Do you put sugar in spaghetti sauce?

This article will answer the question “Do you put sugar in spaghetti sauce?” and more information on how to make spaghetti sauce.

Do you put sugar in spaghetti sauce?

Sugar is added to spaghetti sauce as a countermeasure to balance the acidity of the tomatoes. So yes, sugar is often added to spaghetti sauce. But this topic can cause debate between traditional Italian chefs and the chefs that prefer a more Americanised way of cooking. 

The problem begins with the types of spaghetti sauce. Italians prepare their sauce very differently from the standard spaghetti sauce found in the US. Americans have modified the sauce to accommodate their style of noodles and spaghetti. 

Why do Italians not put sugar in spaghetti sauce?

There are many reasons why authentic Italian cuisine dictates that spaghetti sauce cannot have sugar in it.

Firstly, in the traditional Italian recipe for spaghetti sauce, not a lot of tomatoes are used. In fact, it is mostly a meat sauce with about a few tablespoons of tomato paste. This means that there is not much acidity to combat in the first place. 

Secondly, Italian tomatoes are known to be sweeter and less acidic, so this also helps in keeping the flavor of the spaghetti sauce neutral.

And lastly, if the need arises to sweeten the flavor, then the traditional way is to add finely shredded carrots into the spaghetti sauce. This is because the carrots are naturally orange, and will camouflage into the dish while also releasing their sweetness into the sauce. 

Another method that Italians use is to caramelize more onions at the beginning stage of cooking the sauce. The onions are minced and cooked in advance, to anticipate the bitterness of the tomatoes. 

Why do Americans put sugar in spaghetti sauce?

They prefer spaghetti sauce to have a lot more tomato paste, giving it a solid red color. This also increases the acidity of the dish. Hence, there is more need to add a sweetener to it. The bitterness also depends on the type of tomatoes used, whether canned or fresh. Generally, the more fresh and ripe the tomatoes, the less acidic they will be.

When should you add sugar to spaghetti sauce?

Sugar is meant to be added after the sauce is almost completely cooked, so that the tomatoes have had enough time to cook and release all of their natural sweetness.

Before letting the sauce simmer on low heat on the stovetop to thicken up, you can add a teaspoon of sugar, and taste it to make sure the flavor is neutralized. It is recommended to start with a very small amount and keep tasting and adding until you achieve a perfectly well-rounded sauce.

You can use either white or brown sugar to achieve this, and it is also important to remember that jarred tomato sauce may require more sugar than a homemade sauce that uses fresh tomatoes.

This super easy recipe that uses jarred and readymade spaghetti sauce uses white sugar for that touch of sweetness. And for all the food lovers that want to go the extra mile and make homemade spaghetti sauce, try this recipe that uses sugar to balance out the flavors.

What else can be used to sweeten spaghetti sauce?

Even though it is perfectly acceptable to add sugar to spaghetti sauce, there are other options if you prefer not to use sugar.

  • You can add honey, which can be more sweetening than sugar, so add a little at a time all the while tasting to make sure you haven’t added too much.
  • Adding vegetables like carrots is a good idea. You can also substitute green bell peppers with sweet red bell peppers.
  • You can substitute red tomatoes with yellow or orange tomatoes, which are known to be sweeter. This will compromise on the red color of the sauce, so to counter this you can half the total number of tomatoes used into red and orange.
  • Sweet Italian sausages can also help sweeten the flavor because it has spices like anise. One lb. of sausage in 1 qt. of sauce makes a fairly meaty sauce.

Other FAQs about Sugar that you may be interested in.

How much sugar does coffee have?

How to unclump brown sugar?

How to store powdered sugar?

How to store brown sugar long-term?


This article answered the question “Do you put sugar in spaghetti sauce?” and more information on how to make spaghetti sauce.