What is Tomato Frito?

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Tomato Frito

What is Tomato Frito? Origin and Uses

Spanish cuisine has blessed the world with many delicacies that bring a joyous taste to our recipes and cooking practices. One such delicacy is Tomato Frito, a fried tomato sauce native to many regions of Spain and widely popular among chefs globally. It is a form of tomato puree, where tomatoes are fried in olive oil and flavoured with garlic and onions.

This sauce adds a burst of flavour to any Mediterranean dish. It is typically used as a stand-alone dish, a base ingredient for pasta and great for dipping. In this article, we will discuss all there is to know about Tomato Frito, its origins, how to use it and where to buy a supply to make delicious recipes. Without further ado, let’s dive straight into the article.

What is Tomato Frito?

Tomato Frito (literal translation: fried tomato) is a popular sauce made from pureed tomatoes. For elevated taste, manufacturers add hints of onion and garlic along with a good volume of extra virgin olive oil to the tomato paste. You can use this sauce in a variety of recipes to bring a unique flavour and richness to them.

It is a fairly straightforward process to prepare Tomato Frito; the main ingredient (tomato) is readily available everywhere. To prepare a batch, simply cook the tomatoes on a burner in abundant extra virgin olive oil until they are thick and viscous. Then depending on your preference, add spices or vegetables to the mixture.

You can add garlic, onion, and even carrot if your like, as well as some herbs like oregano, bay and basil. Use tomato off the vine to make the perfect Tomato Frito. However, if fresh in-season tomatoes are not available, you can use canned tomatoes to make this rich and silky sauce.

This traditional sauce has some common variations. The most common variation of Tomato Frito is to brown in an olive oil one chopped onion until translucent with the mince of garlic clove before adding fresh diced tomatoes. Onion reduces the acidity of tomatoes, so you do not need to add sugar. Another variation of this Spanish sauce is also very simple. Just add half of the green pepper with one small onion.

When to use it?

As Tomato Frito is known to add richness to recipes, it serves as a perfect base for Italian delicacies such as pizza, lasagna, or pasta. Moreover, it is featured in Spanish dishes like patatas bravas (spicy potatoes) and tigres (Spanish stuffed mussels). You can also use it in meat and fish savouries as a marinating element or cooking sauce. You can even use it next to fried eggs for a delicious breakfast. 

It is also tempting as a dip or spread, added to rich dishes and also in marinades. You can use it to enrich sauces like Vinaigrettes, Aiolis, tomato sauces and pan sauces. Tomato Frito excels in the recipe of most popular Italian dish Chicken Cacciatora. 

This rich sauce can also be used with French fries, sautéed pork, hamburger, Cuban rice, meatballs and tuna. In short, you can say that this sauce works perfectly with any meal. Basically, it is an ideal replacement for your regular ketchup or other tomato sauce needs. 

Remarkably, Tomato Frito also has an immaculate taste when you eat it without any additives. As the tomatoes go through a rigorous cooking process, the consistency is much smoother than other alternatives. You can flavour this sauce with any herb you like the most such as rosemary, basil and thyme.

Keep it covered in a cool, dry place once you open a jar of purchased or homemade Tomato Frito. However, it holds six days in the refrigerator, but you can keep it in the freezer. If you’re careful, you can make it last up to six months.

Is Tomato Frito the same as Passata?

Although many people, especially in the UK, use these two terms interchangeably, they have slight differences in taste and preparation methods. We already discussed how Tomato Frito comes from pureed tomatoes mixed garlic and onion or any other spices depending on the local culture.

But the magical factor to Tomato Frito is the fresh tomatoes, and the fresh tomatoes help create a more balanced, richer and sweeter flavour. In case of unavailability of fresh tomatoes, tomatoes coulis and canned tomatoes can be used. 

Contrarily, Passata is also a creamy sauce made from tomatoes but without the seeds. Tomato passata is basically strained uncooked tomato puree in which no flavouring and additives are used. It contains 100% ripe red tomatoes, and it is smoother than crushed tomatoes. These smoother tomatoes make thick tomato sauce. It is mainly used in Italian cuisine.

Since they have only minor differences, UK chefs use them to substitute for the other whenever necessary. If you want your passata to taste like Tomato Frito, simply add garlic/onion to the mix, and you’re good to go.

Is Tomato Frito the same as Passata

Origins of Tomato Frito:

Tomato Frito is originated in Spain which is readily available in packaging. The packaging version of Tomato Frito dates back to the 20th century. But the puree of fried tomatoes was being made and used before the 20th century. 

In the 1500s, Hernan Cortes was the first one who brought back the yellow tomato plant to Spain from the Aztecs. It seems likely that Spanish people combined it with onion over the heat. In 1692, the Naples cookbook featured the first tomato recipes, but the author got these tomato recipes from Spanish sources.

Where can I buy Tomato Frito?

Tomato Frito is the essential ingredient for most Spanish cuisine instead of fresh tomatoes. It is a pantry essential in Spain, and most home chefs use homemade Tomato Frito. However, this flavourful sauce is sold under big food brands like Heinz. In the UK, most people use its packaging version.

Even celebrity chefs like Delia Smith use Heinz’s Tomato Frito in their recipes. You can use purchase a bottle of Heinz Tomato Frito from Tesco UK. You can find it at Amazon UK.

Andy Canter


Ever since I started cooking I’ve been fascinated by how different people’s techniques are and how they best utilise the ingredients around them. Even the person living next door will have their own unique way of frying an egg or cooking a salmon fillet.

This fascination led me on a journey across the globe to discover the countless practices and traditions the world of cooking has to offer. I thought you’d enjoy and find value in sharing that journey with me so I created Cooked Best!