Does adding sugar to tomato sauce reduce acidity? (1 reason why)

In this article, we will answer the following question: “Does adding sugar to tomato sauce reduce acidity?” and discuss how sugar reduces the perception of sourness of tomato sauce and why tomato sauce is acidic.

Does adding sugar to tomato sauce reduce acidity?

Adding sugar to tomato sauce will reduce the perception of acidity in the tomato sauce, but it will not reduce the amount of acids present in the sauce. Sugar does not neutralize acids.

That means, the amount of acid will be the same after the addition of sugar, but it will be masked by the sugar, due to the masking effect that sugar has on acid, as it can suppress the sourness in food (1).

Sugar is added in the formulation of tomato products for many reasons. It does not only make part on a balanced flavor (2), but it can help improve the color and the consitency of the tomato sauce, ketchup and paste (3).

How sugar reduces the sourness perception in tomato sauce?

Sugar can reduce the sourness perception in tomato sauce because the interaction of these two tastes results in the suppression of one over the other (1).

Sugars and acids are naturally present in tomatoes, but the presence of high amounts of acids can mask the sweetness of this fruits. During maturation of the tomatoes, the acidity is reduced and sweetness is increased (2).

However, the acidity, amount of sugars and other compounds depends on many factors, such as fruit variety, growing factors, harvest time and storage. 

The interaction between tastes can have enhancing and suppressing effects, depending on the combination. For instance, salt can enhance the sourness in low concentrations, but suppresses this taste in higher concentrations.

Sugar has a predominant effect in foods and can reduce bitterness and sourness. 

What are the effects of adding sugar to tomato sauce?

The effects of adding sugar to tomato sauce are, in addition to the reduction of the perception of souness, the enhancement of the color and improving of the texture (3,4).

Tomato sauce and other tomato product are formulated industrially by the addition of salt, sugar, spices, such as garlic, onions, pepper and oil. All tomato products must achieve legal requirements of a minimum of tomato solids in its composition and a minimum of acidity.

In addition, they are classified upon their color and consistency. The addition of sugar to tomato sauce results in a more denser product, with a greater viscosity, which has a higher acceptance by consumers.

Sugar can also favor the color of the tomato sauce. Sugar is normally added before cooking, because it can react with the amino acids in the sauce and form both color and aroma compounds (3). 

On the other hand, a too long cooking time or the cooking at high temperatures lead to the loss of nutrients and overdarkening of the sauce (4).

What is another way to reduce the tomato sauce acidity?

Another way to reduce the tomato sauce acidity is to add milk or dairy products in the tomato sauce. Milk and dairy products have a buffering effect in food, due to the presence of milk proteins.

Milk proteins are constituted by amino acids, which are able to trap H+ ions from the solution, which characterize the acidity of foods. By adding milk to acidic solutions, the available acid is reduced (5).

Why is tomato sauce acidic?

Tomato sauce is acidic because of the presence of many organic acids in its composition. Citric acid is the prevalent acid in tomato and is the one used to quantity the acidity of the fruit (2).

Other acids that are present in the tomato are malic acid, glutamic acid and ascorbic acid (vitamin C). Tomato sauce should have a minimum acidity correspondent to a pH of 4.2 to 4.3 to ensure safety.

If this acidity is not achieved by the characteristics of the raw material, citric acid must be added during the production of tomato sauce.

Other FAQs about Sauces which you may be interested in.

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How do you make a sauce richer?


In this article, we answered the following question: “Does adding sugar to tomato sauce reduce acidity?” and discussed how sugar masks the sourness of tomato sauce and why is tomato sauce acidic.



Briand L, Salles C. Taste perception and integration. InFlavor 2016 Jan 1 (pp. 101-119). Woodhead Publishing.


Teka TA. Analysis of the effect of maturity stage on the postharvest biochemical quality characteristics of tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum Mill.) fruit. International Research Journal of Pharmaceutical and Applied Sciences. 2013 Oct 31;3(5):180-6.


Afifah N, Indrianti N, Ratnawati L, Putri DP, Yulianti LE, Rahmawati L, Putri SK, Sarifudin A. The effect of sugar cane concentration on foam-mat drying kinetics and physicochemical properties of dried-tomato pasta sauce. Emirates Journal of Food and Agriculture. 2023 May 25.


Markam S. Value addition of tomato. Journal of Medicinal Plants. 2014;2(1).