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Tomato puree vs paste: what’s the difference between the two? Can you substitute one for the other? Here’s the breakdown.

Tomato puree vs paste

Tomato puree vs paste: what’s the difference? These two canned tomato-based products sound very similar…and indeed they are. But there’s an important distinction between the two! Let’s throw in tomato sauce to the mix too, just for good measure. Here’s a break down on the differences between these products and whether you can use them as substitutes.

Tomato puree vs paste: the differences

What’s the exact difference between the two? Keep in mind that the definition of tomato puree can vary based on country. Here’s the breakdown of the difference in the United States:

  • Tomato puree is a canned sauce made of cooked, strained tomatoes. It has a thinner consistency than tomato paste. In fact, for many brands it’s actually made with tomato paste and water! It’s usually sold in 10 to 15-ounce cans.
  • Tomato paste is a very thick paste of tomatoes that’s even more concentrated than tomato puree. It has a lightly sweet flavor, versus tomato puree which tastes tangy with a subtly bitter finish. It’s sold in small 6-ounce cans, since you usually only use small amounts in recipes. It’s also sold in tubes, which is very handy!

Wait, then what’s tomato sauce? Tomato sauce is a canned sauce made of cooked and strained tomatoes; it’s unseasoned and has a thinner consistency than tomato puree. Marinara sauce is a tomato sauce that has added flavors, like garlic, basil and oregano.

You can substitute one for the other!

Did you buy tomato puree instead of paste, or vice versa? Never fear: you can substitute one for the other. Here’s how to substitute tomato puree and paste:

  • How to make a substitute for tomato puree? To make ½ cup tomato puree, mix ¼ cup tomato paste with ¼ cup water.
  • How to make a substitute for tomato paste? To make 1 tablespoon tomato paste, use 2 tablespoons tomato puree or sauce mixed with ¼ teaspoon sugar, and remove 2 tablespoons of other liquids in the recipe.

What recipes can you make with tomato paste?

Tomato paste is used in small quantities in recipes to add a savory, complex body to the flavors. Here are a few recipes that demonstrate how to use it! Tomato paste adds:

What recipes can you make with tomato puree?

Tomato puree is used like tomato sauce in most recipes. Here are a few ways to use tomato puree:

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Tomato puree

How to Make Tomato Puree or Tomato Paste

  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 1 minute
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 minute
  • Yield: ½ cup or 1 tablespoon 1x


Tomato puree vs paste: did you know you can substitute one for the other? Here’s what to do! 



For tomato puree

  • ¼ cup tomato paste
  • ¼ cup water

For tomato paste

  • 2 tablespoons tomato puree
  • ¼ teaspoon sugar


  1. For tomato puree, mix the tomato paste and water. Use as a replacement for ½ cup tomato puree. 
  2. For tomato paste, mix the tomato puree and sugar. Use as a replacement for 1 tablespoon tomato paste, and remove 1 tablespoon of other liquid in the recipe. 
  • Category: Essentials
  • Method: Stirred
  • Cuisine: American
  • Diet: Vegan

Keywords: Tomato puree vs paste

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Meet Sonja and Alex Overhiser: Husband and wife. Expert home cooks. Authors of recipes you’ll want to make again and again.

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