You’ve heard the terms tomato paste and tomato puree, and you’ve seen the cans next to each other at the grocery store, but is tomato paste the same as tomato puree? And if not, how similar are they? After all, they’re just tomatoes, right?
Before you substitute one for the other, you might want to think twice before you do.
Is Tomato Paste the Same as Tomato Puree
Tomato paste and tomato puree are not the same and should not be used interchangeably without making modifications. You’ll find on my site many easy Italian recipes featuring both tomato paste and tomato puree. I use these tomato products differently for a variety of reasons.
There are three main factors that differentiate tomato paste from puree. They are:
- Their use in recipes
Does Tomato Paste Taste the Same as Puree?
Tomato paste has a tart and bitter taste due to the cooking process which reduces the tomatoes to a concentrated form. It has no seasonings, no sugar, or anything else added. Due to the concentration of the tomatoes, the flavor is very strong and a little goes a long way in cooking. This is probably why we see it sold in stores in small cans, not large ones.
Tomato puree, however, is not as strong tasting or tart as tomato paste. That’s because it isn’t in a concentrated form. For most manufacturers, the cans we see on the shelves for puree, are actually just tomato paste with added water and salt.
Keep in mind that different manufacturers use different varieties of tomatoes and this can impact the flavor and intensity of the product. Higher quality brands that use higher quality tomatoes with more flavor will have more taste.
I’ve bought discount brands of tomato puree trying to save a few pennies when making marinara from tomato paste and it was awful as it had no real tomato flavor like my original brand. I’ve learned my lesson and recommend you stick with a brand you like.
Does Tomato Paste Have the Same Texture as Puree?
Both tomato paste and puree have smooth, thick consistencies. However, since tomato paste has been reduced to a concentrated form, it becomes very thick vs puree.
Tomato paste is so thick that you need to scoop it out of the can with a spoon. I recommend that my readers dilute the amount they need in a separate bowl using some water before adding to a pot of soup, sauce or chili. Paste doesn’t dissolve quickly and so this extra step is very helpful and saves time.
On the other hand, we have tomato puree which can easily blend with other liquids or be used by itself. It is very smooth, yet still thick.
If making a spaghetti sauce, you wouldn’t use just puree, you’d use a blend of paste, puree and tomato sauce and extra seasonings. You can read my article about tomato sauce vs puree for more information on those two.
Using Tomato Paste vs Puree
When a recipe calls for tomato paste, it will most likely call for a small amount depending on the size of the recipe. For example, if making a huge pot of Italian spaghetti sauce it may call for two 6 ounce cans of paste. If the recipe is only for 6 servings, then you may only need a Tablespoon.
Keep in mind, that when a recipe calls for tomato paste, it is using it mostly for more depth of flavor or as a thickener, not as the primary flavor. It is used as part of the base. Think for example of a chili recipe – the paste is just one of many underlying ingredients.
An exception is my recipe for marinara from tomato paste recipe which is a very economical way of making a great sauce.
When using tomato puree in recipes however, it’s a little different. The puree has a more tomatoey consistency than paste, making it very popular in sauce recipes such as pizza sauce.
Pureed tomatoes are also used when you do not want to have predefined spices or herbs included, giving you more control over the flavor.
You cannot use tomato paste to replace puree in a 1:1 ratio as the two are not interchangeable like that.
So is tomato paste the same as tomato puree? You now know that they are not the same, but you also know how and when not to use them interchangeably.
I hope this article was helpful with your culinary endeavors! If you enjoyed this article, you may also enjoy my article, Is tomato sauce the same as tomato puree.