What Can I use instead of tomato sauce on pizza (5 Substitutes)

In the article, we will be discussing what can be used instead of tomato sauce on pizza. We will walk you through the top replacements. We will also explore which is the best substitute when it comes to tomato sauce on pizza.

What can I use instead of tomato sauce on pizza? 

You can use many other sauces instead of tomato sauce on pizza. To be honest, this depends on your personal preferences as well. The most common one would be ketchup. While the two may sound similar, they are different in the sense that tomato sauce does not contain vinegar and is more a paste. 

Ketchup, on the other hand, contains superior spices and does include vinegar. Similarly, you can use any other tomato based sauce, this will keep your recipe as close as possible to the traditional one that utilizes tomato sauce as base.

Ketchup is a vegetable sauce produced from tomato concentrate normally named paste5. Tomato paste is the product resulting from the concentration of tomato pulp, after the removal of skins and seeds. It contains 24% or more natural tomato soluble solids. When producing ketchup, this paste is added sugar, vinegar, salt, and different spices. From a physical point of view, ketchup is a two-phase system in which solid particles of tomato concentrate and added spices are dispersed in a colloidal continuous phase. The continuous phase consists of sugars, salts, organic acids, a fraction of soluble pectins, and other compounds of extract dissolved in water (2).

Studies found that “middle school” children who ate >2 meals or snacks per day with the TV on obtained 3% more of their total daily energy from pizza, salty snacks, and sodas than children who ate meals with the TV on ≤2 meals per day (1).

Nevertheless, we will be discussing the best possible substitutes for tomato sauce on pizza. Our top picks for the same are:

  • Pesto 
  • Barbecue Sauce 
  • Caramelized Onions 
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil 
  • Tapenade 

Why is tomato sauce on pizza important?

Made from plain tomatoes or pureed tomatoes and tomato paste, pizza sauce has a very thick consistency. This is needed to keep the dough from becoming soggy when the pizza cooks. In addition, the tomato sauce should be evenly distributed on the surface of the dough before baking to prevent inflating the skin of the dough, which would have the undesired appearance of pita bread (4). Therefore, it is an important element while making pizzas. When we don’t have tomato sauce we go for the alternatives to ensure our pizzas remain intact and edible. 

The Alternatives for tomato sauce on pizza

There are several alternatives and this entirely depends on your thirst for adventure when it comes to cooking. Without a doubt, any sauce that you use other than pizza sauce will not get you the same flavor, but you can be as close to it as possible. 

Or maybe you just want to stir up the flavors and get creative. Below is a brief description of each sauce so you know what alternatives to use and what kind of flavor to expect if using a certain sauce.

Tomato based sauces

The US Department of Agriculture defines tomato sauce as the concentrated product prepared from the liquid extracted from mature, sound, whole tomatoes; the sound residue from preparing such tomatoes for canning; the residue from partial extraction of juice; reconstituted or remanufactured tomato paste; or any combination of these ingredients to which is added salt and spices.  One or more nutritive sweetening ingredients, vinegar or vinegars, onion, garlic, or other vegetable flavoring ingredients may be added.  The food is preserved by heat sterilization (canning), refrigeration, or freezing (3). 

Like mentioned earlier, it is probably best if you resort to adding other tomato based sauces in your pizza. The tomato sauce for pizza, or simply pizza sauce is made using canned tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, onion, with some herbs like basil and oregano. 

You can choose some of the already available pasta sauces available in your nearest grocery store. For starters, you can opt for Authentica Sicilina that is slightly sweeter than the traditional pasta sauce. 

For pizza flavors that require bolder sauces like creamy mozzarella, you can use sauces like Arrabiata and Puttanesca. 


Pesto is a very complex sauce, and the other traditional ingredients besides the Protected Designation of Origin basil (Ocimum basilicum L.), are cheese, extra-virgin olive oil, pine nuts and/or walnuts and garlic. They significantly affect its taste and flavor although only their balanced contribution guarantees its quality. In order to obtain a traditional high quality pesto, Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padano or Pecorino should be used, and Italian pine nuts should be preferred to walnuts because of their sweet and balsamic taste and their much pleasant effect on the texture of the finished product (5).

Pesto is one of the best and safest options that one can use in their pizza sauces. If you are using pesto as a replacement for tomato sauce, it is recommended to use feta cheese, tomatoes, bell pepper, and olives as toppings. You can also experiment with different kinds of pestos and toppings, and see which one works best for your recipe. 

Barbecue Sauce 

A great replacement for the tomato sauce on your pizza is barbecue sauce. The sweet and tangy flavor makes it all the more delicious. The rich smoky texture with the bite of hot spice is what every food lover aspires for. If you do not have a bottle of barbecue sauce handy, you can create this sauce from scratch. Add some garlic, red pepper flake, brown sugar, onion, honey, and tomato paste together. Then cook it in olive oil. The end result would be homemade barbecue pizza sauce. 

Today, there are four major types of barbecue sauce: Kansas City, North Carolina, Memphis, and Texas-style. They differ in terms of thickness and taste that goes best with the type and/or cut of meat. These barbecue sauces are sweet and contain a significant amount of sugars in the form of high fructose corn syrup, sugar, honey, molasses, etc. Some brand name barbecue sauces contain up to 50% sugar in their formulations (6).

Caramelized Onions 

Caramelized onions make for an amazing pizza base. When the onion is caramelized, it comes sweet and savory, and is a mouth-watering substitute for tomato sauce on pizza. Pairing this with mushrooms, spinach, and feta cheese adds more flavors and makes the pizza tastier and delightful.

Heating processes applied to vegetables give rise to a complex evolution of the product that invariably produces additional volatile compounds through the autoxidation of some components, the thermal decomposition of others, and the initiation of Maillard-type compounds between amino acids and reducing sugars (7). Caramelization is desirable to obtain caramel-like flavor and/or development of brown color in certain types of foods. Caramel flavoring and coloring, produced from sugar with different catalysts, is one of the most widely used additives in the food industry. However, caramelization is not always a desirable reaction due to the possible formation of mutagenic compounds (8).


Originally from France, Tapenade consists of finely-chopped olives, anchovies, and capers. It pairs quite well with fresh flavored toppings (9). As a replacement, it’s savory and richer. However, it does make for a good pizza sauce if the toppings are finely chopped basil and thin-sliced zucchini. A little out there, but definitely a spread that needs to be explored with pizza. 

Other FAQs about Tomato Sauce that you may be interested in.

Can dogs eat tomato sauce?

Can I use tomato puree instead of tomato sauce?


In this brief article, we discussed the alternatives one can use instead of tomato sauce on pizza. Depending on the kind of pizza you would like to create, there are five different substitutes to choose from. 


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  3. Hatamiya, L. United States Standards for Grades of Tomato Sauce. US Department of Agriculture. 1994.
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  6. Aramouni, F. A. D. I., Thomas Herald, and M. Abu Ghoush. Development of a non-commercial sugar-free barbecue sauce. Emir J Food Agri, 2013, 509-515
  7. Villière, Angélique, et al. Evaluation of aroma profile differences between sué, sautéed, and pan-fried onions using an innovative olfactometric approach. Flavour, 2015, 4, 1-19.
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  9. Brenes, Manuel, and Stanley George Kailis. Naturally processed table olives, their preservation and uses. Olives and Olive Oil in Health and Disease Prevention. Academic Press, 2021. 15-25.