Concentrated tomato paste packs a lot of flavor. Learn step-by-step how to make this staple ingredient for yourself.

By Melanie Fincher
Updated September 24, 2020
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Tomato paste is often called for in recipes because it brings the essence of juicy, fresh tomatoes in a concentrated form. It's a useful, but rather unexciting, ingredient that you pick up in the canned food aisle every now and again. Until now. Making your own tomato paste from scratch makes this ingredient anything but boring.

You'll want to have jars of homemade tomato paste on hand at all times for recipes or even just for slathering over crackers and snacking (it's that good). Plus, it's easy to preserve homemade tomato paste so you can always have it at the ready. Save money and reduce waste by making your own tomato paste — you won't ever go back to the store-bought kind.

Why Homemade Tomato Paste?

Simply put, homemade tomato paste gives you a richer, heartier flavor than its store-bought counterpart. It's also a great way to use up leftover tomatoes, helping to save you money and reduce waste. We recommend making it in large batches and preserving it (we'll show you how) so you can have it ready to go for all your recipe needs.

How to Use Homemade Tomato Paste

You can use homemade tomato paste anyway you would use the store-bought kind, in pasta sauce, chilis, soups, and more. But the advantage of homemade tomato paste is its flavor is so rich you can even serve it on a cracker topped with cheese or on a toasted baguette. Get creative with it!

What to Know Before You Get Started

This goes without saying, but your tomato paste is only as good as the tomatoes you use to make it. For a rich, meaty paste you're going to want to go with concentrated tomato varieties like Roma or Early Girl tomatoes. And of course, use the ripest tomatoes you can find.

We also include lemon juice in this recipe, as it's necessary to ensure safe acidity when canning tomatoes, according to the National Center for Home Food Preservation. Bottled lemon juice is best, as it's pasteurized, giving it a more consistent acidity. But if you don't plan to can your tomato paste (say you prefer to freeze it or simply refrigerate it), you can skip this step.

How to Make Homemade Tomato Paste

Ingredients:

  • 10 lbs tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt or sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons bottled lemon juice (optional)

Equipment:

Directions:

  1. Start by preheating the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. After washing the tomatoes, remove and discard any stems or other debris. Chop the tomatoes into quarters.
  3. Place olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the tomatoes and cook until they are soft enough that the peels begin to detach from the flesh.
  4. Remove the pot from the heat and push the warm tomatoes through a food mill (like this top-rated model from OXO) in order to separate the tomato pulp from the seeds and skins. You can also push them through a large sieve using a rubber spatula. Discard the seeds and skins and stir the lemon juice and sea salt into the pulp.
  5. Now it's time to reduce the tomato puree into tomato paste. Start by dividing the tomato pulp between two large rimmed baking sheets.
  6. Bake the tomato pulp in the preheated oven for about 3 hours, or until the pulp is reduced to a paste, or all the water evaporates. Stir the pulp every half hour, rotating the baking pan for even reduction. There should be no remaining water once it's done baking.
  7. You've done it! Read on for how to preserve and store your homemade tomato paste.

How to Store Tomato Paste

You can store your tomato paste one of three ways: by canning, refrigerating, or freezing. Which method you choose depends on how long you want your tomato paste to last.

Credit: Blaine Moats/Meredith

How to Can Tomato Paste

Fill four-ounce jars with the tomato paste, and seal with the lids and rings. Process the jars in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes. Remove the jars and let them cool to room temperature.

Store in a cool, dry place (like your pantry) for up to one year. Once opened, refrigerate for up to a week.

How to Refrigerate Tomato Paste

If you don't want to process the tomato paste, you can always store it in the fridge for several weeks without any processing. Simply scrape the paste into your jars and top each jar with a layer of olive oil. Seal the lids and rings and refrigerate for up to four weeks. Be sure to use clean utensils to remove the tomato paste in order to prevent mold from growing in the jar.

How to Freeze Tomato Paste

You can freeze your tomato paste one of two ways: in jars or in individual portions. To freeze tomato paste in jars, simply transfer the paste to the jars, top with a layer of oil, seal, and freeze for up to nine months. But oftentimes recipes call for just a few tablespoons of tomato paste, so why not go ahead and freeze them that way?

Portion the tomato paste into an ice cube tray (this top-rated silicone ice tray is just $9). Freeze the paste in the tray and then transfer them to a freezer-safe bag. Label the bag and freeze the cubes for up to nine months. Whenever you need a small amount of tomato paste, simply pop a cube out of your freezer.

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