Canning Whole Peeled Tomatoes

pile of tomatoes

Before tomato season comes to a close, I want to talk about my favorite way to preserve tomatoes. I typically only can them one way – (mostly) whole and peeled, in their own juices. I do them this way because I like the versatility they retain when put up in this manner. Later down the line, I can choose as to whether I want to puree them down, make a chunky sauce or just crush them with my hands and use them to top homemade pizza (Mmmm).

One thing to note is that my tomatoes aren’t perfectly whole. I do crush them a bit while cramming them into the jars, in order to generate enough liquid to totally cover the ‘maters. I find that I’m able to get three romas into a pint jar and six into a quart. On occasion, I’ll cut a tomato in to thirds or halves in order to finish off a jar and still have the proper amount of headspace.


Take your tomatoes and core them. This isn’t an absolutely necessary step, but I hate dealing with the cores when it comes time to use the tomatoes on the other end.


A cored tomato. Seriously easy.


Make two shallow cuts on the bottom of the tomato, to ease the peeling.


Drop cored and scored tomatoes into a pot of boiling water (don’t put too many in at once, or you’ll drop the water temperature drastically and it will take forever to return to a boil). Blanch tomatoes for 1-2 minutes, until the skins start to blister or loosen.


Put your blanched tomatoes into a boil of cold water, to halt cooking and to make them handle-able.


Peel tomatoes. The skins should slip off easily after the blanching and the cold water dip.

filling jars

I put the tomatoes into the jars as I peel. Two standard sized romas typical fit at the bottom of the jar.

smashing tomatoes

You may need to give them a little help. I use my hand when filling wide mouth jars, but when dealing with regular mouth openings, I employ the handle of a wooden spoon.

full jar

Look! A jar that’s filled with tomatoes! All the liquid you see here came from the tomatoes, as I gently smashed them to fit the jar.

2 tablespoon measure

Don’t forget to acidify. It’s one tablespoon of lemon juice for pints and two for quarts. I pour it on top of my filled jars, and then use a chopstick to remove the air bubbles from the jar and work the lemon juice down into its contents. You should have approximately 1/2 inch of headspace remaining after you add the lemon juice and de-bubble the jar.

After that, I wipe the rims, apply my lids (carefully simmered for 10 minutes at around 180 degrees), screw on the rings and lower the jars into the heated boiling water canner (remembering to use a rack so that the jars aren’t resting on the bottom of the pot).

Quarts of whole peeled tomatoes get processed in a boiling water canner for 45 85 minutes. Pints get processed for 40 minutes the same amount of time. Tomatoes that are packed in water are processed for 40/45 minutes.

Because my life is busy, I rarely do my tomatoes in one great, big canning day. Instead, I stretch the process out over several post-work weeknights. I’ll do four quarts at a time, because that’s how much my stock pot can hold during processing, and it keeps me from feeling overwhelmed. I find that a 25 pound box of tomatoes will make approximately 12-14 quarts of tomatoes, and so I do four jars a night for three nights in a row. It keeps me sane and keeps my pantry filled with wonderful, local tomatoes all winter long.

Related Posts:

196 responses to “Canning Whole Peeled Tomatoes”

  1. I just caned 3 pints of tomatoes following your instructions. A couple things happened that I didn’t expect: 1) a lot of water separated from the tomatoes and collected at the bottom of the jars and 2) some bubbles have appeared in the jars even though I was careful to be rid of bubbles before putting the jars in the water bath.

    Did I do something wrong or is this normal?

  2. If you were going to do a ‘big canning day’, or if you don’t have enough tomatoes because your garden’s small, would you recommend freezing them first (I have a vacuum sealer, it’s instructions take the tomato all the way to being ready to put into jars, but after blanching, peeling, and reserving the squished out juice to freeze seperately you bag/vac/seal and freeze until canning day).

    Can you tell me, if I froze them, then what steps would I need to take to thaw and prepare to hotpack before processing?

    Thank you for any guidance you could give!

    First time Canner,


    • When you freeze whole tomatoes, the skins just slip off as they defrost. So you can just chuck them in a freezer bag until you’re ready to can. Then defrost them and use them to make crushed tomatoes or sauce.

  3. So, I canned tomatoes this way but didn’t have quite enough to cover themselves in juices/eliminate a large amount of head space. There is an inch and a half of space at the top of the jar. Do I have to throw it out? Lid is sealed right & I added the citric acid but I’m not sure because there is so much airspace.

    • They increased it around 1988-89. I don’t know why they increased it so much, but I imagine they found that the extended heat exposure was necessary to kill all the bacteria.

  4. I was looking at the Ball website and they still say 40-45 minutes of processing time, so I’m not sure what to do. You mention that tomatoes that are packed in water can be processed for 40-45 minutes, not the 80 minute length. Does this just mean that if I add any water to the tomatoes in my jars, I can process for the smaller amount of time? Thanks for the clarification, I’m just starting out so want to make sure I am doing everything safely!

    • If you raw pack they say to do it 85 minutes, if you boil the tomatoes first and hot pack the jars you can use the 45 minute processing time.

  5. Hi Marisa. Just did these yesterday and followed your recipe exactly. Made sure i burped out the bubbles as directed, and when the jars went in the pot for processing, they were full of juices. After processing it looked like a lot of the juices “cooked off” and there are some pretty obvious air pockets throughout. And though the lids did seal, I never heard them ping, which I thought was odd. Does this all sound normal to you? I supposed I’m just being paranoid, but am mostly looking for some reassurance. Thanks!

  6. i love canned tomatoes in bolognese, it goes down a treat and even the kids eat it.
    thanks for the post, loved reading it and very helpful.

  7. Is it possible to can tomatoes in a pressure cooker instead of a water bath? – And without peeling? Why is peeling necessary?
    Process: Wash and core tomatoes; remove any bad spots. Add tomatoes whole to jar; add lemon juice as directed; remove bubbles; clean rim; add heated lid-rim. Would this not work as well? And would it not eliminate any bacteria because of the pressure cooking? A quick reply would be appreciated before I start on this. Many thanks.

    • It would work. However, leaving the skins on the tomatoes during processing means that you don’t get as many into the jars and they can get a little bitter over time. But in terms of safety, it’s cool.

  8. Hi! I’d like the try this recipe today with my extra garden tomatoes but was wondering if I need to boil my jars first?

    • The jars you start with need to be clean, but not sterilized. Just follow the recipe as written. Because the finished jars process for so long, any pre-packing sterilization is unnecessary.

  9. The picture with you packing next to the raw meat is a little unsettling and would be a violation under commercial sanitation code. These jars must be CLEAN CLEAN CLEAN as well as the area surrounding. Also, this website has great info on processing. It explains the time differences in processing (water pack, no added juice, raw pack, etc.) 40 minutes is the correct processing time for boiling method or 10 minutes at 10lb weighted pressure canned for raw water-pack pints. Citric acid can be used instead of lemon juice at 1/4 tsp per pint.

    • Jim, if you read through some of the previous comments, this is well-covered territory. I was in a home kitchen, not a commercial one. The meat was frozen and in a fully sealed package. And if any bacteria escaped from that frozen and sealed package, the jars were vigorously boiled for 85 minutes, after which no bacteria would be left alive.

      • Thanks Marisa. I meant no offense, but I’ve been a professional chef for 30 years and have taught Sanitation and professional cooking at the college level for the last 13 years. I also home can, pickle, and bake at home as a hobby. I love your pictures and clear directions but that one is simply incorrect and not a good example. Freezing does not kill bacteria and boiling for however long does not effect botulism toxins. Sorry if I’m beating a dead horse here, I just found your site today. šŸ™‚ Like I said, nice job. Love your site.

        • I didn’t say that freezing kills bacteria. I said that the boiling of the jars would kill the bacteria. And botulism isn’t a concern here, because I was making a high acid product.

          • Actually C. Bot toxin is quite easily destroyed by heat greater than 176F. The issue is spores which are not easily killed with heat. However the cook procedures suggest when followed correctly actually do kill the spores (C. Dificulus is the basis normally). The 12D processing is the industry standard and is affected by suspension media, pH and osmotic pressure hence the different processing times.

            As for the meat, the cross-contamination risk is real, but likely minimal risk for contaminating you jarred food. Most meat pathogens are obligate aerobes and would die via the pH, heating and lack of oxygen.

            Certainly good to call out risk, but Jim you are propagating incorrect info here wrt C. Bot.

            • The more important issue is not to lead people with little experience or training to believe they will do the right thing by chance. Monkey see – monkey do. I understand the meat was probably placed for a photo opp, but it’d be smart to not encourage people to follow that example, just in case…

              • The meat was there because it’s my home kitchen and it was defrosting. Life happens sometimes.

  10. Hi Marisa,

    Firstly, let me say how much I love your site and that I’ve used it as a canning resource for a couple years now! Imagine my surprise then when I opened up your canning whole tomatoes entry and discovered that all of your ever-so-helpful pictures aren’t displaying! Is this intentional? I’m still enough of a newbie at this whole canning thing and, since I really only do one or two canning sessions a year, I love the refresher your site provides me.


    • Jane, it’s not at all intentional that the pictures aren’t displaying. The images in those older posts are hosted by Flickr, and they appear to be down right now. I imagine that as soon as they are back up, the images will reappear.

  11. Love this recipe. After years of sweating over making endless jars of sauce, I’m now going to do this with half my tomatoes.

    Question, what so you think about adding basil for some added flavor? Have you tried that?

  12. Question, do you have to peel the tomatoes before you can them whole? I would be using homegrown tomatoes, some are quite small and it just seems like so much trouble to peel them all. I have made tomato soup and sauce (roasting the tomatoes first with skins on cut in half, then pureeing) and it was super easy and simple without peeling, so I thought perhaps I could can them the same way, perhaps just cutting them in half without peeling after washing well of course. Thanks! šŸ™‚

  13. Hi, I’m about the embark on my first batch of tomato canning. Was doing some internet research earlier today on methods. What are the pros and cons of not cooking the peeled toms first before putting them in the jar (cold packing?). I thought I read somewhere it’s best to cook them up for 20 mins or so (boiling) and then put them in the jar, was deemed safer. Any insight is much appreciated as I’d rather do your method…seems waaaay easer! Thanks!

    • You get more in the jar and the processing time is a bit shorter when you cook the tomatoes first. However, a raw pack helps preserve a fresher flavor.

  14. Hi, can anyone help me here- I processed tomatoes for the first time yesterday, and I ran out of time. I only processed the jars for 15 minutes. I cold packed them, and I added the lemon juice. Less than 24 hours later I have them back in water and am processing them for the recommended 85 minutes. I’ve put the jars in, with the ater and heated them together so the jars don’t crack. Is this safe? The lemon juice deters botulism, and the hot water processing kills any other bacteria?

    • Hi Carrie! Like I said in my email reply to you, reprocessing those filled jars is not the recommended manner for dealing with this. However, if this is the approach you’re taking, you would have needed to start with the jars in cold water and with new lids on the jars.

      You are correct though, the lemon juice creates an environment that is unfriendly to botulism and the boiling water bath process sterilizes the jars and their contents.

      • Hi, I messed up and only boiled my raw packed jars for 35min, what is the best way to deal with this. I’ve done this recipe a lot before and for some reason I had 35min in my head… whoops. How can I fix it! Thank you, Joanna

        • The best course of action is to turn those tomatoes into something else at this point, like stewed tomatoes or sauce.

          • Thank you! What will happen if I left them, would they just get loudly or could botulism develop? Just curious…

            • As long as you acidified the tomatoes properly, there is no risk of botulism. You just have an increased risk of spoilage.

  15. Hello. I just found your website and am SO excited to try this recipe! Is it cool to add Basil or would that mess up processing or the flavor on the other end?

    • You could add a basil leaf or two, but you don’t want to add more than that, because it could change the acidity of the preserve and potentially make it unsafe.

  16. Last year I used your recipe. I passed it on to my sister. We are delighted with the results. (My son-in-law ate them as if they were a condiment – put them on cheese on toast. Wants more this year.)

    I am just about to bottle/can another 6 jars (1 pint size). Thank you for such a super recipe. I use San Mazano tomatoes – we can grow them in the UK.

    Website is my husband.

  17. I know this is an old post… But I was reading your raw pack technique and I hesitate, I did this last year and I busted a few jars… Not sure what happened, first time I’ve ever broken a jar. I did raw pack (not for the first time though)with one difference – I didn’t skin them. Skins don’t bug me, and they’re easy enough to remove later.
    Could leaving the skins on have done it? Or maybe being cool, or not putting them straight into the jar post boil have done it? Or maybe they exploded? Or maybe that time my jars weren’t very hot?

    • My best guess is that because you did a raw pack with skin-on tomatoes the contents of the jar were too cold when the jars went into the hot canner. Peeling the tomatoes does warm them up a bit, which helps prevent heat shock. Or the jar could have been old. Or poorly tempered. There are any number of reasons why the jars broke.

  18. Hi, I just canned 7 quarts of tomatoes. everything looks good. However, I just realized I only added 1- heaping tablespoon of lemon juice to each quart with 1/2 of a teaspoon of salt. Ugh! Should I just refrigerate and use them as fast as I can or start over, and if I start over do I add an additional 2 tablespoons of lemon juice or just 1 tablespoon. Can’t believe I’d made this rookie mistake!

  19. Hi Marisa, I followed the directions and some of my jars didn’t seal. I wiped the rim very well, so not sure what happened. I didn’t notice this until the next morning when I was putting them away. I refrigerated the 2 jars that didn’t seal. How long can they stay in the fridge before I use them?
    Thank you

  20. Hi there!

    First time canning this evening and then had some separation and after a quick google I was led here! Love your site, very helpful with great explanation. I canned some cold diced tomatoes this evening, which had quiet a bit of their own juices but I added some hot water to each jar, not a ton, maybe 2 tablespoons to each pint. I figured I needed to process for 45 minutes but after reading Iā€™m not so sure. How much water would I need to add for it to be considered safe to process for 45 minutes instead of 85? And what can I do with the jars I did this evening to make sure they are safe to eat? Thanks so much!!

  21. Hey Marisa!
    I plan to preserve whole roma tomatoes using your method this weekend and have a question. Could I add a couple of leaves of BASIL to the jars and process as you indicate? Or would I have to make changes to ensure safe canning?
    Thanks very much – I love your site!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • Partners

    Fillmore Container banner ad EcoJarz banner ad Awareness Lift banner ad McDonald paper banner ad