Tomato Puree Vs Sauce: Analyzing The Key Differences

Tomatoes are a kitchen staple used in countless dishes across cuisines. From sandwiches to pastas, stews to sauces, tomatoes impart a burst of flavor and color.

With so many tomato products on the market, it’s easy to get confused about the differences between tomato puree and tomato sauce. Though they may seem interchangeable, tomato puree and sauce are distinct products with unique characteristics suited for different uses. This article will analyze the key differences between tomato puree vs sauce so you can determine which is best for your recipes.

Defining Tomato Puree And Sauce

To understand the differences between tomato puree and sauce, let’s first define each product.

What Is Tomato Puree?

Tomato Puree Vs Sauce

Tomato puree consists of tomatoes that have been briefly cooked, strained to remove seeds and skins, and ground or processed into a thick, smooth paste. The tomatoes are crushed or pressed to achieve a uniform consistency without chunks or irregularities.

Puree has a thicker, more paste-like texture compared to sauce. It contains little to no liquids or juices. The deeper red color comes from the high tomato content. With its smooth, thick consistency, tomato puree lends body, texture, and rich tomato flavor to dishes without excess liquid.

What Is Tomato Sauce?

Tomato Puree Vs Sauce

Tomato sauce starts with tomato puree as a base. Additional ingredients like onions, garlic, herbs, and spices are sautéed in olive oil then combined with the puree. Tomato sauce has a looser consistency than puree, with a more liquid-like texture.

Chunks of tomato and vegetables lend sauce a chunkier, heartier mouthfeel. The added ingredients provide more complex flavors. Tomato sauce delivers the classic saucy, pourable consistency that works well tossed with pasta or used in recipes like pizza, lasagna, or chicken parmesan.

Key Differences Between Tomato Puree And Sauce

Now that we understand what each product is, let’s analyze the core differences between tomato puree vs sauce:

1. Texture And Consistency

The most noticeable difference is texture and consistency. Puree has a thick, smooth, uniform paste-like consistency. Sauce has a looser, more liquid-like texture. Sauce will pour easily from a jar while puree is too thick. This makes them suitable for different uses.

2. Ingredient Composition

Tomato puree consists of tomatoes alone that have been processed into a paste. Tomato sauce starts with puree then incorporates additional ingredients like onions, garlic, herbs, spices, and oils.

3. Flavor Profile

Pure tomato taste shines through in puree with its single tomato ingredient. Sauce has more complex flavors from the other ingredients added. Herbs, spices, onions, and garlic give sauce a more robust, multifaceted taste.

4. Color And Appearance

The deep red color of puree comes from the high tomato content. Sauce appeares slightly duller with orange hints from the added oils and vegetables. Puree will also have a smoother look while sauce has visable chunks.

5. Nutritional Profile

With its solitary tomato ingredient, puree has higher levels of lycopene, vitamin C, and carotenoids. Sauce nutrition varies based on what’s added, but puree packs more tomato nutrients.

6. Uses And Applications

The thicker paste-like puree works better for thickening or adding body to dishes. The looser sauce pours easily over pastas or as a condiment. Their textures make them suited for different culinary uses.

7. Storage And Shelf Life

Properly stored, both products can last 12-18 months in the pantry. Puree may last slightly longer thanks to its lower liquid content and higher acidity. Always check best by dates and store jars properly sealed.

By understanding these core differences between tomato puree and sauce, it becomes easier to discern when one variety is preferable over the other depending on your recipe needs.

How Is Tomato Puree Used?

With its thick, smooth consistency, tomato puree works well:

  • As a thickening agent – Puree can thicken and add body to soups, stews, chili, casseroles, and braises without excess liquid. A bit of puree transforms the texture beautifully.
  • For smooth texture – Swap sauce for puree in recipes where you want a silky texture without chunks. Purees lend a velvety mouthfeel.
  • To amplify tomato flavor – The concentrated tomato taste of puree heightens the tomato essence in dishes. Add puree to really make the tomato flavor pop.
  • In baked goods – A bit of puree adds moisture, texture, and flavor to items like cakes, muffins, breads, and scones.
  • As a cooking/browning aid – Puree helps foods like meat, poultry, or vegetables brown beautifully and prevents sticking.
  • As a seasoning – Puree contains no added salt but works as a flavor booster. Shake a spoonful into soups, sautés, roasted veggies, and more.

Tomato puree works best in applications where you want to add tomato flavor, moisture, and smooth texture without thin liquid.

How Is Tomato Sauce Used?

The looser, pourable consistency of tomato sauce makes it ideal for:

  • Saucing pastas – Tomato sauce is tailor-made for coating noodles, whether tossed with hot pasta or baked into dishes like lasagna.
  • As a condiment – Sauce flows easily over meatballs, sausages, chicken, fish, and more as a flavor-packed finishing touch.
  • On pizzas – The classic pairing of cheese and tomato sauce is what makes pizza so craveable. Sauce shines here.
  • In sandwiches and wraps – From hot heroes to cold subs, tomato sauce adds zest and moisture to fillings.
  • In soup – Swirling sauce into minestrone, tortilla soup, or other varied soups adds color, tomato pop, and textures.
  • As a base – Cook raw sauce briefly with aromatics to create a fresh base for stews, braises, casseroles, and curries.
  • For canning/freezing – Make batches of sauce to preserve via water bath canning or freezing for later use.

Thanks to its thinner texture, tomato sauce excels when you want to add classic tomato flavor in a pourable form.

Tomato Puree Vs Sauce: Which Should You Choose?

Now that you understand the differences between tomato puree vs sauce, which one is right for your needs? Here are some key points to consider:

  • For thickening/smoothing, choose puree
  • For saucing pastas or proteins, reach for sauce
  • If you only want tomato flavor, puree lets it shine through
  • For a more complex taste, incorporate sauce
  • Consider the textures already in your dish and choose accordingly
  • Sauces work better for condiment/finishing roles
  • Purees excell at intensifying tomato essence

Think about the texture, flavor, and purpose you want to achieve. Let your recipe guide you. A marinara benefits from chunky garden sauce. A velvety tomato bisque shines with puree. Various dishes call for different tomato products.

Don’t be afraid to experiment! You may find swapping puree for sauce (or vice versa) improves certain recipes. Taste and texture can transform. Play with proportions to strike the right balance. With practice, you’ll learn how to wield tomato puree vs sauce for maximum benefit.

Quality Matters – Buying The Best

Whether buying tomato puree or sauce, ingredient quality is paramount. For the freshest, most nutritious choice:

  • Select products packed in BPA-free packaging – Avoid chemicals leaching into food
  • Seek non-GMO options to avoid genetically modified ingredients
  • Choose organic when possible to reduce pesticide exposure
  • Check for options with no added sugar or low sodium
  • Look for jars or cartons rather than cans to avoid BPA linings
  • Check the ingredient list – Shorter is usually better
  • Prioritize reputable, trusted brands known for quality
  • If making your own, use peak summer tomatoes for maximum flavor

With so many options lining supermarket shelves, take a moment to read labels and choose high-quality purees and sauces. Your finished dishes will taste that much better.

Achieving The Right Consistency

Troubleshooting tomato puree vs sauce consistency:

Too thin?

  • For thin sauce – simmer to reduce liquid
  • For thin puree – blend in tomato paste until desired thickness is reached

Too thick?

  • For thick sauce – stir in small amounts of broth, water, or wine
  • For thick puree – add a splash of water and blend until smooth

Don’t be afraid to tweak and adjust until you achieve the ideal texture. Tomato products vary from brand to brand and batch to batch. Gauge consistency by eye and taste as you go.

Timeless Tomato Pairings

Beyond the basics, tomato puree and sauce both pair beautifully with additional ingredients:

Puree pairs well with: onions, garlic, olive oil, red wine, carrots, celery, basil, oregano, thyme, mustard, chili powder, honey, lemon, cream, butter, chicken, beef, pork, fish, eggs, rice, beans, lentils

Sauce pairs well with: ground meat, Italian sausage, mushrooms, bell peppers, chiles, olives, capers, anchovies, chili flakes, parmesan, mozzarella, ricotta, parsley, cilantro, shrimp, scallops, white fish

Explore creative combinations that will bring your tomato dishes to the next level. Match classic pairings or get adventurous with new flavors – the possibilities are endless.


With their differences in texture, taste, and purpose, tomato puree and tomato sauce each shine in certain culinary applications. Puree excels when you want to thicken, smooth, and amplify tomato essence without excess liquid.

Easy pouring sauce is ideal for saucing pastas or proteins and lending a more complex flavor. Consider the needs of your recipe and choose whichever tomato product aligns best. With high quality ingredients and proper cooking techniques, both puree and sauce can transform everyday dishes into something extraordinary.

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