Why add sugar to tomato sauce?

My Italian grandmothers never added sugar to their tomato sauces. I have a friend who insists that anyone with culinary integrity knows that you add sugar in order to cut the acid. I don’t find well-prepared tomato sauces to have an acidic taste.

What exactly does “cut the acid” mean? And does sugar actually do that?

Yes, the sugar does balance the acidity of tomatoes. You don’t need much, maybe a teaspoon or so. A lot depends on the tomatoes you use. If using canned tomatoes there may already be some sugar added.

My basic tomato sauce has canned San Marzano tomatoes, onion, garlic, finely minced carrot thyme and marjoram or fresh summer tomatoes, onion, garlic and fresh basil.There’s a class of chemicals that balance out acidity, they’re called “buffers”.Calcium is a good buffer, so if you add cream or milk to the sauce that will cancel out some of the acidity.or you could add some buffers afterwards, that’s what TUMS are, basically calcium.

We Add Sugar on tomato sauce. Because the taste of tomato sauce is sour that’s why sugar add on tomato sauce.

I always add 1/3 teaspoon of sugar to my ‘sugo al pomodoro’. Even if the tomato sauce is home-made. It really helps cutting the acid, but I don’t know what’s the chemical process underneath.
My mom adds some milk instead, but then the sauce gets a bit orange (I think it’s because of the mix olive oil / onion / tomato / milk).

I picked up the tip a few years ago to add a tablespoonful of grape jelly to tomato sauce instead of sugar…works great!

I’m guessing the gorgeous italian tomatoes used were big, juicy, sweet, sun ripened and probably don’t need added sugar. Unfortunately if you use tomatoes out of season they won’t be as good and are maybe more acidic.

My dad taught me years ago, I mean YEARS ago, to add a pinch of sugar to chili, along with a small amount of chocolate. I don’t think he did it for the acid, anyone eating anything with tomatoes knows there is acid in tomatoes (and it’s NOT like biting into a lemon). Sugar & chocolate help balance flavors, not to mention, the color looks rich. Both, in small amounts, are great additions…or I’ve found! BUT, that’s me!

Sugar can paradoxically either add a “browning” aspect to the acidity of amazon based foods or adverse the sharp, abhorrent aftertaste of hardly burnt food. It can also advice accent down amazon sauces that accept been over-salted.


Tomatoes and especially chile peppers do have some acid to them. This varies from fruit to fruit. Some people can’t deal with it and are really sensitive to the acid. They need that sugar to cut the acid and if you spend some time reading such recipes you’ll see the addition of such technology.


OK, let’s get it straight !
Sugar does not reduce or cut acid in any way. Sugar is considered neutral, except for the enzeme reaction that creates acidity to eat tooth enamel.
What sugar does, is enhance tomatoes that aren’t as sweet as great tomatoes can be. 3rd and 4th generation cuts from a tomatoe plant are never as sweet as 1st or 2nd crop. Its why fertilizing tomato plants is so essential. The sugar is to help with the bitterness of those older tomato plants.
A great sauce , one with primo tomatoes, is often sweetened with sweet basil and oregano as it cooks. Only when your taste buds feel they haven’t worked well enough, should actual sugar be added. But there are many times when it should be, coz true primo tomatoes are rare nowadays.

I just want to say your article is wonderful the clarity in your post is just nice and i can assume you are an expert on this subject thanks.

OK, respectfully, let’s really get it straight.
The original question was “Why add sugar to tomato sauce?”
Sugar only masks the acidity.
I use a pinch or two of Baking Soda…watch the chemical reaction, and experience the velvety texture. Better too little Baking Soda than too much.

There are many chefs who disagree with you about the sugar.

I don’t add sugar to tomato sauce but I always put a tablespoon in black beans, red beans, or pinto beans.