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How to Can Tomato Sauce: A Comprehensive Guide

Great peoples, if you're a fan of homemade tomato sauce, canning it is a great way to preserve its freshness and use it all year long. Canning tomato sauce may sound intimidating, but it's actually quite simple with the right techniques and tools. In this article, we will give you a step-by-step guide on how to can tomato sauce successfully.

The Pros and Cons of Canning Tomato Sauce

Before we dive into how to can tomato sauce, let's first discuss its pros and cons. Understanding both sides will help us make informed decisions and prevent us from making mistakes that could ruin the entire batch of tomato sauce.

Pros of Canning Tomato Sauce

1. Longer Shelf Life - Tomato sauce can last up to 18 months when canned properly, which means you can enjoy your homemade tomato sauce all year long without worrying about it going bad.

2. Preserves Nutrients - Canning tomato sauce helps to retain the vital nutrients found in fresh tomatoes, including vitamin C, potassium, and lycopene.

3. Cost-effective - Canning tomato sauce can help save you money in the long run. Instead of buying canned tomato sauce from the store, you can use your homegrown or locally sourced tomatoes to make your sauce.

4. Better Flavor - Canning your tomato sauce allows you to create a flavor that is unique to your taste buds. You can add different spices and herbs that enhance the taste of your sauce.

5. Environmentally Friendly - By canning your tomato sauce, you reduce your carbon footprint and help the environment by reducing the amount of waste generated from store-bought canning.

6. An Excellent Gift Idea - Canned tomato sauce can make a great gift, especially for the foodies in your life. Just make sure to label each jar with the date and ingredients.

Cons of Canning Tomato Sauce

1. Time-consuming - Canning tomato sauce takes some time and effort. It requires careful attention to detail, and the process can take several hours.

2. Requires Special Equipment - Successful tomato sauce canning requires certain equipment, including a canner, jars, and lids. This can be a financial investment depending on the scale of your operations.

3. Health Risks - If not done correctly, canning tomato sauce can pose health risks. Be sure to follow the proper instructions to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria.

4. Quality Control Issues - Canning tomato sauce may alter the texture and flavor of the sauce slightly, depending on the processing method and the variety of tomato used. Check the outcome carefully when canning your sauce to ensure it meets your expectations.

5. Requires Knowledge - Canning tomato sauce must be done correctly and safely with attention to detail, or your product could spoil, and you could waste a lot of time, money, and effort.

6. Preservation Limitations - While tomato sauce has a long shelf life after canning, it does have a limit. The quality of the sauce will eventually deteriorate, even if the canning process was done correctly.

7. Potential Disappointments - You may have tasted delicious canned tomato sauce from others, but your first attempt may not produce the same result. Don't give up, though! Keep at it, and you'll soon become an expert canner!

How to Can Tomato Sauce

Now that we've covered both the positives and negatives of canning tomato sauce let's jump into the nitty-gritty details of how to do it successfully.

Step 1: Gather Your Tools and Equipment


Tools Quantity
A Water Bath Canner 1
Glass Canning Jars with Lids and Rings 7 to 10 (in 946 ml/1-quart sizes)
A Pressure Canner (optional) 1
A Large Pot 1
A Funnel 1
A Ladle 1
A Large Bowl 1
A Wooden Spoon 1
A Timer 1
A Clean Towel 1


Ingredients Quantity
Tomatoes 10 lbs
Lemon Juice or Citric Acid Powder 2 tablespoons
Salt 1 tablespoon
Sugar 1-2 tablespoons (optional)
Garlic (optional) 1-2 cloves
Dried Basil (optional) 1 teaspoon
Dried Oregano (optional) 1 teaspoon
Black Pepper (optional) To taste

Make sure to have all the necessary equipment and ingredients ready before starting the canning process to ensure efficiency.

Step 2: Wash and Prepare Your Tomatoes

First, wash your tomatoes with cold water to remove any dirt or debris. Slice each tomato in half or into quarters. Remove the stem, core, and any blemishes from the tomatoes.

Step 3: Cook the Tomatoes

In a large pot, cook the tomatoes on medium heat until they start to soften, stirring occasionally. This should take 10-15 minutes.

Next, pour the cooked tomatoes through a food mill or sieve to separate the sauce from the seeds, skin, and pulp. This is called "passata." Discard the remaining solids.

Step 4: Add Seasonings and Acidity

Pour the passata back into the pot and add the salt and optional sugar, garlic, basil, oregano, and black pepper. Simmer on low heat for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Stir in the lemon juice or citric acid powder to increase the sauce's acidity. This helps prevent botulism, a life-threatening foodborne illness caused by bacteria that thrive in low-acidic environments.

Step 5: Sterilize Your Jars and Lids

While the sauce is simmering, sterilize your canning jars and lids. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, then submerge your jars, lids, and rings in the boiling water for ten minutes.

Remove the jars, lids, and rings from the boiling water and place them on a clean towel to dry.

Step 6: Fill the Jars with Tomato Sauce

Once dried, use a funnel and ladle to fill each jar with hot tomato sauce, leaving about a 1/2 inch of headspace or space between the sauce and the jar's lip.

Before canning your sauce, use a plastic spatula to remove air bubbles by running it along the inside of the jar's rim.

Wipe the rim of the jars with a damp cloth to remove any residue or stickiness before placing the lid and ring in place and tighten it firmly.

Step 7: Process the Jars

Place your filled jars in the canner, making sure they are adequately spaced and the water level is at least 1-2 inches above the jars.

Process the jars in the canner using the instructions provided by the manufacturer; different canners will have different processing times.

When the processing time is complete, remove the jars from the canner using jar tongs. Place the jars on a towel and let them cool. You should hear the "pop" sound of the lid sealing as the jars cool.

Step 8: Store Your Tomato Sauce in a Cool, Dark Place

After the jars are completely cooled, check the lids and rings for any signs of leaking or loosening. If the jars are unsealed, refrigerate and use promptly. Properly canned tomato sauce can be stored in a cool, dark place for up to 18 months.


1. Can I can tomato sauce without a pressure canner?

Yes, tomato sauce can be canned with a water bath canner or a pressure canner. But if you live in an area with a high altitude, use a pressure canner to ensure the safety of your canned goods.

2. How do I know if my jars have sealed?

You should hear a "pop" noise as the jars cool. Press down on the center of the lid after a few hours to confirm the seal; it should not bounce back. If the lid pops back, the jar is not sealed, and you should refrigerate the jar and use it shortly.

3. Can I freeze tomato sauce instead of canning it?

Yes! If you prefer freezing your tomato sauce, omit the canning process and pour the sauce into freezable containers or ziplock bags. Make sure to leave about an inch of headspace to allow for expansion during freezing.

4. Can I use any type of tomato to make sauce?

You can make tomato sauce with any type of tomato, but paste tomatoes such as Romas and San Marzano are preferred because they have less water and fewer seeds. However, many brands and varieties of canned tomatoes are available in stores, and you can determine which one works best for you.

5. How long can I store the canned tomato sauce?

If canned correctly, tomato sauce can last up to 18 months. However, it's good to check on your canned product a few times throughout the year to ensure the seal is still secure and the sauce hasn't spoiled.

6. Do I need to add citric acid or lemon juice?

Yes, adding citric acid or lemon juice is vital when canning tomato sauce. These increase the acidity level, which helps prevent the growth of botulism.

7. Can I add meat to my tomato sauce?

You can add meat to your tomato sauce, but make sure the meat is thoroughly cooked before adding it to the sauce to prevent foodborne illness.

8. Can I use my pressure cooker instead of a pressure canner?

No, using a pressure cooker instead of a pressure canner is not recommended. The pressure cooker's design is different from a pressure canner and cannot provide the same level of security required for food preservation.

9. Can I reuse canning lids?

No, canning lids are for one-time use only. Lids are not entirely sealed after the first use, and reusing them can cause foodborne illness.

10. Can I use plastic jars for canning tomato sauce?

No, plastic jars are not suitable for canning tomato sauce. They can melt or deform under high heat and pressure. Use glass jars instead.

11. How much headspace should I leave in my jars?

Leave about a half-inch or one-inch headspace in your jars after filling them with tomato sauce. The empty space lets the food expand as it is heated, allowing for proper sealing during processing.

12. Should I remove the skins and seeds before canning tomato sauce?

Yes, it's best to separate the pulp and seeds from the sauce using a food mill or sieve. This will help give the sauce a smooth texture and prevent bitterness from the seeds and skin.

13. What if I don't have a canning rack?

You can use a dish towel or silicone mat to line the bottom of your water bath canner. This can help prevent the jars from touching the bottom of the canner and cracking.


Canning tomato sauce is a great way to ensure you have fresh sauce to use all year round. The process requires specific tools, attention to detail, and time commitment, but the benefits are well worth the effort. By following the steps outlined in this article, you'll produce a delicious, healthy sauce that you can feel proud of.

Don't forget to follow the safety guidelines and recipe instructions before canning your tomato sauce. And most importantly, remember that canning is an art, and it may take time and patience to perfect your skills.

Thanks for reading! Try canning tomato sauce today, and you'll never want to buy store-bought sauce again!


Great peoples, this article is not a substitute for professional advice. Canning can be dangerous without proper knowledge, experience, and equipment. Consult with your local extension office, professional canning guidebooks, or other experts before canning tomato sauce. The author and publisher take no responsibility for the reader's use of the information provided in this article without proper research or preparation.

how to can tomato sauce