How acidic is tomato sauce? (3 ways)

In this article, we will answer the question: “How acidic is tomato sauce?” and discuss what determines how acidic is tomato sauce and how to reduce the acidity of tomato sauce. 

How acidic is tomato sauce?

The acidity of tomato sauce is about 1.5%, measured in tritatable citric acid.  According to studies, commercial samples of tomato sauce had a tritatable acidity varying between 0.9 and 2.4% citric acid (1).

Citric acid is the main contributor to the natural acidic characteristic of tomato sauce. Tomato sauce contains many organic acids, however, industrial tomato sauce is normally added with acids in order to achieve a safe margin to the minimum pH value of the product (1,2).

A minimum pH value of 4.6 is required as a safety parameter for the control of tomato sauce. The lower the pH value, the higher the acidity. For instance, the tomato sauce industry in California controls its products to a pH value of 4.2 to 4.3.

What determines how acidic is tomato sauce?

The acidity in tomato sauce is determined by the characteristics of the tomato used in the production of the sauce. In turn, the characteristics of the tomato used for processing vary depending on factors such as fruit maturation, fruit variety, and storage conditions (3,4).

Tomatoes have different concentrations of organic acids in their composition depending on the fruit cultivar, and the growing conditions. There are low-acid and high-acid tomato varieties. 

The acidity is reduced when the fruit matures, which can happen in the field before harvest or during storage. Very ripe tomatoes are less acidic.

In addition, tomato sauce is added acids during the industrial processing for the production of commercial tomato sauce. A low pH (4.6 or below) or below 4.3 in California is necessary to prevent microbial spoilage.

Why is tomato acidic?

The acids in the tomato sauce are organic acids naturally found in the tomato fruit. The main acid is citric acid, which determines the acidity of the tomato. In addition to citric acid, the main acids are malic and glutamic acid.

There are many phenolic acids in tomatoes, but they contribute less to the acidity of the sauce. Ascorbic acid (vitamin C) is an important acid in tomatoes, but most of this acid is lost during fruit processing (1,4).

How to reduce the acidity of tomato sauce?

To reduce the acidity of tomato sauce, it is possible to neutralize the acid by adding sodium bicarbonate, as it is a salt that reacts with acid and produces carbon dioxide (5).

However, this is not recommended, as it can reduce the nutritional properties of tomatoes. In addition to providing flavour, acids, such as phenolic acids and ascorbic acid, contribute to health. Adding sodium bicarbonate can cause the nutritional and flavour reduction of the sauce.

Alternatively, you can add sugar to the sauce. Flavours interact with each other and the mixture of tastes can have enhancing or suppressive effects. It is known that a sweet taste can suppress sourness (6).

Adding legumes to the sauce, such as carrots and potatoes, is a method to reduce the acidity of tomato sauce, as legumes contain carbohydrates and sugars that can have a suppressive effect on the sourness of the tomato sauce.

By eliminating the sugar from tomato juices, the sourness and saltiness are majoritarian noticed. In this way, it is recommended to add sugar to the tomato sauce as a maskin resource.

Other FAQs about Sauces which you may be interested in.

Can I use crushed tomatoes instead of tomato sauce in chili?

Is bechamel sauce the same as lasagne white sauce?

What can be substituted for tomato sauce?


In this article, we answered the question “How acidic is tomato sauce?” and discussed what determines how acidic is tomato sauce and how to reduce the acidity of tomato sauce.

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Mills GA, Urey HC. The kinetics of isotopic exchange between carbon dioxide, bicarbonate ion, carbonate ion and water1. Journal of the American Chemical Society. 1940 May;62(5):1019-26.


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