Tomato sauce is yummy regardless of how you plan to use it, but when the taste isn’t sweet enough, you can make it sweeter without adding sugar by adding ingredients such as baking soda, a sweet veggie, butter, dry red wine, or even honey. You can also cook it longer to bring out the flavors more or add some sweet fruits to the sauce. You have a lot of options when sweetening tomato sauce without sugar.
How to Sweeten Tomato Sauce Without Sugar
Tomato sauce should be a tad sweet in order to taste like many Italian-style sauces. If you prefer not to add any type of sugar to your sauce, you do have alternatives, including adding one or more of the following ingredients:
1. Baking Soda
Baking soda works because it is an alkaline and it neutralizes the acid in the tomatoes. A lot of experienced cooks claim adding just a pinch of baking soda to your tomato sauce works much better than adding sugar. Keep in mind that it only takes a small amount of baking soda – literally a pinch – to get the job done.
2. Sweet Veggies
Adding some sweet vegetables to your sauce can sweeten it naturally. You can use veggies such as shredded carrots, caramelized onions, or diced red bell pepper (in place of the green pepper).
For the best results, saute the veggies in some type of oil to bring out the sugar content before adding them to the sauce.
3. Butter or Other Fat
You can add up to a whole stick of butter or about a half-cup of whole milk to the sauce then stir well. Some people use whipped cream instead, but you should be able to sweeten your tomato sauce with any of these ingredients when more sweetness is what you want.
A lot of ingredients that are fatty and sweet could work in your tomato sauce.
4. Dry Red Wine
Dry red wine can be added to sweeten your tomato sauce, especially wines such as merlot, pinot noir, or a good cabernet. When adding it, use around half a cup to start with, then taste the sauce to see if you need more. The sweeter and drier the wine is, the better it will taste when placed in your tomato sauce.
Honey is sweet like white or brown sugar but isn’t processed, so it can be used in place of sugar if you like. Honey still isn’t good for diabetics and those trying to avoid sugar, but if you’re simply looking for a replacement for regular sugar, honey could work. Start by adding just a tablespoon and seeing if the sweetness is enough for you. If not, just add a little more.
6. Artificial Sweeteners
If you want a sweet tomato sauce but you need to avoid sugar, some artificial sweeteners will work. You can use any type of artificial sweetener, but the healthiest ones are often preferred.
Stevia is a great option. Just add one packet to start with, then stir and taste. Other options include Splenda, NutraSweet, Equal, Sugar Twin, and Sweet ‘N Low, to name a few.
7. Fruit Juice or Zest
Choose a citrus fruit – lemon, lime, orange, or grapefruit – and add either some zest or a half-cup of the juice. Lemon zest is very easy to find, but as long as you have a zester, you can do the job yourself.
Just pick a citrus fruit that you like and add it to the tomato sauce, then stir and taste before deciding if you need to add some more.
8. Diced Fruits
Just like vegetables, many fruits are also sweet enough to add some sweetness to your tomato sauce so it isn’t nearly as bitter from the tomatoes. Diced apricots or pineapple work especially well, but you can add just about any type of sweet fruit you love.
Make sure you dice them nice and fine so the tomato sauce isn’t chunky, and don’t add more than half a cup because you don’t want to change the taste of the sauce too much.
9. Balsamic Vinegar
The reason balsamic vinegar is such a good choice is because you can easily find the vinegar in various flavors. This means you can choose a flavor you like best, but start with just adding a tablespoon or two before you go any further. It is still vinegar and you don’t want to make the tomato sauce even more tart or bitter than it already is.
10. Cook the Sauce Longer
People sometimes cook their tomato sauce a little longer because it brings out the sweetness of the tomatoes and makes the sauce taste better. Cooking the sauce 20-30 minutes longer does a great job of bringing out the natural sweeness.
You have to watch and make sure the sauce doesn’t get too thick as you’re cooking it. If it does, simply add a little more water before cooking some more.
Keep in mind that you should add these ingredients in small amounts to start with, only adding more of them after you’ve tasted the tomato sauce and determined it needs to be sweeter.
There are a lot of ingredients you can add to tomato sauce to sweeten it up, including baking soda, diced fruits or veggies, balsamic vinegar, butter or other fatty products, or even the zest or juice of any of the citrus fruits. Be careful and don’t add too much of them.
I am an accredited practicing dietitian, experienced gardener and a dedicated cook. I love writing and sharing my experience so you can learn from my successes and mistakes.