My current method for making an Indian dal include using whole peeled tomatoes, almost always canned. Would substituting Tomato Paste, the thick stuff from cans, change the taste, and if so, how? I don't mind the change in texture

2 Answers 2


Tomato paste is far more concentrated, and it's produced by actually cooking down the tomatoes a couple times. Since tomatoes contain a lot of sugar, this will actually caramelize those somewhat and produce a richer, sweeter flavor. Even canned tomatoes will taste more acidic and less sweet.

So your finished dish will likely follow suit - it'll be a bit sweeter, have a slightly richer flavor, and it will have a bit less moisture. That's not necessarily a bad thing; you may find that those different flavors interact with the spices in an interesting way. Just make sure that you don't use a 1-to-1 substitution; because tomato paste is much thicker you'll want to use less of it or its flavor will totally dominate.

  • Sweeter? The general term I hear to describe tomato paste is "bitter". I know these aren't exclusive, but I think it's worth mentioning.
    – Catija
    Commented May 6, 2016 at 15:20
  • Acidic is not something i would use to describe dal, when i make it from whole canned Commented May 6, 2016 at 18:59
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    Tomato paste is very acidic, so you don't want to use a lot of it. But yes, it works great in dal.
    – user50726
    Commented May 12, 2019 at 22:40
  • it will have a bit less moisture -- in my experience I'm always add an undetermined amount of water to dals to adjust the thickness. My written recipe and procedure wouldn't change were I to use tomato paste. While I'd certainly add more water, I wouldn't have to adjust the recipe or methodology, which is simply: add water until its the consistency I want... Commented Sep 5, 2020 at 8:57

I believe when you use even a tiny bit of tomato paste, it changes the whole taste, the daal taste disappears. I personally think daal needs only fresh tomatoes, not so many either, like I use one tomato for 4 servings.

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