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!

Somebody dipping a mozzarella stick into marinara sauce.


 

For a long time now, I have sought the perfect dipping sauce for things like mozzarella sticks, Pepperoni Pizza Bites, and even Garlic Bread. 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!

Recipe ingredients

Labeled ingredients for marinara dipping sauce.

At a Glance: Here is a quick snapshot of what ingredients are in this recipe.
Please see the recipe card below for specific quantities.

Ingredient notes

  • 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.

Step-by-step instructions

  1. 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.
Browning smashed garlic in olive oil.
  1. Remove garlic and discard. Stir in basil and oregano until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
Blooming spices in olive oil.
  1. 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.
A saucepan full of marinara sauce.
  1. Keep warm over low-heat until serving time, or cool completely and store covered in the refrigerator. Serve with all your favorite appetizers or even pasta.
A bowl of marinara in a red plastic basket of mozzarella sticks.

Recipe tips and variations

  • 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.
Pepperoni pizza bites next to a bowl of marinara sauce.
Marinara Dipping Sauce with Pepperoni Pizza Bites.

Recipe FAQs

Do I need a deep fryer for fried appetizers?

To deep-fry foods, any pot will do. Worried about splatters? Choose a taller pot. Want to use less oil? Choose a smaller pot. Just be sure to keep your oil at a consistent temperature whenever possible.

How do you bloom spices?

Add spices to oil (or another fat) and let them cook for about 30 seconds before adding any water-based liquids. Blooming spices in fat releases fat-soluble flavor compounds and allows for the best distribution of flavor (through the fat).

Favorite apps for marinara sauce

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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!
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Servings 8 servings (¼ cup each)
Course Main Course, Pantry
Cuisine American, Italian
Calories 30
4.99 from 110 votes

Ingredients 

Instructions 

  • 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

Notes

  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.

Nutrition

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
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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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Comments

    1. Hi Jeffrey, there is not any minced garlic in this recipe. The recipe calls for “3 cloves garlic peeled and smashed” and there is a note in the post and the recipe about the garlic: “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.” I hope this helps! Sorry for any confusion. I hope you love this sauce! – Meggan

    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

  6. 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

  7. 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.

  8. 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 !

  9. 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!

  10. 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