What is in canned tomato sauce? (+5 Ways to use canned tomato)

In this article, we will answer the question “what is in canned tomato sauce?”, and the shelf life of canned tomato sauce.

What is in canned tomato sauce?

Canned tomato sauce consists of diced tomatoes, containing 8 to 24% tomato solids, cooked and sauteed with onion and garlic and submerged in a liquid typically stoke/broth or wine. Salt is added to improve taste and preservation. Tomato skin and seeds have been removed for visual appeal and desirable mushy texture, respectively. Herbs like parsley and oregano, seasonings like chili and pepper can also be added as an optional ingredient (6).

Proper handling, packaging, transportation and storage reduce the post-harvest losses of fruit and vegetables. For every one percent reduction in loss will save 5 million tons of fruit and vegetables per year. Processing and preservation technology helps. There are about 4000 small and large scale processing units in the country which process only about 2.5% of the total fruit and vegetable as against 40-85% in developed countries (7).

How to use canned tomato sauce?

  • Tomato sauce can be used to make soups. It acts as a thickening agent while adding flavor to your soup.
  • Make poached eggs in tomato sauce and serve with your favorite vegetables. This makes for a delicious and nutritious breakfast.
  • Cook your pasta in tomato sauce. Add it to your curries and noodles.
  • Use it to make sauces like enchilada sauce, puttanesca sauce, or the classic Italian tomato sauce.
  • Use it to make a dip for your tortilla chips.

What is the difference between tomato sauce and tomato paste?

Canned tomato sauce is essentially tomato puree that has been cooked just until the tomatoes are soft and have a chunky texture. Tomato paste is obtained by cooking the tomato puree until smooth and concentrated.

Tomato paste has a smooth and thick texture and concentrated flavor. 1 tablespoon of tomato paste is enough to replace one tomato. Using tomato paste in your recipes saves you a lot of cooking time. If the paste tastes too sweet, neutralize the sweetness with some vinegar.

The shelf-life of canned tomato sauce

An unopened can of tomato juice, If stored correctly,  will retain its freshness for 12-18 months. An opened can of tomato sauce remains good quality for 5-7 days in the refrigerator but remains safe beyond that time. Most shelf-stable foods are safe indefinitely. In fact, canned goods will last for years, as long as the can itself is in good condition (no rust, dents, or swelling) (2).

Always store the can in a cool and dark place to prevent it from going bad. If storing it in the refrigerator, keep it at 50-70F and make sure the temperature is steady.

The biggest quality threat to canned products

The biggest threat to canned products is the botulinum toxin produced by an anaerobic bacteria Clostridium botulinum. Botulinum contamination results as a result of improperly processed canned food that is prevalent in home cooked canned foods.

Clostridium botulinum is a mesophilic anaerobic spore forming bacterium, which grows best under low-oxygen conditions, producing spores, which are very resistant to heat, and toxins. Low-acid and ambient-stable canned products are associated with this microbial hazard. C. botulinum causes serious food poisoning disorders associated with meats, fishes and vegetables (4).

Low ph or acidic food like tomato sauce and fruits inhibit the growth of clostridium so vegetables and meat are highly susceptible to contamination by clostridium.

Food poisoning due to clostridium causes fatigue, dizziness, dry mouth, and can even lead to death. Symptoms of botulism include disturbances in vision, speech and swallowing. Asphyxia and death commonly occur 18–36 hours after the ingestion of the toxin. Without treatment, the mortality rate ranges from 10 to 65% (5).

Sings that the tomato sauce has gone bad

Tomato products stored at ambient temperature may have increased rate of enzymatic reactions and increased microbial growth. The degradation of lycopene, a pigment responsible for the red color of tomatoes is accelerated in higher temperatures and exposure to oxygen. Oxidation of ascorbic acid, enzymatic and Maillard reactions have also been reported to influence color loss in tomato products stored at ambient temperatures. Studies showed that long storage of canned tomato sauce led to significant changes of texture, color, taste and odor of the product (6).

  1. If the surface of the tomato sauce looks cloudy or foamy, it is a sure sign of spoilage, throw it away. Green patches over the surface also indicate mold growth.
  2. If the sauce smells foul, discard the sauce. Microbial spoilage results in drastic effects on food quality as they can produce odor and gases as they ferment the food particles.
  3. If an unopened can of tomato sauce shows signs of bulging, toss it in the bin because it is the gas produced by bacteria, such as Bacillus ssp. or acid lactic bacteria (7) .
  4. If the can is leaking, do not consume it.

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Things to consider when buying or making canned food

  • Make it a habit to read the label of any food before buying it. In the case of canned foods, make sure it does not contain any added salt or sugar if you are a patient of hypertension or diabetes. 
  • Do not buy any canned product that shows signs of leakage or is damaged or cracked.
  • If you are canning food at home, make sure to keep the food at the right temperature for the right time for that specific food to ensure safety.

Is canned food healthy?


  • Canning involves high temperatures so a lot of heat-sensitive and water-soluble nutrients like vitamin C will be lost during the process. 
  • BPA is present in the lining of canned foods. Acidic food like tomato sauce can cause the leaching of BPA into the food. BPA has been found to cause heart diseases, infertility, and diabetes (1).
  • Spoiled canned food can cause food-borne-illnesses like botulism.
  • Canned foods have salt and sugar added to them. They also contain preservatives. Excessive consumption of canned foods might lead to heart diseases, hypertension, obesity, and diabetes. Food processing can also lead to an increase in dietary components that may need to be limited, such as sugars, and saturated fats.
  • Studies show that processed foods contributed for 57% of energy, 52% of saturated fat, 75% of added sugars, and 57% of sodium of the American Diet (8).


  • Canned food is very convenient to use. For example, with tomato sauce or tomato paste, you don’t need to spend time preparing or cooking the vegetable before adding it to your food.
  • Canning is an excellent way to preserve food and make it available all year round.
  • Processed food contributes to both food security (ensuring that sufficient food is available) and nutrition security (ensuring that food quality meets human nutrient needs) (8).
  • If stored correctly, canned foods last a lot longer than fresh fruits or vegetables.
  • Studies show that processed foods provide 55% of dietary fiber, 48% of calcium, 43% of potassium, 34% of vitamin D, 64% of iron, 65% of folate, and 46% of vitamin B-12 of the American Diet (8).


In this article, we answered the question “what is in canned tomato sauce?”, and the shelf life of canned tomato sauce.


  1. González, Neus, et al. Biomonitoring of co-exposure to bisphenols by consumers of canned foodstuffs. Environ Int, 2020, 140, 105760. 
  2. Gravely, M. Before you toss food, wait. Check it out. Food Safety and Inspection Service. 2022.
  3. Shelf stable food safety. United States Department of Agriculture. 2022.
  4. Alizadeh, Adel Mirza, et al. Inhibition of Clostridium botulinum and its toxins by probiotic bacteria and their metabolites: An update review. Qual Assur Safe Crops Foods, 2020, 12, 59-68.
  5. Ting, Patricia T., and Anatoli Freiman. The story of Clostridium botulinum: from food poisoning to Botox. Clin med, 2004, 4, 258.
  6. Nkhata, Smith Gilliard, and Emmanuel Owino Ayua. Quality attributes of homemade tomato sauce stored at different temperatures. Afr J Food Sci, 2018, 12, 97-103.
  7. Rawat, Seema. Food Spoilage: Microorganisms and their prevention. Asian j plant sci Res, 2015, 5, 47-56.
  8. Weaver, Connie M., et al. Processed foods: contributions to nutrition. Am j clin nutr, 2014, 99, 1525-1542.