Making my moms homemade spaghetti sauce and her direction said add 1/2 c sugar for 2 qts Tomatoes. It tastes too sweet for me. Can I fix it easily?

  • 4
    add more tomato?
    – moscafj
    Nov 20, 2022 at 22:22
  • Yeah, either add a whole lot more tomato, or give up and make it into ketchup, because 1/2 cup of sugar is a lot.
    – Marti
    Nov 21, 2022 at 23:46

2 Answers 2


That does seem to me to be a lot of sugar for a pasta sauce recipe; most I've seen that call for sugar at all would use at most a few tablespoons per two quarts, and even then only if the tomatoes were naturally not very sweet (i.e. the sugar would only be added if necessary).

Regarding how to fix it, you have a few possible options; firstly, as moscafj suggested in the comments, you could dilute the sugar by adding more tomato, ideally having prepared it the same way you did the original batch, up until just before you added the sugar.

The other method I'd suggest would be to try balancing out the sweetness with additional salt or acid; our tongues treat the four 'basic' flavours (salt, acid, sweet, bitter) with some degree of mutual exclusion, so the stronger one is the weaker the others will appear to be. I'd suggest you be careful with this method; if you go too far with adding extra salt and/or acid (such as vinegar or lemon juice), you might end up with something that tastes closer to ketchup than pasta sauce. I'd encourage you to go by taste; separate out a cup or so of the current sauce, taste a bit, think about whether it would taste better if it was saltier or more acidic, then add a small amount of the relevant ingredient, stir, and taste again until satisfied. Once you've got a good handle on whether your particular sauce can be rescued by this method, you can take similar steps with the full batch.

  • 3
    I would further suggest trying the addition with a small isolated sample of the sauce before adulterating the whole batch, in case you try it and decide it's worse. get one that works on the small scale and only then apply it to the whole batch. Also, consider lemon juice or citric acid as a possible alternative to vinegar in the acid category.
    – Ecnerwal
    Nov 20, 2022 at 23:29
  • 1
    Agreed on testing a small batch. Salt can amplify some flavors so might make the sweetness worse. Bitter might actually help to balance out overly sweet stuff, too.
    – Joe
    Nov 20, 2022 at 23:35
  • I've incorporated your suggestions into the answer, thank you. Regarding the specifics of how the different flavours interact with each other, my understanding is that salt tends to be the most 'powerful', masking the other 'basic' flavours, particularly bitterness, where sweet and sour interact less by 'masking' one another and more by 'balancing'; bitter, finally, tends to be least effective at masking other flavours, at least while it's still at levels most consider palatable. As such, I'd be cautious about trying to use bitter ingredients to balance sweetness.
    – Blargant
    Nov 21, 2022 at 0:46
  • Honestly, turning it into ketchup or BBQ sauce might be a great option... I agree 💯% with your advice, including that 1 tablespoon seems like a more standard amount of sugar... In which case, it's 4-8x sweeter than I'd personally prefer.
    – AMtwo
    Nov 21, 2022 at 4:16

I don't know where that recipe came from (the US?), but in Italy a little bit of sugar is added only when the tomatoes are too ripe and a little bit acidic.

To fix it adding salt would not help it because salted is not the opposite of sweet. If you cannot dilute the sugar adding more tomatoes you could try and change the plate into a sweet and sour recipe adding a little bit of vinegar, many people would be horrified at the thought of the ketchup spaghetti, but that is better than the sweet tomato sauce.

Another solution could be to add a lot more basil than usual. Or, if you are still cooking the sauce you could put some spearmint, cooked spearmint sometimes give a slightly bitter aftertaste, that would balance the sweet.

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