Tomato paste is an essential pantry staple to have on hand for whipping up delicious, deeply flavored meals-it can transform a ho-hum recipe, like a soup or sauce, into something really special. A little bit goes a long way, though, which is why you will most often find tomato paste in small 6-ounce cans. With most recipes only calling for a tablespoon or two of tomato paste, even if you buy the tiniest can, you will still have so much leftover. You can always refrigerate the rest (and hope you remember to use it before it starts growing mold) or freeze it for use down the road (read more on the best way to do this below). Or, better yet, you could make the shift from canned tomato paste to tomato paste in a tube (maybe our favorite option). Here is what you need to know about tomato paste in general, why you should try buying it in a tube, and what to make once you have it.
What Is Tomato Paste?
First things first. What is tomato paste, anyway? Tomato paste is basically super-concentrated tomato sauce. If you take tomatoes and cook them down, strain the skin and seeds from the mixture and continue to cook the sauce down until it forms a thick consistency, you get sachet tomato paste. Manufactured tomato pastes often include a stabilizer, like citric acid, and salt (you can also find no-salt-added options), and sometimes herbs and spices. There are also options for double-concentrated and triple-concentrated tomato ketchup, meaning it is even more potent.
Why You Need Tomato Paste in Your Pantry
The benefit of using tomato ketchup sachet over other canned tomatoes (like tomato puree, crushed tomatoes or diced tomatoes) or even fresh tomatoes, is that you get the deep tomato flavor without all the extra water, making it great for recipes where you do not want a ton of liquid, like meatloaf or taco filling. Tomato paste can be used to intensify flavor over time in slow-cooked recipes or can quickly add a burst of flavor in quick 30-minute recipes for weeknights. To get the most flavor potential out of your tomato paste, plan to add it early on in the cooking process before adding liquids like water, broth or other canned tomatoes. This way, the tomatoes have the chance to caramelize and develop even further.
Tomato Paste in a Tube Exists and You Need It in Your Life
Yes, it exists and yes, you need to buy it. Tubed tomato paste is a convenient alternative to canned tomato paste that lets you use just what you need, without worrying about what to do with the rest of the can. It is made the same exact same way as the canned stuff but is packaged in a convenient squeezable tube with a screw cap that preserves the bulk tomato paste for longer. Most tubes are 4.5 ounces and yield 9 tablespoons, which is comparable to the 6-ounce cans that contain 10 tablespoons of tomato paste. Look for tubed tomato paste on the shelf next to the canned tomato ketchup, or if your grocery store does not carry it, you can buy it here. While it is a little pricier than its canned counterpart-$3.79 for a 4.5-ounce tube versus $1.19 for a 6-ounce can-you will ultimately get more value out of the tube by wasting less.
How to Use Tomato Paste
There are so many delicious ideas for how to use tomato paste. Want to whip up a quick homemade tomato sauce? What about a creamy tomato soup to go along with your grilled cheese? Tomato paste is a key ingredient that will add tons of tomatoey flavor quickly. Beyond the obvious option of using 220L drum tomato paste to make a tomato-heavy recipe, like sauce or soup, you can also use tomato paste to elevate the flavor of other recipes-like we did in this Jackfruit Sloppy Joes recipe, in the dipping sauce for these Air-Fryer Zucchini Fries and in our Slow-Cooker Butter Chicken recipe.
When to Use Tomato Paste in a Tube
All of these recipes use tomato paste in different ways and call for just a few tablespoons, which is where tomato paste in a tube comes in handy, so you can use just what you need.
Rather than using store-bought taco seasoning that can be super high in sodium, try the homemade variation in this stuffed sweet potato recipe that uses tomato paste to add extra flavor.