Is Marinara Sauce the Same as Spaghetti Sauce?

When you go to the pantry to grab a can of sauce to put on the spaghetti, do you reach for the one labeled “marinara sauce” or the one labeled “spaghetti sauce”? The terms “marinara sauce” and “spaghetti sauce” are often used interchangeably. With this term usage, many assume that the two can be used to serve the same purpose. In reality, marinara sauce and spaghetti sauce are very different. 

Marinara sauce and spaghetti sauce are not the same thing. Despite their many similarities, there are important differences between the two sauces that can cause issues if you choose to use the two interchangeably, such as the complexity of the sauces as well as the purpose each sauce is meant to serve.

Continue reading to learn more about the similarities and differences between marinara and spaghetti sauce. Also, continue reading to learn if you can use each sauce interchangeably.

Is Marinara the Same as Spaghetti Sauce?

While spaghetti sauce and marinara sauce are very similar, they are not the same. They each have a specific purpose that they are supposed to serve as well as differences in ingredients that make them taste different.

Due to the differences between the two, this can cause dishes that are prepared to have different tastes or possibly different textures. 

Spaghetti Sauce and Marinara Sauce Overview

Before you can know the differences and similarities between spaghetti sauce and marinara sauce, it is important to know what each sauce is. They both have origins dating back to Italy. They are both based on the sauces Italians made using tomatoes as the base of the sauce.

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As time progressed, however, spaghetti sauce and marinara sauce became different types of sauces. They each serve different purposes, and they are made using different ingredients. The sauces are also cooked in different ways.

What is Marinara Sauce?

Marinara sauce is the typical sauce one would think of when they hear about a tomato sauce. Marinara sauce is a tomato sauce that is known to be a thin sauce. This sauce also cooks very quickly. Other than tomatoes, you can find ingredients such as garlic, basil, oregano, and crushed red pepper flakes in the sauce.

There are also different types of marinara sauce. These different types are typically based on how much of certain ingredients are in the sauce or for the exact purpose of the marinara sauce. Hearty marinara sauce is one of these types.

What is Spaghetti Sauce?

Spaghetti sauce is often just referred to as “tomato sauce”. It is this sauce that people buy when they want to have pasta. This sauce tends to be complex, rich, and thick. You will often find that this sauce contains meat or other ingredients that make it not vegetarian-safe. This sauce is typically used to cover foods.

Comparing Marinara Sauce with Spaghetti Sauce

Marinara sauce and spaghetti sauce have many similarities between the two. It is these similarities that make people think the two are the same. Marinara sauce and spaghetti sauce are actually very different. Despite having many similarities, they also have many differences.


Spaghetti sauce and marinara sauce have many similarities. It is because of these similarities that many confuse the two sauces or think that they are the same sauce. There are three main similarities that are easy to notice between marinara sauce and spaghetti sauce.

Base Ingredient

Both marinara sauce and spaghetti sauce are known as tomato sauces. This means the base ingredient for both sauces is the tomato. While each sauce can have different ingredients in the sauces, it is this base that lays the groundwork for how the sauce tastes and looks.

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Since the base of both sauces is the tomato, both sauces tend to have a red coloration. While you can spot small bits of other colors in each sauce due to the ingredients in them, red is the overwhelming color that we see when we pour each sauce out of the can.


The textures and consistencies of both marinara sauce and spaghetti sauce are quite similar. While both sauces can be chunky, they both have a texture that is somewhat smooth due to the crushing and simmering of the tomatoes to make the two sauces.

You will often find lumps in both sauces since the tomatoes are often not worked down into a fine paste-like texture. This does not mean that the sauces are difficult to get down. The smoothness of the texture allows for the sauces to go down easily.


While there are many similarities between marinara sauce and spaghetti sauce that cause people to confuse the two or make people think that they are the same sauce, there are some key differences between the two sauces that allow for you to be able to tell the two apart.

It is also important to note that these differences are what can cause some dishes to become somewhat changed when marinara sauce is substituted for spaghetti sauce and vice versa.

Meat Content

The amount of meat in the sauces is a big difference between marinara sauce and spaghetti sauce. Out of the two, spaghetti sauce is the one that can be made to include meat. This is what can give the meaty flavor when you eat spaghetti.

Marinara sauce, on the other hand, is not made using meat. It is very rare to find any type of meat within the ingredients of marinara sauce.


When it comes to the complexity of the two sauces, you will find that spaghetti sauce tends to be much more complex when compared to marinara sauce. There are many more ingredients that tend to go into making spaghetti sauce compared to the amount of ingredients needed to make marinara sauce.

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Spaghetti sauce and marinara sauce each have different purposes that they are made for. Marinara sauce is primarily used as a dipping sauce. It is often used as a dipping sauce for foods like mozzarella sticks. It is also the sauce used on pizza.

Spaghetti sauce, on the other hand, is made to cover foods. It is most often used when making spaghetti or lasagna. It will cover the noodles and give the dish the bright red coloration that we associate with the dish.

Can You Use Spaghetti Sauce Instead of Marinara Sauce and Vice Versa?

Many tend to use spaghetti sauce and marinara sauce interchangeably. While it is possible to use one in place of the other, it is best not to do this. The main purpose of spaghetti sauce is to cover certain dishes, while the main purpose of marinara sauce is to be used as a dipping sauce. The ingredients used in spaghetti sauce may not allow for it to be the best dipping sauce, while the thin nature of the marinara sauce may not work well with covering dishes such as pasta.

Final Thoughts

Despite many thinking that marinara sauce and spaghetti sauce are the same thing, they are very different. They each can contain different ingredients, and one is much more complex when compared to the other. The main difference comes in their purposes. Marinara sauce is made to be a dipping sauce, while spaghetti sauce is made to cover certain dishes, such as pasta.