Tomato purée, tomato sauce, and tomato paste are three distinct products made out of tomatoes, each with its unique texture, flavor, and culinary uses. Here’s a detailed breakdown of their differences:
Tomato purée is the thinnest of the three, with a smooth, even texture. It is made by cooking tomatoes and then straining out the seeds and skins to create a smooth, thick liquid.
It has a relatively simple, unseasoned, mild, slightly acidic flavor similar to fresh tomatoes.
Tomato purée is thicker than tomato juice but thinner than tomato sauce and tomato paste.
Tomato purée is typically used as a base for various sauces, soups, and stews, or as an ingredient in recipes that require a concentrated tomato flavor without added seasonings.
Tomato sauce is a seasoned sauce made from tomatoes, typically including ingredients like garlic, onions, herbs, and spices. It is cooked down to achieve a thicker consistency than tomato purée. However, it’s still thinner than tomato paste.
It has a more complex flavor profile than tomato purée, with notes of sweetness, acidity, and umami.
Tomato sauce is versatile; it’s used in a wide variety of dishes, such as pasta, lasagna, pizza, and casseroles.
You can find it in various styles and flavors, from simple marinara to more complex and spiced variations.
You can make tomato sauce from scratch using tomato purée as a base or buy it pre-made from a store.
Tomato paste is the most concentrated of the three. It is made by cooking tomatoes for an extended period, removing the seeds and skins, and reducing the liquid to create a thick, concentrated paste. The prolonged cooking process produces a deep red color and an intense, sweet, savory, tangy tomato flavor.
Tomato paste is commonly used in small amounts to add richness and depth of flavor to various dishes, such as sauces, soups, stews, and braises. Because of its strong taste, it is generally used sparingly and combined with other ingredients to balance the flavors.
Tomato paste can be bought in cans or tubes, and it is a useful pantry staple for enhancing the taste of many recipes.
Tomato Purée, Tomato Sauce, and Tomato Paste: Comparison Chart
|Characteristic||Tomato Puree||Tomato Sauce||Tomato Paste|
|Consistency||Thin, smooth||Thicker, smoother||Thick, paste-like|
|Flavor||Mild, slightly acidic||Complex, sweet, acidic, umami||Rich, sweet, savory|
|Uses||Topping for pasta, pizza, and other dishes; add flavor and thickness to sauces||Add flavor and thickness to sauces, soups, and stews; make ketchup, chili, other dishes||Add flavor and thickness to sauces, soups, and stews; make ketchup, chili, and other dishes|
|Preparation||Tomatoes are cooked until soft, then puréed||Tomatoes are cooked until soft, then puréed and seasoned with herbs and spices||Tomatoes are cooked until very soft, then puréed and cooked down until most of the water evaporates|
The main differences between tomato purée, tomato sauce, and tomato paste are their consistency, flavor, and culinary applications. Tomato purée is a relatively unseasoned and smooth product, while tomato sauce is a seasoned and thicker variation. Tomato paste is the most concentrated, with a rich and intense flavor. Each of these products has unique uses in the kitchen, and understanding their properties can help you create delicious and well-balanced dishes.