Low Sugar Tomato Sauce

January 4, 2019   42 Comments

How hard is it to find a low sugar tomato sauce? Well, I wouldn’t say it is a walk in the park.

Low Sugar Tomato Sauce

No, you have to stand in the aisle of you supermarket for a while looking at all the choices. How did we get so many? Yikes! I kinda wish food companies would stop creating all this stuff – chunky, farmstand, made with basil, homestyle, blah blah blah.

I was simply looking for a low amount of sugar. Tomato sauce (or pasta sauce) is going to have sugar in it because tomatoes have naturally occurring sugar in them. What I was looking for was no added sugar because I don’t like my pasta sauce to be sweet. Also, I am cutting down on sugar and why eat it if I don’t have to?

A lot has changed since I wrote The Best and The Worst Pasta Sauce. It seems like every brand has shifted their lines.

Most of the pasta sauces on the shelf had 7 grams to 10 grams of sugar for ½ cup of sauce. The flavor with the lowest amount of sugar is the “Marinara” type.

The only sauce that advertised “no sugar added” is the Classico Riserva” brand of sauces.

This is very interesting to me because it means that we have a benchmark for what to expect if no sugar is added – 5 grams of sugar per ½ cup. Here is the nutritional information for Classico Riserva Marinara sauce:

80 calories, 4 g fat, 0.5 g saturated fat, 8 g carbohydrates, 5.0 g sugar, 2.0 g protein, 2 g fiber, 420 mg sodium, 3 SmartPts

I was amazed at the ingredients list which was very “clean” – tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, salt, and spices. Way to go Classico! But, you have to pay for no sugar added – this jar was $4.99

I purchased the other Classico because it only contained 6 grams of sugar per serving and was $3.19. Here are the nutrition facts for ½ cup of Marinara with plum tomatoes and olive oil.

70 calories, 2.5 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 10 g carbohydrates, 6 g sugar, 2 g protein, 2 g fiber, 430 mg sodium, 3 SmartPts

The ingredients started with water and tomato paste. Yuck! It definitely doesn’t sound as good as the Riserva line. It looks like you get what you pay for in this arena.

Finally, I bought Common Good by Newman’s Own because it had the LEAST amount of sugar of any sauce on the shelf – 4 grams!

This pasta sauce is organic so they charge a premium of $5.99 for the jar. This sauce also had twice as much fat as the other brands with 8 grams (versus 4 grams and 2.5 grams). Wow! (This brand has 4 SmartPts per serving).

The ingredient list here is what you would expect if you made it yourself.

The Taste Test

For me, the low sugar issue is going to come down to taste. I HATE sweet tomato sauce on my pasta. To me, it tastes like ketchup if I can detect added sugar.

I tasted all three of these a couple of times and I would say that they are all fine. But, I liked them in order of most expensive to least expensive:

  1. Newman’s Common Ground – This was hearty and a little dark. I could not taste any sweetness and I found myself wanting to continue to spoon it I my mouth –very flavorful. I would buy this again.
  2. Classico Riserva – This tasted salty to me but not sweet. The texture was not chunky (which I like) but the flavor wasn’t as deep as Common Good.
  3. Classico – This was okay. I would eat it but not love it. I did find it a little flat and also salty.

My opinions may not be relevant to you as everyone seems to taste things a bit differently.

I am going to try Common Good with my new zoodles. Check out How to Make Zoodles for a fun zoodle lesson.

What is your favorite tomato sauce? Have you found one with low sugar?

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Reading this makes me realize I should really just be making my own sauce. It really is super easy and cheaper to make it yourself. I always feel like the easy way is to buy it, but when you want to know what you're putting in your body, I should take the 20 minutes my own.

I, too, really dislike sweet pasta sauce. I'm glad you brought this up, because I've also had problems finding one that's unsweetened. Sugar seems to infiltrate everything in our culture!

Have you ever tried Organic Muir Glen Pasta Sauces? They have no added sugar. We buy them at Whole Foods. They cost about $5 a jar. Here are the nutritional facts for Organic Roasted Garlic Pasta Sauce. Calories for 1/2 cup 70, Fat 3 grams, Saturated fat o grams, Sodium 310 grams, Sugar 4 grams, carbohydrates 8 grams,protein 2 grams

Aldi, Simply Nature Tomato Basil. 100% Organic. 4g sugar. 1.5g fat. 490mg sodium. 1g protein. 45 calories in 1/2 cup. I'm sure this was less than $3.

Trader Joe's organic tomato basil has no added sugar and is very tasty. And very reasonably priced.

Cucina antica has 1 g of sugar in their arrabbiata sauce and most of their lime is very low sugar- in the arrabbiata 1/2 a cup is 1.5 fat, fiber 2gand 40 calories can't beat it!

DelGrosso sauce $7.99 at Wegman's and Harris Teeter. 5 g sugar non added.

We also like Trader Joe's Marinara - Organic Tomato oz. jar costs...but I do recall it wasn't expensive. It's marinara & not chunky. But we like the flavor. No added sugar! Calories for 1/2 cup 60, Fat 3 grams, Saturated fat o grams, Sodium 440 grams, Sugar 3 grams, carbohydrates 8 grams, protein 1 grams.

Check out Rao's Homemade. This is expensive but it only has 3g of sugar. Pretty good too.

Thank you for checking and to the other commentators as well. Back when I ate a lot of pasta, I used TJ's marinara.

Thanks for reviewing pasta sauces. It has been a while since we hve checked them over. We have been using Rinaldi because it was lower in sodium and sugar than the other options at that time. I see Paul Newman's has this new product which is even better so I will give that a try as well as the WF Muir Glen brand mentioned above. The one thing we notice is that most of the prepared sauces have a LOT of sodium in them. Who eats just a half cup of sauce on their pasta? Isn't that the healthy part - the veggies? If you increase the sodium count to what you would actually eat you will discover it is about a half day's worth for someone who is 50 years old or older and a third of a day's worth for younger adults. Thanks again for this review.

For Diabetic purpose,the carbs and fiber count as well.

A Marquez- they are listed for the three sauces she reviewed. They are in italics for 2 and the label is shown for the third.

Thank you Lisa. I love how you keep us on our toes about sneaky added sugar. I pass your research along to all the working moms I know who appreciate your investigations too. My favorite way to avoid sugar is homemade marinara! And homemade delivers 3-1/2 out of 4 pts: Cheapest, healthiest, tastiest and almost as fast. If you have to open it and dirty a pot to heat it, it is so little extra effort to add garlic, dried spice and oil first and then tomatoes, it can still be called almost fast food, therefore home-made gets 1/2 pt.. And a more delicious marinara is done in 20-30 minutes while pasta or zoodles are being prepared. The time it takes to dice a clove of garlic creates a sauce that is not only cheaper and healthier but can't be beat for deliciousness (3pts) and aroma (bonus pt). Its one of the first things I learned as a teen and taught my kids how to cook [and I'm not even Italian]. Tomatoes are usually sweet enough but sometimes they could use a pinch of sugar, that the cook controls along with salt. As for cost, $6. for two and half cups PN marinara! I love Newman's Brand but two cans of San Marzano Tomatoes will set you back the same $6., yield 6-8 cups, depending on how thick you like it, which is enough for another day or two (although in my house that's a stretch). If you like smooth thick sauce use two puree; for more chunkiness use one puree and one chopped or whole. I add enough water, about 1/4can, to rinse out the can. The cook controls the cost, the taste, the health and the time. For me, jarred sauce has its place with students in dorms, campers or other situations with no kitchen facilities. I think anyone who hasn't tried making it would be amazed at how good they will feel to create this staple every week or two. Its kitchen magic, cause everyone starts humming and asking when and whats for dinner. :)

I like Paul Newman's Common Good and don't mind the extra expense, since profits go to charities.

I used to make my own sauce (and good point above by Barb) ... but, I have found a couple that are very good. Silver Palate makes a good line of sauces with only 3g sugar, 3.5 g fat and 50 calories per 1/2 cup. It is very good. Another good one is Mezzetta. I don't have one in my pantry right now, but I think the fat & calories are a bit higher - very tasty though. Both are expensive around $6.99, but my grocery store (Shaws in MA) will put them on sale for about $3.99 once a month, so I wait for that! Both have a spicy marinara (fra diavlo)that is very good to spice things up a bit. Thanks for the tips!

I am using Muir Glen that I found at Walmart for under three dollars.

I usually make my own, so I'm picky when it comes to jars. A few years ago I learned of this low sugar one by Pastene. The Chateau Marinara by Pastene. It's usually $3.99 at my local grocery store.…

So helpful! Thank you Lisa!

I simply buy low sodium tomato sauce or tomato paste and 'spice' it up with my own fresh or bottled herbs...garlic, onion, basil, oregano, (cumin), parsley...

My favorite thing to make is my own sauce. I used to use the bottle sauces, but too many of them have soy and since I developed asthma in the late 1990's, it was provoking more episodes for me. I avoid soy and other trouble some ingredients as much as possible, as they are in convenience foods. Don't get me wrong, I don't cook everything from scratch, and use a lot of canned ingredients as I also suffer nerve pain in the hand/arm I use to cut food.

I use Price Rite tomato sauce. I just looked and it is 2 grams of sugar for 8 oz can; 280 mg of sodium. I usually use 3 cans at a time. I add ground chicken, sometimes vegetables of yellow squash and peppers. When I have fresh tomatoes in the summer, some go into the sauce too. I add dried or fresh italian herbs and cook it for 45 minutes to 1 hour. After reading this, I think I gotta go make some now!

Thanks so much for sharing all your favorite brands and recipe ideas. This is a great resource for people looking to cut down on added sugar. You guys are the best!

I have one question - for me, it is not just about the taste, but also about the texture. I like a thick sauce, and many sauces are just runny. how do the tested sauces stack up for thickness? I want it to cling to whatever I put it on. Thanks for any insight!

After reading this post I bought the Newman's Common Ground, and I could eat it and forget the pasta! I love it, and it was on special at my grocery, so I got two. I belong to Weight Watchers Online, and that extra point is well worth it! Thank you.

can never go wrong wih TJ. prices are great and food is too.

I thank you for the information. My husband is a diabetic and takes 4 shots a day. We were told to take the total carb count, subtract the fiber and that is the total of carbs, which is complex sugars

For a few years now I've been eating Francisco Rinaldi's low sodium sauce. It has 6gms of sugar and 40gms of sodium and costs only 1.99 per jar. I put herbs and spices in it to make it even healthier and add flavor. But I wanna cut down on my sugar intake so I may switch over to that Newman's one if I can find it.

I like a very simple marinara sauce, so always made it with one can of Pastene crushed tomatoes, olive oil, slivered garlic and fresh basil, and a pinch of salt. My family prefers a meaty sauce, so let them buy jars of whatever they wanted and add that to sautéed ground meat. Discovering Rao's Homemade marinara sauce was life changing :). It tastes exactly like what I was making homemade, because it has no added junk including sugar (it does have oregano and onions). It is absolutely delicious! And outrageously expensive. When it goes on sale, which is pretty often, we stock up. It's regularly $6.99 or even more; you can find it for $4 at it's cheapest. But no other jarred sauces enter my home anymore, it's that good :)

I finally realized that simple “crushed tomatoes” taste just as good in fact they taste very fresh and clean and cost around $1 for a 28 ounce can!

I usually make my own by following a recipe from the Biggest Loser Family cookbook. It’s a marinara sauce and it calls for honey, which I omit, so the sauce ends up being zero points. (I use cooking spray instead if oil when sautéing the garlic and onion.) It’s delicious! I. A pinch I like Aldi’s marinara that someone mentioned in earlier comments. I am on Weight Watchers Beyond the Scale Smart Points plan not Double Ewe Double Ewes Freestyle aka Failstyle plan.

I make my own sauce and can it (if I have time) or freeze it (if I don't have time). I do not add sugar or oil, and use only tomatoes, seasonings and veggies (mushrooms, onions, peppers). I count this as 0 points since it literally is only vegetables. Works for me!

My favorite tomato sauce? My own!!

Good grief, make your own. It is so easy. Use some fresh tomatoes, like Romas. (Or, a good brand of canned.) First cook your onions and garlic, then add your herbs and spices. I use basil and black pepper. Oregano is for pizza. I learned from a very old Italian man, Mr. Ruggiero. If you add meat, brown it first and drain off the fat but add a little olive oil to the sauce. I don't use a blender, I just cook the sauce on simmer for about and hour until the tomatoes are cooked down, stir, taste test, then add whatever my taste tells me to. [I add about a pound of fresh mushrooms (if you like mushrooms) during the cooking of the onions and after the garlic they are cooked. I cook the mushrooms down then add the tomatoes.] It sounds like a lot of work on paper, but it just take about 5 minutes to cook the onions and garlic, basil, (meat op.) then add tomatoes. Worth it. Easy. Freeze it, or make it the day before and refrigerate, it is even better.

It seems that the lower the sugar, the higher the calories.

I buy Victoria Organic Sauce marinara(2 pack at Costco). No added sugar. 1/2 cup is 50 calories, total fat 2g, sodium 450mg, Total CHO 6g(fiber 2g + sugar 4g), Protein 2g

Ingredients: ORGANIC(tomatoes, onion, EVOO, garlic, basil, spices) sea salt and calcium chloride

I bought a bunch the last time Costco had a coupon for this because it is the only sauce my children will eat.

People don’t realize the amount of sugar and salt there is in “normal” food items. Pasta sauce, pizza with sauce, and more are loaded with bad things. Jarred no-sodium sauce is horrible so I buy it, add lots of fresh garlic, Parmesan grated cheese for salt, some canned no-salt tomatoes, oregano and other spices. It’s a bit of work but I make several jars then freeze cup portions in freezer bags. You can add or delete ingredients to taste and it’s low sodium and natural sugar. I’ve added no-sodium tomato paste to thicken it, run it through the blender, then used it as ketchup.

I’ve never liked salty foods so learned to adapt recipes. It’s easy to buy a jar but rewarding health wise to use your imagination

Trader Joe’s has healthy marinara sauce. It is less expensive than others. Very, very good!!

Beware people, don't forget about BPA-(bisphenol A) which often lines the inside of canned foods. It is usually found on the inside of tomato cans. The acid in tomatoes interacts with the BPA and absorbs more that normal into the tomatoes/sauce/paste. Look it up (BPA), bad stuff. Better to buy tomatoes/sauce/paste in jars when possible or make it yourself to be safe. Best of health to all. :)

I have been using Muir Glen but will certainly give Newman's a try. Please note in your item 1. You list it as Paul Newman's "Common Ground" not "Common Good" as the label indicates. Guessing you had a cup of coffee on your mind.

Here's a good one that hasn't been mentioned yet...

-I just bought the Lucini Italia Organic Rustic Tomato Basil for my dad's New Year's healthy diet plan! It's Whole-30-Approved, Non-GMO, USDA Organic and made in small batches by an honest Italian company. ONLY 6$ a jar for a healthy, wholesome, delicious AND no-nonsense pasta sauce!

Its Contents?

-ONLY 35 Calories per 1/2 cup serving, 1.5 grams fat, no sat fat, ONLY 220 grams sodium, 2 grams dietary fiber, 3 grams sugar AND NO added sugar!

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