Crushed Tomatoes: Canned or Frozen?

Written by Shaina of Food for My Family.

Here today, gone tomorrow. Or so the saying goes. The tomatoes that seem to fill every square inch of my farmer’s market will surely be around for another week, but then they will slowly disappear, being replaced by an overabundance of winter squash and pumpkins. The pumpkins are coming.

What’s been priceless to me during the long winter months, however, is having those tomatoes around. Store-bought tomatoes simply do not sing as do their locally-grown counterparts. They lack the depth and character of the heirloom varieties that stare back at me in my backyard and on the farmers’ stalls. They are devoid of flavor. (In my opinion, at least.)

Photos by Shaina Olmanson | Food for My Family

So, every fall I make a point of buying a few cases of tomatoes. I don’t do it all at once, but slowly and over the course of a few weeks: I work on simmering them while we go through our bedtime routine, let them process as I read stories and then settle down with my own book, and I finally drift off to dreamland as they cool.

The nights are cool enough for processing tomatoes, providing a bit of extra heat and we avoid turning on the furnace for a few more weeks. The house constantly smells like pasta night, which has me planning elaborate fresh pasta dishes and fresh baked bread.

Canned or frozen is the question. I tend to do both. I have the freezer space for a few quarts of frozen, and I have the pantry space for a few quarts and pints of canned. Frozen is easier in that you don’t have to process it, but then you do have to have the room to store it and keep it cold. Oh, and canned will last a bit longer on the shelf.

Crushed Tomatoes: Canned or Frozen

5 from 2 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Method, Preserves


  • fresh tomatoes cored
  • bottled lemon juice


  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil. On the end of the tomatoes make a small "x" with a knife, piercing the skin. Add a few tomatoes at a time to the boiling water. Allow them to cook for 1 to 2 minutes before removing them with a slotted spoon or spider. Immediately plunge them into a cold water bath to help loosen the skins. Repeat until all tomatoes are in the cold water bath.
  • Peel the skins off the tomatoes and discard. Take 2 cups of the tomatoes and add them to a large nonreactive pot. Smash them with the back of a spoon to release their juices. Cook them over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until they boil. Gradually add in the rest of the tomatoes and continue cooking to a boil. Boil gently for 5 minutes.

To Freeze

  • Allow the tomatoes to cool. Pack into freezer containers allowing room for expansion, and freeze.

To Can

  • Add in 1 tablespoon of lemon juice for each pint of sauce and 2 tablespoons for each quart. Fill hot, sterilized jars to 1/2" from the top. Put rings and lids in place and process in a boiling water bath (45 minutes for quarts and 35 minutes for pints).
  • Remove the jars to a clean, dry towel on a flat surface. Any jars that don't seal when they are cool can be placed in the refrigerator and eaten within a week.

A Few Ways to Use Crushed Tomatoes:

:: Tomato Braised Chicken with Kale | My Kitchen Addiction
:: Tomato Basil Soup | Food for My Family
:: Skillet Chicken and Zucchini Parmesan
:: Roasted Tomato Soup with Sweet Onion | Goodlife Eats
:: Baked Ziti Casserole | My Kitchen Addiction
:: Slow-cooker {lazy} cabbage rolls with brown rice & herbs

What are your favorite ways to use canned or frozen tomatoes?

About Shaina

Shaina Olmanson is the home cook and photographer behind Food for My Family, where she shares recipes, tips, opinions and her philosophy on food as she wades through the process of feeding her family, her friends and anyone else who will let her. She strives to teach her four children how to eat well: seasonally, locally, organically, deliciously and balanced.

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  1. Huh, I didn’t know you could freeze tomatoes. I’m much more likely to do that than to can. Thanks for the enlightenment.

  2. Thanks- I have a few boxes from my CSA that I have to do this week- so it’s perfect! I love canning tomatoes- something so wonderful about looking at your shelves and knowing that meals will be made with all that goodness. This year my friend told me that she dehydrates the skins- so I’m going to try that after I peel the tomatoes. Less waste that way!

  3. I think both ways are great! My mom always froze tomato sauce when I was growing up. I can my tomatoes now, but when I get too tired of canning (i do mine all in a long weekend), I put the rest in the freezer 🙂 I like to add them to soup in the winter, and I use them to make vegetarian chili, yum!

  4. I’d heard tomatoes could be frozen, but wasn’t sure how. A couple questions- how does one core a tomato and what constitutes a non-reactive pot? I’m always finding more I don’t know in the cooking world! Thanks for this great article!

    • To core them, I just take a small pairing knife or a strawberry corer and remove the small end stub. A reactive pot made from aluminum, copper, or untreated cast iron will react chemically with the tomato sauce. Stainless steel pots would be the most common non-reactive. I hope that helps!

      • It does, thanks! I use all stainless steel in the kitchen anyway : ) With the coring, just to make sure I’m understanding correctly, just cut off the tip and then use the entry created to cut out a cylinder from the middle? Sorry, I’m sure it’s obvious once you’ve seen someone do it, but tomatoes seem so fragile, I just imagine turning it into a pile of mush on accident!

  5. Amber | Bluebonnets & Brownies says

    5 stars
    Such a good post. I’ve never put up my own tomatoes, so we don’t use them that often. If I get a solid weekend before they’re gone from the market, I’m totally doing this.

  6. These look wonderful! Totally inspired to try this with some tomatoes from the market (since I’m sans garden in a loft this year!). 🙂

  7. Krista (@kristahouse) says

    I never canned before. I’m going to try this! Thanks for the inspiration 🙂

  8. I thought because of the low acidity of tomatoes they had to be pressure canned.

    • The lemon juice addition in the canned method adjusts the acidity level. The times for boiling water bath processing are based off the National Center for Home Food Preservation’s guidelines.

  9. I am definitely going to do this! Not only do I love tomatoes, but I hate to buy all those canned ones, but I use them so much in pasta sauces. Thanks!

  10. I love this idea- anything to cut down on tomato products in a can- that can’t be all that healthy

  11. I don’t do any canning or preserving, but I do tend to buy more canned tomatoes. I don’t even think I’ve ever used frozen tomatoes! But for canned food, I pretty much use it for anything calling for tomatoes.

  12. I bought a case of tomatoes this year, gave them a good rinse/clear and then froze them whole (three to a ziploc bag). When I need some, I remove from the freezer, zap in the microwave for a minute or two, peel (the skin comes right off!) and then chop and use them as I would a regular can of tomatoes. Easy and delicious!

  13. Great post & ideas – but why use bottled lemon juice when you’ve gone through all the work of getting fresh tomatoes & canning them yourself? Fresh lemon juice isn’t hard at all to squeeze out of a lemon. And it is fresher tasting (I find the bottled stuff to have a funny aftertaste).

    • Hi, Kathryn. That’s a good question. I always prefer fresh lemons over bottled lemon juice as well, except when canning. When you’re using lemon juice to acidify the tomatoes rather than add flavor to the sauce, then you need something consistent. Bottled lemon juices have a consistent amount of acidity, and so they will ensure you reach the proper pH for canning. You’ll notice that the freezer method doesn’t incorporate the lemon juice because you don’t need to worry about acidity levels when freezing.

  14. What do you think about adding the lemon juice to the jars before filling? I have a salsa recipe in which you add the salt to the jars (1tsp per pint) before adding the salsa. I find it helpful when I don’t know how many quarts of sauce might be in the big pot.

  15. I would a regular can of tomatoes. Easy and delicious!But this one is a great idea..

  16. I’ve never thought of freezing tomatoes! I just might have to do that with the rest of our red globes still hanging on the sad-looking vines. I’m not a canner, but freezing I will do!

  17. 5 stars
    This is genius, never tried it before but as a big fan of tomatoes I will certainly be giving it a go. Beats just getting them from the can, which I don’t really like doing all that much. I was wondering whether it would have an effect on the calorie content, obviously that is already low but cooking or freezing foods can alter that slightly? Couldn’t see on the source I usually use for this info

    • I have learned to can from my mom since I can remember, back in the 60’s. So since then I have had to keep up with the rules of canning regulations. So I appreciate your help with the instructions on freezing tomatoes. I usually can them, and many other things.

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