The basic bean meat chilli is as follows

Brown Garlic + Onion + ground meat (any) + boiled beans + tomato sauce + spices (e.g. chilli powder etc).

Now I want to know if there another sauce that can swap out for tomato sauce if I get tired of it. I need something suitable for students or working professionals who don't have the time to "make their own special sauce". But tomato sauce just seems to be a good combination of liquid + thickening agent that I don't know what can be its equal.

Sorry if the tags aren't accurate, I wasn't sure what would be appropriate.

  • 1
    The tags aren't particularly a problem. However, your question doesn't seem to permit any definite answer; can you maybe set some criteria for a "right" answer?
    – FuzzyChef
    Jul 30, 2019 at 3:09
  • Well a wrong answer would be to use stock or broth because it would just turn into a soup and the beans wouldn't turn it into a "stew". I like gooy foods
    – IAmNoOne
    Jul 30, 2019 at 4:18
  • The 'tomato sauce' in most versions of chilli is 'a can of tomatoes', so I'm not sure what your recipe is suggesting. Chilli doesn't ever need any thickener.
    – unlisted
    Jul 30, 2019 at 6:19

3 Answers 3


I found I'd run out of chopped tomatoes when half way through making 3 bean & sweet potato chilli. I did add a little tomato puree, but only had a little of that, so had to find a substitute sauce.

The bulk of the liquid I used was beer, quite a bitter, tasty beer. I used more cocoa powder than normal (I always use some), and a bit of extra garlic. I thickened it a little towards the end, with just a bit of cornflour, and took some of the sweet potato out, mashed it and returned it for further thickening. I often use a little beer in chilli sauce, but not normally as the bulk, so long as I did some thickening.

A blended, slow-cooked, onion-based sauce, as is used as the base of some curries, should work nicely. This is something I make, and haven't seen it sold, but it freezes well.


Typically chilli doesn't have any thickeners and uses diced tomatoes for volume, flavor and acidity. You add them and let it cook until the liquid evaporates and it is to the desired thickness

Tomato sauce is already the "quick cheat" for the diced tomatoes, especially if you use ready-to-use tomato sauce or leftover marinara sauce.

Possible substitutions that will still taste of tomato - so you'll still have the typical chilli taste:

  • Canned tomatoes (diced or whole, which you'll need to dice) - this is my go-to substitution when I don't have fresh tomatoes on hand
  • Tomato puree / passata di pomodoro
  • Tomato paste or concentrate + broth for bulk

Possible substitutions that will NOT taste of tomato, meaning that your chilli will also NOT taste like typical chilli:

  • Beer + broth
  • Dry cooking wine + broth
  • Apple cider + broth

Essentially any slightly acidic liquid cut with broth will do, but bear in mind that it will significantly alter the taste of the original recipe. Your chilli will taste more like boeuf bourguignon or something like that.

  • Don't those liquid combinations have too much water?
    – IAmNoOne
    Jul 30, 2019 at 12:31
  • Chilli cooking time is meant to be long on a low simmer so the flavors can mix and develop during that time, it is your typical "dump and forget" dish. Jul 31, 2019 at 9:25

If you specifically want to get rid of tomatoes, then you could use a sauce made from grilled paprika instead (just blend them). I used it and the results were really good. You just have to accept, that it's not really a classic chilli anymore.

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