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I have a friend that has developed an allergy or sensitivity of some kind to tomato sauce in foods. She has been craving pizza, pasta, and lasagna for a while now and I've been searching for a way to make those sorts of dishes without using tomatoes, but while maintaining a similar flavor i.e. not a white sauce flavor.

Any ideas suggestions?

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11 Answers 11

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You could use Red Pepper Coulis:

Roast red peppers on grill, gas flame or cut off the sides and place skin side up under broiler until skins are blackened. Cool and remove charred skin.

Sweat onions and garlic in a little olive oil with salt and pepper until softened. Add the charred roasted red peppers and some chicken stock. Simmer until vegetables are very soft and puree with an immersion blender, food processor or regular blender. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary. Thin with additional stock according to consistency desired/needed.

Add basil, oregano, Italian seasoning blend to season as desired.

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  • @Darin Sehnert: I figured you'd have a way. :)
    – hobodave
    Jul 29, 2010 at 19:49
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    I use grilled red peppers from a jar (store) often, saving me the trouble of roasting them myself. Great result as well (and handy when you're in a hurry). Generally with a sauteed onion, and some creme fraiche on the table as well. Jul 29, 2010 at 20:20
  • You know... I don't think I could have come up with that. Even if I had I think I might have written it off as not even being close. But now that I think about it... that's brilliant. Jul 30, 2010 at 3:08
  • @Darin Sehnert: Would the Red Pepper Coulis be appropriate for those who are overly sensitive to acidic foods? Jul 30, 2010 at 15:24
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    To all those looking for a tomato substitute, please be careful. Tomatoes are in the same family as peppers, eggplant, and potatoes. They are referred to as Night Shade vegetables and have a similar component that may exaggerate joint inflammation. Those with arthritis or other joint problems shouldn't eat any foods within this group. I am going to try the beet recipe from above as I dearly miss tomato sauce!
    – user19288
    Jul 20, 2013 at 21:30
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A big component of pizza sauce has nothing to do with tomatoes per se. Break down the components and consider alternatives.

Water: Yup, tomatoes are just wet, so you'll need some liquid.

Sugar: Tomatoes are naturally sweet, so you'll need some sugar/honey

Acid: This is huge, but easily fudged with vinegar or lemon juice

Seasonings: As much onion (powder), garlic (powder), salt, pepper, basil, oregano, parsley as you want

Depth: This is the tricky part, that rich, almost smoky quality of cooked tomatoes. It won't be easy to replace. Darin's answer probably comes closest with a similarly colored pepper cooked with direct heat. To expand on that, I think you could venture into other peppers besides just red bell, maybe some mexican low-heat varieties, a little chipotle, perhaps?

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  • I like this break down. Some people have allergies to bell peppers as well so knowing what specific components/flavors to emulate is quite helpful. Jul 29, 2010 at 21:29
  • Tomatoes also bring in an important umami factor, so you would also need to include that - nooch or MSG or parmesan for example. Aug 31, 2016 at 11:08
  • Tomatillos cook up nice and thick and green. I can see putting such a sauce on noodles. However Solanaceae family en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tomatillo Jan 24, 2019 at 3:39
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I have used red beets (canned), which I have diced very small, and cooked down with other italian ingredients ( minced garlic, onions, spices, etc.). Also add a bit of vinegar, since tomatoes do have an acidic flavor. Cooked as you would normally cook a spagetti sauce, it is almost impossible to know the difference.

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  • I like your idea ... and this reminds me -- as tomatoes and peppers are both new world foods, Italians used other vegetables for sauces, such as carrots. You could probably cook some carrots, onion and garlic down 'til it's all soft, then blend with herbs and a little extra liquid (with a shot of acid to brighten it up, as you mentioned)
    – Joe
    Sep 15, 2012 at 4:02
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My wife has a sensitivity to night Shade vegetables which includes tomatoes and most peppers. You can look it up. I make her pizza with pesto sauce and it's quite good. I am, however, still looking for other alternatives to tomatoes in sauces.

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Roasted "Kent " or "Jap" pumpkin brings out a nice nutty flavour which can be puréed as well. Good for pizza bases - obviously cooked spices mixed in will also enhance the flavour to be more bold and take away from the "sickening" flavour of pumpkin that some complain about.

I have made a pumpkin based pasta sauce for many who "hate" pumpkin - and all but one finished the entire meal and enjoyed it!

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Great question. I'm not sure there exists anything quite like a tomato, I'd like to hear others though.

Specifically addressing pizza though, and avoiding white sauce, you can make a very yummy pizza just topping the dough with olive oil, garlic, and mozzarella. You can really go anywhere from this base.

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    I hate tomatoes and any diary-based sauces and I still can enjoy pizza – I just don't use (or ask not to use) any sauce. Some people say it won't be inedible or the crust will get wet from the toppings, but it is not true. Mar 20, 2012 at 8:06
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Since cheap ketchups are generally made of apple puree, vinegar\acid, sugar, salt (plus thickeners and spices and preservatives), I'd try to create "tomato" sauce of your own from apples and capsicums. You can also add some powdered paprika for red colour. Herbs, garlic, salt, pepper, sugar, vinegar as well:)

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I think a combo of eggplant, squash and roasted red pepper, all skinned and boiled down the pureed, with the onions garlic and spices is probably the closest thing i have made to replace tomatoes.... It is a terrible thing to lose the taste of tomatoes but this ^ is a great alternative.

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  • Tomatoes and Eggplants are both members of the nightshade family. It might be iffy to use eggplant if you have an allergy to tomatoes.
    – user23165
    Feb 12, 2014 at 7:28
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Alternatives that I've enjoyed in the place of sauce are...

(1) Pea Puree (which, if prepared with cooked onion and herbs and oil can be slightly sauce like...)

or, as have already been suggested

(2) Pesto, predominantly basil ... though somewhat heavier and saltier than sauce (because of the parmesan and/or nuts)

In both cases, balsamic vinegar can provide some of the acidity that tomatoes offer.

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Buy California chili powder, usually in the Mexican isle in your local grocery store, add some of the powder to water, not to much, add a decent amount of salt and a bit of lemon and onion powder if desired and it tastes exactly like tomatoes! Note the California chili powder is not at all spicy.

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    I dunno about "exactly like tomatoes", but I suppose it has some things in common. Seems like texture would be a bigger concern - tomato sauce is a lot thicker than water, and if you make a chili powder paste as thick as it, won't it be pretty strong?
    – Cascabel
    Mar 24, 2014 at 4:29
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I have certain food allergies myself. While I'd be careful when doing any kind of experimentation, the more processed the food, in general, the less allergic I am. I imagine highly processed ketchup's might be ok. But I'm no medical expert, of course.

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