Tomato-Free “Marinara” Sauce

Tomato-sauce lovers on a no-nightshade regimen will be thrilled to add this recipe to their diet. Even picky eaters give this gluten-free, dairy-free sauce a thumbs up. Serve hot over your favorite gluten-free pasta.


tomato-free marinara


1 onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped, optional
⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 (8-ounce) can beets,* drained (reserve the liquid)
1 (14-15 ounce) can pumpkin puree
½-¾ cups gluten-free chicken or vegetable broth
1 teaspoon coarse salt
24 grinds fresh black pepper
⅓-½ cup chopped fresh basil
1½ teaspoons cornstarch or arrowroot, moistened with 2 tablespoons reserved beet juice


1. Sautee onion and garlic in oil until onion is translucent and slightly brown.

2. Add lemon juice and vinegar. Simmer for 5 minutes.

3. Puree beets until very smooth.

4. Add beets, pumpkin puree, salt, pepper and basil to pan. Stir until combined.

5. Whisk in the broth. Simmer over low heat for 5 minutes. Do not over-cook; beets discolor with prolonged cooking. If sauce is too thick, add a little more broth to thin.

6. Whisk in the moistened cornstarch. Cook for 1 more minute. Taste and adjust seasoning.

*TIP: If you prefer, you can use fresh beets. Roast them in the oven until soft and puree them in a food blender before adding to recipe.

TIP: If the sauce seems too acidic, add a teaspoon or two of sugar.

This recipe was adapted by Rebecca Reilly from Arthritis-Free Cooking (Norman F. Childers Publications).

Comments (9)

Thank you for sharing this. My husband and I loved this tomato-free sauce above the two others I have tried. The taste and color was right on, whereas the other recipes I made were either too cranberry- or orange-colored. It was very simple and delicious! I changed it as follows: 2 Tbsp. dried Italian Seasoning instead of fresh basil and increased chicken broth to 1 cup without thickening. Served it with G/F pasta from Aldi's and everyone wanted seconds; highly recommend!!!

Posted by: GAonmymind | October 15, 2015 7:46 PM    Report this comment

I served this over Spaghetti Squash so it was also grain-free! Yum! I also thought the vinegar bite too strong-so I'll try to reduce the amount next time. Going to try it also on thick slices of zucchini for pizza and also as a chicken "Parmesan" style bake. What I liked best about it was how thick and filling it was. Very satisfying. Next time I think I'll try to add more garlic and other herbs that I would have normally use in traditional sauce. Thanks for the recipe!

Posted by: Sharna11 | October 23, 2012 4:48 PM    Report this comment

Don't cry, good news: Don't buy "harvard" or pickled beets, just plain canned beets. Ingredient list should read "beets, water, salt." Watch the August/September 2012 issue of Living Without for an update of this article. Just as a side note, my Italian neighbors rarely make tomato sauce for pasta. They make fabulous "green" sauces using basil or Italian parsley, and sauces with cheeses or eggplant. If you can tolerate other nightshades, there a many tomato-free sauces available to you. Enjoy!

Posted by: LW Moderator | March 12, 2012 9:28 PM    Report this comment

I could almost cry, I just found out that I am allergic to tomatoes (sort of had an idea before, but now I know for sure) and I am so missing sauces. Can't wait to try this, but I am also allergic to corn and am wondering if the beets in the can have corn products in them. I'll have to check and see and then try this recipe.
Thank you for thinking of us with tomato allergies.

Posted by: Moe B | March 12, 2012 9:19 PM    Report this comment

Will you please ask the person who made the gluten-fee, tomato-free ketchup using cranberries to share her recipe. Thank you.

Posted by: Current Bread | November 27, 2011 11:36 PM    Report this comment

Instruction number 3 - puree beets until very smooth...but I'll bet the beets are pretty in your sauce.

Posted by: Elgie | August 22, 2011 9:34 PM    Report this comment

I just made the sauce. It had too much vinegar bite for me, so I added 2 tsp sugar and more salt and that did the trick.

I have one question. Do you puree the beets before you add them to the pan? None of the other reviews mentioned what they did with the beets before adding them to the pan.

I've got a good tasting sauce with slices of beets laying there...(ha ha). I'll puree it before serving...just wanted to know what I missed. Thank you.

Posted by: Ilene G | August 22, 2011 7:37 PM    Report this comment

My friend is gluten, tomato, peppers and dairy intolerant as well as being borderline diabetic. She really misses having pizza so I used this sauce as the basis of a pizza and it worked really well. Even my husband enjoyed the results. It can be used for pizza, pasta and the basis of a Bolognese sauce etc ..... Thank you it's great. Caroline

Posted by: Caroline in France | March 13, 2011 7:40 PM    Report this comment

This is a great recipe. It was very easy to make and my gluten free, casein free, tomato free daughter loved it.
I added a little more sugar than suggested. Will make a large batch next time and freeze.

I may try it next time with canned crannberries instead of beets I make a great tomato free ketchup using cranberries

Posted by: lise | November 14, 2010 8:59 AM    Report this comment

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