How to can tomatoes at home, from fresh tomatoes (2022)

Looking for How to Can Fresh Tomatoes with a Water Bath Canner! in 2022? Scroll down this page and follow the links.And if you bring home some fruit or vegetables and want to can, freeze, makejam, salsa or pickles, see thispage for simple, reliable, illustrated canning, freezing or preservingdirections. There are plenty of other related resources, click on the resources dropdown above. If you are having a hard timefinding canning lids, I've used these, and they're a great price & ship in 2 days.

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How to Can Fresh Tomatoes with a Water Bath Canner!

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Making canned tomatoes is something families remember years later.Home-canned tomatoes have been a tradition for many generations. In themiddle of the winter, you can use the tomatoes to make a fresh spaghetti sauce,lasagna, chili, or other tomato-based meals for that fresh garden taste.

Here's how to do it, in easy steps and completely illustrated.This method is so easy, ANYONE can do this! It's a great thing to do withyour kids! Also, this recipe/directions works with either red (ripe) orgreen (unripe tomatoes).

If you have a pressure canner, you may want to see the pressure canning tomatoes page for those directions instead!

And if you'd rather freeze yourtomatoes, see this page! These pages may also interest you:

  • How to make tomato sauce
  • How to make tomato paste
  • And if you'd like to start you own tomatoes from seed (you can save asmall fortune and grow the heirloom varieties you like)
    see this page foreasy directions for growing your own tomato plants from seed.


  • Tomatoes - about 20 lbs to make 7 quarts (7 large tomatoes willfill one quart jar.)
  • lemon juice - fresh or bottled, about 1/2 cup
  • 1 quart tomato juice (or plain water)


  • 1 Water bath Canner (a huge pot to sanitize the jars afterfilling (about $30 to $35 - $30 at mall kitchen stores and local "big box"stores. Note: we sell many sizes and types of canners for all types ofstoves and needs - see canningsupplies). Tomatoes are on the border between the high-acid fruitsthat can be preserved in a boiling-water bath and the low-acid fruits,vegetables and meats that need pressure canning
  • 1 large pot (to scald the tomatoes, step 3) and 1 mediumsized pot to heat the tomato juice or water to add to the jars (step6) and 1 small pot to sanitize the lids.
  • Pint or quart canning jars (Ball or Kerr jars can be found atPublix, Kroger, Safeway and local "big box" stores - about $9 per dozenjars including the lids and rings). Quart jars are more economical!
  • Lids - thin, flat, round metal lids with a gum binder thatseals them against the top of the jar. They may only be used once.
  • Rings - metal bands that secure the lids to the jars. They maybe reused many times.
  • Jar grabber (to pick up the hot jars)
  • Lid lifter (has a magnet to pick the lids out of the boilingwater where you sanitize them. ($2 at mall kitchen stores and local "bigbox" stores, but it's usually cheaper online from our affiliates)t)
  • Jar funnel ($3-Grocery stores, like Publix, Kroger and Safewayand local "big box" stores; sometimes even hardware stores)
  • Large spoons and ladles

Process - How to Make Home Canned Tomatoes from FreshTomatoes

How to can tomatoes at home, from fresh tomatoes (1)Step1 - Selecting the tomatoes

It's fun to go pick your own and you can obviously get better qualitytomatoes!

At right is a picture of tomatoes from my garden -they are so much better than anything from the grocery store. And ifyou don't have enough, a pick-your-own farm is the pace to go!At right are 4 common varieties that will work:

Top left: BeefsteakTop right: Lemon Boy, yellow
Bottom left: Roma, paste-typeBottom right: Better Boy

How to can tomatoes at home, from fresh tomatoes (2)Thepicture at right shows the best variety of tomato to use: Roma; alsocalled paste tomatoes. They have fewer sides, thicker, meatierwalls, and less water.And that means thicker sauce in less cooking time! You may can cherrytomatoes, grape tomatoes, etc., but they do tend to be more watery,and you must be sure to added the lemon juice as recommended in therecipe, because they tend to be lower in natural acidity.

(Video) Canning 100 Pounds of Tomatoes with an Italian Pro Cook

Also, you don't want mushy, bruised or rotten tomatoes!

And for those of you with an abundance of green tomatoes, the USDAsays that since green tomatoes are more acidic than ripened fruit,they can be canned safely with any of the standard tomatodirections. I prefer to store them in the basement, where theyslowly ripen, but if you have a use later for canned green tomatoes,go for it..

Step 2 - Get the jars and lids sanitizing

How to can tomatoes at home, from fresh tomatoes (3)Thedishwasher is fine for the jars; especially if it has a "sanitize" cycle.I get that going while I'm preparing everything else, so it's done by thetime I'm ready to fill the jars. If you don't have a dishwasher,submerge the jars in a large pot (the canner itself) of water and bring itto a boil.

Be sure to let it go through the rinse cycle to get rid of any soap!

Get the canner heating up

How to can tomatoes at home, from fresh tomatoes (4)Fillthe canner about 1/2 full of water and start it heating (with the lid on).

Get a the medium pot of water or tomato juice heating

This is also a good time to get your 1 quart of tomato juice and/or waterboiling (you will use it to fill any air spaces in the jars in step 6).

Start the water for the lids

How to can tomatoes at home, from fresh tomatoes (5)How to can tomatoes at home, from fresh tomatoes (6)Putthe lids into the small pot of boiling water for at least several minutes.Note: everything gets sanitized in the water bath (step 7) anyway, so this justhelps to ensure there is no spoilage later!)

How to can tomatoes at home, from fresh tomatoes (7)

Step 3 - Removing the tomato skins

Here's a trick you may not know: put the tomatoes, a few at a time in alarge pot of boiling water for no more than 1 minute (30 - 45 seconds isusually enough)


(Video) Canning Tomatoes WITHOUT a pressure cooker and No Water Bath | Useful Knowledge

Plunge them into a waiting bowl of ice water.How to can tomatoes at home, from fresh tomatoes (8)

This makes the skins slide right off of the tomatoes! If you leavethe skins in, they become tough and chewy in the sauce, not verypleasant.

Step 4 - Removing the skins, bruises and tough partsHow to can tomatoes at home, from fresh tomatoes (9)

The skins should practically slide off the tomatoes. then you cancut the tomatoes in quarters and remove the tough part around the stem andany bruised or soft parts.

Step 5 - Fill the jars with the whole or cut tomatoes

How to can tomatoes at home, from fresh tomatoes (10)Fillthem to within 1/4-inch of the top with tomatoes

Be sure the contact surfaces (top of the jar and underside of thering) are clean to get a good seal!

Step 6 - Add 2 Tablespoons of lemon juice and liquid

How to can tomatoes at home, from fresh tomatoes (11)Afteryou fill each jar with tomatoes, add 2 tablespoons of lemon juice per quart jar,1 per pint jar. This helps to reduce the odds of spoilage and to retaincolor and flavor. Then fill to 1/2 inch of the top with either boiling water orhot tomato juice.

Step 7 - Free any trapped air bubbles

How to can tomatoes at home, from fresh tomatoes (12)Usinga flat plastic or wood utensil (like a plastic spoon, up side down) free trappedair bubbles by gently sliding it up and down around the inside edge.

Step 8 - Put the lids and rings on

How to can tomatoes at home, from fresh tomatoes (13)Justscrew them on snugly, not too tight. If the is any tomato on the surfaceof the lip of the jar, wipe it off first with a clean dry cloth or paper towel.

How to can tomatoes at home, from fresh tomatoes (14)Step9 - Boil the jars in the water bath canner

Put them in the canner and keep them covered with at least 1 inch ofwater. Keep the water boiling. Process the jars in a boiling-water bathfor 40 minutes for pints and 45 minutes for quarts. Remember to adjust thetime if you are at a different altitude other than sea level!Pressurecanners work better for tomatoes and other low acid foods - you'll getless spoilage with a pressure canner.

I prefer a pressure canner as thehigher temperatures and shorter cooking time result in better flavorand less spoilage. For more information or to order one, clickonPressure Canners. The recipe anddirections for pressure canning tomatoes are here.

(Video) Make Your Own Tomato Paste

Recommended process time for CrushedTomatoes in a boiling-water canner.

Process Time at Altitudes of
Style of PackJar Size0 - 1,000 ft1,001 - 3,000 ft3,001 - 6,000 ftAbove 6,000 ft
HotPints35 min404550

Step 10 - Done

How to can tomatoes at home, from fresh tomatoes (15)Liftthe jars out of the water and let them cool without touching or bumpingthem in a draft-free place (usually takes overnight) You can thenremove the rings if you like, but if you leave them on, at least loosenthem quite a bit, so they don't rust in place due to trapped moisture.Once the jars are cool, you can check that they are sealed verifyingthat the lid has been sucked down. Just press in the center, gently,with your finger. If it pops up and down (often making a popping sound),it is not sealed. If you put the jar in the refrigerator right away, youcan still use it. Some people replace the lid and reprocess the jar,then that's a bit iffy. If you heat the contents back up, re-jar them(with a new lid) and the full time in the canner, it's usually ok. Don't worry if you see the tomatoes floating above a layer of liquid;that's normal. tomatoes have a lot of water in them and itseparates a bit. If I had packed the tomatoes in the jars a bittighter or squeezed for of the free liquid out of them before packingthem in the jars, the water layer would be reduced.

Frequently Asked Questions about Canning Tomatoes

Why do my tomatoes separate from the liquid?

A frequent problem is the separation of water from the tomatoes.Why does the water separate from the solids in tomatoes?

Scenario 1 - liquid at the top and solids at the bottom

Home canned tomatoes, tomato juice, and tomato sauces with liquid at thetop and solids at the bottom is quite normal. It only reflects that thejuice was made prior to heating. For example, the tomatoes were chopped, runthrough the steamer, sieve, or food mill while still raw and prior toheating.

As soon as they are chopped or crushed, enzymes start to break down thepectin that helps to hold tomato cells together. The enzyme that causesseparation is activated by exposure to air and inactivated by heat. Incommercial production, tomatoes are flash heated nearly to boiling in amatter of seconds, using equipment not available to consumers. Because thepectin holding tomato cells together is not exposed to air when cold, itremains intact, and a thick bodied, homogeneous juice is produced.

The solution is to leave tomatoes whole or in large chunks (do notchop). Heat before chopping or juicing to minimize the separation.

The best way to do that at home is to heat quartered tomatoes quickly toboiling temperatures WHILE crushing. You can also heat the blanched, peeledwhole tomatoes in the microwave, then crush them!

Make sure the mixture boils constantly and vigorously while you add theremaining tomatoes. Simmer 5 minutes after all tomatoes are added, beforejuicing. If you are not concerned about juice separating, simply slice orquarter tomatoes into a large saucepan. Crush, heat and simmer for 5 minutesbefore juicing.

(Video) Italian Grandma Makes Canned Peeled Tomatoes

Scenario 2 - liquid at the bottom and solids at the top (note thephoto is step 10)

What about the reverse: liquid at the bottom and solids at the top? Thatindicates too much preheating (more than 5 minutes). Pectin breaks down whenit is overheated; then separation results. If separation occurs, just shakethe jar before opening or decant the water off.

References:Ohio State University

I recently canned tomatoes but had one little jar that I didn'thave room for in the water bath. So I decided to just refrigerate it. All I'vedone to those tomatoes is blanch them -- haven't cooked them, stewed them, doneanything else. There is some lemon juice in them. They've been refrigeratedsince I packed them -- how long will they be okay to use?

They'll last about the same length of time that a can of tomatoes fromthe grocery store will last once you open it an put it in the fridge.I'd guess a couple of weeks, but that depends on how cold your fridge is.

After I removed the jars of tomatoes from the canner, the jarshad lost a lot of liquid and were about half-empty. What happened?Are they safe?

There are several possible causes:

  1. The food was not heated prior to filling (Raw pack method) -
  2. The food was packed too tightly (or loosely) in the jars
  3. All air bubbles were not removed prior to sealing the lids and ringson the jars
  4. The jars were not completely covered with water (applies to a waterbath canner only)
  5. Starchy foods, such as corn, peas or lima beans, absorbed all theliquid. Use more liquid with these starchy vegetables.
  6. The jars were filled too full.
  7. Fluctuating pressure in the pressure canner. Let pressure return tozero gradually, avoiding the sudden release of pressure through thevent. Do not hasten the cooling with cold water.

As long as the jars remained sealed, they'll be ok, but theyshould be checked more frequently and used up first!

What did I do wrong if my jars spoil?

Tomatoes are a borderline acid / low acid fruit (seethis page about tomato acidity for more information) - adding lemon juicehelps, processing at least 35 minutes in the water bath canner, or better still,using a pressure canner almost eliminates spoilage. If you don't have apressure canner, you must boost the acid level of the sauce, by adding 2tablespoons of lemon juice or 1/2 teaspoon of citric acid per quart of sauce.

Other Equipment:

From left to right:

  1. Jar lifting tongsto pick up hot jars
  2. Lid lifter- to remove lids from the potof boilingwater (sterilizing )
  3. Lid- disposable - you may onlyuse them once
  4. Ring- holds the lids on the jar until after the jarscool - then you don't need them
  5. Canning jar funnel - to fill the jars
How to can tomatoes at home, from fresh tomatoes (16)

Home Canning Kits

This is the same type of standard canner that my grandmother usedto make everything from applesauce to jams and jellies to tomato andspaghetti sauce. This complete kit includes everything you need and lastsfor years: the canner, jar rack, jar grabber tongs, lid lifting wand, aplastic funnel, labels, bubble freer, and the bible of canning, the BallBlue Book. It's much cheaper than buying the items separately. You'llnever need anything else except jars & lids! To see more canners, of different styles, makes and prices, click here!Formore information and current pricing:

(Video) STOP Canning Tomatoes-- Do THIS Instead!

Summary - Cost of Making Homemade Canned Tomatoes - makes 7 quartjars, 32 oz each*

ItemQuantity Cost in 2022SourceSubtotal
Tomatoes20 - 25 lbs (to make about 16cups of prepared tomato)free from the garden, or $0.75cents at a PYOGarden$0.00
Canning jars (quart size, wide mouth),includes lids and rings7 jars$8.00/dozenGrocery stores, like Publix,Kroger and Safeway and local "big box" stores; sometimes Big Lots and evenhardware stores$4.50
Lemon juice14 Tablespoons$0.50Grocery store$0.50
Total$5.00 total
or about $0.72 per jar INCLUDING the jars - which you can reuse!
* - This assumes you already have the pots, pans, ladles, and reusableequipment. Note that you can reuse the jars! Many products are sold injars that will take the lids and rings for canning. For example,Classico Spaghetti sauce is in quart sized jars that work with Ball andKerr lids and rings. Note that the Classico's manufacturer does notrecommend reuse of their jars:see what they have to say on this page.


What is the best way to can fresh tomatoes? ›

Here's how to do it:
  1. Wash and peel the tomatoes; halve, if desired.
  2. Fill the jars, pressing to fill spaces with juice.
  3. Add bottled lemon juice and salt (1 Tbsp. lemon juice and ¼ to ½ tsp. salt for pints; add 2 Tbsp. lemon juice and ½ to 1 tsp. ...
  4. In a boiling-water canner, process pints and quarts for 85 minutes.
May 30, 2022

How do you make canned tomatoes with fresh tomatoes? ›

You can usually substitute 2 cups of fresh chopped tomatoes for one 14.5-ounce can of diced tomatoes. If a recipe calls for whole canned tomatoes, you will need to peel yours, and if the recipe calls for canned tomato puree, you will need to cook and puree your fresh tomatoes—or stick with canned.

How do you prepare tomatoes to be canned? ›

  1. Wash tomatoes thoroughly. ...
  2. Slice tomatoes into about ½ inch thick slices, then dice them into whatever size you want. ...
  3. Place diced tomatoes into a clean canning jar- a funnel makes this super easy. ...
  4. Add salt (½ tsp. ...
  5. Once you have 7 jars filled, place 7 metal canning lids in a small pan. ...
  6. Place 7 jars in canner.

What is the easiest way to preserve fresh tomatoes? ›

Tomatoes can be preserved by canning, drying, freezing, or pickling. They can also be used in creating fruit spreads like jams, jellies and marmalades. Raw tomatoes or raw tomato products can be kept refrigerated (below 40 degrees Fahrenheit), but will spoil over time due to bacteria, yeasts, and molds.

How long do you boil fresh tomatoes for canning? ›

As each jar is filled, stand it on rack in canner of hot, not boiling, water, which should cover jars by 1 to 2 inches. (Add additional water if necessary.) Put cover on canner, and bring water to a boil. Process quarts for up to 45 minutes (40 minutes for pints) at a gentle but steady boil.

How long do you boil tomatoes when canning? ›

Process tomatoes at a boil for 85 minutes at sea level; add 5 minutes to this time for every 1,000 feet above sea level. Remove jars when processing time is complete. If Using a Pressure Canner: Set canner's rack in the bottom of pressure canner and add about 4 inches water.

What happens if you forgot the lemon juice when canning tomatoes? ›

If your recipe called for lemon juice and you forgot to put it in, your mixture will not be acid enough for safe canning. You have to open the jars and put the mixture into a sauce pan. (If you made the jam or jelly recently and you carefully remove the lids without damaging them, you can re-use the same lids.)

Do you have to cook tomatoes before canning? ›

Anyone with an excess of ripe tomatoes and the appropriate canning equipment can do it, and whole tomatoes are a perfect introduction to canning. The tomatoes don't need to be boiled more than a minute before being peeled and going into the jars, so there's no real precooking involved.

How many fresh tomatoes equal a can? ›

Use the following guidelines when substituting canned tomatoes for fresh: One 28-ounce can of tomatoes equals about 10 to 12 whole tomatoes, peeled (or about 2 pounds) One 14-1/2-ounce can of tomatoes equals 5 to 6 whole tomatoes, peeled (or about 1 pound)

Why do you add lemon juice when canning tomatoes? ›

Canning Tomatoes

To ensure safe acidity in whole, crushed or juiced tomatoes, add 2 tablespoons of bottled lemon juice or ½ teaspoon of citric acid per quart of tomatoes. For pints, use 1 tablespoon of bottled lemon juice or ¼ teaspoon of citric acid. Acid can be added directly to the jars before filling with product.

Can I can tomatoes with skins on? ›

Do I have to Peel Tomatoes for Canning? Updated, 2020 – I've always said peeling was optional. But the USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning says that peeling root crops and tomatoes greatly reduces the number of bacteria, yeast and molds. So they recommend peeling tomatoes.

How long do you can whole tomatoes? ›

Step 5: Processing Canned Whole Tomatoes

Process pint jars for 40 minutes or quart jars for 45 minutes. Turn off the heat and carefully remove the lid. Let jars sit for 5 minutes in water. Leave undisturbed for 12 – 24 hrs.

How do you preserve tomatoes for a long time? ›

Best way to store TOMATOES for months,4 Easy Tomato ... - YouTube

Can you add sugar to tomatoes before canning? ›

Acid can be added directly to the jars before filling with product. Add sugar to offset the taste, if desired. Four tablespoons of a 5 percent acidity vinegar per quart can be used instead of lemon juice or citric acid. However, vinegar may cause undesirable flavor changes.

Can you freeze fresh tomatoes for later use? ›

To successfully freeze fresh raw tomatoes, you can: Slice tomatoes into at least 1/2-inch slices. Put slices on a cookie sheet and freeze for 2 hours. Remove slices and put them into freezer bags or containers.

Is it better to water bath or pressure can tomatoes? ›

The boiling water bath method is safe because boiling water (212º F) inactivates enzymes, and in adding citric acid or lemon juice is an insurance policy in making tomatoes a high-acid food. A pressure canner can be used for both low-acid and high-acid tomatoes because it processes foods at high temperatures.

Do you have to cook tomatoes before canning? ›

Anyone with an excess of ripe tomatoes and the appropriate canning equipment can do it, and whole tomatoes are a perfect introduction to canning. The tomatoes don't need to be boiled more than a minute before being peeled and going into the jars, so there's no real precooking involved.

Do you water bath or pressure can tomato sauce? ›

The spaghetti sauce needs to be pressure canned to keep it fresh for years at a time.

Can you leave skin on tomatoes when canning? ›

Tomato skins can be tough and bitter, so it's nice — but not necessary — to remove them from tomatoes to be canned.


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