Tomato Paste vs Crushed Tomatoes

Dear Home Ec 101,

What’s the difference between using crushed tomatoes and tomato paste in a sauce? I mean I know they are different, but the sauce recipe I use calls for tomato paste, but when my SIL made spaghetti and meatballs for my dad’s bday last week, she used crushed tomatoes.

Puzzled by the Purees

Heather says:

It’s all about water content and the final sauce you are looking to create. I recently found a wonderful tutorial for making homemade tomato paste -I’m not looking to try this right now, but I’m sure it is amazing.  However this tutorial did not provide a yield. According to a county extension’s canning reference, to create 8 pints of tomato paste you need 20 – 25lbs of tomatoes. Whereas from 22lbs of tomatoes you could expect to yield approximately 14 pints of crushed tomatoes. That’s a big difference and still I have the feeling the county’s tomato paste isn’t very thick.

Both crushed tomatoes and tomato paste have a tomato flavor, but they are different in body and depth.

Tomato paste is often used to thicken a sauce, I don’t use it in my basic marinara, but I love it in our pizza sauce, a rich spaghetti sauce, and for the lasagna recipe.

The type of tomato you choose, whether fresh, canned, pureed, crushed, or as paste depends highly on your desired outcome. Additionally, when choosing a canned tomato, read the label, sometimes they are canned in water (really doesn’t do much for flavor) and sometimes they contain HFCS or sugar in addition to spices. Higher quality canned tomatoes are canned in tomato juice and have excellent flavor. Do I always buy the high end tomatoes? Of course not, it depends on how important the tomato ranks in a particular recipe.

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  1. Saucy on June 17, 2012 at 1:47 am

    The my question is: if the sauce recipe call for a can of tomato paste (and water) and all I have is canned crushed or canned whole tomatoes, what is the ratio of paste to tomatoes? I.e how many crushed tomatoes (cans) will I need to equal a small can of tomato paste?

  2. Amy on September 24, 2009 at 8:02 am

    I just found this blog and I must say it is sooo needed. I am 29 years old and don't really know much of anything about homemaking. Yet I have a desire to be a homemaker. 🙂 I have often wanted someone to teach me these things. My mom worked full time like most of my friends moms did. TY so much for this blessing of a site!

  3. tinkerschnitzel on September 23, 2009 at 3:28 pm

    I use crushed tomatoes when making spaghetti sauce just because it adds another texture, but I do use the paste as well as a thickener. I also use it in my BBQ sauce. Makes me want to go home and make spaghetti for dinner!

  4. Lowcountry Bloggers » Tuesday Is Not Monday » Blog Archive on September 22, 2009 at 9:14 pm

    […] completely ungeeky things interesting too, so I was keen to know, and quite absorbed by the post on Home-EC 101 about the difference between tomato paste and crushed […]

  5. Nancy on September 22, 2009 at 11:46 pm

    I agree with ThatBobbieGirl. I buy tomato paste by the case at Sam's Club, and use it for everything- chili, spaghetti sauce,pizza sauce, shepherds pie…It keeps for a while, stores small, cooks up fast. And it has no corn syrup.

  6. CarolinaDreamz on September 22, 2009 at 6:11 pm

    Oh, I forgot to mention.. someone will need to give me a major amount of tomatoes for me to make my own paste. Maybe next summer, you and I can find a "pick your own?" I've given up growing them, for multiple reasons.. I, already, buy a lot of tomatoes.. and I've been trying to eat them all fresh, lately.

    I need to preserve more.

  7. CarolinaDreamz on September 22, 2009 at 6:08 pm

    My new spaghetti sauce recipe, to try, this week, calls for all three, sauce, paste, crushed tomatoes. Your timing is wonderful. Thanks for being so creative with your information. I <3 you. (That wasn't a secret, though, eh? ::giggle::)

  8. Caroline on September 22, 2009 at 5:58 pm

    I always thought tomato paste was what you used to food together? (sorry couldn't resist).

    Anyway I feel special that Heather took my comment and turned it into a whole post, and now I need to go home and find my sauce recipe and figure out why it uses tomato paste and not crushed tomatoes. Especially since it's *almost* cool enough in Houston to cook again. Yay cold front!

    On another note, the SIL also did NOT drain her spaghetti – I'd never seen that before, anyone else do that?

    • ThatBobbieGirl on September 22, 2009 at 10:29 pm

      Do you mean she just added the sauce to the pot of spagetti AND WATER?

      I've made recipes that called for adding the pasta to a pot of boiling hot sauce and cooking it right in the sauce. But if you cook it in water, you drain it, unless you want it all soupy-like. Weird.

    • Valerie on August 10, 2015 at 7:52 pm

      I’ve heard some people (Italians) save a half cup or so of the water when they drain the pasta, and add it to the sauce. Thickens it.

  9. ThatBobbieGirl on September 22, 2009 at 5:53 pm

    If I had to pick only one tomato product to purchase, it would be tomato paste. Easy choice.

    If you're concerned about additives in your canned foods, using tomato paste can be a good way to avoid it — it's easy to find tomato paste that contains NOTHING but tomatoes, not even salt or citric acid (which is a concern for me, as it's a hidden form of MSG). Of course, read labels — ingredients can vary by brand. You can dilute tomato paste with water to make an equivalent to substitute for tomato sauce or puree. Very handy!

    • CarolinaDreamz on September 22, 2009 at 6:07 pm

      I did not know to read labels for citric acid. This, very well, may be why I'm having so many problems, of the head-ache type, with food.

      I feel like a Taurine defiicient fool, but 1000 mg of Taurine will stop, reverse, and prevent my MSG reactions. Its worth telling everyone!


      • Julie on September 22, 2009 at 3:41 pm

        that’s interesting about the Taurine will have to remember that one.THANKS


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