Can I substitute tomato soup for tomato sauce?


Tomato sauce and tomato soup are both made from tomatoes, so it’s understandable why someone might think they can be used interchangeably in recipes. However, there are some important differences between the two that make them not exactly equal substitutes. In this article, we’ll take a close look at tomato sauce versus tomato soup and whether you can use one instead of the other.

What is Tomato Sauce?

Tomato sauce is made by cooking tomatoes down into a thick, rich liquid. The tomatoes are peeled, seeded, chopped, and then simmered for a long period of time to evaporate water and concentrate the tomato flavor. Spices and herbs like onion, garlic, basil, oregano, and others are usually added for more depth of flavor. The result is a luxuriously thick, savory sauce with a deep red color.

Tomato sauce can range from smooth to chunky in texture depending on personal preference. It can be used immediately or canned for preservation. Common types of tomato sauce include marinara sauce, pizza sauce, and pasta sauce. Tomato sauce brings big, bold tomato taste to dishes.

What is Tomato Soup?

Like tomato sauce, tomato soup starts with tomatoes as the base. But tomato soup is thinned out with broth, milk, or cream. Onions, carrots, celery, and spices lend additional flavor. The tomatoes are usually peeled and pureed or processed to make a smooth, homogeneous soup.

Some tomato soups are thin and brothy while others are thick and creamy. Condensed canned tomato soup has had most of the water content removed. This makes it extra thick and concentrated. Tomato soup is often paired with grilled cheese sandwiches and saltine crackers. It provides comforting tomato flavor in a liquid form easy to eat with a spoon.

Key Differences Between Tomato Sauce and Tomato Soup

Tomato Sauce Tomato Soup
Thick consistency Thin liquid consistency
Used as a condiment or cooking ingredient Eaten on its own as a food
Intense tomato flavor Milder tomato taste
Added herbs and spices Usually no herbs and spices
Cooked down to concentrate Thinned with broth or cream
Chunky or smooth Pureed smooth

As this comparison shows, tomato sauce is much thicker with a more pronounced tomato flavor. Tomato soup has a thinner consistency and milder taste. Tomato sauce is used to add flavor to dishes, while tomato soup is eaten as a food itself. The different textures and intensity of tomato taste make them suited for different culinary uses.

Can You Substitute Tomato Soup for Tomato Sauce?

Substituting tomato soup for tomato sauce can be done in a pinch, but it is not ideal and will change the flavor profile of the dish. Here are some things to consider if you need to use tomato soup instead of tomato sauce:

– Consistency – Tomato soup is much thinner than tomato sauce. It will make dishes like chicken parmesan or baked ziti more watery. You may need to simmer it to reduce the liquid.

– Flavor – Tomato soup is milder in flavor and lacks the herbs, spices, garlic, and onion that give tomato sauce complexity. It may make dishes taste flatter.

– Saltiness – Canned tomato soup tends to be quite salty while tomato sauce is less so. Be sure to adjust seasonings to account for the extra salt.

– Use of Cream – Condensed or creamy tomato soups contain dairy that tomato sauce does not have. It can make dishes like pizza taste odd.

– Sugar Content – Many canned tomato soups have added sugar while tomato sauce gets sweetness from the tomatoes alone. It may make dishes taste sweeter than intended.

If you must use tomato soup instead of tomato sauce, look for a low sodium variety without too much added sugar. You may need to simmer it down to thicken, and adjust seasonings carefully. For best flavor, add your own Italian herbs and spices. But for optimal quality, tomato sauce is still a better substitute.

Can You Substitute Tomato Sauce for Tomato Soup?

While tomato sauce makes a poor replacement for tomato soup, the reverse substitution – using tomato sauce instead of tomato soup – can actually work nicely. Here’s how:

– Dilute the tomato sauce with broth, milk, or water to achieve a soupier consistency. The ratio can vary depending on how thin you want it.

– Season the diluted tomato sauce with salt, pepper, basil, oregano, thyme, or other herbs of your choosing. This adds back the flavor that plain tomato soup may be missing.

– If desired, finish with a swirl of heavy cream or half and half to make it creamy like condensed tomato soup.

– The chunky texture of tomato sauce gives it more body than pureed tomato soup. But you can puree it in the blender for a perfectly smooth soup.

Diluted tomato sauce makes an easy, homemade tomato soup with great texture and flavor. The natural thickness gives it more substance than plain tomato juice. Just be sure to adjust the seasonings to your taste. This substitution works well for dunking grilled cheeses or wherever else you would enjoy tomato soup!

Tips for Using Tomato Sauce and Tomato Soup

Now that you know the difference between tomato sauce and tomato soup, as well as how they can and cannot be substituted, here are some useful tips for using them:

For Tomato Sauce:

– For the best homemade flavor, make your own tomato sauce from fresh or canned tomatoes.

– Look for tomato sauce without added sugars or artificial ingredients.

– Simmer it down further if a thicker consistency is needed.

– Freeze extra homemade sauce in batches for future use.

– Boost flavor with saut??ed onions, garlic, herbs, red wine, etc.

For Tomato Soup:

– When substituting for tomato sauce, reduce the liquid to concentrate the tomato taste.

– Season with Italian herbs and spices to add complexity.

– Look for lower sodium tomato soups.

– Balance salty canned soup with a splash of cream or milk.

– Puree chunky tomato sauce in the blender for smooth soup texture.

– For richness, top tomato soup with croutons or grated Parmesan.

Recipes with Tomato Sauce and Tomato Soup

To highlight the different uses of tomato sauce versus tomato soup, here are some recipe ideas featuring each:

Tomato Sauce Recipes

– Pasta with Meatballs – Flavorful tomato sauce brings this classic pasta dish together.

– Chicken Parmesan – A tomato sauce base is essential for making crispy chicken parmesan.

– Lasagna – Layers of tomato sauce give lasagna its characteristic bold taste.

– Pizza – Pizza sauce provides the signature tangy flavor of pizza.

Tomato Soup Recipes

– Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese – A cozy combo of creamy tomato soup with crunchy, melted grilled cheese.

– Roasted Tomato Basil Bisque – Pureed roasted tomatoes and basil make a sophisticated soup.

– Tomato Florentine Soup – Tomato soup with spinach, cream, and Parmesan cheese.

– Tomato Dill Soup – A fresh tasting tomato soup with lemon and dill.

The best uses of tomato sauce and tomato soup take advantage of their unique qualities. Tomato sauce adds flavor and moisture while tomato soup is savory comfort in a bowl. With the tips above, you’ll know how to bring out the best in each.


While tomato sauce and tomato soup both start from tomatoes, they have distinct differences that make them not perfectly interchangeable. Tomato sauce is a thick condiment cooked down to concentrate the tomato flavor. Tomato soup is thinner with a milder taste and meant to be eaten as a food itself.

In a pinch, tomato soup can be used instead of tomato sauce by reducing the liquid and enhancing the herbs. Swapping tomato sauce for tomato soup also works with proper dilution, seasoning, and pureeing. But for the best results, it’s still ideal to use tomato sauce where tomato sauce is required, and tomato soup when the recipe calls for it specifically. Their unique textures and robust versus delicate tomato tastes make tomato sauce and tomato soup suited for different purposes. With this knowledge, you can decide whether to substitute one for the other depending on the dish.

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