Homemade tomato sauce is a small batch canning recipe perfect for when you have just a few too many tomatoes to eat before they go bad.
*This post contains affiliate links, which means as an Amazon Associate, I will receive a small percentage from qualifying purchases.*
I love the idea of canning fruits and veggies to have when they are out of season, but so many recipes make massive batches that I simply don't have the time or enough ingredients to make them. Turning 30 pounds of tomatoes into sauce is great if you have 30 pounds of tomatoes, but who has 30 pounds of tomatoes? A farmer or really avid gardener I guess...
Which is why this recipe recipe for homemade tomato sauce is great. It uses only 2 lbs of tomatoes, perfect for that time where you have too many to eat, but not enough to spend the day canning.
Commonly Asked Questions About Canning
- Do you have to remove the skins to can tomatoes? Do you have to peel tomatoes to can them? No you don't have to.
- How do you can tomato sauce without a canner? This recipe does not use a canner, it uses a stock pot and a trivet.
- How to can tomatoes in a water bath? Read on. In this recipe I preserve the canned tomatoes using a water bath, but also provide instructions for freezing.
- Why do you use bottled lemon juice when canning tomatoes? Because there is an even level of acidity.
What to do with canned tomato sauce?
Equipment for Canning
Canning can be intimidating. There are rules so you don't get anyone sick, there's special equipment and it seems like it can take forever. But I promise, it's really not that scary and you don't "need" a ton of special equipment, it can just make it easier.
Canning Pots: Most large pots sold for canning are huge and come with a metal rack on the bottom for you to place the jars on. I don't actually own a canning pot. I use a large stock pot and the trivet from my Instant Pot. Don't have an Instant Pot or want to use a separate trivet? Measure the pot you're planning to use and order one online. This one is really cheap.
Canning Accessories: there are tons of options online, from just a few items to a bunch of items. A wide-mouth funnel and a pair of tongs to lift out the mason jars are what I've used every time I've canned something. This pack includes some extra accessories, but for the price it's completely worth it.
Mason Jars: Mason jars come in a variety of sizes, from 4 oz jelly jars to 8 oz half-pint jars to 16 oz pint jars and up. For this recipe I used 1 pint jar and 1 half-pint jar, as the recipe makes 3 cups. I always purchase the Ball brand.
How to prepare your jars
The jars need to be sterilized before you can use them. Place the trivet in the stock pot, fill with 16 cups of water and bring to a boil. Slowly lower the open jars into the water, allowing the water to fill them. Carefully drop in the lids and rings. Boil for 5 minutes, then remove to a dish towel to dry.
Ingredients for homemade tomato sauce
- ripe tomatoes
- bottled lemon juice
- basil, parsley or Italian seasoning
How to make this recipe
- Cook the tomatoes. Bring a large pot of water (not the canning pot) to a boil. Rinse and dry your tomatoes and cut out the stem. Cut an "X" into the bottom of each tomato. Then add to the boiling water and cook for 1 minute.
- Cool in an ice bath. Fill a large bowl with ice and water. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the tomatoes from the boiling water to the ice bath.
- Peel and chop the tomatoes. After a few minutes, you should be able to grab the skin where you cut an "X" and peel it off the tomatoes. Transfer peeled tomatoes to a food processor. Pulse the food processor just a few times to break down the tomatoes. Drain any excess liquid. You don't want the sauce to be too thin.
- Cook the sauce. Dump the water out of the pot you boiled the tomatoes in. Add a splash of olive oil, onion and garlic over medium heat and cook for 3 minutes. Add in the crushed tomatoes, lemon juice, sugar, salt, pepper and spices. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Simmer 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Can the sauce (water bath). Add 12-16 cups of water to your canning pot and bring it to a boil. Pour the tomato sauce into the prepared jars, draining out any excess liquid. Place the lid on top, followed by the ring and seal. Use the tongs to place the jars into the pot of boiling water. The water needs to be at least 1 inch over the top of the tallest jar. Allow to boil for 35-45 minutes, then use the tongs to remove the jars from the pot and place onto a dish towel.
Substitutions and Tricks
- Within 30-60 minutes of removing the sealed jars from the water, they'll make a popping noise. This means you've successfully canned the tomato sauce. If they don't pop, it's fine it just means you'll need to transfer the tomato sauce to a different container and freeze it instead.
- Sauce can be frozen for up to 3 months.
- Don't freeze sauce in a mason jar.
- A combination of basil, parsley and Italian seasoning can be used, or choose the one (or two) you have on hand. Dried herbs are best for canning as they won't change color in the sauce.
Want to save this recipe for later? Follow me on Pinterest! Rather watch a video? See if I've made this recipe by following me on Tiktok!
Homemade Tomato Sauce
- Canning Pot
- Canning Tongs
- Mason Jars
- 2 lbs tomatoes ripe
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- ½ cup onion diced
- 3 teaspoon lemon juice bottled
- 2 teaspoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon basil dried
- 1 tablespoon parsley dried
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 tsp pepper
Preparing the Tomato Sauce
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Rinse and dry the tomatoes and cut out the stem. Score an "X" into the bottom of each tomato.
- Set up an ice bath - a large bowl filled with cold water and ice.
- Add the tomatoes to the boiling water and boil for 1 minute. Remove from the boiling water and transfer to the ice bath. Let cool for 2-3 minutes, just until they're cool enough to handle.
- Peel the skin off the tomatoes from the "X" that you scored. Place peeled tomatoes into a food processor. Pulse a few times to break them down, but not turn them into liquid. Drain any excess liquid.
- Pour out the water from the pot you used to boil the tomatoes. Add the olive oil, garlic and onion and cook over medium heat for 3 minutes, until just softened and fragrant. Add in the crushed tomatoes, lemon juice, sugar, basil, parsley salt and pepper.
- Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
To Can the Tomato Sauce
- Place a trivet in the bottom of a large stockpot and fill with 12-16 cups of water (you want the water to be 1 inch overtop the largest jar you are canning.) Bring to a boil.
- Pour the tomato sauce into the prepared jars, place the lid on top and seal.
- Carefully lower the filled jars into the boiling water, using tongs. Boil for 35-45 minutes, then use the tongs to remove the jars from the water. Place them onto a kitchen towel to cool.
- When the jars make a popping noise, they have properly sealed. Store them in a dark place for up to a year/ (Canned tomatoes can last longer if not exposed to light or heat, but this is an average time frame for quality tomato sauce)