how to make spaghetti sauce less acidic, acidic spaghetti sauce, how to make spaghetti sauce

Acid is a pretty important topic that we very rarely talk about. As much as I like to add a little bit of lemon juice to everything, it doesn’t always go over well. While my dishes taste wonderful, my guests who are prone to acid reflux would very much prefer that I increase the pH of my cooking.

I can’t adjust every dish, but I’ve become much more conscious of the acidity of my dishes over the years.

Why Is Spaghetti Sauce So Acidic?

It turns out that when it comes to acid, tomatoes are one of the worst offenders. Canned tomatoes can have a pH of 3.5 or less, which is incredibly low for something that doesn’t taste sour. Since spaghetti sauce is mostly made out of tomatoes, this makes the finished product very acidic.

fresh tomato, tomato sauce

Many people add wine to their spaghetti sauce, which is also very acidic and makes the problem even worse.

How Can We Balance This Out?

frying onions, caramelizing onions

First of all, it’s important to realize that unless your sauce is giving someone heartburn, acidity is not a problem. We drink lemonade and consume incredibly acidic foods like oranges and pickles all the time. That said, there are a few things you can do to make your sauce less acidic.

Add Onions

Onions aren’t the most alkaline food, but they taste pretty good when you throw them in tomato sauce. One of the best ways to balance out an acidic taste is to add sugar, and carmelizing some onions before mixing them into your spaghetti sauce is a wonderful way to do just that.

This won’t raise the actual pH of your sauce very much, but it will make it taste pretty good.

Herbs, Greens, and Mushrooms

herbs for pasta, spaghetti herbsIt turns out that basil and parsley are pretty basic. Adding a generous amount of herbs (especially fresh ones) can help lower the acidity of your sauce. If you want to go a little further, mix in some leafy greens like kale or spinach. This will add an interesting texture to your dish while lower the pH quite a bit (lover pH = more acidic).

Mushrooms are another highly alkaline food that’s right at home in spaghetti sauce. Try starting off your sauce by sauteeing some onions and mushrooms in plenty of butter. You’ll add some wonderful umami and plenty of sweetness while counteracting the acid of the tomatoes.

The Secret Ingredient: Seafood

Of the things we eat, some of the most alkaline things come from the sea. Shrimp, crabs, clams, and mussels all have very high pH and go very well with tomato-based sauces.

Tossing some shrimp in with your spaghetti or serving it alongside some mussels is a great way to lower the acidity. There’s a reason this pairing is so delicious.

Controlling The Acidity of Your Spaghetti Sauce

While you can make your sauce taste less sour by mixing in some sugar, it’s best to actually lower the acidity with alkaline ingredients. Onions, mushrooms, leafy greens, and herbs all can be mixed into your sauce to help raise the pH while making it taste even better.

tomato paste, tomato paste how to make

If you want to take things further, pair your spaghetti sauce with seafood (especially the shelled sort) to reduce the acidity even further. You’ll keep all of your dinner guests happy while presenting a wonderful dish!


Peter's path through the culinary world has taken a number of unexpected turns. After starting out as a waiter at the age of 16, he was inspired to go to culinary school and learn the tricks of the trade. As he delved deeper, however, his career took a sudden turn when a family friend needed someone to help manage his business. Peter now scratches his culinary itch on the internet by blogging, sharing recipes, and socializing with food enthusiasts worldwide.


  1. Hi. Chemistry teacher here.
    Correction: you don’t lower pH when you add a basic item. You RAISE the pH from 3.5 to 5.0, as an example. As you raise the pH you LOWER the acidity. Interesting article though.
    I will try the cartelized onion suggestion.

  2. April D Grimes Reply

    I like to use some honey to lower the acidity. I use hot honey to give it a spicy kick.

  3. I caught that too but he got it right at several other points in his article.

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