • Olive oil 


Tomato paste is used in very small amounts as it has a very intense flavor. It is used a base ingredient for sauces and stews. Tomato paste also gives a nice color and richness when used in soups. 

The secret behind utilizing the full potential of this extremely flavorful paste is knowing how to use it correctly. 

Although the tomatoes for the paste have been cooked, you can’t just mix it in with other ingredients and expect it to work wonders. 

The right way to ‘activate’ tomato paste is to ‘fry’ it with some olive oil until the paste changes its color.

Though tomato paste is usually darker than tomato sauce, when cooked, the color becomes even more intense and darker. This will take you up to 5 minutes but the taste of your dish will be remembered for much longer. 

The caramelization process starts when you achieve the brick red color of the tomato paste. If the paste sticks to the pan, deglaze it with water or other liquid, such as meat or vegetable stock. You will get the most umami-flavor packed sauce to your dish. 

Tomato sauce is generally used to make other more complex sauces or a simple pasta or pizza sauce. 

In canned sauces, tomatoes are only briefly boiled. When using canned tomato sauce, keep in mind that tomatoes have been exposed to heat during the canning process. This implies that they are cooked to a certain extent. Not cooked as much as to be eaten as is but cooked enough to keep well. 

Thus, if you want to use it to top your pasta, don’t pour a can of tomato directly on your food. Simmer it on low heat for a few minutes. 

If it is a plain tomato sauce with no added ingredients and seasoning, add some garlic, onion, and herbs to take a store-bought can of sauce to the next level. 

Nutrition Facts 

While tomato paste is used in small amounts in cooking, it is still good to know what nutrients it contains. 

As for the tomato sauce, 100 grams of canned tomato sauce is less nutritional than 100 grams of tomato paste. However, it is important to note that unlike using only a few tablespoons of paste, the sauce is used in larger amounts. 

100 grams Tomato Paste  Tomato Sauce (Canned)
Calories 82 29

Daily Value
Daily Value
Total Fat 0.5 g 0% 0.2 g 0%
Carbohydrates 19 g 6% 7 g 2%
Sodium 59 mg 2% 11 mg 0%
Protein 4.3 g 8% 1.3 g 2%
Cholesterol 0 mg 0% 0 mg  0%
Potassium 1,014 mg 28% 331 mg  9%
Vitamin A
Vitamin C
Vitamin B–6 


Is Tomato Paste Healthier Than Tomato Sauce?

While we all know that fresh tomatoes are high in antioxidants and have many health benefits, few people know that tomato paste is doesn’t fall behind either. 

The antioxidant in tomatoes is lycopene. It prevents cell damage, is good for heart health, and reduces the risks of several types of cancer. 

A study suggests that lycopene in the tomato paste absorbs better, thus making this ordinary cooking ingredient a powerful source of an important antioxidant. 

This benefit of tomato paste is the result of the method used to make it. Research suggests that processed tomatoes are a better source of lycopene than uncooked tomatoes. 

Thus, as far as the antioxidant contents go, tomato paste overshadows fresh tomatoes and tomato sauce that is cooked very little.

Related Questions

Can You Substitute Tomato Paste for Tomato Sauce?

You can substitute tomato paste for tomato sauce. And you can expect a similar but not the same result. Here’s why. 

Tomato paste is more concentrated than tomato sauce. It has almost no liquid content. Thus, you will need to dilute it with water. 

The taste of tomato paste is slightly acidic. If you are using it instead of tomato sauce, use an ingredient that will balance out the acidity. A pinch of sugar or a small amount of vinegar will work well for that purpose. 

How Do You Make Tomato Sauce from Tomato Paste?

If you have run out of your favorite canned tomato sauce, you can make one using tomato paste. However, if you have fresh tomatoes at hand, you better use them to make a sauce. It does require slightly more effort, but you are guaranteed to get a better result and an authentic tomato sauce taste. 

Making tomato sauce using tomato paste is simple. Combine one part of the paste with one part of water. Mix well until you reach a smooth consistency. 

To get it tasting like tomato sauce, you will need to add some garlic, onion, and herbs.

Heat the pan with some olive oil and sauté chopped onions. Add the garlic. 

Once the two ingredients are soft, add the mixture of the paste and water. Season with salt. To boost the sweetness of the sauce, add a pinch of sugar. Let the mixture simmer until the sauce thickens to reach your desired consistency. 

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