Is Making Homemade Tomato Paste Worthwhile With Very Cheap Tomatoes?

I've written a few times already about how cheap produce has been locally lately. Tomatoes are among the vegetables that have been sold for 10 cents per pound at my local grocery store.

Since I wanted to take advantage of this pricing, and there's only so long produce can last in my refrigerator, I've been doing some canning, including (so far) salsa, pineapple, and pickles. 

I regularly buy tomato paste, and the price of it has gone up drastically lately. While a can of 2 cups of concentrated tomato paste used to go for around $1.50, then crept up to $1.75 or so, it now is $2.80-$3.40 per can!

For someone who uses tomato paste for so many things and so frequently, from pasta to meat sauce to chili to sloppy joes to pizza... the price difference is really frustrating.

So when I saw that tomatoes were 10 cents a pound, I said that it must be worth it to make my own tomato paste. I remembered from the last time I tried making tomato paste that it needed to cook down a lot, but I never calculated how much, and never fully got to the tomato paste stage. So it was just a guess that it would be worthwhile. Because it's freaking 10 cent a pound tomatoes.

Well... lets just say many days later... I have my results.

Why many days later? 

Because making tomato paste is a many step process, most of them either labor intensive or needing constant supervision, so I needed to space it out and keep the stuff in my fridge in the meantime, since I had only so many hours per day.

I started out with 16.5 lbs tomatoes that cost me $3.45, more or less the amount one can costs now.

First step- blanch the tomatoes to peel them. 
  • Wash the tomatoes.
  • Make an x on each tomato
  • Bring water to a boil
  • Make ice water
  • Cook tomatoes a few at a time for 30-60 seconds
  • Take each tomato out and put in ice water bath
  • Remove tomatoes from ice bath and find container to put them in
  • Make new ice water bath because the water heated up from the multiple batches already
  • Find another container or two since there isn't room in your first one for the entire 16.5 lbs
  • Peel the tomatoes
(I then put the tomato peels aside to make a spice mix. They're still in my fridge.)

Second step- remove the seeds and juices and hard part where the tomato attaches to the stem
  • To not waste all this, do this over a bowl
  • Strain out the seeds from the liquid using a collander
  • Realize that even so many seeds fell through
  • Do it again with a cheesecloth this time
  • Use the liquid, if you want. I used it to cook rice. 2 of my kids didn't love it, but one kid and I enjoyed it.
Third step- blend up the peeled and deseeded tomatoes
  • Do this in a blender, not a food processor, since it'll be too liquidy for a food processor
  • But since it isn't liquidy until you blend them, and if you put too many at once at the beginning it won't blend, do this in very small batches, but keep a bit of the previous batch each time so the liquid of that helps it blend better

Fourth... and looooooongest step- cook it down
  • Preferably in as wide a pot as possible so you have as much surface area as possible for steam to escape, bring the blended tomatoes to a simmer
  • Mix frequently
  • Very frequently
  • If you don't it will burn on the bottom 
  • Even if it doesn't burn, it will make giant bubbles that will burst and try to splatter everywhere if you don't mix it enough to release trapped steam
  • This will take hours and hours and hours, which you might want to divide over separate days so you don't need to stand over the stove that many hours each day, because you have a life
Fifth (and optional) step- add sugar
  • My bought tomato paste has sugar in it, and says that it is 93% tomatoes, so I measured how many cups of tomato paste I had and by volume added sugar so it would be 7% tomatoes. It was a little less than half a cup of sugar. 
  • Realize you made a mistake because it is more sweet than you'd intended, but still not bad, so it must have been by weight, not volume
Sixth- boil some more
  • After opening some tomato paste for pizza you were making, because gosh darnit you aren't going to use this tomato paste yet because you need to finish it and measure it first, you compare how concentrated it is to how concentrated what you made is, and realize that it's nowhere near as concentrated
  • Boil it some more, stirring a lot, being even more careful because the sugar in it makes it even more likely to burn
  • Decide that you're done, that even if it isn't as concentrated as the 28 bx (whatever that means) tomato paste as you usually buy, its probably close to the 22 bx you used to buy (but can't find anymore)
Seventh- if you're trying to figure out if this is worth it- measure it....
  • This was a little annoying because I was putting it into jars and measuring it at the same time, which meant more work, especially since it was hot
  • See how much you actually ended up with... that was less concentrated than what you usually buy, and had more sugar than you usually buy...
Realize that you ended up with only 4.5 measly cups of tomato paste after all that!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I spent $3.45 on tomatoes... and 12 cents on sugar... Total $3.57....

For what is essentially 2.25 cans of tomato paste, that each cost me $2.80... but since it wasn't as concentrated, more like 2 cans worth, if not less

So let's do the math.

Or not.

Just a guesstimate. 

For the many, many, many hours worth of work spread over many days...

I basically got 2 cans of tomato paste for the price of $1.5 cans.


I never felt more like I wasted my time.

But it wasn't a complete waste of time.

I learned my lesson and am now passing on that lesson to you.

It doesn't matter how cheap your tomatoes are, it isn't worth making homemade tomato paste.

Yes, each type of tomato has a different ratio of water to solids, so you'll get more tomato paste yield from other types of tomatoes... but unless you're growing your own tomatoes and specifically planting that species, if you're just dealing with supermarket tomatoes you're probably not getting that type.

Last step- can the tomato paste so you'll at least have something shelf stable to show for all your work
  • Bring the water to a boil in your water bath canner
  • Process for 40 minutes
  • Remove from water bath
  • Let cool

A gajillion hours for 4 small jars (each 1-1.5 cups worth) of shelf stable tomato sauce.

Wasn't that fun?

Have you ever made homemade tomato paste? How was it? What was your yield like?
Do you plan on ever making homemade tomato paste or are you a masochist?
Do you enjoy posts in which I poke fun at myself and what I did, like this? 

Penniless Parenting

Mommy, wife, writer, baker, chef, crafter, sewer, teacher, babysitter, cleaning lady, penny pincher, frugal gal


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  1. Well done in regards to taking advantage of that amazing price. i myself have a much lazy-er method for processing tomato paste when the garden tomatoes are coming in hot and heavy. I just wash the tomatoes to blend in my high speed blender (Vitamix), skin and all (if i'm particularly ambitious I *might* squeeze them a bit first to squish out extra tomato water and seeds (or not, depends on my mood)). I add this well blended tomato mixture to my second-hand thrifted crock pots. I let them cook on low (with the lid cracked) for however long it takes to cook down (overnight, or a day or two -- whatever it takes to get to the consistency I want (while I go to sleep, go to work, etc-etc)). Once cooked down to my liking, I fill ice cube trays with the paste to freeze into tomato paste cubes (to be stored in the freezer in baggies) for use in cooking as needed....

    1. They don't burn in the crock pot? That might be a better idea....

    2. Nope, no burning nor scorching when cooking on the low setting (mind, I also use pretty much this very same method for bulk processing apple sauce/butter (we have several trees) -- except that I blend the apples after cooking (and the tomatoes before cooking)). My crockpots are somewhat older models (thrifted) ....don't know if they are set to lower temps possibly (?) but they work really great for this purpose....

  2. As much as I love making our foods from scratch, I've never attempted (or even considered) making tomato paste. We go through a lot of tomato paste, as it goes into nearly every dish I cook. On average, we go through two tins (800 grams each!) of tomato paste a week. And we're just a family of four... I just can't imagine how much tomatoes I'd need for a relatively large supply of tomato paste that would last a while for us!
    If I were left with tons of tomatoes that I didn't know what to do with I'd probably just make a lot of pasta sauce.

    1. I'm with you on that! My kids don't like pasta sauce just from cooked tomatoes, so I didn't just do that, I tried to concentrate the flavor like in tomato paste. Oh well.

  3. Haha good to know! Despite being a "fail" it's still a success from my perspective.

    1. Thank you. Agreed. Sometimes just the knowledge is the win.

  4. Thank you for this. Maybe tomato sauce would be more worthwhile?

    1. Probably, possibly. But I still think it wouldn't be.

  5. In calculating the cost I didn't see you give yourself a salary. How many labor intensive hours did you put in to make your home made tomato paste??

    1. Ha. As I said, it was so ridiculously not worth it to make this myself. And that was without factoring my time in. Had I factored in my time, it would be just how much money was I losing...

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