Tomato sauce and tomato soup are both made from tomatoes, so it may seem like they can be used interchangeably in recipes. However, there are some important differences between the two that you need to consider before substituting one for the other.
Tomato Sauce vs Tomato Soup
The main differences between tomato sauce and tomato soup are:
- Texture – Tomato sauce is much thicker and chunkier than smooth, liquidy tomato soup.
- Seasonings – Tomato sauce is highly seasoned with herbs, garlic, onion, etc. Tomato soup is more mildly flavored.
- Uses – Tomato sauce is usually used as a condiment or cooking ingredient. Tomato soup is served as a soup or stew.
- Ingredients – Tomato sauce is made from cooked tomatoes, while tomato soup often contains cream, chicken or vegetable broth.
When Tomato Sauce Works as a Substitute
In some cases, tomato sauce can stand in for tomato soup without significantly altering the dish. Here are some examples of when substituting tomato sauce for soup is fine:
- As a base for chilis or stews – The chunky texture and bold seasoning of tomato sauce works well here.
- As a sauce for meats – Tomato sauce can provide nice flavor and moisture to chicken, beef, etc.
- In recipes where tomato soup is used for color – Subtle flavor differences won’t matter as much.
- In recipes where other strong flavors dominate – Tomato sauce won’t clash with bold seasonings.
When Tomato Sauce Doesn’t Work as a Substitute
There are also many instances where substituting tomato sauce for tomato soup significantly changes the dish. Avoid substituting tomato sauce for tomato soup in these cases:
- In delicate recipes – The chunky texture and strong flavors of tomato sauce may overwhelm more subtle ingredients.
- In recipes where tomato flavor is central – Tomato soup has a cleaner, purer tomato taste.
- In dishes with a smooth consistency – The chunks in tomato sauce will alter the texture.
- In recipes that call for cream – Tomato sauce won’t provide the same richness and body.
Tips for Substituting Tomato Sauce for Tomato Soup
If you want to swap tomato sauce for tomato soup in a recipe, keep these tips in mind:
- Use plain tomato sauce, not flavored varieties like marinara or pizza sauce.
- Look for tomato sauce with a smoother, more liquidy consistency.
- Thin the tomato sauce with water, broth or cream to achieve a soup-like texture.
- Start with half the amount of tomato sauce called for in soup, then adjust to taste.
- Season mildly with herbs, salt and pepper to better match tomato soup flavor.
- Add a dash of sugar if the tomato sauce tastes too acidic.
Homemade Substitutes for Tomato Soup
If you don’t have any canned tomato soup or tomato sauce on hand, you can make some easy homemade substitutions. Here are a few ideas:
- Tomato puree + water/broth – Blend together 1 cup tomato puree with 1 cup water or broth until smooth.
- Canned diced tomatoes – Puree 1 can (14 oz) diced tomatoes in a blender or food processor until smooth.
- Tomato pasta sauce – Thin out 1 cup pasta sauce with 1/2 to 1 cup water, broth or cream.
- Crushed tomatoes – Puree 1 can (14 oz) crushed tomatoes until smooth. Add water to reach soup consistency.
Season any of these homemade tomato soup substitutes with salt, pepper, basil, oregano or other herbs to taste.
Recipes Using Tomato Soup
Tomato soup is used in a variety of classic recipes where the unique flavor and texture it provides are hard to duplicate exactly. Here are just some of the dishes that rely on the characteristics of tomato soup:
Classic Tomato Soup Recipes
- Homemade Tomato Soup – A basic recipe that lets the bright tomato flavor shine.
- Creamy Tomato Soup – Tomato soup enriched with cream or half-and-half.
- Roasted Tomato Soup – For deeper flavor development.
- Tomato Basil Soup – Fresh basil complements the tomatoes.
- Tomato Tortellini Soup – With cheese-filled pasta for richness.
Soup and Stew Recipes
- Tomato Bisque – A refined, French-inspired tomato soup.
- Minestrone Soup – Tomato soup adds flavor and color to this veggie-packed soup.
- Beef Stew – The acidity of tomato soup cuts through the richness.
- Chicken Noodle Soup – Tomato soup gives this classic more complexity.
- Chili – Tomato soup forms the tasty base of many meat and vegetarian chilis.
- Green Bean Casserole – Cream of tomato soup makes the classic sauce.
- Tuna Noodle Casserole – Again relies on tomato soup for the sauce.
- Chicken Enchilada Casserole – Tomato soup works well in cheesy bakes.
- King Ranch Chicken – Tomato soup adds moisture and binds ingredients.
- Lasagna Roll Ups – Great way to sneak extra veggies into lasagna.
Nutrition Comparison of Tomato Sauce and Tomato Soup
When evaluating tomato sauce vs tomato soup as part of a healthy diet, it’s helpful to compare their nutrition information:
|Nutrition Facts||Tomato Sauce (1/2 cup)||Tomato Soup (1 cup)|
|Vitamin A||15% DV||15% DV|
|Vitamin C||15% DV||25% DV|
As you can see, tomato sauce and tomato soup have a similar vitamin content since they both come from tomatoes. However, tomato soup tends to be higher in calories, fat, and sodium since it often contains ingredients like cream, oil, and salt.
Cost Comparison of Tomato Sauce vs Tomato Soup
Another factor to weigh when deciding whether to substitute tomato sauce for soup is cost. Here’s how they typically compare:
|Can of tomato sauce (15 oz)||$0.79|
|Jar of tomato sauce (24 oz)||$1.99|
|Can of condensed tomato soup (10.5 oz)||$0.99|
|Organic tomato soup (15 oz)||$3.29|
Tomato sauce is generally cheaper than most tomato soups. Store brands and basic canned tomato sauce can provide big savings over condensed soups or organic tomato soup. However, creamier, gourmet tomato soups tend to cost more than tomato sauce.
While tomato sauce and tomato soup share some basic tomato flavor, there are significant differences that make them non-interchangeable in many recipes. Tomato soup has a thinner, smoother consistency and a cleaner tomato taste. Tomato sauce is chunkier with a bolded herbal flavor.
In some savory dishes, tomato sauce can stand in for tomato soup reasonably well. But in delicate recipes or dishes where tomato flavor needs to shine, sauce is not an adequate substitution. Homemade options like tomato puree thinned with water or broth are your best bet for replicating tomato soup more precisely.
Consider the specific recipe, texture, flavor, nutrition and cost when weighing whether swapping tomato sauce for tomato soup makes sense. And when tomato soup is called for specifically in a classic recipe like tomato bisque or green bean casserole, it’s hard to duplicate without the real thing!