How to Store Canned Tomatoes

Canned tomatoes are a staple in many kitchens, admired for their ability to bring the rich taste of ripe tomatoes to dishes year-round. However, how you store them after opening can significantly impact their quality and flavor. When properly stored, the preserved essence of tomatoes is maintained, allowing you to enjoy their summer-fresh taste any time.

Once you open a can of tomatoes, it’s important to transfer any leftovers into a glass or plastic airtight container. Refrigerate this container promptly to slow down the growth of bacteria and preserve the tomatoes’ freshness. Remember that canned tomatoes differ from fresh ones, so while they have already been cooked during the canning process, they are still prone to spoilage once exposed to air.

The key to maintaining the flavor and longevity of your canned tomatoes lies in avoiding metal containers for storage, which can impart an unpleasant taste and potentially compromise the tomatoes’ integrity. Instead, opt for alternative storage solutions that ensure their freshness until you’re ready to infuse their vibrant flavor into your next culinary creation.

Understanding Canned Tomatoes

Canned tomatoes come in various forms, each suited for different culinary uses, and offer a convenient source of nutrients. Understanding the varieties available and their nutritional content can help you make informed choices in the kitchen.

Varieties and Uses

Canned tomatoes are versatile and available in numerous forms, catering to a broad range of culinary applications. Here’s a quick guide to some common types of canned tomato products and their uses:

  • Whole Peeled Tomatoes: Best used in dishes where the tomato’s shape is part of the presentation.
  • Diced Tomatoes: Ideal for stews and soups where the tomato’s texture is desired.
  • Tomato Sauce: Smooth and thinner than paste, it is a base for other sauces or a standalone item like pizza sauce.
  • Tomato Paste: Highly concentrated flavor perfect for enriching the base of sauces and soups.
  • Tomato Soup: Ready to eat or as a base for further flavor customization.

Nutritional Value

Canned tomatoes are not just convenient; they are also packed with nutrients beneficial to your health:

  • Lycopene: A powerful antioxidant found abundantly in tomatoes.
  • Vitamin C: Essential for tissue repair and the immune system.
  • Vitamin K: Important for bone health and blood clotting.

Here are the typical nutrients you can find in canned tomato products:

NutrientValue per 100g of canned tomatoes
CaloriesApprox. 32
Lycopene3-10 mg
Vitamin C10-21 mg
Vitamin K1-13 µg

Canned tomatoes provide a nutritious alternative to fresh tomatoes, particularly when out of season, and can be an integral part of a balanced diet.

Storing Unopened Canned Tomatoes

When you store unopened canned tomatoes, it’s essential to maintain ideal conditions to preserve their shelf life and quality. Below you’ll find the best practices for storage and understand how long you can expect your canned tomatoes to last.

Ideal Conditions

Your unopened canned tomatoes require a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight and heat sources, such as your kitchen stove or a window sill. Aim to keep them at a consistent temperature, ideally between 50°F and 70°F. Exposure to higher temperatures can hasten spoilage.

  • Temperature: 50°F – 70°F
  • Location: Cool, dry place away from light and heat

Shelf Life and Expiration

Canned tomatoes, when unopened, have a shelf life that typically extends to at least 1-2 years past the printed expiration date, provided they have been stored correctly. However, for the best quality, it’s recommended to use them within this timeframe. While the safety of the product may extend beyond this period, the quality, such as taste and texture, may start to diminish.

  • Shelf Life: Minimum of 1-2 years past expiration date
  • Best Quality: Use within the printed expiration date for optimal taste and texture

After Opening: Storage Tips

How to store an open can of tomato paste

Once you open a can of tomatoes, it’s crucial to store them properly to maintain freshness and prevent spoilage. Here’s how you can keep your opened canned tomatoes in prime condition.

Refrigeration Best Practices

Immediately after opening, transfer any unused tomatoes to an airtight container. Here’s what you should do for safe refrigeration:

  • Do not leave the tomatoes in the opened can due to potential metallic taste and contamination.
  • Use glass jars or plastic containers with tight-fitting lids to ensure a proper seal.
  • Refrigerate the tomatoes at or below 40°F.
  • For best quality, consume refrigerated tomatoes within 5-7 days.

Freezing for Longevity

If you don’t plan to use your opened tomatoes within several days, freezing is an effective method for long-term storage. Follow these steps for freezing:

  • Place tomatoes in freezer bags or airtight freezer containers to protect flavor and texture.
  • Label the containers with the date of freezing.
  • Frozen tomatoes can be safely stored indefinitely, but are best used within 6 months for optimal quality.
  • When ready to use, thaw in the refrigerator or cook directly from frozen in your recipe.

Maintaining Quality and Flavor

To ensure your canned tomatoes retain peak quality and flavor, proper storage techniques are essential. This includes safeguarding against mold, spoilage, and loss of texture.

Preventing Mold and Spoilage

  • Store sealed cans in a cool, dark place to prevent photooxidation, which can cause off-flavors and color changes.
  • Inspect cans regularly for signs of spoilage, such as bulging, leaking, or rusting. Discard any compromised cans.
  • Once opened, refrigerate unused tomatoes in a non-metallic airtight container.
    • Refrigeration after opening minimizes mold growth and spoilage.

Preserving Freshness and Texture

  • Consume opened canned tomatoes within 3-5 days to ensure freshness and optimal texture.
  • For long-term storage:
    • Freeze tomatoes in an airtight container or heavy-duty freezer bag.
    • Ensure to label with the freezing date.
    • Properly frozen tomatoes can last for up to 6 months without significant loss of flavor or texture.

Creative Uses for Leftover Canned Tomatoes

3 Ways to Put Canned Tomatoes to Good Use

Leftover canned tomatoes are a versatile ingredient that can be easily incorporated into a variety of dishes to minimize food waste. Here’s how you can repurpose them in your cooking.

Cooking and Recipe Ideas

  • Pasta Sauce: Use leftover tomatoes to make a rich and robust pasta sauce. Simply sauté garlic and onions, add tomatoes, and simmer to develop the flavors.
  • Chili: Bulk up your next chili by including leftover canned tomatoes for added depth and a touch of acidity which balances the heartiness of beans and meat.
  • Stew: Create a comforting stew by adding these tomatoes to a crockpot with root vegetables, stock, and your choice of protein.

Repurposing Excess

Prevent Waste:

  • Transform your leftover canned tomatoes into tomato sauce that can be used in multiple recipes throughout the week.
  • Consider freezing leftover tomatoes in ice cube trays for smaller, easy-to-use portions.


  • Invent a new dipping sauce by blending tomatoes with herbs and spices.
  • Craft a homemade tomato-based salad dressing or marinade for proteins.

Alternative Preservation Methods

When canning isn’t an option, you have alternative methods to keep your tomatoes flavorful beyond the season. These include drying and dehydrating, as well as preparing your own canned tomatoes at home.

Drying and Dehydrating

Drying is a timeless technique that involves removing moisture from tomatoes to preserve them. You can use a dehydrator or simply oven-dry your fresh tomatoes at a low temperature for several hours. Once dried:

  • Store in an airtight container.
  • Add to various recipes like salads, stews, or grind them into tomato powder.

Homemade Canned Tomatoes

To can tomatoes at home without a pressure canner:

  1. Sterilize glass jars and lids by boiling them for 10 minutes.
  2. Prepare your fresh summer tomatoes by blanching and peeling them.
  3. Pack the tomatoes into jars, optionally adding a teaspoon of salt per quart.
  4. Cover with boiling water or their own juice, leaving 1/2-inch headspace.
  5. Clean jar rims; secure the lids and process in a water bath canner for 85 minutes for quarts at sea level, adjusting time for altitude as necessary.

These methods allow you to enjoy the rich essence of tomatoes all year, ensuring that not a single summer tomato goes to waste.

Labeling and Tracking

Proper labeling and tracking are critical to maintaining the quality and safety of your canned tomatoes. These measures ensure you use your stock efficiently and prevent waste.

Date Marking

When you store canned tomatoes, always label each jar or can with the date of storage. Use a waterproof marker to write directly on the can or a label if you’re transferring the contents to a jar. This date marking serves two purposes:

  • Safety: You can track the age of the canned tomatoes and use them within the optimal period, which is generally within two years for unopened cans.
  • Quality: By using the oldest products first (a method known as FIFO, “first in, first out”), you’ll enjoy your canned tomatoes when they are at their best quality.

Example of date marking on a label:

Tomato Type: Whole Peeled
Date Stored: MM/DD/YYYY

Managing Inventory

Keep an inventory list of the canned tomatoes in your storage area, noting the date marked on each can or jar. Record the following for each entry:

  • Type of tomato product (e.g., whole, diced, paste)
  • Storage date
  • Quantity

Sample Inventory Table:

Tomato TypeDate StoredQuantity
Whole Peeled01/13/20245 cans
Diced02/15/20243 cans
Tomato Paste01/20/20242 jars

For the most effective inventory management:

  • Store cans and jars in a cool, dry place; avoid areas where they may be exposed to moisture or high temperatures, which can affect the quality.
  • Regularly check your inventory list against the physical stock. This will help you use items in a timely fashion and before they are past their best condition.

Frequently Asked Questions

Proper storage of opened canned tomatoes enhances their shelf life and ensures they retain quality and flavor. Here, your common concerns are addressed with reliable and straightforward guidelines.

What is the best way to store opened canned tomatoes?

Once you’ve opened your canned tomatoes, transfer any leftovers to a glass or plastic airtight container. Refrigerate them promptly to maintain quality and safety.

Can opened canned tomatoes be frozen for later use?

Yes, you can freeze opened canned tomatoes. Place them in a freezer-safe container or bag, leaving some space for expansion as they freeze. They can be conveniently used later for cooked dishes.

How long do opened canned tomatoes remain safe to eat when stored in the refrigerator?

Opened canned tomatoes typically last up to five days when stored properly in the refrigerator. Be sure to keep them in an airtight container to prevent contamination and spoilage.

Does the shelf life of canned tomatoes extend past the expiration date on the can?

Canned tomatoes can be safe to consume past their expiration date if the can is undamaged and the product has been stored correctly. However, for best quality and taste, use them before the date indicated.

What are safe storage methods for leftover canned tomato paste?

For leftover tomato paste, spoon the paste into an ice cube tray, freeze, and then transfer the cubes to a freezer bag. This lets you use small amounts as needed without waste.

Are there special conditions, like darkness, required for the proper storage of canned tomatoes?

Canned tomatoes should be stored in a cool, dark place like a pantry. Avoid exposure to high temperatures and direct sunlight, as these factors can degrade the quality over time.

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Cassie brings decades of experience to the Kitchen Community. She is a noted chef and avid gardener. Her new book "Healthy Eating Through the Garden" will be released shortly. When not writing or speaking about food and gardens Cassie can be found puttering around farmer's markets and greenhouses looking for the next great idea.
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