Diva Tasting: Tomato Paste 101…

No tomato paste? No problem. You probably already have a perfectly acceptable alternative in your pantry. Here’s everything you need to know about tomato paste here are some alternative ideas…

What Is Tomato Paste and How Is It Used?

Tomato paste is concentrated tomatoes. It’s made by cooking strained and skinned tomatoes down until they’ve reduced and thickened to a paste-like consistency. Its flavor is extremely, well, tomato-y. Without all the water that is naturally found in fresh tomatoes, you’re left with just intense acidity and bright flavor. You can buy tomato paste in the store (in the canned tomato section) or make your own with just a few ingredients you probably already have on hand.

Tomato paste is used to thicken and enrich the flavor of sauces, soups, stews, casseroles, and more. It’s also commonly used to braise meat.

Tomato Paste Substitutes

The best substitute for store-bought tomato paste is homemade tomato paste. In fact, homemade tomato paste is generally richer and more flavorful than its canned counterpart. If you don’t want to go through the trouble of making your own you probably have plenty of other options already at your disposal:

Tomato Puree

Tomato puree (boiled and strained tomatoes) works well as a tomato paste alternative. Since puree is much thinner than paste, you’ll get the best results if you cook it over medium heat for about 10 minutes before adding it to your recipe — this will give you a slightly thicker consistency and more intense flavor.

Substitute two tablespoons of puree for every tablespoon of paste called for in the recipe. If you haven’t reduced the puree on the stove, you may find you need to reduce the liquid in the recipe by a tablespoon or so.

Fresh Tomatoes

You can make shortcut tomato puree by peeling and mashing a fresh tomato (whether or not you remove the seeds is up to you) and cooking it for about 10 minutes. Use three tablespoons of fresh tomatoes for every tablespoon of paste called for in the recipe.

Diced Tomatoes

Strain a can of diced tomatoes to remove excess liquid, then cook over medium heat until they’ve reduced by about half. Use two to three tablespoons of diced tomatoes for every tablespoon of paste called for in the recipe.

Ketchup

Yep, ketchup makes a surprisingly adequate tomato paste alternative! Since ketchup is already quite concentrated, you can substitute from the bottle using a 1:1 ratio (if your recipe calls for one tablespoon of tomato paste, use one tablespoon of ketchup). Just be aware that most ketchup contains an ample amount of added sugar, so the finished product may be a little sweeter than you intended. Since ketchup is so much sweeter, this is probably not the best choice if your recipe calls for more than a tablespoon or two of tomato paste.

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