The Sweeter Ingredient Swap For Tomato Sauce

Sometimes you need only a small dollop of tomato sauce or a squeeze of tomato paste for a dish. If you have none of these in your pantry, there's one ingredient that you can use as a substitute that we can almost guarantee that you'll have on hand: ketchup. This humble condiment, typically associated with burgers and fries, possesses a tangy sweetness that makes it a surprisingly suitable substitute for tomato sauce in a pinch.

To skeptics, we know that ketchup appears like a last resort, and perhaps not a quality replacement at all. It's true that ketchup is much sweeter and even more acidic than the standard tomato sauce, however, it most definitely works if your recipe only calls for a small amount of tomato sauce or paste. If you're not preparing a classic red sauce for your meatballs, ketchup will likely work in place of tomato sauce in just about any situation. This condiment's combination of tomatoes, vinegar, sweeteners, and spices creates a tangy and slightly sweet flavor that can seamlessly blend into various recipes while providing a hint of tomato flavor. And for most culinary needs, ketchup's inherent acidity and balanced sweetness mimic the essential characteristics of tomato sauce.

Ways to use ketchup as a substitute for tomato sauce

Ketchup has actually been used in place of tomato paste in Japan for decades, and it's produced a medley of tomato-flavored dishes. Because it already contains sugar, vinegar, and seasonings like garlic, onion, mustard, and cumin, it is a convenient, flavor-packed addition for stews, gravies, and even rice. 

You could use it to put your spin on Mexican rice, which usually only needs a couple of tablespoons of tomato paste for added tanginess. Or use it for meatloaf tomato gravy, which is a red sauce made from Worcestershire, tomato sauce, sugar, onions, and vinegar. Using ketchup would cut the ingredients list down by half; and although the texture will turn out different, you'll have a fantastic ketchup-based gravy for meatloaf. When it comes to pasta, some believe that ketchup is a no-go, but Japanese 'Napolitan' pasta proves otherwise; it's a ketchup and soy sauce-based delight that tastes like a sweeter version of spaghetti. 

Ketchup's exceptional versatility makes it suitable for a myriad of cuisines, and its adaptability allows it to add a zesty punch to a dish or act as a binding agent, enhancing both taste and presentation. So, the next time you find that a recipe calls for a bit of tomato sauce, reach for your bottle of ketchup.