Make Pizza Night Fun Again With These 30 Pizza Sauce Alternatives

by Camilla Cheung on 30 January 2014 6 comments

We all love homemade pizza, but sometimes plain ol' marinara sauce can get boring. It's easy to bring a little variety to your pizza night by swapping out your pizza sauce with one of these flavorful alternatives. (See also: How to Make Restaurant-Quality Pizza)

1. Pesto

One of the easiest pizza sauce alternative is jarred pesto (or homemade). Just spread it straight on the pizza crust and top with your normal toppings.

2. Bechamel

Make a white pizza with an easy bechamel (or white) sauce. Make a roux with flour and butter and cook it with milk and seasonings to make a delicious white sauce that's perfect for people who aren't a fan of tomato sauce.

3. Salsa

Salsa is another easy jarred alternative to pizza sauce and works especially well if you add chorizo, corn, beans, and other Latin-influenced toppings. Go for a tomato-based salsa if you don't want to stray too far from traditional pizza, or try a salsa verde made of tomatillos and cilantro.

4. BBQ Sauce

If you fancy a BBQ chicken pizza, subbing BBQ sauce (jarred or homemade) for the tomato sauce is a great idea. If you don't have time to grill the chicken, just use rotisserie and add a drop of liquid smoke to the sauce. (See also: 20+ Ways to Use Rotisserie Chicken)

5. Hummus

It's delicious on pita bread so you can't go wrong with it on pizza — hummus is an easy way to jazz up your pie while adding protein and nutrients, too. Top it with onions, olives, peppers, and feta cheese.

6. Pumpkin Pizza Sauce

Adding some pureed pumpkin into a tomato-based sauce helps to tone down the acidity while adding vitamins and flavor. Just mix canned pumpkin with some tomato sauce and seasonings and use like regular sauce.

7. Pumpkin and Beet "Marinara"

For people who can't eat plants in the nightshade family (which includes tomatoes and peppers), but still crave a red sauce on their pizza, a good alternative is a sauce made of pumpkin and beet puree. The beets add both sweetness and a red color to the sauce, and with garlic, basil, and other spices, it tastes almost like the real thing.

8. Tapenade

Tapenade, a spread made of olives, is super-flavorful and the perfect condiment for pizza. Add grilled vegetables and olive oil, and you're set.

9. Carrot-Harissa Sauce

Carrots and harissa (a North African chili paste) are a natural pair and are another great substitute for pizza sauce. Cook and puree the carrots, and blend them with harissa, garlic, and spices for a flavorful pizza base. (Note: If you're sensitive to nightshades, omit the harissa.)

10. Ranch Sauce

A ranch pizza is sure to be a hit with the kids! Spread ranch dressing on the crust and top it with all sorts of healthy toppings. The creaminess of the dressing means you can go easy on the cheese if you like.

11. Garlic and Oil

Mince garlic up fine and spread it on your pizza crust with olive oil and salt. Add your toppings and enjoy — but beware of garlic breath afterwards! (See also: 15 Uses for Garlic)

12. Pepper Jelly

Sweet and spicy red pepper jelly is a delicious condiment on cheese by itself, so why not on a cheese pizza, too? Add sausage and sweet peppers to pump up the flavor on this unique pie.

13. Caramelized Onions

Onions, slow-cooked and caramelized until they are meltingly brown, sweet, and savory, are a delicious base for almost anything. Spread the onions on the pizza and top with feta cheese, prosciutto, mushrooms, arugula or spinach, and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.

14. Ricotta Cheese

Spread a thin layer of ricotta cheese on your pizza crust and add a squeeze of lemon and ribbons of basil — then top with grilled vegetables, chopped tomatoes, and other toppings of your choice. Can't have dairy? Try this macadamia-nut "ricotta".

15. Romesco Sauce

This Spanish sauce of tomatoes, roasted peppers, paprika, and almonds makes for an amazing variation on pizza sauce. Top the pizza with chicken, shrimp, or vegetables — this sauce is extremely versatile and goes well with almost anything.

16. Chimichurri Sauce

Argentine chimichurri sauce is a potent blend of parsley, oregano, garlic, and olive oil. Although it is traditionally used on meats, it is sure to be delicious on pizza as well. Try topping the pizza with thinly sliced steak as a nod to tradition.

17. Soy-Miso Sauce

If you like "Hawaiian" pizza with ham and pineapple, you might want to try replacing the tomato sauce with a more complementary soy-miso sauce. Just mix 2 tablespoons of white miso with 1 tablespoon of soy sauce and 1 tablespoon of brown sugar. Spread the mixture over the pizza crust and top with cheese, ham and pineapple. Try sprinkling furikake (a seaweed/sesame condiment) over the cooked pizza just before eating. (See also: Delicious Ways to Use Pineapple)

18. Balsamic Glaze

Boil down ¼ cup of balsamic vinegar until it is thick and syrupy. Brush this over your pizza and top with cheese, mushrooms, onions, sausage, and more.

19. Hoisin Sauce

Sweet Asian hoisin sauce gives an Asian flair to your pizza and appeals especially to those who love Peking duck. Try topping it with cooked salmon, chicken, or duck. After cooking, top it with chopped green onions and cucumber.

20. Thai Chili Sauce

Sweet and spicy Thai chili sauce is a great base for an Asian-themed pizza. Top it with plenty of vegetables and some cooked chicken, tofu, or shrimp. You can even omit the cheese to keep it tasting fresh.

21. Curry Sauce

With so many varieties of jarred curry sauce available, a curry pizza can be a convenient weekday meal, especially when paired with premade naan bread (I like to buy mine frozen). Spread the curry sauce on the naan and top it with chicken and paneer, a mild Indian cheese.

22. Alfredo Sauce

Alfredo sauce is similar to bechamel but is made of heavy cream and parmesan cheese instead of milk. You can make your own or use one of the convenient jarred versions.

23. Sun-Dried Tomato Sauce

Sun-dried tomatoes pack an extra-concentrated punch of flavor. You can make a simple sun-dried tomato pesto by pulsing sun-dried tomatoes, pine nuts, parmesan, and olive oil in a food processor. Use it like regular pesto or marinara sauce. (See also: Best Food Processors)

24. Garlic Aioli Pizza Sauce

Aioli is a garlic-flavored mayonnaise that makes a terrific condiment for vegetables and seafood. For example, this tuna and tomato pizza with garlic aioli sounds delicious. Use high-quality mayonnaise for the best results, or you can even make your own.

25. Wasabi Sauce

Chef Jean-Georges created a unique fusion of Asian and French cuisine with his raw Ahi tuna pizza with wasabi creme fraiche sauce. You could create your own less-fancy version with raw or cooked salmon (if raw, buy from a reputable fishmonger) on top of a precooked crust, wasabi mixed with good mayonnaise, and topped with sesame seeds and micro-greens. As an appetizer, this dish could be quite affordable.

26. Fig Jam

Fig jam would be a delicious foundation for a slightly sweet pizza. Use pre-made fig jam or make your own, and top it with goat cheese, prosciutto, parmesan, arugula, caramelized onions, or whatever your heart desires. This fig, prosciutto, and arugula pizza sounds amazing.

27. Tandoori Pizza

This tandoori chicken pizza is easy and delicious. Marinate chunks of chicken with tandoori seasoning and yogurt and then cook them with onions. Put the seasoned cooked chicken on some naan bread and top it with shredded cheese.

28. Thai Peanut Sauce

Using a Thai peanut sauce as a base for bean sprouts, chicken, scallions, and other veggies makes for a unique Thai-themed pizza.

29. Nutella

Who says pizza has to be savory? Make a dessert pizza with Nutella (or other chocolate spread), mascarpone cheese, and berries. Sprinkle some brown sugar over the top and bake at 500 F until the sugar is caramelized, the crust is puffed, and the chocolate, cheese, and berries are warm and gooey. (See also: Easy Microwaveable Desserts)

30. Zaatar

Zaatar is a tangy Middle Eastern spice blend that includes sumac and thyme. When mixed with olive oil, it makes a delicious pizza sauce. This zaatar pizza recipe uses zaatar and tops the pizza with tomatoes, feta, and mint.

With so many alternatives, it's not that hard to look beyond the tried and true tomato marinara pizza sauce. Spice up your pizza with one of these less traditional sauces and exercise your sense of creativity to make a unique and memorable meal.

What's your favorite alternative pizza sauce?

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Guest's picture

Very interesting article. As a pizza lover, I have tasted pizza both here at home (U.S.) as well as in Italy, and have had varying degrees of quality. Some inexpensive, some pricey - some bad, some great - and the two dimensions aren't necessarily correlated!

The commonality in my global pizza experiences has been consistency in the format - crust, tomato-based sauce, cheese, and some type of toppings. I have dabbled with a few others - white pizza, BBQ chicken pizza, etc - but for the most part, it has been the traditional format. This post provides some thought-provoking alternatives - such as Garlic White Bean Paste, Carrot Puree (would need to be seasoned, etc.

Back to the traditional aspect: organic tomato sauce is the way to go in that respect. May be a bit more expensive, but when you look at health and taste, it can be worth it.

Guest's picture
Tom H

What a great compilation of sauces! I love zaatar spice but it can be tough to find. There's no reason pizza has to be boring OR expensive. I find a particularly easy and inexpensive way to make pizza is to get your own sort of pre-cooked dough in the form of pita or naan bread. You just add the ingredients and put it in the oven long enough to melt the cheese. I wrote more about it here http://www.studyspice.com/2010/07/easy-pita-pizza.html

Great post!

Guest's picture

Similar to peanut sauce...when I worked at a pizza place in San Francisco, we would experiment with pizza combinations. I found that organic, homemade peanut butter is a great base topped with mozzarella cheese and tomatoes. Oh, you need a giant glass of milk to help wash it down.

Guest's picture
MaloMonster

You've now given some validity to my friends PB&T sandwich! I thought she was crazy when she said natural peanut butter and a thick slice of tomato!

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striffic23

I once made a Cajun style pizza with shrimp sautéed in Tony's seasoning (real New Orleans spice) and fried green tomatoes. For the sauce I used some leftover homemade rémoulade (don't remember where I found the recipe though).

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Sherilyn

What happened to the romesco sauce link?? I used that recipe frequently but stupidly never bookmarked the actual page or wrote it down. I just came here for the link and now it's gone! Please help, I've searched and searched the internet and can't find it again.