Marinara Dipping Sauce

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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.


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.

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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!
Author: Meggan Hill
4.98 from 85 votes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Servings 8 servings (¼ cup each)
Course Main Course, Pantry
Cuisine American, Italian
Calories 30



  • 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 basil and oregano until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Reduce heat to medium, stir in tomato sauce and salt to taste (I like ¼ teaspoon), 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


  1. Garlic: For the smoothest sauce, try this low FODMAP trick which infuses olive oil with garlic flavor: Heat peeled, smashed cloves of garlic in olive oil until browned, then remove from the pan and discard. Be careful not to scorch the garlic.
  2. Spices: Blooming spices in olive oil (or any fat) releases fat-soluble flavor compounds and allows for the best distribution of flavor (through the fat). For the best possible flavor, cook the spices in olive oil for about 30 seconds before adding the tomato sauce.
  3. Yield: This Marinara Dipping Sauce recipe makes about 2 cups of sauce, enough for 8 servings, ¼ cup each.
  4. Storage: Store leftovers covered in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
  5. Make ahead: The sauce can be made up to 3 days in advance. Store covered in the refrigerator.
  6. Freezer: Package the sauce into freezer-safe containers (I like Mason jars; leave 1/2-inch headspace). Label, date, and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator.


Serving: 0.25cupCalories: 30kcalCarbohydrates: 3gProtein: 1gFat: 2gSaturated Fat: 0.3gPolyunsaturated Fat: 0.3gMonounsaturated Fat: 1gSodium: 252mgPotassium: 166mgFiber: 1gSugar: 2gVitamin A: 233IUVitamin C: 4mgCalcium: 13mgIron: 1mg
Did you make this recipe?Tag @culinaryhill on Instagram so we can admire your masterpiece! #culinaryhill

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Meggan Hill is a classically-trained chef and professional writer. Her meticulously-tested recipes and detailed tutorials bring confidence and success to home cooks everywhere. Meggan has been featured on NPR, HuffPost, FoxNews, LA Times, and more.

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    1. Hi Gil, it is simmered in the oil to flavor the sauce and discarded so the sauce remains smooth. Enjoy! – Meggan

  1. Hello, I will be making mozzarella sticks with the dipping sauce for the very first time. I have always wanted to try them but never did. I just wanted to try something different for the holiday. My concern with this recipe is that I feel that the oregano is a very strong herb and that it may overpower the sauce. Do you have substitutions to try by chance? Thank you for your time. Happy Holidays!!

    1. Hi Bonnie, I would suggest starting with a smaller amount of oregano and adding more to taste! You could also leave it out altogether if you’re just not a fan of that taste. Hope this helps! – Meggan

  2. Hi Meggan! Made this for the second time last night and it’s definitely my go-to recipe for Marinara Dipping Sauce! The first time I made it exactly as written (of course! lol) and I used a can of Trader Joe’s Tomato Sauce that I had on hand. It was absolutely amazing and I was completely blown away! I had never used the technique of browning the garlic in olive oil and removing it before adding the tomato sauce and was so pleased with the deep roasted garlic flavor it imparted into the sauce. When making it again last night, I used Cento Tomato Sauce and made a couple of tweaks, I hope you don’t mind! I added an extra clove of garlic (because garlic! Am I right?) and 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes because bf likes it spicy. It is absolutely the BEST Marinara Dipping Sauce and so quick and simple! I just wanted to thank you for taking the time and effort you put in to make and test and hone this recipe to perfection and put it online for the world.5 stars

  3. It was so good 👍 just had to add some tomato sauce and some Italian seasoning to make it the way I wanted it. Thanks so much for sharing this delish recipe 😋5 stars

  4. It is really good I hade it with mozzarella sticks and I was in love I highly recommend this recipe

  5. My sister and I made this marinara sauce recipe today for our mozzarella sticks. It was good! It was a bit salty, so we had to add a little bit of garlic powder and sugar to get rid of the salty flavor. But overall, it was good! My family loved it! It was gone.4 stars

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