This homemade Marinara Dipping Sauce pairs perfectly with all your favorite appetizers. It’s fast and easy, made with just 5 pantry ingredients and ready in minutes! Perfect for mozzarella sticks, pizza bites, zucchini fries, crispy artichokes, breadsticks, and more!

For a long time now, I have sought the perfect dipping sauce for things like pizza bites, and pizza sticks. Marinara sauce is usually geared towards pasta, and such recipes often start off with sautéing diced onions and garlic and adding diced tomatoes and fresh herbs and simmering until thickened.

While suitable on pasta, it’s all wrong for dipping appetizers. I’ve been seeking something with a smooth texture and bold (but not overpowering flavors).

The punchline? My perfect homemade Marinara Sauce takes almost no time at all and is only five ingredients!

Mozzarella sticks being dipped in marinara sauce.

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Making Marinara Dipping Sauce

I think the most important part of the dipping sauce is to start with a good brand of tomato sauce. If you buy generic tomato sauce, the force may not be with you and I cannot say whether your sauce will be perfect and delicious.

As far as flavoring the sauce, I use a technique I learned from Chef Anne Burrell on the Food Network. She loves to flavor her olive oil with ingredients by sautéing them and then discarding them (i.e., “Thank you for coming to the party, clove of garlic!”).

That’s what I do here so I get the delicious flavor of fresh garlic without all the chunks. Then, I simply stir in some dried herbs and a bit of salt (omit the salt at your pleasure) and a short simmer later, the sauce is perfect. Smooth and delicious and everything I’ve always dreamed of in a dipping sauce.

Four steps of cooking marinara sauce.

Deep-Frying Tips

In case you happen to be serving your Homemade Marinara Sauce with deep-fried bites of deliciousness, here are a few tips to make that whole process easier.

  • You don’t need a deep-fryer. Any pot will do.
  • If you want to use less oil, choose a smaller pot. The bottom will fill faster, obviously, and you’ll have a deep enough amount in no time.
  • If you want fewer splatters, choose a taller pot. The taller the pot, the more likely it is that splatters will hit the walls of the pot and stay inside. Those splatter screens? I haven’t had much luck with them. If you have had a good experience, please leave me a note in the comments with your preferred brand. Thanks!
  • Keep your oil at a consistent temperature. This is true whether you use a traditional deep fryer or just a pot on the stove. I love the ChefAlarm by Thermoworks. They gave me one to try out, pictured below, and it works like a charm. You just attached the probe to the side of the pan, and the unit sits waaaaay outside the splatter zone. Brilliant.
Marinara dipping sauce with mozzarella sticks in a red basket.

Marinara Dipping Sauce

This homemade Marinara Dipping Sauce pairs perfectly with all your favorite appetizers. It's fast and easy, made with just 5 pantry ingredients and ready in minutes! Perfect for mozzarella sticks, pizza bites, zucchini fries, crispy artichokes, breadsticks, and more!
4.96 from 22 votes
Cook Time 15 mins
Total Time 15 mins
Servings 2 cups
Course Main Course, Pantry
Cuisine American, Italian
Calories 71


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic peeled and smashed
  • 1 (15 ounce) can tomato sauce high-quality
  • ½ teaspoon dried basil
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ¼ teaspoon Salt


  • Heat oil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add garlic cloves and sauté until browned, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching, about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove garlic and discard.
  • Stir in tomato sauce, basil, oregano, and salt. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until flavors have blended, about 10 minutes. Keep warm over low-heat until serving time, or cool completely and store covered in the refrigerator.

Recipe Video


Calories: 71kcalCarbohydrates: 2gProtein: 1gFat: 7gSaturated Fat: 1gSodium: 295mgPotassium: 33mgFiber: 1gSugar: 1gVitamin A: 13IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 22mgIron: 1mg
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Meggan Hill

I’m the Executive Chef and head of the Culinary Hill Test Kitchen. Every recipe is developed, tested, and approved just for you.

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  1. I’ve been looking for a good dipping sauce. What would be a good tomato sauce to use? How do you tell which ones are better than other ones?

    1. Hi Ryan, I am not really a food snob so I don’t think any tomato sauce is bad. Muir Glen makes a really great product if you want to pay a little more, but other than that, I think they all pretty much taste the same. If you have one on hand, I would start with that. It’s probably going to come down to personal preference, but I really think the store-brand ones taste pretty much the same as the expensive ones. Good luck! I hope you love the sauce if you try it. -Meggan

  2. Not sure if you are still checking this after all this time, but on your question of spatter guards. Almost any brand with very small holes will work, if you place a piece of kitchen towel right in the center. You still get evaporation, but almost no spatters.

  3. I have not tried one of your recipes I didn’t love ! We are from Racine and we loved derango pizza on 3840 douglas ave. Do you have a thin crust pizza recipe from there ? If so could you share it ? Thank You !

  4. OMG….just made this to go along with some fried zucchini crisps. SO PERFECT! I think I let my garlic get a little too brown, so there was a bit of sharpness…but once I removed it I added a few pinches of sugar and that rounded it out nicely. Perfect consistency, and a great amount of flavor (for very little effort…which is sometimes a nice break!). Thanks for sharing your recipe!5 stars

    1. I think the recipe is poorly titled. It is a marinara sauce designed to be a dipping sauce, so for that, it’s perfect. As a standard sauce to put on pasta, it might not be the right consistency you have in mind. I need to rework the recipe so it makes sense for the title. I hope this makes sense! So sorry for the confusing.

    1. Hi Natalie, you’ll be fine! Just use what you have. Not a big deal at all – the recipe is very forgiving. Thanks for the question and good luck!

    1. Hi Lauren, it’s just the plain unseasoned tomato sauce (it doesn’t matter which brand). It isn’t spaghetti sauce, if that’s what you are asking. It’s just plain tomato sauce. Please let me know if I’m not understanding the question. Thank you!

  5. I usually use San Marzano tomatoes and mill them to a purée for marinara sauce. I love Ann and her “cook until the garlic becomes golden brown. When the garlic is golden brown and very aromatic, remove it and discard, it has fulfilled its garlic destiny.” Cracks me up although I always leave mine in there. Love it.5 stars