When you think of marinara sauce, you don’t necessarily think Whole30-friendly… Mozzarella sticks (deep fried dairy and gluten!), pasta (gluten), and other banned foods come to mind.
Luckily, marinara sauce on Whole30 can be treated much like any other pasta sauce on the program. As long as it is comprised of all compliant ingredients, marinara sauce is Whole30 compliant.
If you pay attention to your labels or make your own, no reason you shouldn’t enjoy it in a variety of dishes while you’re on the program!
Marinara Sauce vs. Pasta Sauce…What’s the Difference?
Pasta sauce is a large overarching term for any sauce you’d typically serve, well, over pasta.
Typically these savory sauces are tomato-based with some sort of onion, garlic, herb and spice mixture that is a staple in Italian home cooking. The category “pasta sauce” also includes, however, vodka sauce, cream-based sauces, mushroom sauces, etc.
Marinara sauce is much more specific. While marinara sauce’s origins are somewhat unclear, it is thought to originate from Italian mariners voyaging back to their home country in the 18th century with a groundbreaking new discovery: tomatoes.
This classic sauce recipe varies a bit, but typically starts with a base crushed tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, chili flakes, basil, and salt. Notice anything exciting about those ingredients? Totally Whole30-compliant!
Ingredients to Watch Out in Marinara Sauce
As Whole30-ers, we are used to reading labels. Marinara sauce is no different! The most frequently spotted non-compliant ingredient in store-bought sauces is probably going to be sugar.
That’s right, sugar even sneaks its way into savory tomato sauce! This is typically used to balance out the acidity from the tomatoes—many recipes for homemade marinara even call for a pinch or two as well.
To make a recipe that calls for sugar compliant, don’t hesitate to simply leave out the sweet stuff.
The second most common offender is non-compliant oil. Many commercially produced marinara sauces will use soybean oil instead of olive oil to save some money and, as we know, soy is never allowed on Whole30.
Less commonly, jarred sauces may add nitrites, cornstarch, or MSG—all of which are banned on Whole30.
Also uncommon, but worth looking out for: sometimes wine is added to sauce for extra depth of flavor. As alcohol is also not allowed on Whole30, sauces with wine as in ingredient are still to be avoided, even if wine used only in small amounts in recipes.
These ingredients are not as common as sugar; however, it is best to read your labels to be extra sure!
Our Favorite Whole30-Compliant Marinara Sauces
Want to take a break from the chore of always reading labels at the store and have us do the work for you?
We’ve rounded up a couple of our favorite store-bought marinara sauces so you can focus less on scouring for icky ingredients and more on the delicious meal you’re going to make with your sauce.
- Thrive Market Organic Marinara Pasta Sauce – Super traditional recipe with only the good stuff—check out that ingredients list!
- Rao’s Homemade Marinara Sauce – A bit of a pricier option…but many people swear by it and believe it’s worth every penny!
- Kirkland Signature Organic Marinara Sauce – Costco to the rescue! This 3-pack of big jars is great for feeding families on Whole30…and for a great price, too.
What Can I Do With Marinara Sauce?
Without all the banned foods we usually eat this delicious sauce with, where do we even begin? Well, quite a lot, actually!
- Over Zucchini Noodles. Whip up a batch of zucchini noodles (or zoodles, as we call them) and serve with marinara sauce and Whole30 compliant meatballs for a simple but hearty dinner.
- Baked Eggs. Spoon some marinara into ramekins and bake eggs in the sauce and top with fresh herbs instead of parmesan!
- Pair With Spaghetti Squash. Spaghetti squash also makes a great vehicle for your favorite sauce, and couldn’t be easier to prepare. The options are endless!
Looking to make your own sauce? Check out our Whole30 Pasta Sauce post for a simple, base recipe you can endlessly customize.
Have a secret marinara sauce recipe (that you’re willing to share)? What’s your favorite way to eat our favorite tomato sauce? Leave us a comment and let us know!