Canning, Freezing & More Preserving / Recipes

Easy Peasy Homemade Tomato Sauce (No Peeling Required)

Easy peasy homemade tomato sauce (no peeling required)

When I was new to gardening (and new to canning what came out of my garden), homemade tomato sauce was one of those projects that always felt a little intimidating.

Every recipe I came across called for boiling a pot of water, blanching the tomatoes, plunging them into an ice bath, then making X-shaped slits in the bottom to release the skins. Some recipes went a step further, telling me to run the peeled tomatoes through a food mill to remove the seeds.

Frankly, it doesn’t sound all that bad… until the first time you’re faced with a sink full of tomatoes (especially smaller tomatoes) that need to be peeled, one by one.

All that work, all that mess… I actually started to dread the peak-of-summer harvests when I had more tomatoes than I could use right away!

A rainbow of homegrown heirloom tomatoes

But then one summer, I thought… Why go through all the trouble of peeling and seeding tomatoes?

I actually like the flavor and texture of the skins and seeds, and when I cooked them down, the skins seemed to disappear into the sauce anyway.

Fun fact: Tomato skins contain essential amino acids and actually have higher levels of lycopene (a powerful antioxidant) compared to the pulp and seeds.

That tiny revelation became my go-to method for making a quick tomato sauce from scratch that requires not much more than a food processor (or a blender or immersion blender).

And if you decide to do a double/triple/quadruple batch, you can rest easy knowing you won’t be adding hours (or even days!) to your tomato processing.

Fresh heirloom tomatoes

The secret to a fresh and flavorful tomato sauce from scratch

This is a basic sauce that omits the labor-intensive blanching, peeling, seeding, and straining of more traditional sauces.

It’s all tomato — and nothing else.

(Unless you’re planning to can the sauce for storage, in which case you’ll need to add bottled lemon juice for safe canning.)

I prefer to keep the sauce simple as it gives me more options when cooking. Some nights I might be feeling classic Italian marinara with basil, oregano, and garlic, other nights I might want a little arrabbiata action, and there are nights I might go for this spicy minty tomato sauce.

Whatever the mood may be, I like having a neutral sauce that I can add my garlic, onions, peppers, herbs, and spices to, without being tied down to a specific flavor profile.

By starting with a basic tomato sauce, you also reduce the chances of ending up with a bitter-tasting sauce, which sometimes happens with overcooked spices.

Quick tip: To save a bitter tomato sauce, stir 1/4 teaspoon baking soda into 1 cup sauce while it’s simmering. Taste, and keep adding tiny amounts of baking soda to see if it helps neutralize the acidity. You can also take the edge off a bitter tomato sauce by stirring in 1 tablespoon butter until it melts.

Pasta sauce isn’t the only thing you can make with your pureed tomatoes, however. The unadulterated tomato sauce is a good base for homemade ketchup, chutney, jam, and salsa as well, or you can simply stir it into minestrone soup, Spanish rice, or any recipe that calls for crushed or diced tomatoes.

I tend to cook the tomato sauce for less time than most recipes recommend, since I know I’ll be cooking it even more when I make the actual sauce. A shorter cooking time (I usually never go more than half an hour) means you retain more of that fresh tomato flavor.

Remove the stems from your tomatoes
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How long should you cook the tomato sauce?

In general, aim for 30 to 90 minutes of simmering on the stove. Any longer than that, and you’re on your way to tomato paste.

At 30 minutes, the sauce will be thinner (reduced by about one-third) but have a lighter, fresher flavor.

At 90 minutes, the sauce will be thicker (reduced by half in volume) but have a deeper cooked flavor.

I use a deep, wide-diameter pot (this Dutch oven is great for the task, but I also use this saute pan for smaller batches) to allow the liquid to evaporate quicker. If you use a pot that’s taller than it is wide, you may need a longer cooking time.

Pulse the tomatoes in a food processor to the desired level of chunkiness

What are the best types of tomatoes to use for skins-on tomato sauce?

Any blemish-free, vine-ripened, firm-fleshed tomato can be used for sauce. Traditional recipes often call for paste or plum tomatoes, like the Roma variety, since they have thicker skin, firmer flesh, and less moisture (which means they peel easier, boil down faster on the stovetop, and make a denser sauce in less time).

But because this sauce requires no peeling, I’m a fan of using any and all tomatoes, including cherry and grape varieties.

Use the excess harvest from your garden, or seek out tomatoes at farmers’ markets, which sometimes sell their slightly bruised or blemished fruit in bulk for a great bargain. (Just be sure to slice off any blemishes before using them.)

If you love tomatoes as much as I do, you can even make a rainbow of tomato sauces from all the colorful heirloom varieties available.

I’ve turned out green tomato sauce (from ripe green tomatoes), orange, yellow, white, even a stunning maroon from a batch of beautiful purple-black fruits. It’s fun, it’s different, and it can dress up an otherwise ordinary dish.

How to safely store your tomato sauce

The sauce will keep in the fridge for up to 1 week, or in the freezer for up to 3 months (for optimal flavor).

Related: How to Safely Freeze Liquids in Mason Jars

For long-term storage, you’ll need to add bottled lemon juice in order to raise the acidity for safe canning.

The proper amount is 2 tablespoons bottled lemon juice for each quart jar.

Don’t substitute fresh-squeezed lemon juice for bottled lemon juice, as acidity levels vary widely among fresh lemons you buy or grow.

You can, however, substitute citric acid (at a rate of 1/2 teaspoon per quart jar) for the bottled lemon juice, if you already have that on hand.

Properly canned tomato sauce will keep for at least 1 year in a cool, dry, and dark environment.

Easy Peasy Homemade Tomato Sauce (No Peeling Required)

Makes 4 to 6 quarts (depending on length of simmer time)

Ingredients

15 pounds tomatoes, stems removed
8 tablespoons bottled lemon juice (optional, if canning)

Instructions

Refrigeration Method

Step 1: Working in batches, quarter or coarsely chop the tomatoes and add them to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse a few times to your desired level of chunkiness.

Step 2: Transfer the tomato puree to a large stockpot, then repeat Step 1 until all tomatoes are processed.

Step 3: Place the stockpot over medium-high heat and bring the puree to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 30 to 90 minutes until the tomato sauce is thickened to your liking.

Step 4: When the sauce is finished, let cool to room temperature, then transfer to jars and refrigerate for up to 1 week.

Alternatively, you can transfer the cooled sauce to freeze-proof containers or zip-top bags and freeze for up to 3 months.

(Tip: When storing the sauce in bags, portion them into 2-cup or 4-cup servings for ease of cooking, squeeze out the excess air and then flatten the bags before stacking and freezing.)

You can also freeze the tomato sauce in mason jars if you follow these tips.

Canning Method

Prepare a boiling water bath and 4 to 6 quart-sized canning jars.

Follow the directions above through Step 3. Remove the stockpot from heat.

Transfer the hot tomato sauce to warmed jars, leaving about 1 inch of headspace.

Stir in 2 tablespoons of bottled lemon juice per jar.

Wipe the rims with a towel, then seal with lids and bands.

Process the jars in a boiling water bath for 40 minutes, adjusting time for altitude as needed.

Properly canned tomato sauce will be shelf stable for at least 1 year.

Learn more: 8 Canning Tips and Tricks for Modern-Day Home Canning

Tomato Sauce Recipe Sources

Easy Peasy Homemade Tomato Sauce (No Peeling Required) 1
Staub 6 1/4-Quart Round Cocotte | Calphalon Tri-Ply Stainless Steel 5-Quart Saute Pan | Cuisinart Pro Custom 11-Cup Food Processor | Ball Wide-Mouth Quart Jars | Ball Wide-Mouth Plastic Storage Caps
Yield: 4 to 6 quarts (depending on length of simmer time)

Easy Peasy Homemade Tomato Sauce (No Peeling Required)

Easy peasy homemade tomato sauce (no peeling required)

Fresh homemade tomato sauce without the need for blanching, peeling, seeding, straining or other traditional (and time-consuming) methods of processing.

Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes

Ingredients

  • 15 pounds tomatoes, stems removed
  • 8 tablespoons bottled lemon juice (optional, if canning)

Instructions

Refrigeration Method

  1. Working in batches, quarter or coarsely chop the tomatoes and add them to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse a few times to your desired level of chunkiness.
  2. Transfer the tomato puree to a large stockpot, then repeat Step 1 until all tomatoes are processed.
  3. Place the stockpot over medium-high heat and bring the puree to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 30 to 90 minutes until the tomato sauce is thickened to your liking.
  4. When the sauce is finished, let cool to room temperature, then transfer to jars and refrigerate for up to 1 week.

Alternatively, you can transfer the cooled sauce to freeze-proof containers or zip-top bags and freeze for up to 3 months.

(Tip: When storing the sauce in bags, portion them into 2-cup or 4-cup servings for ease of cooking, squeeze out the excess air and then flatten the bags before stacking and freezing.)

You can also freeze the tomato sauce in mason jars if you follow these tips.

Canning Method

  1. Prepare a boiling water bath and 4 to 6 quart-sized canning jars.
  2. Follow the directions above through Step 3. Remove the stockpot from heat.
  3. Transfer the hot tomato sauce to warmed jars, leaving about 1 inch of headspace.
  4. Stir in 2 tablespoons of bottled lemon juice per jar.
  5. Wipe the rims with a towel, then seal with lids and bands.
  6. Process the jars in a boiling water bath for 40 minutes, adjusting time for altitude as needed.

Notes

Properly canned tomato sauce will be shelf stable for at least 1 year.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

8

Serving Size:

1/2 cup

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 156Total Fat: 2gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 46mgCarbohydrates: 34gFiber: 10gSugar: 23gProtein: 8g

Nutrition information isn’t always accurate.

Did you make this recipe?

Please leave a comment on the blog or share a photo on Instagram

This post updated from an article that originally appeared on July 27, 2017.

More tomato recipes to try:

About Author

I'm a plant lover, passionate road-tripper, and cookbook author whose expert advice and bestselling books have been featured in TIME, Outside, HGTV, and Food & Wine. The No-Waste Vegetable Cookbook is my latest book. Garden Betty is where I write about modern homesteading, farm-to-table cooking, and outdoor adventuring — all that encompass a life well-lived outdoors. After all, the secret to a good life is... Read more »

10 Comments

  • imtparty
    November 15, 2020 at 12:55 pm

    Thank you for using the term “canning”. I had never heard the term “jarring” until one of the celebrity cooks use it on her show;

    Reply
  • Renee
    November 15, 2020 at 12:55 pm

    Hello, I finally washed and cut up mostly green tomatoes, some changing color, and a few red tomatoes. I have them cooling now. I did not remove the skins, and with limited freezer space, I may pick up a few canning jars tomorrow, and try canning the batch. Years past, I would just cook them to sauce, and make lasagna within a week of making the batch. This year, I’ll do something different. I thought about tart pear and apple with green tomatoes as a chutney….. honey, to sweeten, a dash of salt maybe, cardamom, and cinnamon for a holiday pork roast…. ? Thank you for your post. It is encouraging others do similar cooking with tomatoes grown at home. 🙂

    Reply
  • Brenda Landis
    November 15, 2020 at 12:55 pm

    Are you saying that you can water bath can this recipe with peelings? I thought peelings in this method would lead to botulism?

    Reply
  • Karen Bauer
    November 15, 2020 at 12:55 pm

    You’re my hero! Have made 22 quarts of sauce already, peeling each one of those little gems! Now I found YOU! Ball Book of Canning also doesnt say you have to peel them. What a good idea to make a basic sauce which I can “doctor” later!

    Reply
  • Mary Beth Jourdonnais
    September 10, 2017 at 3:10 pm

    I have pint jars instead of quart. How much lemon juice to add to pints?

    Reply
  • Beth Watkins
    August 8, 2017 at 6:06 am

    I’ve been chopping up extra tomatoes at the end of each week and freezing them. Could I defrost and use them for canning? Is that safe? Thanks!

    Reply
  • Karen
    July 31, 2017 at 12:48 pm

    I do the same! No need to fuss with seeding and peeling, I throw in a mix of tomatoes and simmer with a quartered onion, salt and butter (Marcella Hazan’s recipe). Nothing from the grocery store can compare.

    Reply

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