Mexican tomato sauce is a versatile sauce made with tomatoes, onion, garlic, and salt. It’s the key ingredient to make classic Mexican recipes including arroz rojo, fideo seco, sopa de fideo and a number of soups and stews.
WHAT IS MEXICAN TOMATO SAUCE?
There are quite a few recipes for Mexican tomato sauce out there – some require that you boil the ingredients, others suggest that you roast them. Some even call for a number of herbs and spices. The main ingredients in my sauce are tomatoes, onion, garlic, and salt. I like to keep it simple so that it is a neutral, flavorful sauce that can be used in different recipes.
HOW TO USE MEXICAN TOMATO SAUCE
This is my go-to tomato sauce when making Mexican recipes that require tomato, garlic, and onion. Essentially, I use this flavorful and concentrated sauce in place of canned tomato sauce. My favorite way to use it is in:
WHY I LOVE THIS RECIPE
Rich in nutrients: Tomatoes are a good source of vitamins A and C, potassium, and fiber, while garlic and onions contain sulfur compounds and antioxidants that may reduce inflammation and can support overall health.
Customizable to personal taste: If you love garlic, add more. Hate it? Leave it out! Customize this recipe based on your palate and preferences. Additionally, depending on how you will be using the sauce, you can add basil and oregano to infuse more Italian flavors, or canned chipotles or rehydrated guajillo to add a little kick.
No preservatives or additives: using only fresh, natural ingredients, this no-sugar tomato sauce is much more flavorful than any store-bought sauce and is ready to use in many of your favorite Mexican recipes.
Every summer I look forward to all of the flavorful tomatoes that are in season. While I enjoy eating them sliced, with a drizzle of olive oil and flakey salt, I also like to capture their essence in a jar for future use. I use this homemade Mexican tomato sauce to make red rice, fideo seco, sopa de fideo, and as a base for quite a few other soups and stews.
With simple ingredients and the right technique, you can create a homemade Mexican tomato sauce with depth and flavors reminiscent of Mexico. Here’s everything you need:
- Ripe tomatoes
TOOLS, SUPPLIES, AND EQUIPMENT
HOW TO MAKE CLASSIC MEXICAN TOMATO SAUCE
Chop or blend ingredients: There are different ways to make this sauce, and my preferred method is to coarsely chop the raw ingredients. Alternatively, you can blend the tomatoes, onion, and garlic.
Saute or fry: If you chop the ingredients, you’ll have to saute everything until the mixture looks like a thick jam before blending and jarring it. This brings out each ingredient’s full flavor.
If you blend the raw ingredients first, your next step is to “fry” the sauce in oil until it changes color (you’re looking for a deeper orange color), reduces slightly, and is no longer raw. Either way works!
Jar: Jar and refrigerate or freeze your Mexican sauce.
TIPS, TRICKS, AND SUBSTITUTIONS
Add a little spice: The original tomato sauce recipe is perfect to make Mexican red rice, sopa de fideo and as a base for caldo de pollo. If you add a rehyated chile guajillo or chipotle in adobo sauce, this is the perfect base for your albondiga soup broth and fideo seco. Simply adjust the amount and type of chilies used in the sauce to your preference. If you want a milder sauce, remove the seeds and membranes from the chilies before using.
Use fresh ingredients: Using fresh tomatoes, onions, garlic, and chilies will result in a more flavorful sauce.
Roast the tomatoes and chilies: Roasting the tomatoes and chilies before blending them can add depth and smokiness to the flavor of the sauce.
Add sweetness: If the sauce is too acidic, add a pinch of sugar or a sweetener of your choice to balance the flavors.
Use canned tomatoes: Canned tomatoes (diced or whole) can be used as a substitute for fresh tomatoes if they are not in season or not available.
Experiment with seasonings: Feel free to experiment with different herbs and spices such as cumin, oregano, and paprika to add complexity to the flavor of the sauce.
Make it creamy: For a creamy version of Mexican tomato sauce, blend in some crema Mexicana. This is perfect for crema espagueti.
HOW TO STORE AND REHEAT
Make in large batches: I highly suggest making a large batch and freezing this sauce – especially when there is an abundance of tomatoes in the garden or when you have too many that are ripening before you can use them.
Portion out before storing: I like to portion out my sauce into both 4-ounce and 8-ounce jars to use in different recipes.
Store in refrigerator or freezer: Homemade tomato sauce can be stored in the refrigerator or freezer. If stored in the refrigerator, the sauce should be transferred to an airtight container and can be kept for up to 5 days. If storing in the freezer, the sauce should be cooled to room temperature and transferred to a freezer-safe container or plastic freezer bag. It can be kept in the freezer for up to 6 months. It is best to label the container or bag with the date it was made to ensure freshness. When ready to use, thaw the sauce in the refrigerator overnight and heat it on the stove or in the microwave.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
The main difference between regular tomato sauce and Mexican tomato sauce is the addition of Mexican flavors and spices in the latter. Mexican tomato sauce typically contains ingredients such as onions and garlic, a trio that creates the base for many Mexican recipes and gives it a distinctive flavor profile.
Mexican tomato sauce is a versatile sauce that can be used in a variety of dishes such as sopa de fideo, fideo seco, arroz rojo, creamy tomato pasta, and as a base for albondiga soup.
Mexican tomato sauce can be mild or spicy depending on whether or not you use chiles. The main ingredients in Mexican tomato sauce are tomato, onion, garlic, and salt. When making this recipe to be used in fideo seco or albondiga soup, adding a chile chipotle in adobo sauce or rehydrated chile guajillo adds spice and flavor. It is recommended to start with a small amount of chilies and adjust to your taste.
Homemade tomato sauce can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 6 months.
Yes, canned tomatoes can be used to make Mexican tomato sauce. However, it is recommended to use canned whole or diced tomatoes without any added salt or seasonings to have more control over the flavor.
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Mexican Tomato Sauce
- 2 tablespoons oil
- 1 medium onion quartered
- 4 cloves garlic peeled and smashed
- 2 pounds tomatoes about 8 medium tomatoes, quartered
- Salt to taste
- First, heat oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Once hot, add onion and separate into smaller pieces until translucent and soft, about 5 minutes. Light browning of onions adds flavor.
- Next, add garlic and cook for an additional 2 minutes, or until golden and soft.
- Last, reduce heat to low-medium and add tomatoes. Simmer until mixture is jam-like in texture and ingredients are no longer raw, about 30 minutes.
A Note from Lola
Photography + Styling: Cacey McReavy
Lola Wiarco Dweck
Lola is a Mexican-American recipe developer, writer, and cooking instructor who loves sharing her culture with the world. Growing up in California and spending summers in Mexico, Lola celebrates her family’s Mexican recipes and vibrant culture through Lola’s Cocina.