Canning 101: Choosing Jar Size

September 12, 2012(updated on September 20, 2021)

One question I’ve been getting frequently has been about jar sizes. Often, when I write a recipe, I describe the yield in whole pints. However, just because I say something yields three pints doesn’t mean that you have to you use a trio 16 ounce jars.

You can divide that product between any assortment of jars without changing the processing time as long as they are the same size or smaller than the jars specified in the recipe. If you want to increase the size of the jars, you typically add five minutes to the processing time, though it’s always good to check the National Center for Home Food Preservation website to confirm the time.

Oh, and if you’re picked up a case of the pint and a half jars that were re-released this year, remember that they get processed like quarters, not pints.

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84 thoughts on "Canning 101: Choosing Jar Size"

  • I see in the picture above that you have some jars with the gold screw top lids. Could you talk a bit about using those? I live in Switzerland, so that’s the kind of jar I find in the store, but I haven’t found anything about how to use them safely. Thanks!

    1. Amy, they’re not recommended for home canning, but if they’re all you can find, you simply use them the way you’d use regular lids. Prepare them by simmering them for 10-15 minutes before using. When the jars are filled, wipe the rims and apply those lids. When the time is up, remove the jars from the canner and let them cool. The jars are sealed if the top of the lid is concave.

  • Hello, have you also used jars with lids like you’d get on a jar that you’d buy at the grocery store. Can I recycle/reuse those jars?

  • Those pint+ a half jars are so cool looking, I had to buy some. Though normally I don’t can in quarts or anything that tall, but I may soon.

  • Have you seen any 2oz jars for canning? I’d love to make tiny jars so I can give a wide variety of jam to folks as gifts, and also bring a jar of jam with me on a plane. I fear these don’t actually exist, but it would be really nice.

    1. THey don’t exist as “canning jars”, but you can get them from suppliers. The problem is that you can’t process those safely at home. It requires equipment most of us don’t have around the house.

      1. The 4 oz jar is handy for ‘sample size’ portions. I included a bunch of these during this year’s canning and plan to give 3 or 4 sample jams in a box as a gifts.

    1. The trivet serves as the rack. It keeps the jars off the bottom of the pot, which is truly the only thing that a rack needs to do. It’s perfectly fine if the jars touch during processing.

  • I have a newbie canner question regarding size. Can you safely adjust any canning recipe if you want to make it smaller? So if I have something that yields 8 quarts (for example), can I halve the recipe to make 4 quarts? I didn’t know if that throws off the safety of the recipe or not. Thanks!

      1. You can not cut a jam or jelly recipe in half or double it, unless you are only using the fruit and sugar. I use 1 cup fruit pulp to 1 cup sugar and boil it for about 20 minutes and do the spoon test.

  • Thanks for the great info about the pint and a half jars. So lets say, hypothetically, of course, that I didn’t know that and had only processed some hot sauce for the pint time, not the quart time. Thoughts?

  • Do you have to adjust the headspace if you are using smaller/larger jars? I know it creates a vacuum, but I guess I’m really not clear on why the headspace varies between recipes anyway and whether it is better to have too much or to little of it (so I know which way to err when my recipe doesn’t come out to exactly filling the jars I had prepared). And so I know how to think about it when using different sized jars. Thanks! I LOVE your blog (and your book just came in the mail today- hurray! 🙂 )

    1. Krista, the headspace varies depending on the density of the product. So it doesn’t change for different sized jars, it only increases the more dense your product is. If you have to choose, I find that it’s bette to err on the side of having a little less in the jar than a little more.

  • I’ve been canning for my wedding favors all summer, using those teeny 4 oz jars. They’re precious, but I’ve just about had enough of them for a while. I’m seeing them in my sleep!

  • You are responsible for my new passion, canning. I have canned about 14 recipes (mostly from your book, which I love) since I took your class in Brisbane in June.
    My question is about doubling recipes. Is it safe? Are there any rules or guidelines?
    Thanks, Donna

  • I just made your Apple Lemon Honey Jam and it is delicious. I have 2 questions: What is the processing time if I had used 1/2 pints instead of pint jars? my other question is whether I could open my newly canned pints of jam and process again into the half pint jars and if so, how to go about doing that. I am pretty new to canning and was afraid that I couldn’t change the size of the jars. Thanks so much for your help!! I am so glad I discovered your site!!

    1. Jill, the processing time doesn’t change for smaller jars, it’s still ten minutes. You could open up those pints and process them again in half pint jars, though that could impact the set.

      1. Should I heat up the jam before re-canning?

        I ordered your book on Amazon tonight – can’t wait to read it!!!

        Thanks for your info


  • Marisa, I am a newbie canner who just got your book for Christmas and I am eager to try some of the syrups. Are there any glass bottles that are safe/possible to use in the water-bath canning process?

  • Not sure if this is the best place to ask this question but here goes. . . I have recently become interested in canning and will start when I get back home to Chicago. That said, I see that there are a bunch of different jar companies out there. Which one do you recommend? Which is the easiest for a newbie to use? For some reason i am attracted to the Weck jars with the glass lid, metal clamps and the rubber thingy (I also love the fact that you can get the little white plastic tops for the jar for use after you break the seal). Are those easier to use than say the Ball ones with the screw on lid and those little metal covers or perhaps those french ones with the glass lid that is attached to the jar? I would like to start this off right but I am just so confused by all of the different styles out there.

    1. I recommend that you start canning with the Ball jars with their two-piece lids. Most canning recipes are written for those jars, so you’ll be able to follow the directions exactly while you’re getting started. Once you’re more comfortable with the process of canning and have a greater understanding of how it all works, that’s when you can start expanding to other styles of jars.

  • Hi! I just made the Gingered Pickled Beets and Honey Lemon Apple Jam. I know they’re going to be delicious! I have a question about yield and jar size though…in both cases, I ended up with quite a bit less than the amount stated in the recipe (2 pints of the beets and 3 8-oz jars of the jam). Any thoughts on what I could be doing wrong? Am I misunderstanding jar sizes? This is my first foray into canning so advice is appreciated! Thank you!

    1. As far as the beets go, it could be that your scale is a little off or that you’re trimming away far more than I did. In the case of the jam, yields do vary, but yielding half as much as the recipe calls for is pretty major. Again, you could measure differently than I do and you may have cooked it more than I did.

  • I have been wanting to can some baby food for my 8 month old. What are the smallest jars you can safely can at home?

  • HI, I am looking for some advice on buying 2 oz jars for jellies we are making for our wedding, We want the round, not hexagonal-shaped jars, but cant seem to find any that dont have ridiculous shipping costs, and still have the proper canning lid.
    Any suggestions?

    We could go up to 3 oz. but no larger just in case people take them on a plane with them.

    Thank you

  • Hi Marissa, I came across this blog while looking for tips on using a silicone trivet in the canning bath. I took your class in Birmingham, AL a few months ago at Birmingham Bake and Cook. Truly delightful! I’m gathering my ingredients for Dilly Beans, your recipe, using green beans from my garden (yay!). I have not been able to find dill seed. Can I use fresh dill weed?

  • Well, I just finished my small batch of Dilly Beans, and I found dill seed. At Wal-Mart surprisingly. I did have a snafu though. The silicone trivet I used (black, about 1/2″ thick with a tiny circle pattern, from Target) started disintegrating into dust, while in the bath! This was before I filled the jars, so I just emptied everything out, gave it a quick wash, and used a folded towel in the bottom of the pot. Now I just have to endure waiting 2 weeks to eat the beans!

  • Good evening, Marisa. In Preserving by the Pint, you mention stacking jars in the Kuhn-Rikon 4th Burner pot. If I stack jars, do I need to increase the processing time? Is there a limit to the number of jars I should stack? Thanks!

  • Hello! I hope you are still responding to these questions! I have recently become interested in canning… I find it therapeutic, especially to go out in my yard and pick fruits or other foods, turn then into something amazing and can it for my family and friends! Anyways, my question is: can you use different sized jars during the same process? I’m curious about this for both water baths and pressure canning. Some recipes have the same pressure and time for different sizes but do I have to split the sizes up into two different processes? Does this make sense? I apologize if someone already asked this and I missed it but thank you in advance!

    1. It really depends. If you’re doing a boiling water bath and you have both pints and quarts in the canner, the best thing to do is pull the pints out five minutes earlier. In some cases, the removal of some jars will often drop the water level too much, and so in that situation, you’re better off leaving all the jars in the canner and letting them process for the amount of time required for the largest jar. In the case of the pressure canner, you’re going to need to let the process run for as long as the largest jars need.

  • I am canning beets in 1/2 pint jars and am trying to determine how long to cook them in the pressure cooker. Everything online gives instructions for pint and quart size jars.

  • Hello! I have a question regarding the two piece lid system and whether it might be safe to spray paint the rings black after processing. I want to sell my jams eventually, and the black rings would be a lovely added to uh to the packaging design. Do you think it might be unsafe due to possible chipping? Has anyone painted their rings and sealed them? If so, what type of sealant might be best? I’m a bit desperate for advice!

  • I want to can jelly this weekend. I have 2 waterbath canning racks and 4oz jars. Can I stack the 2 racks filled with 4 oz jars on top of each other and process the jelly? Thank you.

  • Hi, I see in the picture you have Weck jars. I live in Spain and Ball jars are prohibitively expensive to buy, whereas Weck jars are cheap (less than a euro apiece from one supplier). A friend is bringing a pressure canner for me back from the States. But I can’t ask him to bring jars! The closest jar sizes I can find to a US pint (473 ml) are 390 ml and 580 ml Weck, in percentage terms quite a bit smaller or quite a bit larger. The 580 ml is more useful. Do you process them as quarts? Or just add on so many minutes longer to the processing time? Thanks for any help.

  • Am going to be making some rubarb jam just wondering what size of the container would u Use no idea

    1. Typically, jams are canned in pints or half pints. The recipe you’re using should suggest a jar size.

  • I used a large 16 0z jar to can SALSA (I had already canned 8 8 oz jars, and this was left over so I used this big one…..but I had trouble getting it in the pot, with water to cover…. what do you suggest?

  • Hello,
    I was wondering if i can can jam in quart size jars? I prefer going bigger. If I can thats what I prefer to use.

    1. It’s not really advised. But there’s no major danger besides an increased risk of spoilage. If you do decide to use quarts, increase the processing time by five minutes.

  • Hi,
    I have a tomato paste recipe that calls for 8-oz jars. I’d like to use 4-oz instead. As it is water bath processing, is it safe to use the time and headspace listed for the 8-oz jars for the samller size?

    1. You can use quart jars for pickles rather than pints, but you have to increase the processing time by five minutes.

    1. It is possible. You just do it the same way you would can it if it was in 16 ounce jars. Here’s an article on that process.

  • I have some three fourths pint or 12 oz. jars.I have used them for jelly. But want to use them for canning carrots. I can’t find any information on bow long to process them in pressure canner. Any help would be appreciated

  • Can you stack smaller jars on top of each other in a pressure canner. Need a rack/towel between layers?

  • I have dug all over the internet for timing when using 6 oz jars in a pressure cooker. Best I could find was 1/2 pint. I’m processing the 6 oz as if it is 1/2 pint and crossing my fingers. Is there a formula or chart for downsizing from pint? I’m canning for only 2 people and don’t like to waste product.

  • can you process ball 20 oz jars with tomatoes? my niece has 2 cases of ball jars that hold 20 oz.. if so how long would you process them. thank you.DORIS

  • I grew up canning with my granny and mom, except they didn’t give me science as to jar size and pressure canner… So I’m purchasing a 16 quart cañner . How many 8 oz jars to canner to make sure all is well in process,

    1. You can fit as many 8 ounce jars into a 16 quart canner as it will hold. I don’t remember the number off the top of my head.

  • I have seen the posting that half pints should be processed the same time as pint jars. However, if the pints are processed the same as quarts, does that same rule apply? I want to can peas and lima beans (separately) and wonder if those 1/2 pints must be processed that long? It seems the peas especially would get mushy. Thank you! With just two of us, the 1/2 pint is perfect for some veggies.

    1. If there’s no timing offered for half pints, you have to use the time provided. It’s just not safe to go tinkering with pressure canning guidelines.

  • Hi Marisa, Your site is incredible. Hoping to get your help regarding jar size. I did a large batch of pickled green beans 2 days ago, and used half 500 ml jars and half 750 ml jars (sterilized in boiling water 10 minutes, then raw pack). The brine is a 2.5/2 ratio of vinegar to water (boiling brine pack). I water bath processed all the jars for fully 10 minutes once it hit a rolling boil, not realizing the processing time for the larger jars should be longer 🙁 I understand this may be more dangerous for cold pack or pressure canned foods, but would the high acidity of the pickles mean they are still safe? Other suggestions? So disappointed if I wasted the time and ingredients. Thank you for your help!

  • Hello,
    Thank you for taking the time to post and reply. This is going to be my first time canning and I’m purchasing jars. What would I put in a 32oz jar? That seems like a large jar. Thank you!.