Sweet juicy tomatoes and tangy onions combine so well together in this chilli tomato and onion sauce. It’s my favourite sauce for serving at a barbeque. It’s delicious when piled onto a crispy bread roll with a grilled sausage and it complements my Boerewors Patties perfectly.
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Chilli tomato and onion sauce
Chilli tomato and onion sauce is made from only 2 main ingredients, tomatoes and onions. It is super quick to make and freezes beautifully. I always wait until tomatoes are being sold cheaply in the supermarket and then I stock up on them and have a cookfest in the kitchen to fill my freezer with handy meal-sized bags.
This sauce packs so much more flavour than just opening a can of chopped tomatoes, and because it is homemade it has no preservatives whatsoever.
I’ve called it chilli tomato and onion sauce because I like to spice it up with a hint of chilli (not too much, but enough to add a little extra flavour). If you don’t like chilli you can leave it out.
I normally make a big batch and freeze it in meal-sized portions. You can use it in any recipe that calls for tinned tomatoes. I use it as a base when I make my spicy fish and rice bake. It makes a great addition to chilli bolognese or you could add it to a pasta and mince bake for an extra kick. In South Africa, it is served as a side dish at barbeque alongside meat and salads and is so tasty when mopped up with a piece of crusty bread.
This dish benefits from a long slow cooking time, so take this into account when you are making it. There’s no actual work involved other than keeping your eye on it to make sure it doesn’t dry out. If that happens you can just top up with a quarter cup of water every now and again.
And your patience will be rewarded by a thick luscious tomato and onion gravy that you can pour over steaks or sausages, or even simply serve as a side dish alongside a roast chicken.
What you will need
This recipe will make enough tomato and onion sauce for 2 to 3 meals for a family of 4 (as a side dish).
**You can get the complete list of ingredients and full instructions to make this tomato and onion sauce on the printable recipe card at the end of this post**
Tomatoes and onions – You will need double the amount of tomatoes as onions by volume once they have been chopped.
Olive oil – for softening the onions
Red wine vineger – you can actually use any fruity vinegar for this dish. Don’t use malt vinegar as this is quite sharp and may spoil the taste.
Brown sugar – adds a little sweetness
Chilli flakes – this provides a little heat. You could substitute the chilli flakes with freshly chopped chilli to your own taste, or leave the chilli out altogether.
Garlic – one or two cloves of freshly chopped garlic complement the flavour of tomatoes. But once again this is to your own taste. If you don’t like garlic, just leave it out.
Salt and pepper – for seasoning, and to your own taste.
Water – Start with a quarter of a cup of water and add extra water as and when needed (one quarter of a cup at a time) until the sauce is done. The actual amount of water will depend on how much liquid is in the tomatoes.
What to do
Before starting to cook this sauce you should chop up your tomatoes and onions into a chunky dice, approximately 1cm in size. Chop up the garlic cloves very finely, or crush them in a garlic press. If you prefer you could use the equivalent amount of ready-minced garlic from a jar.
Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan (I used a frying pan for the sake of the photos) and sweat the onions (and garlic if you are using it) for 3 or 4 minutes on a medium heat until they turn translucent. Stir in the chopped tomatoes.
Add the vinegar, sugar, chilli flakes and water and cover the pan with a tightly fitting lid.
Bring to the boil and then turn the heat down to a simmer and leave for at least one hour, topping up with extra water as needed.
If there is still a lot of liquid in the tomatoes, remove the lid for the last 15 minutes to allow some of the liquid to evapourate. You are looking for a thick consistency.
I like to chop my tomatoes and onions quite coarsely as I like a chunky texture, but you can make a smoother sauce by chopping the tomatoes and onions in a blender. The cooking time and the ingredients remain the same. You could also make a smoother sauce by blending the cooked tomatoes and onions with a stick blender.
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Chilli tomato and onion sauce FAQ
If you have made a large batch, you will probably want to freeze this sauce for later use.
Divide it into portions, approximately the size of a can of tomatoes, and ladle it into individual Ziploc bags. Lable with the date and store in the freezer. It will keep for at least 6 months in the freezer.
To use, allow it to defrost in the fridge or microwave and use it in the place of a can of tomatoes in your recipes.
If you would like to make a large batch for the freezer, follow these guidelines:
– Make sure you have double the quantity of chopped tomatoes as onions.
– Use 4 tablespoons of vinegar per 6 tomatoes.
– Do not double the sugar or the sauce will be too sweet. Only use 30 grams of sugar for every 6 additional tomatoes.
– Garlic can be doubled.
– Add additional chilli flakes to your own taste.
Why not serve this sauce as a side dish with Toad in the Hole. It would go really well with the batter and sausages instead of onion gravy.
You could also substitute the can of tomatoes in this chilli bolognese sauce with a helping of this tomato sauce.
Use it as a relish on steak or sausages, and it makes a great addition to a pasta bake.
Save for later
If you would like to try this chilli tomato and onion sauce for yourself, why not pin it to one of your Pinterest boards so you can find it easily? Just click on the image below.
Alternatively, you can save the recipe by clicking on the floating heart icon on the right-hand side of the screen.
If you enjoyed this recipe you may also enjoy these other sauce recipes:
- Easy sweet pepper relish – an easy no-cook relish made with juicy bell peppers and sweet red onions.
- Homemade mayonnaise – a quick and easy recipe to make mayonnaise at home.
- Mrs Balls Chutney – my version of the iconic South African Mrs Balls chutney.
- Sweet Thai chilli sauce – make your own Thai sweet chilli sauce at home and make it as hot or as mild as you prefer.
Chilli tomato and onion sauce
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- 8 large tomatoes coarsely chopped
- 6 medium onions coarsely chopped
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- ⅓ cup / 60 grams brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon dried chilli flakes
- 2 cloves garlic finely chopped
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Chop the tomatoes and onions. Crush the garlic.8 large tomatoes, 6 medium onions, 2 cloves garlic
- Sweat the onions and garlic in the olive oil for a couple of minutes and then add the tomatoes and bring to the boil.1 tablespoon olive oil
- Add the remaining ingredients and simmer with the lid on for about 1 hour until everything has turned into a lovely mushy sauce4 tablespoons red wine vinegar, ⅓ cup / 60 grams brown sugar, 1 teaspoon dried chilli flakes, Salt and pepper to taste
- Now remove the lid and continue simmering, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is thick and glossy – 20 to 30 minutes
I am not a nutritionist. The nutrition information has been calculated using an on-line calculator, and is intended for information and guidance purposes only. If the nutrition information is important to you, you should consider calculating it yourself, using your preferred tool.
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