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Trying to make spaghetti sauce and this is too sweet:

2 each 28 oz can crushed tomatoes (low salt)
8 oz can tomato paste
1 red onion diced
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon black pepper
4 garlic cloves
1 lb 97% fat free beef

Brown the beef and simmer everything for 3-4 hours.

It just comes out too sweet.

Salt and sausage (fat) would make it less sweet but also less healthy.

I am thinking about poblano peppers and / or cilantro.

How to make this spaghetti sauce less sweet, without adding fat or salt?

  • 2
    Unless your diet requires lack of salt, 3.75 to 6 grams of salt daily seems to be common recommendation. Cutting below that is not healthy, your nerves needs electrolytes. Also, linked article shows that cutting salt may not matter that much. For sausage, if you will use one that has no preservatives in it, why would it make sauce less healthy? Fat? Cut too much fat and all you get is fat-soluble vitamins deficiency, definitely not something I'd call healthy. So what exactly are you trying to avoid? – Mołot Nov 23 '17 at 0:00
  • @Mołot Right or wrong avoiding sodium and fat. – paparazzo Nov 23 '17 at 0:25
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    Could you please mention your dietary restrictions in the question? That would let everyone focus on giving answers that suit them, rather than discussing nutritional minutiae. – Cascabel Nov 23 '17 at 0:54
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    Remove "healthy" statement that may be simply false, and I have no objections. – Mołot Nov 23 '17 at 1:10
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    Hi Paparazzi, I know our policies on "healthy" are a bit confusing to understand at first. The division between what is OK and what isn't is: does the answerer has to interpret what is "healthy" or not? If you say, "I want the solution to not have any more salt, because I believe eating salt is unhealthy", that's OK. But asking somebody else to define which solution is healthy and which isn't will only lead to a fight between the low carb people, low sodium people, paleo people, etc. So I changed the wording of the final question to reflect your own understanding of healthy. – rumtscho Nov 23 '17 at 10:33
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The tomato paste in your recipe is a large contributor to the sweetness. You could reduce the amount you are using or substitute with tomato sauce.

The addition of an acid would also help balance the sweetness. A splash of vinegar or wine for example.

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About a teaspoon of Balsamic vinegar would not only make the sauce less sweet, but will also add depth to the flavour of it, in my opinion.

Another option, from my own recipe, is to add a splash of red vermouth after the meat is done, so it simmers with everything.

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    I am surprised that you suggest balsamic - for me, it makes food sweeter. Other vinegars will work much better for this specific case, I think. – rumtscho Nov 23 '17 at 10:35
  • @rumtscho What vinegar would you suggest? – paparazzo Nov 24 '17 at 15:09
  • @Paparazzi not really a specific one. Almost all vinegars are not sweet, there are maybe a few with a tiny amount of sweetness, and balsamic is the one exception which is very sweet. So, look at what you have in the pantry, try a few drops in a small amount of sauce, and decide if you like it or if something in the flavor profile feels "off" to you, if so, switch to the next. – rumtscho Nov 24 '17 at 16:29
  • @rumtscho I only have two in my pantry. Apple vinegar tasted too much like apple. – paparazzo Nov 25 '17 at 1:35
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I tend to use very little salt in cooking, and wouldn't add any directly to this recipe (and there would be none at all added to the tomatoes). There are a few things you could add that would contain a little salt (such as Worcester sauce, marmite, or even soy sauce - be sparing if you use any of these so they don't take over the flavour). What they have in common is umami. That link has a list of foods high in umami; one that stands out here is mushrooms.

There are other things you can do though. More onion would help, as would more herbs and black pepper. This recipe might benefit from some red wine, in place of any water you might add during simmering. A little celery or bell pepper can help a lot, even dried and powdered. Vegetable stock powder is a good source if you can get it without salt (I can). You can buy seasoning that's made mainly from powdered dried onion, garlic, celery and peppers with no added salt (though the one I have - "season-all" - might come in a little sweet for your use). Lemon juice can also help.

Personally I'd use several of the things I list, to avoid any single one dominating.

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Simple way to avoid sodium and still have salty taste is use salt substitute. Personally I've tried using potassium chloride as substitute. It is less salty and more bitter than regular salt, but this makes it work even better for de-sweetening food.

I heard a lot of good about using bitter salt as a salt substitute, too. Haven't tried it myself, but if you are taking magnesium supplements anyway, swapping them for bitter salt in your food may be a good idea.

For fat, there are fat substitutes all right. I used maltodextrin and pectin in the past, when I needed thickener. Sadly, first one is rather sweet. Pectin is not (in my opinion, at least) and change to mouthfeel may help to combat "too sweet" feeling. I find it highly personal, for one person it will feel less sweet, for another it may feel more. For most it's just thicker. Only way to know is to try, I'm afraid.


  • Nutrition is not in scope here. Where do you get remove fat totally from that question? There is fat in that recipe. – paparazzo Nov 23 '17 at 9:39
  • @Paparazzi "healthy" in cooking means nutrition. Remove it from your question if it is out of scope. If it's in the question, it can't be out of scope. For totally - right, I'll change wording. – Mołot Nov 23 '17 at 9:44
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    Molot, it is out of scope. We allow it in the backstory of the question, so that people get a clear picture of where it is going, and shouldn't be afraid of mentioning taboo words or similar. But a question asking "what is healthy" is not allowed (as opposed one which says, "I think X is healthy, so how do I cook X") and also discussion in the answers or comments is not allowed. If somebody mentions their opinions in health in a question, please take it as a matter of personal belief, and accept it as a given, without challenging it. – rumtscho Nov 23 '17 at 13:34
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Solution 1:

If you need to really remove sugar instead of masking it as with the suggestions proposing acidic additives like vinegar or lemon juice, you could add yeast to the sauce and simmer it for several hours on the lowest setting you have. The yeast will eat the sugar and as long as you properly vent it (no cover on the saucepan) you won’t get any alcohol buildup. When enough sugar is gone, bring the sauce to a quick boil and kill the yeast culture.

Solution 2:

Use more real tomatoes instead of tomato paste and simmer the sauce for several hours to reduce the water content of the tomatoes which will thicken the sauce. Of course you will still have all of the sugar from the tomatoes.

Solution 3:

I assume you are using the paste to thicken the sauce. Why not just use a neutral starch like tapioca instead of the tomato paste?

  • Your yeast would not survive being simmered, so it would not be able to convert the sugar to alcohol, CO2 or anything else. – Debbie M. Dec 14 '17 at 23:14

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