I have an American recipe which lists a 'can of tomato sauce' as an ingredient. Does anyone know if this just means chopped tomatoes or is an actual sauce maybe onion, garlic, tomato, seasoning? Do we have an equivalent here in UK?

  • 5
    It’s worth mentioning that ‘can’ here is significant. There are many types of ‘tomato sauce’ that are sold in the US in jars, but the stuff that’s sold in cans is pretty consistent, even for the name brands: amazon.com/Hunts-Tomato-Sauce-15-Oz/dp/B00I9VC6Y0 amazon.com/Muir-Glen-Organic-Tomato-Sauce/dp/B000LKXG64
    – Joe
    Commented Apr 9, 2018 at 14:34
  • On same topic: Can someone tell me the grammature of the can of tomato sauce? In Poland it comes in anything from tiny 70 gram cans to bulk 5kg ones, with a broad range of sizes in between, so a recipe calling for "a can of..." is literally useless without that info.
    – SF.
    Commented Jan 8 at 12:27
  • @SF. recipes for home made dishes usually mean a 350-400g can. You might use some common sense too, I doubt you'd need a 5kg can for a sauce recipe that yelds 2-4 portions...
    – Luciano
    Commented Jan 8 at 14:27
  • @Luciano 5kg - sure it would be silly. But 300g and 1000g will produce two vastly different dishes and both look like a reasonable amount for "2 cans" in a 4-portion stew-like dish containing other "bulk" ingredients.
    – SF.
    Commented Jan 8 at 16:30

7 Answers 7


I pulled out some cans of tomato sauce to answer your questions. The details are listed below, but it looks like they are generally diluted tomato paste with spices. If you can get tomato paste (canned or in a tube), that should get you the consistency that you want.

The ingredients as listed on the Hunt's brand are:

Tomato puree (water, tomato paste), water, less than 2% of: salt, citric acid, spice, tomato fiber, natural flavor

Shop Rite brand (a supermarket house brand) contains:

Tomato concentrate (water, tomato paste), onion powder, garlic powder, citric acid, natural flavorings, dehydrated bell pepper

And a can of Rokeach brand (a kosher food processor) tomato sauce with mushrooms contains:

Tomato puree (tomato paste & water), mushroom, modified potato starch, peppers, cottonseed oil, sugar, onion, apple cider viengar, garlic, celery, white pepper, bay leaves and citric acid.

  • 2
    Yep, that's about it. Diluted, seasoned tomato paste. The less seasoning, the less likely it is to form any unpleasant combinations with other parts of the recipe, but almost everything labeled as a tomato sauce has some seasoning, particularly the trace amounts of citric acid and salt and/or garlic/onion powder. It's meant to be used as, well, a sauce, e.g. for pasta, so it's not just cooked tomato purée.
    – Aaronut
    Commented Jun 4, 2011 at 17:03
  • OK thanks these are all very helpful - esp the list of possible ingredients - thanks Martha! I thought there had to be some added ingredients otherwise the whole recipe I am looking at looks v bland, but the picture shows the tomato sauce being added to the recipe and it just looks like chopped tinned tomatoes, so wasn't sure. Commented Jun 4, 2011 at 19:28

I do a fair bit of cooking from American recipes, and I have always used passata or sieved tomatoes when 'tomato sauce' is called for. Never had any problems. You can get plain versions or ones flavoured with onion, garlic, basil etc.

They are available at all the major supermarkets, sometimes in the pasta aisle, but usually with the canned tomatoes and tomato puree. It comes in either a glass bottle or a small cardboard carton like orange juice.

  • I use alot of passata so could easily substitute this, just felt it needed some seasoning of some sort. Commented Jun 4, 2011 at 19:30

Canned tomato sauce in the US does not typically have 'Italian seasoning' or basil, but there is almost always some salt and/or dried spices. Even the most basic tomato sauce is going to be more than just cooked tomatoes; however, it might be a bit more runny than simply pureed tomatoes.

I can approximate the texture of canned tomato sauce by pureeing canned whole tomatoes, which are peeled and in a very runny liquid. If you are going to start with whole tomatoes, you might blanch them first and remove the skins.

Also, canned tomatoes and tomato sauce is pasteurized. Pureed fresh tomatoes would probably not be quite the same, so if your dish is not otherwise cooked, you might try cooking your puree.

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    I would argue it is less runny than pureed tomatoes. Also, it's been cooked quite a while and both the seeds and the skins have been removed first (I have a machine for that process.) Both of these change the taste as well as the consistency. Commented Jun 4, 2011 at 15:23
  • Aha! So if it has no seeds and skin it is like sugocasa? Commented Jun 4, 2011 at 15:39
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    I won't downvote this because it depends on the sauce; some very cheap brands really are runnier than tomato purée. But the very first sentence is unequivocally wrong; any product labeled "tomato sauce" is always going to be seasoned. The seasoning might not be very interesting, but if you're going to start from whole puréed tomatoes then you'd need to also need to add salt, garlic/onion powder, and possibly a small amount of sugar. If starting from tomato paste instead of purée, you also need to add vinegar.
    – Aaronut
    Commented Jun 4, 2011 at 17:10
  • 2
    For the texture--yes, it does vary pretty widely. As far as seasonings--it may be different in Canada; around here (Pennsylvania) unless it says otherwise (e.g., "with italian seasoning", "with basil and garlic", "with chili peppers", etc.), there's not much in the way of seasoning, at least for the purposes of substitution. The Hunt's (in Martha's answer) is a fairly representative standard brand.
    – Ray
    Commented Jun 4, 2011 at 22:08
  • 1
    Yes exactly - the seasoning usually does not get as fancy as basil and garlic but there is almost always some salt and/or dried spices. Even the most basic tomato sauce is going to be more than just cooked tomatoes.
    – Aaronut
    Commented Jun 5, 2011 at 15:06

American here!. I know this post is 8 years old but still wanted to add my 2 cents. As the best answer noted with ingredient labels it's tomato paste and water blah, gross....

When I come across this I use either a can of chopped tomatoes with the juices separated and reduced before being added back to the cooking tomato/flavor base, Or the same amount of an already cooked basic tomato sauce (homemade preferably).

I think either way you are going to get a better flavor. Tomato sauce out of a can is always smooth so you could blend the chopped tomatoes in a food processor. I say still reduce the liquid separately or you will have far to much water.


I was stumped by this too. I knew it wouldn't actually be tomato sauce because they would have called it Ketchup. I used Passata, which is a tomato cooking sauce, and it was perfect.


In the UK the equivalent is tomato passata.

  • It will likely work, but note that ‘tomato sauce in a can’ tends to be closer to watered down tomato paste. Also note that ‘tomato sauce in a jar’ has much more variety in thickness and flavorings, so may not be equivalent to passata.
    – Joe
    Commented Jan 8 at 14:27

I found out that tomato sauce used in an American recipe is passata (typically in a carton)

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    Could you explain how you found out, please? That said, welcome to Seasoned Advice! Don’t forget to take the tour and browse our help center to learn more about how the site works.
    – Stephie
    Commented Apr 9, 2018 at 11:18
  • I’d be interested in how you came to that conclusion as well. In both Kentucky and the US Midatlantic states, I’ve only seen the watered down tomato paste with seasonings sold as ‘tomato sauce’ in a can. In a jar, it might be more complex, but canned is the cheap stuff
    – Joe
    Commented Apr 9, 2018 at 14:25
  • Tomato sauce is cooked, while tomato passata is not; in both my personal experience and this article, passata is extremely unusual in American recipes. They may easily be interchangeable, however.
    – Erica
    Commented Apr 11, 2018 at 22:14

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