A recipe for meat loaf from an Australian book (apparently terminology differs from country to country) calls for 1 cup (250 mL/8 fl oz) of tomato purée, and 2 tablespoons of tomato sauce.

Wikipedia's article on tomato purée claims that the main difference between purée and paste is the thickness, whereas tomato sauce has a different taste.

Can I substitute tomato paste for the tomato purée? If not, is it because the taste, or the amount of water, differs?

If so, how much "triple concentrated" tomato paste should be substituted for a cup of tomato purée?

Edit: the tomato paste ingredients are: concentrated tomato (98%), salt. Link to the product page.

  • 2
    Read the ingredients label on the can. The international disagreement over what to call the contents make this question unanswerable. Nov 25, 2012 at 5:28
  • @CareyGregory were you engaging in hyperbole, or totally serious about listing the ingredients?
    – Golden Cuy
    Nov 25, 2012 at 6:32
  • Totally serious. If the list of ingredients is more than tomatoes (and maybe a preservative) then it's a sauce. You already have one answer referring to marinara, and you refer to ketchup. Those are both way beyond being tomato paste or puree. Nov 25, 2012 at 6:43

4 Answers 4


I'll weigh in on this one, having extensive cooking experience on both sides of the pond. The terminology is indeed confusing when it comes to tomato products. By tomato sauce they don't mean canned tomato sauce like you get in the states, they actually mean ketchup! As for puree there's two types, one is just what it means, pureed tomatoes in a can, and the other is super-concentrated like what in the US is called tomato paste and comes in a tube.

Given it's this recipe is asking for 250ml of puree they must mean the canned stuff, as adding that much concentrate would be hideous. To replicate UK/AU style tomato puree I'd use a can of tomato sauce with a half mini-can of tomato paste to thicken it up a bit. That still sounds like a bit too much liquid for my taste.

Alternatively you can use my mom's technique and add a can of concentrated tomato soup to the mix, it makes a great meat-loaf!


I think of tomato sauce as the plain stuff in the cans, and marinara as the seasoned red sauce served on many Italian pasta dishes. But many people use the terms interchangeably it seems, and even many authentic Italian restaurants list tomato sauce on their menus where it's actually the delicious seasoned stuff.

I'm guessing that the Wikipedia article referring to sauce as having a different taste than puree and paste uses tomato sauce in the seasoned sense, like marinara, not the plain-stuff-in-cans sense. If that makes sense...

As to the tomato paste vs. puree, the paste will be thicker and more concentrated in flavor and texture/composition. If you're looking for the closest consistency and flavor to puree to duplicate a recipe, you might start with about 2/1 ratio of puree/paste and tweak from there. If it were me just cooking on the fly like usual, I'd use the paste straight across (but seasoned with fresh herbs) for the more intense flavor, and back it down as and if necessary.

  • FWIW, I meant "tomato sauce" as in the UK/Australian English sense, which is something like what US English calls ketchup. I didn't realize it had a different meaning in US English.
    – Golden Cuy
    Nov 25, 2012 at 5:15
  • @AndrewGrimm : I've added tomato products to the list for disambuguation : cooking.stackexchange.com/q/784/67 . feel free to edit it to add or clarify.
    – Joe
    Nov 25, 2012 at 6:37
  • In Italy tomato sauce (salsa di pomodoro) refers to the seasoned red sauce and not to canned tomatoes. The term marinara is not used in Italy to indicate tomato sauce.
    – nico
    Nov 25, 2012 at 12:10
  • 1
    @Marg, can you use more straightforward terms? I have no idea what you mean by "use the paste straight across" or "back it down". Thanks! :-) Nov 25, 2012 at 14:33
  • @KristinaLopez: Can't you see me talking with my hands to illustrate the terminology? :^D Seriously,sorry, I'll try to be more clear in the future. Regarding using the tomato paste straight across, I meant substitute an equal amount (in place of the tomato puree) instead of the 2/1 ratio I'd just described for trying to duplicate a specific recipe. By backing it down, I mean if the 1/1 substitution (one cup paste for each one cup of puree) is too strong-tasting and/or too thick, gradually back the ratio down closer to 2/1 (two cups puree/one cup paste) Nov 26, 2012 at 7:46

(Answering as a Canadian here and assuming the terms 'purée' and 'paste' have been clarified in other answers with paste being purely tomatoes and a very thick 'paste'-like consistency...)

1 cup tomato purée = 2 tbsp tomato paste + enough water to make 1 cup total (technically an additional 14 tbsp of water)


Yes. Just dilute the paste a little.

  • Dilute it how much? Since both products are usually used to thicken, a more precise answer would be more helpful.
    – Erica
    Dec 27, 2015 at 15:29

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