I’ve personally taste-tested a variety of bovril substitutes to find the best one for every cooking occasion.
Whether you’re on the hunt for the closest flavor match, in need of a last-minute pantry substitute, or seeking an alternative tailored to your specific dietary requirements, rest assured that I’ve got you covered.
The best substitutes for tomato puree are passata or diluted tomato paste. You can also make a quick puree with canned tomatoes (it’s super easy)! Or if you have time to spare, why not make tomato puree from scratch with fresh tomatoes. Pureed red peppers or pumpkin are non-tomato substitute options.
Ready? Let’s jump right in.
I made a batch of chili to put loads of tomato puree substitutes to the test.
What is tomato puree?
Tomato puree is made by lightly cooking tomatoes and then blended them into a liquid mixture. It has a mildly sweet flavor and a thick consistency.
It’s different to paste, where the tomatoes are cooked for a lot longer, resulting in a more concentrated mixture. It’s also different to tomato sauce, which tends to have a thinner texture.
Note: I’m referring to US tomato puree here, not the UK version.
Here are the substitutes I tested and the verdicts:
|How to Substitute
|Replace in a 1:1 ratio
|Replace 1 cup with 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup paste
|Replace in a 1:1 ratio with blended canned tomatoes
|Replace in a 1:1 ratio
|Homemade Tomato Puree
|Replace in a 1:1 ratio
|Replace in a 1:1 ratio, adjusting seasonings as needed
|Roasted Red Peppers
|Replace in a 1:1 ratio (blended with oil)
Common uses for tomato puree and the best substitutes
Here are some common use cases for tomato puree and the best substitutes for those situations:
- Soups and stews: Try using passata, tomato paste, whole canned tomatoes, or homemade tomato puree.
- Pasta and casseroles: Try using passata, whole canned tomatoes, homemade tomato puree, or marinara sauce.
- Salsas and sauces: Try using passata, tomato paste, whole canned tomatoes, or homemade tomato puree.
This Italian staple makes an excellent tomato puree substitute.
It has a similar consistency and tomato flavor, except the tomatoes aren’t cooked before they’re blitzed into a sauce. This give the passata a brighter flavor.
But once you mix it into your dish, you’ll be hard pressed to tell the difference. My chili tasted the same as it always does!
How to substitute: Replace tomato puree in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with passata.
Tomato paste is cooked down tomato puree, making it another excellent substitute.
It has a more intense flavor and a thicker texture, so you’ll need to dilute it with water or tomato juice to use it as a base for your dishes.
Start by diluting a tablespoon of tomato puree then adjust the taste to fit your preference.
Pro-tip: you can get creative with the liquids you use to dilute the tomato paste – I used beer to make the chili, but you can also use vegetable or chicken broth for a more savory kick.
How to substitute: For 1 cup tomato puree, substitute 1/2 cup tomato paste + 1/2 cup water.
Canned tomatoes can save you a grocery run when you need a quick substitute for tomato puree.
You can use whole, crushed, or diced.
Simply throw the tomatoes in a blender without the juice and give them a blitz – you’ll have instant tomato puree ready to be used. If you included the juice the mixture would be too thin.
If you don’t have a blender, you can also puree the tomatoes by hand with a potato masher.
And don’t forget to save the juice from the can. You can use it to make gazpacho or as the base for a dressing!
Psst… why not try fire-roasted tomatoes? They’ll add a smoky note to your dish, giving it more depth.
Imagine your chili with that subtle smoky flavor? Yum!
How to substitute: Replace tomato puree in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with blended canned tomatoes.
Tomato sauce is a simple and accessible substitute for tomato puree.
Tomato puree is thicker than tomato sauce, so you’ll need to cook the sauce down a bit longer to achieve a similar consistency.
I had to simmer my chili for an extra 10 minutes.
But if you’re short on time, you can thicken the tomato sauce by mixing in a bit of cornstarch slurry.
How to substitute: Replace tomato puree in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with tomato sauce.
Homemade tomato puree
Homemade tomato puree is a fantastic substitute if you have access to fresh, ripe tomatoes.
Dassana has a great recipe with visuals that will guide you.
To get started, you’ll need to peel and core the tomatoes.
And the trick to do that easily is to score an “X” on the bottom of each tomato before blanching them.
Next, remove the seeds and chop the tomatoes, then puree them.
The final step is to strain the puree to separate the remaining seeds, and you have your homemade tomato puree.
Pro-tip: If your tomatoes area bit underripe, add a pinch of sugar to enhance their natural sweetness.
How to substitute: Replace tomato puree in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with your homemade tomato puree.
While marinara sauce isn’t an all-around alternative, it can be a decent substitute for tomato puree if you’re making an Italian-inspired dish.
Since marinara sauce already comes seasoned, you’ll need to hold back on the salt, herbs, and spices your recipe calls for.
The Marinara sauce added difference flavors to my chili (I don’t normally add herbs!), but it didn’t taste bad. I’m all for a bit of fusion cooking.
How to substitute: Replace tomato puree in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with marinara sauce, adjusting seasonings as needed.
Roasted red peppers
If you’re looking for a non-tomato alternative to tomato puree, roasted red peppers are a fantastic option.
They have a sweeter flavor profile with a subtle smokey kick that will add depth to your dish.
To use roasted red peppers as a substitute, blitz them with a splash of oil and water in your food processor to create a mixture with a similar thick consistency to tomato puree.
You can also add a bit of lemon juice to capture tomato puree’s acidity and balance the sweetness of the peppers.
If you prefer a chunkier texture, you can chop the peppers instead of pureeing them. This will give your dish a more rustic appearance.
How to substitute: Replace tomato puree in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with your roasted red pepper puree.
Other substitutes to consider
The list above is my top picks for tomato puree substitutes, but here are other options you can use if you have them to hand:
- Stewed tomatoes – these have been cooked down with seasonings and other vegetables, which gives the tomatoes a sweeter and more savory flavor than tomato puree.
- Tomato juice – this isn’t a perfect substitute, but it will bring a similar tomato flavor to your dish. You’ll have to cook it longer to achieve the consistency you usually get with tomato puree.
- Tomato soup -this is a last-resort substitute for tomato puree. It’s already seasoned, so you’ll need to cut back on your recipe’s salt content. It can also add a hint of creaminess to your dishes.
- Pumpkin puree – this is another solid option if you’re not a fan of tomatoes. This is sweeter than tomato puree, so you’ll need to add a dash of vinegar or lemon juice to give it a bit of tang. Psst.. I also have a great article of pumpkin puree substitutes.
Ketchup – substitute to avoid
Ketchup has less concentrated tomato flavor and tastes far far sweeter than tomato paste.
You can try diluting it with water to tone the sweetness it down and add a splash of vinegar, but I found the amount of water I needed to add made my chili too watery.
There are much better substitute options!
Homemade Tomato Puree [+ 10 other substitutes]
- 2 lbs ripe tomatoes
- 2 tsp salt
- 8 cups water
- Place the water and salt in a pot and bring to a rolling boil.
- Rinse the tomatoes. Score a "x" at the base of the tomatoes. Once the water is boiling, add in the tomatoes.
- Cook them over high heat for 2 minutes, then turn off the heat and leave the tomatoes immersed in the water for 10-15 minutes.
- Strain the tomatoes and leave to cool down. Remove the peels then discard them. Chop the tomatoes roughly.
- Add the chopped tomatoes in a blender. Using a fine mesh sieve, strain the puree. Press down on the pulp to ensure all that's left are the seeds.