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The 7 Best Substitutes for Tomato Sauce in Lasagna

A hearty, flavorful lasagna is a true comfort food staple, and tomato sauce plays a crucial role in creating that perfect balance of flavors.

However, there are times when you might not have tomato sauce on hand or perhaps you’re looking to experiment with new flavors in your lasagna.

So, what are the best substitutes for tomato sauce in lasagna? The best substitutes for tomato sauce in lasagna include marinara sauce, pesto, alfredo sauce, béchamel, salsa, barbecue sauce, or even a simple olive oil-based sauce. These alternatives can provide a unique twist to your lasagna while still maintaining a delicious and satisfying dish.

No tomato sauce?

No problem!

Let’s explore these alternative options to elevate your lasagna game and add an exciting twist to a classic dish.

Why Use Tomato Sauce in Lasagna?

Meaty Lasagna Tomato Sauce

There are several reasons why tomato sauce is commonly used in lasagna:

  • Flavor: Tomato sauce is a flavorful addition to lasagna. It adds a tangy, slightly sweet taste that complements the richness of the cheese and pasta.
  • Moisture: Tomato sauce helps keep the lasagna moist as it bakes. The moisture from the sauce prevents the pasta from drying out and becoming tough.
  • Texture: The texture of the tomato sauce adds a nice contrast to the other ingredients in lasagna. The chunks of tomatoes and herbs provide a bit of texture and freshness to the dish.
  • Nutrients: Tomatoes are a good source of vitamins A and C, as well as potassium and fiber. Adding tomato sauce to lasagna can help boost the nutritional value of the dish.
  • Tradition: Tomato sauce is a traditional ingredient in many Italian pasta dishes, including lasagna. Its use in lasagna has become a classic and beloved part of the recipe.

The 7 Best Substitutes for Tomato Sauce in Lasagna

Tomato sauce is a classic lasagna ingredient, but it’s not for everyone.

If you’re looking for an alternative to tomato sauce in your lasagna recipe, here are seven great substitutes that will still give you a delicious result:

1. Marinara Sauce

Marinara sauce, a classic Italian tomato-based sauce, is an excellent alternative for tomato sauce in lasagna.

It is composed of tomatoes, garlic, onions, and various herbs, such as basil and oregano, which create a delectable, well-balanced flavor.

While slightly thinner in consistency than traditional tomato sauce, marinara sauce still provides a robust, hearty foundation for your lasagna layers.

Opting for marinara sauce in your lasagna not only offers a familiar tomato-based taste but also adds a touch of aromatic herbs and spices, enhancing the overall flavor of your dish.

For added depth and richness, consider combining marinara sauce with a touch of cream or cheese.

2. Pesto

Pesto, a bright and herbaceous sauce originating from Italy, presents a unique and flavorful alternative to tomato sauce in lasagna.

Composed of fresh basil, garlic, pine nuts, grated Parmesan cheese, and olive oil, pesto imparts a vibrant, fresh taste to your lasagna.

When using pesto as a substitute, simply spread a layer of the sauce between the pasta sheets and cheese, just as you would with traditional tomato sauce.

This unconventional choice adds a burst of color and a fresh, zesty quality to your lasagna, transforming a classic dish into a delightful, unexpected culinary experience.

3. Alfredo Sauce

Alfredo sauce, a rich and creamy white sauce, offers a decadent alternative to tomato sauce in lasagna, perfect for those seeking a unique, indulgent twist.

Traditionally comprised of butter, heavy cream, and grated Parmesan cheese, Alfredo sauce lends a velvety, luxurious texture to your lasagna.

To use this sauce in your dish, simply layer Alfredo sauce between the pasta sheets, cheese, and other ingredients, in place of tomato sauce.

This sumptuous option creates a luscious, cheesy lasagna that will undoubtedly impress your family and guests.

By choosing Alfredo sauce as your tomato sauce substitute, you can elevate your lasagna to new culinary heights, showcasing your creativity and versatility in the kitchen.

4. Béchamel

Béchamel, a classic French sauce, is a creamy, velvety alternative to tomato sauce in lasagna.

This white sauce is traditionally made by combining butter, flour, and milk, resulting in a rich and smooth consistency.

Seasoned with a touch of nutmeg, salt, and pepper, Béchamel adds depth and indulgence to your lasagna layers.

Using Béchamel sauce in place of tomato sauce creates a luxurious, creamy lasagna that’s perfect for those who prefer a milder flavor or need to avoid acidic ingredients.

This sauce pairs wonderfully with a variety of fillings, such as spinach, mushrooms, or chicken, offering a unique twist on the classic lasagna dish.

5. Salsa

Salsa, a vibrant and zesty condiment, offers an exciting alternative to traditional tomato sauce in lasagna.

With various flavor profiles available, such as mild, medium, or spicy, salsa can easily cater to individual preferences.

When substituting salsa for tomato sauce, opt for a chunky variety to maintain a robust texture throughout the lasagna layers.

This flavorful swap introduces a lively, Mexican-inspired twist to your lasagna, pairing exceptionally well with ingredients like ground beef, black beans, and corn.

Salsa-infused lasagna is a delightful fusion of flavors that will have your taste buds dancing with every bite.

6. Barbecue sauce

Barbecue sauce, a favorite among grill enthusiasts, can serve as a delicious and unexpected substitute for tomato sauce in lasagna.

This bold and smoky sauce adds a distinct, tangy flavor profile to the dish, elevating the taste of your lasagna to new heights.

Use a high-quality barbecue sauce to ensure a well-balanced flavor that complements, rather than overpowers, the other ingredients.

Barbecue-infused lasagna pairs exceptionally well with ingredients like pulled pork, shredded chicken, or roasted vegetables, providing a creative spin on this traditional Italian dish.

7. Olive oil-based sauce

An olive oil-based sauce, such as a simple garlic and herb mixture, offers a light and flavorful alternative to tomato sauce in lasagna.

To create this sauce, gently sauté minced garlic and your choice of herbs, such as basil, oregano, or thyme, in high-quality extra-virgin olive oil.

This aromatic blend provides a delicate, non-acidic base for your lasagna, allowing the flavors of the cheese, vegetables, and proteins to shine.

Olive oil-based sauce is particularly well-suited for vegetarian lasagna, as it complements the natural flavors of ingredients like spinach, artichokes, and sun-dried tomatoes.

Experimenting with this versatile sauce results in a fresh and sophisticated take on classic lasagna.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What can you use instead of tomato sauce?

There are several alternatives to tomato sauce that can be used in recipes. Some options include tomato paste, canned tomatoes, tomato soup, salsa, or even ketchup.

What can I use instead of pasta sauce in lasagna?

If you don’t have pasta sauce on hand, you can use tomato sauce, canned tomatoes, or even a white sauce made from butter, flour, and milk. Another option is to make your own pasta sauce by blending together canned tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, and herbs.

What is a healthy alternative to tomato sauce?

For a healthier alternative to tomato sauce, you can try using roasted red peppers, pureed butternut squash, or a homemade vegetable sauce made from carrots, onions, and celery. Another option is to use a pesto sauce made from fresh basil, garlic, and olive oil.

How do you thicken lasagna sauce without tomato paste?

If you don’t have tomato paste on hand, you can thicken lasagna sauce by simmering it for a longer period of time to reduce the liquid. You can also add a slurry made from cornstarch and water, or use a roux made from flour and butter to thicken the sauce.


In conclusion, there are many great substitutes for tomato sauce in lasagna that can be used to create a delicious and satisfying meal.

Whether you prefer to use fresh tomatoes, pasta sauce, or a white sauce made from butter and flour, there are plenty of options available to suit your tastes and dietary needs.

By experimenting with different ingredients and techniques, you can create a lasagna that is both unique and delicious, and that will be sure to impress your family and friends.

So next time you’re making lasagna, don’t be afraid to try something new and see what delicious results you can create!

The 7 Best Substitutes for Tomato Sauce in Lasagna

The 7 Best Substitutes for Tomato Sauce in Lasagna

Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes
Servings 4 people


  • Marinara Sauce
  • Pesto
  • Alfredo Sauce
  • Béchamel
  • Salsa
  • Barbecue sauce
  • Olive oil-based sauce


  • Pick your favorite substitute from the list above.
  • Follow cooking directions for your selected substitute with the proper ratio of ingredients.
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Jenny has always been passionate about cooking, and she uses her platform to share her joy of food with others. Her recipes are easy to follow, and she loves giving tips and tricks to help others create their own unique culinary creations.