There is no shortage of recipes that call for either tomato sauce or tomato puree, but can you use one instead of the other? Is tomato sauce the same as tomato puree, and if not what’s the difference?
These are just a few questions we’re going to tackle in this article.
Is Tomato Sauce the Same as Tomato Puree?
Although tomato sauce and tomato puree are similar in texture and appearance, there are some differences that can make or break your recipe. In fact, if you can understand the difference, you’ll know what to do when at a culinary crossroads of substituting one for the other.
You’re not alone. It can be confusing when trying to figure out the differences between the two tomato products. After all, if you look at the cans at the grocery store, the pictures of tomato sauce vs puree look pretty similar to me.
In this post, I’ll explain the similarities and differences between the two in the following areas to clear the air.
- Usage in recipes
Does Tomato Sauce Taste the Same as Tomato Puree
Although both tomato sauce and puree are made from tomatoes, there is a taste difference between them.
What does tomato sauce taste like?
Tomato sauce has a slightly sweet taste because there is added sugar or sweetener such as corn syrup (yep – corn syrup) in your sauce. The reason for adding sweetness is to make it ready to use as a “sauce”, versus tomato puree which is to be part of a sauce, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves here.
Tomato sauce will have additional flavorings added such as salt or herbs. If you look at different brands such as Furmano’s, you’ll see them listed as “flavorings” or “spices”. On the other hand, Hunt’s is at least more transparent and includes their list of herbs such as onion powder, garlic powder and red pepper.
What does tomato puree taste like?
Tomato puree, unlike tomato sauce, doesn’t have added herbs or extra flavors. Its only ingredients are water and tomato paste, so it’s definitely not sweet.
Tomato puree is more bitter tasting than sauce since it is made up of tomato paste that’s diluted with water, although it may contain some salt either to help with flavor or being used as a preservative.
So be careful if you plan on using one instead of the other when the recipe is specific because it will alter the taste of the final product.
Does Tomato Sauce Have the Same Consistency as Puree?
Although both have similar smooth textures, puree will be slightly thinner than it’s counterpart.
This is because the puree is not intended to be a final product, but rather an ingredient for a sauce or similar dish such as chili, that can be thinned down per the recipe instructions.
Many manufacturers will use tomato paste and water to create their sauce or puree, adjusting ratios to alter thickness. To have a better picture of what creates the texture, let’s talk about how you get from whole tomatoes to a sauce or puree.
Both canned products start with fresh tomatoes off the vine. Both involve cooking them down to the proper consistency and running them through a blender or mixer to remove chunks.
When concentrated enough, the manufacturer now has tomato paste. Now they can sell the paste as is, or create a sauce or puree by adding different amounts of water and other ingredients accordingly.
The exact production process is determined by the brand manufacturer.
Homemade Tomato Sauce vs Puree
When making homemade tomato sauce vs. puree, you’d remove the seeds for a puree, but can choose to leave them in if you plan on making a sauce.
Some people remove the skins while others don’t as described in this article for how to can your own tomato sauce.
When to Use Tomato Sauce vs Puree
While tomato sauce is seasoned and ready to use as-is, puree isn’t. If you decide to use a can of puree for a recipe that calls for a can of sauce, you’ll either need to add seasonings or try to enjoy a less flavorful dish.
For example, my recipe for homemade spaghetti sauce uses puree, but instructs you to add specific herbs such as parsley, basil, garlic, and oregano.
Or try my recipe for a pasta sauce from cans of tomato sauce. I only include garlic, onion (can be omitted), and bay leaves for extra flavor and depth. The sauce already has herbs and seasonings included in it.
Both can be used in recipes such as pizza sauces or recipes such as lasagna or shells stuffed with spinach and ricotta. However, use puree for making recipes when you either don’t want the Italian seasonings or prefer to add your own.
Sauce has Added Seasonings
When it comes to tomato sauces, there are many varieties, some even include chunks of tomato. Others include less common ingredients such as fennel or red pepper which won’t be found with a puree.
So, is tomato sauce the same as tomato puree? I think we can safely say no it’s not, but it’s pretty darn close. And should you ever need a sauce, but only have puree in the pantry, you now know what to do!
I hope you’ve enjoyed this explanation and that it helps clear up any confusion or questions you may have had. If you liked this article, share it with your friends on social – they may have the same questions!
If you enjoyed this article, you may also enjoy my article comparing tomato paste vs puree.