Tomato-less Marinara Sauce (Nightshade-free, AIP-friendly)

With nightshades becoming a more common food sensitivity these days, many might find themselves looking for an alternative to their favorite tomato-based condiments and sauces, like this marinara sauce.


If you’re not familiar with nightshades, they are a family of plants that contain certain compounds, like lectins and saponins, that can make them problematic, particularly for those dealing with autoimmune disease. These plants include tomatoes, bell peppers, hot peppers, paprika, goji berries, eggplant, and potatoes, among others. (For a complete list, see this post by The Paleo Mom.) A growing number of people seem to be trying out the Autoimmune Protocol, which advocates avoiding nightshades, among other gut irritants, so I wanted to make a marinara sauce that could be enjoyed without the use of tomatoes, bell peppers, alcohol, or added sugars.

Melissa’s Produce offered to help me with this mission by sending me their new organic family box of fresh produce, which included practically everything I needed– and then some. (If you live in the Southern California area, this box is $40 for 17 lbs of organic produce delivered to your doorstep with free shipping!)


Made with a simple blend of carrots, onions, lemon, garlic, and a beet for its red hue, this sauce is as easy and healthy as it gets, and it is just as satisfying as traditional red sauce. I’m actually surprised by how much I like it!


Whether you require a nightshade-free marinara sauce, or are just looking to change up a recipe in your weekly dinner rotation, I hope you enjoy this sauce as much as we have.

Tomato-less Marinara Sauce (AIP-friendly, Nightshade-free)
Makes 5 cups


1 tablespoon coconut oil
2 yellow onions, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound carrots, chopped
1 medium beet, chopped
1 cup water
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice


Melt the coconut oil in a large pot over medium heat, and saute the onions until they are tender and golden, about 10 minutes. Add in the minced garlic and saute until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add in the carrots, beet, and water and bring the mixture to a boil. Cover and lower the heat to a simmer, cooking until the carrots and beets are fork-tender, about 30 to 40 minutes.

carrot-marinaraCarefully transfer the mixture to a high-speed blender, add the salt and lemon juice, and blend until smooth. (Be sure to cover the vent in the lid of your blender with a dishtowel to prevent the top blowing off from the pressure of blending hot liquids!) Taste the sauce and adjust any seasonings, as needed, including a dash of oregano and basil, if you like! You can also add additional water, if you’d like a thinner sauce.

Serve warm over your favorite vegetable or pasta dish, and enjoy! Leftover sauce can be stored in a sealed container in the fridge for up to a week, or in the freezer for months.


4.65 from 14 votes
Tomato-less Marinara Sauce (Nightshade-free, AIP-friendly)
A quick and healthy marinara sauce that is free of nightshades, sugar, and alcohol.
Servings: 5 cups
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 2 yellow onions , chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves , minced
  • 1 pound carrots , chopped
  • 1 medium beet , chopped
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  1. Melt the coconut oil in a large pot over medium heat, and saute the onions until they are tender and golden, about 10 minutes. Add in the minced garlic and saute until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add in the carrots, beet, and water and bring the mixture to a boil. Cover and lower the heat to a simmer, cooking until the carrots and beets are fork-tender, about 30 to 40 minutes.
  2. Carefully transfer the mixture to a high-speed blender, add the salt and lemon juice, and blend until smooth. (Be sure to cover the vent in the lid of your blender with a dishtowel to prevent the top blowing off from the pressure of blending hot liquids!) Taste the sauce and adjust any seasonings, as needed, including a dash of oregano and basil, if you like! You can also add additional water, if you'd like a thinner sauce.
  3. Serve warm over your favorite vegetable or pasta dish, and enjoy! Leftover sauce can be stored in a sealed container in the fridge for up to a week, or in the freezer for months.


  • If you’d prefer to use apple cider vinegar instead of the lemon juice for tartness, I’d start with just half the amount called for, as I find the vinegar more potent in flavor.

As always, please leave a comment below letting us know any other substitutions you try!

Reader Feedback: Have you ever tried eliminating nightshades? Do you have a favorite alternative to classic marinara sauce? I’ve never tried eliminating nightshades myself, and I have a feeling it would be really difficult for me. I love pretty much everything on the nightshade list!

*Disclosure: I’d like to give a special thanks to Melissa’s Produce for providing a complimentary box of their organic produce for me to work with while developing this recipe. As always, I’m under no obligation to post a positive review and I will never mention a product on this site that I wouldn’t use in my own home!

Meet Megan Gilmore

Hi, Iโ€™m Megan. A former fast food junkie turned certified nutritionist consultant, trying to make healthy living as easy as possible. I believe in eating delicious whole foods on a regular basis to help naturally support the bodyโ€™s detox organsโ€” no juice fasting required. (Unless you want to!) If you make one of my healthy recipes, tag @detoxinista on Instagram or Facebook so I can see!

59 thoughts on “Tomato-less Marinara Sauce (Nightshade-free, AIP-friendly)

  1. TeaJae

    I now have a nightshade sensitivity all of a sudden well, just becoming aware of it I should say. To never eat a eggplant, tomatoes and peppers and like a nut I keep trying saying oh just a little and paying for it later. My body just doesn’t like it. I’m sick for a few days afterwards. I’m so happy to see someone created a tomato-free sauce, I can’t wait to try it. Farmers market is coming this weekend ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Laura

    I had no idea that nightshade sensitivity was even an issue! Thanks for posting. I definitely know some people to share this post with. Although, don’t think I could give them up myself… all those veggies on the list.

    Confession time, I love making the Olive Garden sauce that I found somewhere on Pinterest, it’s the real deal, tastes almost identical to theirs, alot cheaper and instead of pasta, I can use spaghetti squash. All winners here.

  3. Laurie

    This post is so timely for me. I just met with a nutritionist and we discussed the very real possiblity/probability that I can no longer eat foods in the nightshade family because I feel so ill afterwards. Ugh. Unfortunately, I cannot offer any suggestions for recipes because this revelation is new. Thank you for sharing this recipe!

  4. Nadine

    Thank you! I have been hunting for night shade free, SIBO friendly (the onions are not so great,but can work around them) recipes. It seems paleo and grain free diets rely heavily on the nightshade family as well as eggs – which I also can not eat. Do you have any information on spinach, strawberries and bananas – I can’t eat any of those either. It is great not to feel so isolated as a foodie who has such a limited repertoire. I am so thankful for your website, great find!

    1. Michelle monk

      Hi Nadine, I as well have a nightshade problem, and bananas and strawberries. among other things that have since been discovered. You might consider going on a “latex fruit allergy syndrome diet” for even just three days or a week, and see if your body feels any different. Even if you don’t like that idea, that’s cool. Check out my blog –
      My mom had sibo, and a naturopathic doctor cured her and her food allergies with rifaximin for several months.
      Take care.

      Anyways, I love this recipe idea! I’m going to use golden beets instead of carrots, olive oil instead of butter, rice vinegar instead of lemon, and add basil! I’ll report back if I remember to.

  5. Lauren

    Wow, this looks like the real thing! What a great recipe for those with allergies. ๐Ÿ™‚ I’ll definitely be checking into that produce box as well, that sounds like a great deal!

  6. Suzanne

    Thank you! I’m always up for a new nightshade free recipe, and I’ve been craving sauce lately. Nightshades cause me joint pain, even the tiniest amounts. Thank goodness for sweet potatoes and recipes like this ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. Lindy

    Yahoo! We just started eating paleo and found out that my son has nightshades sensitivities so this is a God-send! I cannot wait to try it!

  8. Morgan

    My husband has lupus and tried giving up night shades for awhile and didn’t notice any difference. We too were happy about that since we like a lot of those foods. He has improved giving up gluten, dairy, and refined sugar (oddly easier than the night shades) I would still like to try this recipe though since tomatoes are going out of season here and carrots, beets, and onions are about to be in abundance! Great seasonally minded recipe, especially over spaghetti squash!

  9. Luci

    Oh my gosh! My sister linked me to this post because I can’t eat nightshades…they irritate my gut & give me eczema! I cut them out of my diet nearly 2 years ago. I can’t wait to try out this recipe as I miss having a marinara sauce!

  10. nick deck

    I cooked dinner for a special group of my coaching clients 2 weeks ago, and 3 out of 10 had noticed a sensitivity to nightshades! Awesome recipe, I’ll definitely try this!

  11. Kari

    I have given up most nightshades for the past 15 years. I do miss the occasional tomato on a sandwich out (I usually substitute cucumber slices), jalapenos in my queso, or baked potato slathered with butter from time to time. As you can see I’m not that strict with some of the things ppl are avoiding around this blog. Moderation works for me. So I love this recipe for giving some variety.

    I don’t notice any ill effects from these rare lapses, probably because they are maybe 1x month.

    I gave up nightshades, not for autoimmune challenges, but because I follow the Blood Type diet and these are avoided by Type As (and some for Bs). I will say, that when I eat multiple non-A foods at a meal, or in a day, I have noticed symptoms around my small intestine meridian (ex. tops of shoulders next to my neck)–horrible spasms.

    It was explained to me that there is an immune response happening in my small intestine when the non-blood type food gets absorbed into the bloodstream. The molecules are attacked as “not similar enough to become part of me.” When this chronically happens (like at every meal), then the small intestine meridian becomes too stimulated; it runs alongside the neck at the shoulders. That’s the way I understand it happens for me anyway.

    This has happened consistently enough that I don’t doubt it at this point. Ppl might want to check it out and see if it helps. I found I didn’t notice much symptoms except this and fatigue after non-type meals, and only after being pretty strict with it for at least a month. It has the food lists for each type there.
    The books are best for the full explanations of the theory.

  12. Liz

    My SO went on a nightshade-free diet a few months ago to treat his psoriasis, and it seems to have been helping his symptoms. I’ve found the exclusion of the nightshades from my cooking to be REALLY frustrating at times (tomato products and potatoes are just SO good — and USEFUL — in so many dishes!), and I was JUST lamenting about needing to come up with a tomato-free pasta sauce. Now I don’t have to! In your pics, the sauce looks identical to tomato-based ones; amazing!

  13. Anna

    This looks great! Any recommendations on a substitute for the beets? More carrots? I realize this would make it less sweet but beets are a big no.

  14. Rowena

    Thank you for this recipe, my son has many intolerances including nightshades and I really do struggle cooking for him sometimes. I made this dish last night, and used balsamic instead of lemon. My son loved it. Will definitely be cooking this again.

  15. Linda

    I was disappointed with the flavor of the Marinara Sauce. It was very bland. I put more garlic and basil plus fresh oregano. What can I do? Why would this happen? I’m hoping it will pick up flavor over time. Any suggestion? Thanks, Linda

    1. Hannah

      I think I will try it with with some nutritional yeast and vegan parmesan. If you’re not vegan you might try and add a parmesan rind while the sauce simmers. Also, the longer you let a marinara simmer, the more the flavors will permeate. When I made traditional marinaras, I’d put a small handful of basil, a tablespoon of dried oregano, maybe a teaspoon each or so of dried thyme, dried rosemary, dried marjoram and dried fennel, salt and pepper to taste, and let a parmesan rind simmer in the pot. I’d add more freshly grated parmesan at the end. You can also add some crushed red pepper flakes if you can tolerate a little spice. Hopefully that’ll help!

  16. Crystal

    I had just begun researching ‘no-mato’ sauce and since I love your blog I was thrilled to see you made this! I made it tonight, adding basil, oregano and lots of extra garlic (we love garlic!). It is so delicious!! Not exactly like tomato sauce (well there aren’t any tomatoes so….lol!), but we LOVE it!! Using it in lasagna right now. Thank you so much!

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  18. Peter

    Just made it for dinner. Was really surprised at how good it tasted. In fact, the smell of it resembles a delicious, authentic bolagnaise sauce!

    I added oregano, parsley and time for extra flavour!


  19. Heather

    My husband cannot have tomatoes or lemon (citrus). I wondered why the lemon is in the recipe. What does it do? What could I replace it with or would it work without the lemon? I appreciate any feedback. We are very excited to find this! Thank you!

    1. Megan Post author

      The lemon replaces the acidity that tomatoes usually give to marinara sauce. You could add a splash of vinegar instead, for a similar flavor.

      1. Heather

        Oh rats – we can’t do vinegar either , because of the acidity. I’ll play around with it and see what I can do. I appreciate your response!

        1. Kristen

          Just wondering why you can’t do lemon? lemon while it is an acidic fruit actually becomes alkaline in the body when we injest it. just thought I’d share.

          1. Heather

            Thank you Kristen for the insight. Simply going by what the doctor told us to avoid. There is a long list of foods to avoid for Interstitial Cystitis (IC) and “citrus fruits” is one of them. We will try it as soon as we can get his pain to go away. Right now he wouldn’t want to risk it. He’s at a 1-3 on the pain scale so we’re making improvements. Hoping it will just a take a bit for the body to heal.

        2. Crystal

          Heather, i have IC as well. I make a similar “no-mato” sauce that does not have any added acids and it comes out great. I roast the carrots, beets, and red bell pepper (they are not an issue for me) and add basil, oregano, and fennel. Other people I know with IC have used a little pear juice, but that does make it a bit sweeter.

        3. Joel

          My wife Brittany as IC. When she needs to substituent for acidic flavors like vinegar and citrus, she uses these liquid herbs called Terrain. She mainly uses the Scared Herbs flavor, but they also ones made with garlic, turmeric and oregano that she uses to make sauces like this. We use them in place of vinegar or lemon juice in any recipe. You can buy them here:

      2. Dena

        Thank you for this! We have been avoiding Tomato sauce and lemon juice with my 13 month old son b/c of them causing a facial rash. He has just decided to get picky on me and not being able to make him spaghetti is frustrating me!

  20. Natalie

    So tasty! I like this better than the tomato version. I added a ton of garlic, onion, italian, oregano, and basil seasonings. I also used chicken broth in place of water, added ground turkey and topped with fresh parmesan. Holy yum!

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  23. Krista

    I added some anchovie paste (wild caught with only olive oil, salt and anchovies as ingredients so AIP friendly) and some pastured pork lard and it turned out great! Keep the AIP friendly recipes coming please!!! :D:D

  24. Rudy Montes

    It’s similar to the ketchup my wife makes and this one tastes great. Not as messy as the ketchup recipe. Now to tackle mustard without paprika.

  25. Raquel

    Made this tonight with gluten-free pasta.. and I LOVED it. I’ll probably add more spices next time but the kids didn’t even notice a difference! Thank you so much for your creation! This will be a regular staple in our dinners!

  26. Cindy

    I am INCREDIBLY happy I came across this recipe! My dad is allergic to tomatoes (well not allergic, but he has extreme joint pain when he consumes them), and he’s been avoiding tomato ever since!

    I’m so excited to try out this recipe ๐Ÿ™‚

  27. In happiness

    Thank you for posting this My young son and i want to make this, but we are omitting the you foresee any problem with the end result and its incumbent taste?

  28. LeAnn

    Michelle, how did the altered recipe go? I cannot have carrots (too much sugar) and was wanting to try that recipe. Thanks for the original post!

  29. Debra

    Thank you- This could possibly be a life saver for us. Found out yesterday that my daughter has developed an allergy to tomatoes. There is a possibility eggplant also. I appreciate that you have taken the time to make this. I was going to experiment and decided to google first. Pizza is her first love and she was really thinking that she could eat just a little. I hope this works for her. She is definitely a headstrong teen.

  30. lisa meadows

    Thank you so much, I became deathly allergic to tomatoes last year after 45 years of eating them and growing them , I have been lost …. alot of stuff have powder, paste, something tomato. I will try this and keep looking for more on here.

  31. MJ

    I just made this today and I’m amazed how good and close to regular Marinera in taste and color it comes out to be. I adjusted the spices but it still came out great and I’m so pleased with the fact that it’s so healthy and easy๐Ÿ˜Š. Thank you for this recipe.

  32. Adel

    Very excited to try your delicious looking tomato free sauce fr my tomato loving intolerant family member so we may all enjoy Italian together. Thinking of also using it for beanless chili w a slight change in seasoning and ground turkey.

  33. Johanna

    I made this tonight and it was great! I was hesitant because I really dislike beets, but was pleasantly surprised with the results. I used olive oil instead of coconut and added Italian herbs. In addition to the lemon juice, I also added apple cider vinegar to taste. I didn’t find that the lemon alone created enough acidity for the dish to mimic tomato. I added ground, grass fed beef to the sauce and served it over sweet potato starch noodles. I ate a modest potion and felt STUFFED – much fuller than I would feel with the same amount of marinara over wheat noodles.

  34. Erin

    We have really loved this recipe and I wanted to share that we’ve used it as a pizza sauce and now to make a nightshade-free chili that looks and tastes like regular chili! I’d love to share the chili recipe since I have been a bit disappointed in the other nightshade-free “chili” recipes out on the internet. Thanks for the great sauce! I think this recipe will continue to be a work horse in our kitchen!

  35. Kirsten

    Great recipe but in addition to the nightshade vegetables I cannot have onion or garlic. This allergy is killing me, literally. Everything has onion and garlic in it. Do you have any suggestions for substitutes of onion and garlic? It seems there’s a substitute for everything else but not these two super savory spices. Thanks for any suggestions, I’m desperate!

  36. Marisa

    My jaw dropped when I saw this recipe. I get really sick if I eat tomatoes. I was sad, I was thinking no more spaghetti and meatballs or steak and chicken stew. I’am so amazed and thrilled with this recipe. I cant wait to try it. Thanks a million!


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