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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!
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.
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
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic peeled and smashed (see note 1)
- 1/2 teaspoon dried basil (see note 2)
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 15 ounces tomato sauce
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Yield: This Marinara Dipping Sauce recipe makes about 2 cups of sauce, enough for 8 servings, ¼ cup each.
- Storage: Store leftovers covered in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
- Make ahead: The sauce can be made up to 3 days in advance. Store covered in the refrigerator.
- 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.
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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.
Sounds good. But not sure why you are taking out the garlic and throwing it away.
Hi Gil, it is simmered in the oil to flavor the sauce and discarded so the sauce remains smooth. Enjoy! – Meggan
Made it for superbowl Sunday! Husband LOVED it with his fries and mozarella sticks!
Thanks Dawn, so glad you guys loved it! – Meggan
Easy to make and it came out tasting great! Thank you!
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!!
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
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.
Hi Julie, I’m so happy you and your boyfriend loved this! I love the additions! – Meggan
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 😋
Sounds delicious Pam! So glad you enjoyed. – Meggan
It is really good I hade it with mozzarella sticks and I was in love I highly recommend this recipe
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.
I made this to go with frozen mozzarella sticks on new years. It was perfect!
Fast, easy and delicious dip recipe
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?
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
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.
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 !
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!
Will it be thick enough? Seems like it would be too runny.
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.
will it affect the sauce if i dont put in dried basil? i only have oregano
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!
What’s your favorite tomato sauce to use?
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!
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.
Hi Amy, sorry you didn’t care for this marinara. Hope you find one that suits your taste! Take care!