Adapting Pizza Sauces from Soups and Non-Pizza Sauces - Modernist Cuisine

Adapting Pizza Sauces from Soups and Non-Pizza Sauces

MCJanuary 24, 2024

Pizza sauces don’t have to stick to the confines of tradition. For example, Bolognese and chutney don’t usually spring to mind when you are thinking about the sauce that you want to put on your pizza, but we found that soups and non-pizza sauces can be adapted really well for this purpose (you might just need to adjust their consistency). There are three basic consistencies we are looking for in pizza sauces: thin, semi-thick, and thick (you can learn more about this in Modernist Pizza vol. 2:242).

To adapt soups and non-pizza sauces successfully, the key is knowing what style you intend to use them for and adjusting their viscosity accordingly. Thin sauces, as found on Neapolitan pizza, are used for pizzas baked at high temperatures. The excess liquid evaporates in a few seconds, leaving a smooth sauce that is still moist but does not puddle. Semi-thick sauces are (obviously) thicker than thin sauces but still easily spreadable. These are used for most pizzas that bake at temperatures between 260°C and 315°C / 500°F and 600°F, like New York, artisan, and Brazilian thin-crust pizzas. Thick sauces hold their shape when they are spooned or spread onto a surface and do not flow. These sauces are usually applied after baking for pizzas like Detroit-style and deep-dish.

But why bother going through the effort of crafting alternative sauces in the first place? Adapting sauces offers the ability to maximize pantry and fridge resources, prevent food waste, and make great sauce, even if you’re short on time. Those with dietary restrictions can enjoy the freedom of tailoring sauces to their needs. Furthermore, mastering the art of adapting custom pizza sauces can also spark culinary innovation, making it possible to create something fascinating and new for the daring culinary explorer.

Below are some fun ideas for adapting sauces and soups and what you can do to make the appropriate adjustments.

adapting pizza sauces

Oil-based sauce

If it’s too thin, reduce the amount of oil. You can always add more at the end if needed. To thicken pesto, try emulsifying it. Oil-based sauces can be applied before or after baking.

Pasta sauces

Some sauces, such as Bolognese, vodka sauce, and puttanesca, can be used as is on medium-crust pizza like New York or artisan. Thicker sauces work on deep-dish or Detroit-style if applied after baking. If the sauce is too thick, you can thin it with heavy cream, water, stock, or wine. These sauces can be applied both before and after baking.

Artisan pizza with puttanesca sauce. The recipe can be found in Modernist Pizza 2:271.

Starchy soups

The consistency of soups such as potato, clam chowder, gumbo, and cream-based will likely work well as a pizza sauce. If the soup is roux-thickened, consider replacing the flour with other thickeners to obtain the best flavor possible. These starchy sauces are best applied before baking.

Vegetable or fruit soups

Thicken with xanthan gum or Wondra flour if the soup is too thin. Alternatively, reduce in a saucepot over medium heat to evaporate moisture and thicken to sauce consistency. This kind of sauce is best applied before baking.

Vegetable or fruit purees

For a thick puree, add more liquid (water, heavy cream, or stock). For a thin puree, thicken with xanthan gum or by reduction. This sauce is best applied to the pizza before baking.

Neapolitan pizza with canned pumpkin puree (diluted with 50% water), fresh mozzarella, and basil.


Curry can refer to a sauce or an actual stew. Both work well on a pizza, one as a sauce and the other as a sauce-plus topping. Most curries of both types are thick enough to use as is, but if you find it to be too thin, you can thicken it by reduction or by adding tapioca maltodextrin (start with 3%, and check as you go before adding more). This curry sauce is best applied before baking.

Stocks, jus, or consommé

These are often too watery to add as a sauce on a pizza directly, but they can be thickened by a reduction in a saucepot to an extent or with Wondra flour (start with 2%), xanthan gum, or propylene glycol alginate (PGA). Since these are relatively loose, it is best to apply them as a flavoring component rather than as the main sauce. This sauce is best to apply before baking as a moderate drizzle over toppings.

Heat-stable emulsions, such as hollandaise or béarnaise

If the sauce is too thick, add clarified butter or ghee. Our base recipe for hollandaise works with all styles of pizza. This sauce can be added before, during, or after baking.

New York square pizza with hollandaise sauce, pizza cheese and artichokes.

Non-heat-stable emulsions, such as vinaigrette and beurre blanc

You can emulsify these with xanthan gum or propylene glycol alginate (PGA). Use the emulsions sparingly as a condiment, not in the same quantities you would use a tomato sauce. This sauce can be used before baking for invincible vinaigrette (see Modernist Pizza vol. 2:266) or after baking for the other sauces.

Mayonnaise or aioli

You can use these as is, but don’t use as much of them as you would a tomato sauce. It should be applied after baking (it won’t separate while hot, but do not put it on before baking, because the high temperature of the oven will break the emulsion).

Brazilian thin-crust pizza with shrimp, pesto, and mayonnaise. This recipe can be found in Modernist Pizza 2:262

Jams, jellies, and marmalades

These can be loosened by stirring them with a little water or fruit juice. Alternatively, they can be left as is and used as a topping by spooning them. Try before or after baking.


Chutney is usually very chunky and doesn’t act as a real sauce; it is better to think of it as a topping or condiment. However, you can puree chutney and adjust the consistency by thinning it with water or other liquids if you want to use it as a sauce. Try before baking if pureeing or after baking.

New York pizza with store-bought mango chutney and pizza cheese.

If you want more information, we also recommend looking at the soup sauce experiment that we did in Modernist Pizza vol. 2:249. There, you can learn more about how we tested a number of products, from ponzu to curries to cream of corn soup. On page 256, you can also find more outside-the-box pizza experiments to help inspire your next pizza creation. In addition to this, you can also learn more about improving tomato sauces on our blog.

Our team would love to see your improvised sauces and the pizzas you’ve created, so please tag us in your social media posts if you end up experimenting with these techniques.

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