We tasted some of the most popular brands and chose our top three favorites.

By Kelly Vaughan
January 31, 2020
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One pantry staple that our food editors always have on hand is jarred marinara sauce. From whipping up a delicious weeknight dinner like Pork-Meatball Skillet Bake to using it to create the base of a rich stew, store-bought marinara sauce is a versatile, essential ingredient to keep in the pantry. We tested eight popular brands of marinara sauce to determine our favorites.

Jarred Tomato Sauce on a Grocery Store Shelf
Credit: Jeff Greenberg / Contributor / Getty

Rao's Marinara Sauce ($6.98, amazon.com) has long been our food editors' go-to. Would that still be the case in a blind taste test? To try the various marinara sauces, we heated and served each sauce in individual glass bowls with penne on the side, which allowed our editors the chance to taste the sauce with pasta and on its own.

So, which brand made it to the winner's circle after the taste test? Our old favorite, Rao's Marinara Sauce, was victorious, as well as Ragu Marinara Sauce ($2.79, amazon.com) and Victoria Marinara Sauce ($6.29, target.com). Our food editors thought that the other sauces they tried were too sweet, too herby, too artificial, or in one instance, tasted "like airplane food."

Food editor-at-large Shira Bocar described the flavor of Ragu as "cozy and balanced," and said it tasted like her childhood. While some of the food editors thought it was a bit sweet, deputy food editor Greg Lofts considered it one of his favorites—"It has a clean taste. It's a good, very neutral marinara with lots of real tomato flavor and a natural sweetness," he said.

While our food editors thought that Victoria's Marinara Sauce tasted more acidic than Rao's and Ragu, they were impressed by its neutral, not-too-sweet, not-too-salty flavor.

When tested against its rivals though, Rao's Marinara Sauce still came out as the best of the bunch. The food editors noted it has a rich, fatty flavor; editorial director of food Sarah Carey wondered if it is made with Parmesan or Italian sausage (it isn't). "Because there's so much flavor, it would be great for pizza too," said Greg. Shira called its flavor the most "developed" of all the marinara sauces that were tested. Senior food editor Lauryn Tyrell thought that it had "lots of umami flavor."

Comments (9)

Anonymous
October 27, 2020
It’s not a marinara sauce but Paul Newman‘s tomato basil sauce also known as Bombolina it’s good enough to eat out of the jar cold with a spoon!
Anonymous
October 27, 2020
It’s not a marinara sauce but Paul Newman‘s tomato basil sauce also known as Bombolina it’s good enough to eat out of the jar cold with a spoon!
Anonymous
May 24, 2020
Paul Newman’s sauce is delicious. I love to cook but have discovered that this sauce is just as good as mine.
Anonymous
May 24, 2020
Paul Newman’s sauce is delicious. I love to cook but have discovered that this sauce is just as good as mine.
Anonymous
March 8, 2020
Would definitely like to know what other sauces were tried! I used Paul Newman's the first time I used off-the-shelf sauce & now I'm attached to it. Use bottled sauce a lot (hurried/lazy) & would like to hear more...want to order the sauce(s) you mentioned from Amazon, but honestly, RAGU is so cheap/accessible...probably won't bother with brands I've never heard/seen.
Anonymous
March 8, 2020
Would definitely like to know what other sauces were tried! I used Paul Newman's the first time I used off-the-shelf sauce & now I'm attached to it. Use bottled sauce a lot (hurried/lazy) & would like to hear more...want to order the sauce(s) you mentioned from Amazon, but honestly, RAGU is so cheap/accessible...probably won't bother with brands I've never heard/seen.
Anonymous
March 7, 2020
We actually love Classico brand-all flavors. And our guests always think I made the sauce! And BOGO week on Classico is for us is a win win. One for us...one for the food pantry.
Anonymous
March 7, 2020
I like Patsy’s , but it’s getting harder to find , I order off their website....Rao’s is my go to alternative and it’s available at Costco .... Ragu? No thanks !
Anonymous
January 31, 2020
What other jar sauces were tried? Raos is a favorite of mine but equally or even better Is Lydia’s