Tomato Puree vs Paste: How Do These Two Differ?

Both of these items are the staple of many different types of cuisine as well as many different cultures, and you would be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t have these items in the pantry! However, whenever you delve deeper into the world of tomatoes, tomato based products, and sauces, you might wonder how these similar named and similar looking products can be used together and if you can substitute one for the other.

This article is going to let you know what all the differences between tomato puree and tomato paste are, whether you can substitute one for the other, and how you can use them in your cooking!

Tomato Puree and Paste Overview

Here are the differences between these two canned tomato products, so you know which one to purchase! And we will also throw in tomato and marinara sauce as well (because those are two different things) so we can cover all the tomato product basics! 

What Is Tomato Puree?

A tomato puree is a canned sauce that is made when cooked and strained tomatoes are mushed up into a sauce, and many tomato purees are made from tomato paste and water due to the thinner consistency of tomato puree. Additionally, it is very wet and watery when it comes out of the can, which lends itself to a lot of recipes that both need tomatoes and moisture.

It does taste very tangy out of the can though, so it is often mixed into recipes versus being eaten unaltered. Tomato puree is used as the base for pasta and pizza sauces as well, and it can even be used as a base for hot sauces and salsa, as it often comes with added acid and salt for flavor

What Is Tomato Paste?

Tomato Paste on the other hand is a very thick paste of tomatoes, which is much thicker than tomato puree. It has a light and sweet flavor and it falls out of the small six ounce cans or tubes as well, all because of how it is cooked! 

Tomato paste is made from tomatoes that have been cooked, strained, recooked, and then the process is repeated until the moisture is completely cooked away and the tomatoes get a thick pasty texture. Then, much like tomato puree, it is hit with some added acid and salt.

How Does Marinara and Tomato Sauce Differ From Tomato Puree and Paste?

Tomato sauce on the other hand is a canned sauce that has a mixture of cooked and strained tomatoes mushed up into a sauce. It is unseasoned and while being very thick and hearty it is much thinner than tomato paste. You can use it for a lot of pasta dishes, especially in Italian cuisine, or even for pizza sauce! 

Marinara sauce is the same as tomato sauce, but unlike the unseasoned tomato sauce that is only tomato sauce, marinara comes with added flavors like garlic, basil, oregano, and even other ingredients like peppers, cheese, and even Italian sausage! 

What’s The Difference Between Tomato Paste and Puree?


Tomato puree is a base that people add to other flavors. If you want a good tomato flavor in your meals, then the puree is often used like a tomato sauce in many recipes. So if you don’t have a sauce, you can use tomato puree. Many tomato purees are used as tomato sauces, as bases for barbecue sauces, and even as bases in chili sauces! 

Now tomato paste is used in smaller quantities to add a bit of tomato flavor and more of a body to your dish. For example, tomato paste can add some body to soups and chilis, can make homemade sauces, and can even add a bit to salad dressings as well. It really depends on what flavors you want to add to the meals, and what you want to give body to.


Tomato paste is made from tomatoes that are cooked and recooked until all the moisture is gone, leaving you with a tomato item that looks exactly like toothpaste (but thankfully tastes different). While tomato puree is very moist and has some water in it, because the tomato is lightly cooked and then liquidized.

How They Are Cooked

Because all the moisture needs to be drained out of the tomatoes before they are fully cooked into tomato paste, the cooking time takes much longer in order for the paste to reach the consistency it needs. Tomato puree is lightly cooked for a much shorter time, because the liquid can remain.

Freezing and Storage

While many cooks will use all of the tomato puree in their dishes, even a six ounce can of tomato paste can sometimes be too much. Now tomato paste can be placed in blobs on a baking sheet and then they are frozen, and whenever you need more tomato paste you simply scoop a blob out of the sheet and use it. If you still have some tomato puree, then you should store your puree inside of a ziploc bag and then free the puree inside of the bag. Then thaw the bag out when you need some more for a recipe!

Additionally, once tomato puree is fully opened, then you need to use it a few days after opening if you don’t freeze it. However, tomato puree from a tube can last for about a month in the fridge without being frozen.

The Flavor

Finally, the consistency of the tomato paste brings a very sweet flavor, although the length of the cooking time means it isn’t as acidic as tomato puree. However, just a small amount can add tomato flavor and richness. Tomato Puree on the other hand is very acidic and rich, and it has a very strong flavor.

When cooking with tomato paste and tomato puree, many recipes will be exact with their measurements because the amount you are adding is often perfect to the dish, and too much or too little sauce or puree can easily screw up the flavor by overwhelming it with tomatoes. And depending on your dish, you might want more or less tomato flavor, so stick to the recipe unless you know what you are doing.

Can You Substitute Tomato Puree For Paste and Vice Versa?

They can be substituted for one another, but you can’t just pour one in for the other and expect the recipe to turn out the exact same. It takes a bit of work for you to be able to make the effective substitution, but once you complete a few extra steps, you can interchange one for the other.

How To Subsitute Tomato Paste For Puree and Vice Versa

The main difference between tomato paste and puree is the amount of liquid that you can find in the dishes, so in order to substitute one for the other in your dishes, you need to manage the amount of liquid in each. 

Tomato Puree For Paste

In order to turn tomato puree into tomato paste, you can heat a small dollup of cooking oil in a pan on medium heat. Then add the puree and cook it until it reaches the paste like consistency that you desire. It’s the same as boiling the water off of something, so if you have done that before, then you already know the basics of turning puree into paste.

Just make sure that you place the oil in the pan, and also stir the puree as frequently as you can. Because the cooked tomatoes contain a lot of natural sugars, you don’t want the puree sticking to the pan.

Tomato Paste For Puree

If you only have tomato paste and you need to make a puree, then you can thin out the paste by adding equal parts liquid (such as water or broth) to the paste. Then just stir the mixture together until you get a thinner product. If you’ve tried whisking the two together and can’t get them to combine, you can place the mixture on low heat to help them mix together.

Final Thoughts

Tomato puree and tomato paste have their differences, but they are both staples in Italian cooking and both are able to be interchanged for the other as long as you manage the liquid content. Both can give your dish that tomato style flavor that you want, as long as you know when to use one and not the other.

Tomato paste provides a sweeter flavor as well as a thickener for stews and sauces, while tomato puree is the perfect base for tomato sauces, and can be flavored with all sorts of spices and ingredients to create a custom sauce that will elevate your dish!

But both of them are amazing ingredients and you should give them a chance in your next dishes, and now that you know the differences, you will be able to use them in your cooking even more effectively!