Stand in any grocery store aisle, and without a doubt you'll wonder about the differences between certain products. What exactly is it that separates tomato sauce and tomato soup? While both foods are tomato-based, you don't want to use them interchangeably. The difference has as much to do with ingredients as it does with execution.
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Both products start with tomatoes. The sauce consists of chunky tomatoes cooked with garlic and herbs. Commercially made tomato sauce often contains other ingredients, such as red wine, sausage, onions, cheese, hot red peppers or mild green bell peppers. Tomato soup, on the other hand, is either broth or milk based, with pureed tomatoes, salt and pepper. It can also be prepared with aromatics like celery, carrots or bay leaves.
Tomato soup and tomato sauce differ slightly in terms of how thick they are when poured out of their respective containers. Tomato soup, even the condensed version, usually flows smoothly when emptied into a pot. Tomato sauce is far thicker; it has a consistency more like salsa, coming out in chunks and plops from the jar, rather than coming out in a smooth pour.
According to DietBites.com, one cup of tomato soup has around 85 calories, while that same amount of tomato spaghetti sauce has between 74 and 136 calories, depending on the ingredients used. Tomato sauce may have more calories due to added vegetables, meats or cheeses placed in the sauce by the manufacturer. While there will always be minor differences in calorie estimation due to ingredients used, generally, tomato sauce tends to have more calories than tomato soup.
Tomato soup is usually a stand-alone meal, although it may be served alongside a toasted sandwich. Some people also add cooked rice or pasta, hot sauce, vegetables or shredded cheese to plain tomato soup to give it additional flavor or body.
In contrast, tomato sauce is not usually consumed on its own, but used as a condiment for another food, such as pasta or as a topping on pizza. Tomato sauce can also add flavor to omelets, pizza bagels, chicken parmesan or baked vegetables.
Tomato sauce is usually a bright red color (not unlike the color of a stop sign), while tomato soup can be a bit paler, even verging on pink if made with milk. The colors may vary slightly based upon manufacturer or recipe. When poured into a shallow bowl, the soup will make ripples if you drop something into the bowl, whereas tomato sauce will not.