Save time preserving tomatoes with this quick hack

preserving tomatoes

There’s nothing quite like pulling out a container of your own tomatoes to throw into a recipe in the middle of winter.  Jarred and canned tomato sauce from the supermarket can’t hold a candle to the bursting flavor of tomatoes grown in your own garden and preserved for use in delicious meals in the off-season.

I’ve done the taste test! Mine wins every time.

But, you might think preserving tomatoes means boiling hot liquid, marathon canning sessions, and a large kitchen cleanup.

Sure, you can preserve your tomatoes this way, but you don’t have to.

When I lived on a farm many years ago I learned the laborious process of boil canning tomatoes. We spent many weeks during the summer sweating in the outdoor kitchen while we canned jars and jars of tomatoes from the large garden.

It was miserably hot work.

And for a few years after leaving the farm I just accepted that this is how you went about preserving tomatoes.

Until one day, when I stopped and realized how much work this was. Each summer I would dread my tomato canning sessions and push them off as long as possible. “There’s got to be another way.” I thought to myself.

And I have good news — there is a better way for preserving tomatoes!



tomato preserving

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How to Save Time Preserving Tomatoes

If you have plenty of freezer space, and I highly recommend you invest in a chest freezer if you’re a gardener, the best and quickest way to preserve tomatoes is to freeze them.

You can chop, cook down, and freeze tomatoes with very little work. You don’t need to set aside a whole day over the weekend. An hour or less in the evening should do it.

I’ll show you the entire (simple!) process step-by-step in the below article and video and then share how I use my frozen tomatoes throughout the winter. In fact, I haven’t bought a tomato product from the store in many, many years.

I love this way of preserving tomatoes, and I think you will, too, if you try it out this summer.

Prep Materials Needed: Cutting board and knife (serrated makes it a bit easier, (I love this one!)), stock pot or  steam table pan

Best Storage Containers: Freezer bags, wide mouth glass jars, plastic storage containers, or old large yogurt containers

Step 1: Wash and Drain

If you’re tomatoes are dirty give them a rinse in the sink and then place them in your dish rack to drain some of the water.

Step 2: Chop

You don’t have to spend a ton of time trying to core the tomatoes. I usually just cut the top off each one. Then you can quickly chop them into pieces. It doesn’t really matter how many or what size. Smaller cooks down faster.

A word about tomato skins and seeds – just eat them. Tomato sauce recipes for canning often call for removing the skins and seeds. I did that once. What a total waste of time.

The “quick” part about this method is that you’re leaving on the skins and not worrying about the seeds.

cooking down tomatoes for preserving

Step 3: Cook Them Down

Put all of the tomatoes into a stock pot or  steam table pan and cook them down into your desire consistency. Mostly you’re just cooking off some of the water so that you’re freezing more sauce than watery tomatoes. I usually cook mine down for about two hours. It’s often still a bit chunky, but looks more like sauce than chopped up raw tomatoes.

I bought a steam table pan specifically for cooking down tomatoes. It speeds up the process by spreading out the tomatoes so there’s more surface area so the water cooks off faster and it fits over two burners so you have twice the heat.

Check out the video in this post where I demonstrate using my fancy steam table pan to speed up the process.

You don’t need to add anything to the tomatoes at this point if you’d like to just freeze them plain . This makes them more versatile later. But, you can add chopped basil or oregano, peppers, or any other vegetables you’d like.

Step 4: Cool 

Because I pack my tomatoes into plastic yogurt containers, I like to let the sauce cool for a bit before removing it from the pan.

freezing tomatoes from the garden

Step 5: Pack into Containers

My favorite container to use for cooked down tomatoes are old yogurt containers, specifically any that are 28 – 32 oz. This creates a nice serving size for many recipes, especially since canned tomatoes usually come in 28 oz cans.

You can also use freezer bags, plastic food storage containers, or wide mouth glass jars. Jars can break in the freezer when storing liquids, but the wide-mouth pints are rated for freezing. I still have had back luck with freezing wet things in jars, so I stick to my yogurt containers.

Step 6: Store

The best place to store your tomatoes is in a chest freezer. If you’re getting serious about food preserving you’ll want to invest in one.

The freezer contained in your kitchen fridge (upright freezer) goes through periodic defrost cycles, which is why your ice cream is a bit soft sometimes when you dig it out for a late night snack.

A chest freezer stays at a constant temperature of zero degrees F. This is better for long lasting frozen food quality.

When you freeze your tomatoes they’ll last up to one year – but you’ll probably eat them all first!

Check out the video with this post where I walk you through the steps and offer a few extra tips as I’m preserving tomatoes in my kitchen.


containers for frozen tomatoes

Containers for Freezer Storage

For many of my frozen food items I use wide mouth glass quartpint and half pint glass canning jars. But, as I shared above glass can be tricky when freezing liquids. Opt for the wide-mouth 16 oz. or 24 oz. jars. Straight-sided jars are better for freezing because they’re less likely to break.

You can also use the flat pack freezer bag method which means you’ll wait for the tomatoes to cool, fill the bags, and then lay them flat to freeze. This can save some space in your freezer!

Even though I’m not a big fan of plastic, sometimes it’s the best option. I try to care for my bags so they last several seasons in a row and then they’re often downgraded to hold other random household objects. But, they still do wear out and need to be thrown away.

We don’t even eat yogurt anymore and I still have a good stash of containers that are many years old.

If you have the budget, or plan to just freeze small amounts of food, you could invest in Stasher bags (or some other reusable silicone based bag).

You can also use plastic tupperware type containers for freezing vegetables, especially liquids.

See all of my recommended garden tools, books, seeds, and easy preserving supplies in my Amazon storefront.

tomato harvest

How Much to Freeze

Since a lot of recipes call for canned tomatoes, I try to freeze my tomatoes in those same amounts – mostly between 28-32 oz. – which is why I like the yogurt containers.

I recommend keeping a record of how much food you’re preserving each year so you can evaluate whether you’re putting away too much, not enough, or exactly how much you need.

It’s best to try to eat your frozen tomatoes and other vegetables within one year.

I checked my records and I usually freeze between 10-15 containers of tomatoes and we always use all of them.

Ideas for Using Frozen Tomatoes

I use frozen tomatoes in any recipe that calls for diced, chopped, whole or any other kind of canned tomato. I haven’t bought a tomato product in years!

That means it finds its way into chili, soups, and sauces. I often like to cook down the tomatoes with onions and garlic to make pasta sauce.

tomato harvest for preserving

Additional Resources for Stocking Your Pantry

FREE MINI-COURSE: Get Started Stocking Your Pantry for Winter. I’ll show you how simple it can be to fill your pantry with lots of healthy food that will save you money and many trips to the grocery store this winter!

This free mini-course features 5 videos + worksheets to help you:

  • Deconstruct your favorite meals to set your food preserving priorities
  • Explore 4 quick and easy options for preserving food (besides canning!)
  • Discover delicious ideas for featuring your preserved food in healthy recipes all winter long

Get immediate access now!

MASTERCLASS: This winter, imagine grabbing all the ingredients you need for a meal right from your pantry without having to go to the grocery store! With a few simple techniques you can continue to enjoy food grown in your own garden (or purchased from the farmers market) throughout the long, cold months of winter.

This class will teach you how to make every harvest last longer by quickly and easily preserving vegetables at the height of their season.  You’ll love the feeling of sitting down to a meal and knowing a large part of it came from your garden!

Find out more here.

super easy food preserving book


Preserving some of your excess produce is the best way to make your garden harvests last all year. And, preserving doesn’t have to be difficult or take up a lot of time.

My book, Super Easy Food Preserving, features the simplest and quickest way to preserve each fruit, vegetable, and herb. Read more about it here.



BLOG ARTICLES: Discover more about how to easily preserve food from your garden and the farmers market this harvest season.




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