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The Healthiest Tomato Sauces You Can Buy at the Grocery Store

By Aly Walansky
April 6, 2024
Image credit: Lindsey Engelken for Clean Plates

There’s so much you can do with tomato sauce. From lasagna to pizza, marinades to rice, tomato sauce is a great base for so many easy, healthy dinners. Though nothing beats a homemade sauce, let’s be real: All that chopping, stirring, and simmering takes more time than we typically have, especially on a weeknight. For that reason, jarred tomato sauce is a lifesaver.

However, not all jarred tomato sauces are created equal. Some have added sugar, excess salt, less-optimal oils, or preservatives. When selecting a jarred tomato sauce for your next meal, there are a few key factors to consider to be sure you’re getting the best quality.

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How to find the best tomato sauces

Check for added sugars

Even some homemade tomato sauce recipes do involve a pinch of sugar, so if there’s some added sugar in your jarred sauce, that’s not necessarily a deal breaker — as long as it’s akin to the pinch you might add at home (i.e., it’s a very small amount). Look for jars with less than 5 grams of total sugar per serving.

“Sugar is added as a flavor booster, but using seasonings can achieve the same effect without the negative consequences of added sugar,” says Lisa Richards, nutritionist and creator of the Candida Diet. “Added sugar provides empty calories and is quite inflammatory.”

Mind the sodium

As with many packaged foods, some tomato sauces are loaded with excess sodium. But it isn’t necessary, and there are plenty of tasty jarred sauces without it.

“The daily recommended intake of sodium is 2,300 milligrams, and most major tomato sauce brands contain at least 500 milligrams in a half-cup serving alone,” says Richards. “Sodium is an essential nutrient, but should be consumed in moderation due to its ability to cause water retention, inflammation, and increased blood pressure.”

If sodium is an issue for you, seek out specifically low-sodium options.

Aim for a short ingredient list

The sauce you’d make yourself only has a few basic ingredients — and the same should be true about one you buy. Many popular brands contain additives, fillers, emulsifiers, artificial colors, and other unnecessary ingredients to enhance shelf stability, texture, and color. But there are plenty of good options that don’t.

“Rather than choosing a jarred tomato sauce with synthetic ingredients, it’s best to find options with as few ingredients as possible,” says Richards.

The healthier options may include five or so ingredients, and all of them are recognizable. Our favorite tomato sauces contain just tomatoes, olive oil, onion, garlic, pepper, and sea salt. If there’s anything else, it should be additional seasonings or vegetables.

The healthiest tomato sauces you can buy

Our top choices contain no added sugar, have a reasonable amount of salt, a short ingredient list — and they taste great, too. Here are our very favorites available right now.

1. Thrive Market Organic Marinara Sauce

This delicious, organic sauce tastes just like homemade, but it’s as easy as opening a jar and simmering on the stove. “You can have peace of mind knowing their sauce is free of pesticides, it’s vegan, contains no added sugar or artificial colors, and is made with only seven ingredients,” says Richards.

Buy it: Thrive Market Organic Marinara Sauce, $5.70 for a 25-ounce jar

2. Primal Kitchen Tomato Basil Marinara Sauce

“I love Primal Kitchen Foods marinara sauces,” says Jenna Stangland, MS RDN, team dietitian for the Minnesota Timberwolves. “It’s paleo-certified, dairy-free, vegan, contains no added sugar, and is made with avocado oil… the list goes on, as it fits into so many lifestyle and dietary preferences. This is one of my go-to recommendations for clients.”

Plus, “This sauce is made with avocado oil, which adds to its potassium content,” says Richards.

Buy it: Primal Kitchen Tomato Basil Marinara Sauce, $10 for a 24-ounce jar

3. Rao’s Homemade Marinara Sauce

“I really love the authentic taste of Rao’s Homemade marinara sauce,” says Stangland. “They use Italian plum tomatoes and don’t add any sugar to the sauce. It’s just garlic, onion, and olive oil.” This one tastes closest to homemade for us.

Buy it: Rao’s Homemade Marinara Sauce, $6.10 for a 24-ounce jar

4. Muir Glen Organic Tomato Sauce

Muir Glen makes “an incredible organic, no-sugar-added marinara sauce,” says Stangland. “Excellent taste comes through in this one, and it’s easy to find in a lot of supermarkets. So that’s also a huge plus.”

Buy it: Muir Glen Organic Tomato Sauce, $30 for 12 15-ounce cans

5. Otamot Organic Essential Sauce

“This sauce is not only USDA organic and made with no added sugar or preservatives, it’s high in fiber, thanks to the 10 vegetables it’s made with, including tomatoes, carrots, sweet potatoes, spinach, and red bell pepper,” says Mia Syn, MS, RDN. If you generally prefer a sweeter sauce, this one’s for you — it doesn’t contain any added sugar, but the addition of carrots and sweet potatoes lends a natural sweetness that’s sure to satisfy.

Buy it: Otamot Organic Essential Sauce, $10.50 for a 16-ounce jar

6. 365 by Whole Foods Market Organic Pasta Sauce

This option is made with just a few, simple ingredients, but has everything we really need in a sauce. “This is a high-quality organic, no-added-sugar sauce available at an affordable price point,” says Syn. It’s truly a great budget option that doesn’t sacrifice quality.

Buy it: 365 by Whole Foods Market Organic Pasta Sauce, $3 for a 25-ounce jar

Read next: 5 Ways to Turn a Jar of Marinara into Dinner

Disclaimer: We only recommend products we seriously love and want to share. We may receive a portion of sales from products purchased from this article, which includes affiliate links.

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