I'm studying for an apprenticeship test and I know one of the questions is about why you add tomato paste to brown stock. I have been taught that it's for depth of flavour and colour. However, the choices on the test are separated into a) flavour, b) colour, C) acidity d) to speed up cooking process (?!) I'm curious if anyone knows the actual ONE reason we add tomato paste to the bones?

  • Is there an underlying question of "what happens when it is omitted and why?" and/or "how to choose a satisfying substitute?" ? Commented Mar 22, 2018 at 21:43

3 Answers 3


It's odd that they force you to choose one, as many things in cooking have multiple reasons, e.g. browning meat adds flavour and colour to a stew. Are you sure the question isn't one of those 'tick all that apply' ones?

In this case, the tomato paste adds flavour, colour, and the acid helps break down the connective tissue in the bones, which helps the stock to jellify.

  • 5
    Definitely all of those things apply. If I had to choose one, I'd probably say flavour, because brown stock already has colour and the pH change is pretty negligible for the typical 1 T of tomato paste.
    – Aaronut
    Commented Mar 27, 2011 at 19:15

As another poster said, several of these apply. However, the most noticeable difference will most assuredly be the flavor. Tomato paste is absolutely packed with glutamates, and the umami from even one tablespoon will enhance the flavor of the whole stock.

  • I think the question is odd and we may therefore be delving into the semantics of the question rather than real substance, but I would say that perhaps "acidity" is the best answer - wouldn't this help accelerate flavor extraction from the bones by drawing out the calcium?
    – Jonathan
    Commented Jan 13, 2012 at 20:44

The reason is for color, as it helps make a brown stock browner.

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