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

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.

plate of spaghetti with marinara sauce on top

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.

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!

fork twirling spaghetti with marinara sauce

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

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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.

preparing marinara sauce in a pot and in a blenderCarefully 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.

fork with spaghetti and tomatoless marinara

4.8 from 45 votes
Tomato-less Marinara Sauce (Nightshade-free, AIP-friendly)
Prep Time
10 mins
Cook Time
40 mins
Total Time
50 mins
 

A quick and healthy marinara sauce that is free of nightshades, sugar, and alcohol.

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: healthy, paleo, pasta, vegan
Servings: 5 cups
Calories: 90 kcal
Author: Megan Gilmore
Ingredients
  • 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
Instructions
  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.

Per Serving: Calories: 90, Fat: 3g, Carbohydrates: 15g, Fiber: 3g, Protein: 1g

Notes:

  • 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!

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Comments

DD

I have been dealing with GERD for over 20 years. Some days are better than others. I am working with a Naturopath now, but tomatoes continue to be the bane of my existence. This recipe was perfect and kid approved.I put in some Red Wine Vinegar and a little bit of lemon juice. Next time I will use the full amount of lemon juice because I put the sauce in a lasagna and the sweetness was still quite noticeable. Thank you!

Sarah Geary

Is this with raw beets, or do you use roasted ones? Thanks, finding good nightshade free recipes is so hard!

    leah

    I peeled and chopped up a raw beet for this recipe.

Sara

I am not allowed any citrus on my AIP diet. Would it be ok without?

    Megan Gilmore

    I would try to compensate with extra salt– the citrus gives it the same acidity as tomatoes, so salt will help if you can’t have that.

Janet C Fowler

I’ve already identified beets as one of my fodmap triggers (gas, bloating, pain) and I am looking into trying out a low-amine nightshade free tomato sauce from a low-amine recipe using cranberries for ketchup I found online.

Do you know if it matters when the beets are canned or raw? I love beets – they give me pain after eating them so I quit eating them.

Zoe

Tried this as a substitute for tomato’s (tomato’s don’t go down very well for me..) this recipe is delicious I like it more than I ever liked tomato’s and it doesn’t make my stomach turn! Thank you so much for sharing this with the world!
I’ve tried it with spicy sausages and pasta it was amazing!

Lori

Thank you so much for this recipe. I have RA and have eliminated all night shades from my diet. I love spaghetti but don’t want to always have Alfredo. I can’t wait to try this.

LUz bartel

I made this delicious pasta sauce last of the and wow!!!! it was delicious, it was just amazing😊Thank you so much for sharing this recipe.

Lisa Fredrickson

How wonderfully refreshing to have your site for recipes. As a cook learning to give up grains and nightshades was challenging. My body is transforming and the biggest difference aside from arthritis and swelling in my guts is the dramatic lessening of my allergies. Thank you for this.

Kayllie

This was absolutely amazing! I added extra spices and some nutritional yeast since we are big cheese and spice fans here, and I was sceptical that this would taste close totomato marinara…MIND BLOWN! This was so good that I doubt I will ever miss eating tomato marinara ever again. Thank you for such a great recipe! 🙂

Linda

So, I happen to strongly dislike beets. Does the sauce really taste like tomatoes, or does it taste like beets?

Gopal Cohen

Macros for keto diet?

Kevin

Can this be cooked in the instant pot

    Megan Gilmore

    Yes, definitely! I’d probably cook it for 5 minutes at high pressure, with 10 minutes of natural release before taking off the lid.

PG

I love this recipe! I thinned it out a bit and used some celery and ginger in place of the garlic (I can’t have garlic—allergic). The color came out spot on and I added more lemon than it called for but I love that it’s a forgiving recipe. I will definitely make it again in the future. 😊

Alison

DO you drain the carrot mixture before you put it in the blender?

michelle

So. Damn. Good. Thank you! Making again tonight.
I used this sauce plus some crushed tomato and spices (because i’m not nightshade free) instead of store bought tomato sauce in Minimalist Baker’s Lentil Bolognese recipe and it was delicious.

Shannon

Thank you for such an awesome and simple tomato free recipe! This was one of the best marinara sauces I’ve enjoyed!

Shirley Barnett

Do you peel the beets before “chopping” them?

Robin Eberline

Megan, I love your recipes. You are becoming my favorite go-to site when I’m looking for something new to feed my cravings for good food that is also good for me. And I share your recipes as well! Thank you for the great ideas — I think this one may be one of my new favorites!!!! I am a brand new health coach trying to get my website up to speed and it has a long ways to go. You don’t know it, but you have inspired me in so many ways! Thank you!

Vanessa

Bless you for this recipe as we use a tomato base in so many foods. This was a perfect alternative. I can’t have onion , but did add thyme and oregano. Sooo good. We

Kristen Harris

Thank you so much for this recipe! I just found out I have to remove nightshades from my diet so I’m looking for great recipes!

Michael

What can I replace the beets with. I can’t stand beets and never have been able to.

    Megan Gilmore

    Maybe more carrots, or another root vegetable? It won’t have the same color, but could still work!

Marti

I made this tonight and it was great. Even my husband liked it and he can still eat nightshades. Had it over chicken meatballs and it really tasted like a gourmet meal. Thank you!

ChRistin

Made this to surprise my AIP hubby last night and it was a hit! We added lot of extra spices like Italian Seasoning, Garlic and Onion Powder. Thanks for a great recipe. Served it over zoodles with mushrooms.

Allie

SO good! I didn’t add in the beet (just didn’t get to the store for it today), and kept out the onion (another sensitivity). Cooked the carrots in my instant pot to make it a bit faster. It was really so good. So grateful for this option that doesn’t include nightshades!!

Kathryn Moore

About 5 years ago I was diagnosed with acute ulcerative colitis. It came out of the blue – until I realized that it actually came as a result of not only massive stress, but also a lifetime of eating the wrong foods in abundance. I’ve been following the Paleo diet, but still having gut issues. I just read the Plant Paradox. Cut out ALL tomatoes and potatoes and like a miracle – IT WORKS!
I’m VERY excited to find new recipes with substitutes for tomatoes! I’m gonna try your Marinara sauce right away. Can’t wait for the cookbook! SO glad I found this site!
Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

Melanie

Ohmygosh! I just finished blending up the sauce and it tastes so good! I was wondering if it would be too sweet or just unlike tomatoey marinara it would be. Yet, now I’m thinking you are a genius because this sauce tastes like a legit and delicious (also creamy!)marinara! I’m so excited to use this with some v + gf cheesy bread I’m planning to make. The extras I’ll be freezing. Thanks for this recipe!!

Nicole

Love this recipe! Easy to make and a good marinara sauce replacer… I added a few more spices as well, Italian seasoning, basil, oregano and cane out great! My 11 month old loved it!! Thanks for the recipe

Maria

Has anyone ever canned this for the pantry? I have a similar recipe but I freeze it currently. Would love to know if anyone has canned it successfully and what modifications were made to do so.

Laura

Can this be used as pizza sauce?

Leah

I was kind of skeptical of how this would taste, but it turned out to be very good! It tastes almost identical to tomato based marinara sauces!

The only thing that needed modifying was the seasoning, since it was a little bland. 1 1/2 tsp salt and heaping pinches of basil, oregano, and thyme (about 1/2 – 1 tsp each) does the trick!

Maggie

Hi. I apologize if you’ve already answered this (couldn’t find an answer in the comments), but could this recipe be made in the slow cooker? Would it need any substitutions? Thanks.

Rachel

We started using this on our pizza and spaghetti and it’s wonderful! My son developed an allergy to tomatoes so this is just what we needed!

szynergy

Is there a version of the marinara that excludes the Carrot/celery family? Do you think I could substitute dark plums for beets? I really miss all the comfort dishes that have a night-shade base. Thanks!

Theresa

If I add some extra carrots can I omit the beet and use organic beet root powder?

Sue Mall

I can’t wait to try this! Tomatoes and sauces are one of my main triggers with gerd, and now Barrettes Esophagus. I miss my spaghetti and did an online search tonight for low acid spaghetti sauce. This came up and I’m planning on trying this tomorrow!!!

Amora

I tried this, but definitely made some adjustments. Less carrot, and when I blended I added a little: fresh basil, grapeseed oil, veggie stock, red wine and red wine vinegar. I think it’s awesome. Thanks!

Theresa

I made this sauce tonight and it is delicious. If I didn’t know I would never have guessed it didn’t have tomato in it. I had a senior moment (I’m in my 70’s so I’m allowed to say that lol) and added the lemon juice twice and it still turned out awesome. I used organic beet root powder in place of the beets because I had it and didn’t want to go get beets and it worked fine it gave me a little less volume but that’s okay. Thanks for all your great recipes.

Cassie

Megan this is SO fantastic!! Thank you for this recipe. I love the change in red sauce, it’s not acidic like tomato based marinara. I prefer this on my home made pizzas. (I freeze 1/2C portions to have on hand.) It is so pleasantly delightful 🙂 Thank you!! I’m going to try this in your Mexican Cauliflower Rice Casserole dish, instead of adding tomatoes.

Lisa

This is the second tomato free sauce I’ve tried as my bro is nightshade sensitive, also a much simpler recipe.
I subbed the water for a home-made broth and added extra lemon and salt. I browned our meat then added the sauce and left it to mingle over low heat while the pasta cooked.
So easy and so much flavour!
Everyone enjoyed it 🙂

Arwen

I am a 15 year old girl who personally does not follow the AIP diet. my mom does, because of an adverse reason to radiation treatment that my have given her a rare autoimmune disease. So i don’t need to eat all the weird food and substitutes she does. I cooked this for her with spaghetti squash and willing ate it happily as i knew there was real marinara and alfredo sauce with white real pasta in the pantry and nothing was stopping me from eating it. In fact my mom accused me of putting tomatoes in the sauce because it tasted way to close to the real thing to be true. Seriously this recipe is incredible and even my dad ate it. I cannot get over how good this was. If your gonna have it with spaghetti squash i recommend cooking the squash at 460° in the oven because that was the only time the spaghetti squash turned out well. I hope anyone who reads this tries the recipe!

Joanne

Delicious recipe, thank you!
I added a little more salt plus basil and Italian spices. So good!

Marisa

Would you consider this sauce “low acid”? I have GERD and am looking for an alternative for pizza sauce. Tomatoes seem to be one of the worst exacerbators.

Shawna

Could the recipe be made without lemon or vinegar? Would you need to substitute a different ingredient or just as extra water? I can’t have either lemon or vinegar,

Kara Boll

WOW!!! This was absolutely wonderful!! Life changing…my daughter has an allergy to nightshades and has not had red sauce for 3 to 4 years! She drives a hard bargain and loved it ❤️ She said it was so good she felt like she should not be eating it!! I almost cried!!! Thank you so very much!!!

Fay Gascho

Hi Megan,
This could work in the instant pot too, right? Any added advice for the instant pot?
Thanks for all your recipes…you are my go to.

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