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How to make and can homemade Taco sauce from fresh tomatoes - easy and illustrated!

How to make and can homemade Taco Sauce from fresh tomatoes!

Click here for a PDF print version!

If you like the taco sauce with chips that you get at a Mexican restaurants and want to make your own with home grown tomatoes and no additives, it's easy!  No store bought taco sauce compares with the taste of that made from your own tomatoes from your garden or fresh-picked from a local farm! In the middle of the winter, you can make a meal with your taco sauce and taste the summer flavor of fresh tomatoes. This recipe is for taco sauce WITHOUT meat, so you can use a water bath canner or a pressure canner. It is perfect for vegans, vegetarians, gluten-free/Celiac and even diabetics!

ere's how to do it, in easy steps and completely illustrated. This method is so easy, ANYONE can do this! It's a great thing to do with your kids! For an enchilada sauce recipe, see this page.

I've added free labels for your jars here, in a Word format! Just download, edit, and print in label paper.

Ingredients

Yield: About 8 or 9 pints

  • Tomatoes - 5 quarts peeled, cored, diced - which means you will need about 15 lbs (by the time you remove the skins, seeds and excess water, it reduces the volume.)
  • 1 cloves garlic, crushed (that's about 2 teaspoons of prepared minced garlic)
  • 2.5 cups chopped onions (about 6 large onions)
  • 2 jalapeño peppers, chopped after removing the seeds
  • 2 long green chiles, chopped after removing the seeds
  • 1.5 cups white vinegar (5 percent) You could also use apple cider vinegar
  • 0.5 tablespoons ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons sugar or equivalent Stevia

Optional ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoons oregano leaves (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin (optional)
  • 1 tablespoons salt (optional)

Equipment

  • 1 Water bath Canner (a huge pot to sanitize the jars after filling (about $30 to $35 - $30 at mall kitchen stores and local "big box" stores. Note: we sell many sizes and types of canners for all types of stoves and needs - see canning supplies). Tomatoes are on the border between the high-acid fruits that can be preserved in a boiling-water bath and the low-acid fruits, vegetables and meats that need pressure canning
  • Pint canning jars (Ball or Kerr jars can be found at Publix, Kroger, Safeway and local "big box" stores - about $9 per dozen jars including the lids and rings). Pint size works best, but quarts are allowed, too, since the pressure canner will thoroughly heat them.! 
  • Lids - thin, flat, round metal lids with a gum binder that seals them against the top of the jar. They may only be used once.
  • Rings - metal bands that secure the lids to the jars. They may be reused many times.
  • Jar grabber (to pick up the hot jars) 
  • Lid lifter (has a magnet to pick the lids out of the boiling water where you sanitize them. ($2 at mall kitchen stores and local "big box" stores, but it's usually cheaper online from our affiliates)
  • 1 large pot.
  • Large spoons and ladles
  • Jar funnel ($3-Grocery stores, like Publix, Kroger and Safeway and local "big box" stores; sometimes even hardware stores)

Process - How to Make taco Sauce from Fresh Tomatoes

Different types of tomatoesStep 1 - Selecting the tomatoes

It's fun to go pick your own and you can obviously get better quality tomatoes!

At right is a picture of tomatoes from my garden - they are so much better than anything from the grocery store. And if you don't have enough, a pick-your-own farm is the pace to go! At right are 4 common varieties that will work:

Top left: Beefsteak Top right: Lemon Boy, yellow
Bottom left: Roma, paste-type Bottom right: Better Boy

Paste-type Roma tomatoThe picture at right shows the best variety of tomato to use: Roma; also called paste tomatoes. They have fewer sides, thicker, meatier walls, and less water. And that means thicker sauce in less cooking time!

Also, you don't want mushy, bruised or rotten tomatoes!

Step 2 - Get the jars and lids sanitizing

The dishwasher is fine for the jars; especially if it has a "sanitize" cycle. I get that going while I'm preparing everything else, so it's done by the time I'm ready to fill the jars.

Be sure to let it go through the rinse cycle to get rid of any soap!

Lids: Put the very hot (but not quite boiling; around 180 F, steaming water is fine)
water for at least several minutes.

Note: everything gets sanitized in the water bath (step 7)
anyway, so this just helps to ensure there is no spoilage later!)

Step 3 - Rinse the tomatoes

Just rinse them in a colander or bowl under cool running water

 

 

Step 3 - Removing the tomato skins

Here's a trick you may not know: put the tomatoes, a few at a time in a large pot of boiling water for no more than 1 minute (30 - 45 seconds is usually enough)

then....

Plunge them into a waiting bowl of ice water.

 

 

This makes the skins slide right off of the tomatoes! If you leave the skins in, they become tough and chewy in the sauce, not very pleasant.

 

 

Step 4 - Removing seeds and water

After you have peeled the skins off the tomatoes, cut the tomatoes in half. Now we need to remove the seeds and excess water. 

 

 

Step 5 - Squeeze of the seeds and water

Just like it sounds: wash your hands then squeeze each tomato and use your finger or a spoon to scoop and shake out most of the seeds. You don't need to get fanatical about it; removing just most will do. Another way to do it is to cut each tomato in half, across it, instead of lengthwise. Then just shake the seeds and juice out.

 

 

 

Step 6 - Drain the tomatoes

Toss the squeezed (Squozen? :) tomatoes into a colander or drainer, while you work on others. This helps more of the water to drain off. You may want to save the liquid: if you then pass it through a sieve, screen or cheesecloth, you have fresh tomato juice; great to drink cold or use in cooking! By draining the water off now, you'll end up with a thicker pizza sauce in less cooking time! And that preserves vitamins (and your sanity).

FYI, the 20 pounds of raw, fresh, whole tomatoes you started with should produce about 7 - 9 pints of "squeezed" tomatoes

 

Step 7 - Dice the tomatoes

I knoow they're mushy, just chop them up to help them cook down faster.

Step 8 - Rinse the peppers

 Just rinse them in a sieve or bowl of running water

Step 9 - Peel or blend the peppers

 The jalapeño peppers do not need to be peeled.

The skin of long green chiles, on the other hand, may be tough and should be removed by heating the peppers, unless you plan to puree them in a blender.

Usually when peppers are finely chopped, like in the blender, they do not need to be peeled. I usually just blend them or finely chop them in a food chopper.

How to peel chiles,

Slit each pepper along the side to allow steam to escape. Then blister them using one of these two methods:

  • Oven or broiler method to blister skins - Place chiles in a hot oven (400°F) or broiler for 6 to 8 minutes until skins blister.
  • Range-top method to blister skins - Cover hot burner (either gas or electric) with heavy wire mesh. Place peppers on burner for several minutes until skins blister.

To peel, after blistering skins, place peppers in a pan and cover with a damp cloth. (This will make peeling the peppers easier.) Cool several minutes; slip off skins. Discard seeds and chop.

Step 10 - Chop the peppers and onions

Finely chop the onions and peppers to yield:

  • 2.5 cups chopped onions (about 6 large onions)
  • 2 jalapeño peppers, chopped after removing the seeds
  • 2 long green chiles, chopped after removing the seeds

 

Step 11 - Cook it!

Combine all ingredients in a large saucepot and heat, stirring frequently, until mixture boils. then reduce the heat and simmer, stirring frequently until thick (about 1 hour).

 

Step 12 - Fill the jars with sauce and put the lid and rings on

Fill them to within 1/4-inch of the top, seat the lid and hand-tighten the ring around them.

NOTE: if you want to freeze the sauce instead, just fill your freezer containers (I like Ziploc freezer bags in the quart size), fill them completely, eliminate air pockets, seal them and pop them in the freezer. You're done!

Be sure the contact surfaces (top of the jar and underside of the ring) are clean to get a good seal!

Step 12 - Process (Boil) the jars in the canner

Put them in the canner and keep them covered with at least 1 inch of water. Keep the water boiling. Process the jars in a boiling-water bath for 15 to 25 minutes for pint jars (larger sizes have no been tested; use the same time for smaller sized jars.

Recommended process time for Tomato Taco Sauce in a boiling-water canner
Hot pack. Tested for pint jars and smaller sizes
Process Time at Altitudes of
0 - 1,000 ft 1,001 - 6,000 ft Above 6,000 ft
15 min 20 min 25 min

This document was adapted from the "Complete Guide to Home Canning," Agriculture Information Bulletin No. 539, USDA, revised 1994. Reviewed June 2006.

Pizza sauce done and cooling

 

Step 11 - Done

Lift the jars out of the water and let them cool without touching or bumping them in a draft-free place (usually takes overnight) You can then remove the rings if you like, but if you leave them on, at least loosen them quite a bit, so they don't rust in place due to trapped moisture. Once the jars are cool, you can check that they are sealed verifying that the lid has been sucked down. Just press in the center, gently, with your finger. If it pops up and down (often making a popping sound), it is not sealed. If you put the jar in the refrigerator right away, you can still use it. Some people replace the lid and reprocess the jar, then that's a bit iffy. If you heat the contents back up, re-jar them (with a new lid) and the full time in the canner, it's usually ok.

 

 

Step 13 - Cooling

  1. After processing, turn off heat; and allow the canner to cool by itself to zero pressure.
  2. Let stand 5 more minutes before removing lid.
  3. Then cool jars in canner for 10 minutes.
  4. Lift the jars out of the water and let them cool without touching or bumping them in a draft-free place (usually takes overnight)

You can then remove the rings if you like, but if you leave them on, at least loosen them quite a bit, so they don't rust in place due to trapped moisture. Once the jars are cool, you can check that they are sealed verifying that the lid has been sucked down. Just press in the center, gently, with your finger. If it pops up and down (often making a popping sound), it is not sealed. If you put the jar in the refrigerator right away, you can still use it. Some people replace the lid and reprocess the jar, then that's a bit iffy. If you heat the contents back up, re-jar them (with a new lid) and the full time in the canner, it's usually ok.

 

Nutrition Information

(Estimated values using Nutritionist Pro™ software)
Per 2 Tbsp:

Calories 10, Total Fat 0 g, Sodium 82 mg, Fiber 1 g, Protein 0 g. 
Daily Values: Vitamin A 6%, Vitamin C 12%, Calcium 1%, Iron 1%.
Percent Daily Values based on Dietary Reference Intakes.


This document was adapted from the "Complete Guide to Home Canning," Agriculture Information Bulletin No. 539, USDA, revised 2015.

Frequently Asked Questions about making tomato sauces - Click here

Q. Can I change the ingredients and make and can my own recipe?

A. No. IMPORTANT:
The only changes you can safely make in this salsa recipe are to substitute bottled lemon juice for the vinegar and to change the amount of spices and herbs. Do not alter the proportions of vegetables to acid and tomatoes because it might make the salsa unsafe.

Q. How can I make taco sauce to freeze, instead of can?

A. Easy. Just make the canned sauce as shown above, but instead of canning it, stop after step 8 ,

let it cool to room temperature, fill the Ziploc bags and freeze it instead!

Q. Can I add olive oil or any other oil to the recipe?

A. No, both Ball and the USDA warn that their research shows that adding oil to home canning recipes increases the risk of botulism. If you like the taste oil oil, add it after you open the jars when you go to use them!

Other Equipment:

From left to right:
1. Jar lifting tongs
to pick up hot jars
2. Lid lifter
- to remove lids from the pot
of boiling water (sterilizing )
3. Lid
- disposable - you may only
use them once
4. Ring
- holds the lids on the jar until after
the jars cool - then you don't need them
5. Canning jar funnel
- to fill the jars

Home Canning Kits

This is the same type of standard canner that my grandmother used to make everything from applesauce to jams and jellies to tomato and taco sauce. This complete kit includes everything you need and lasts for years: the canner, jar rack, jar grabber tongs, lid lifting wand, a plastic funnel, labels, bubble freer, and the bible of canning, the Ball Blue Book. It's much cheaper than buying the items separately. You'll never need anything else except jars & lids! To see more canners, of different styles, makes and prices, click here!For more information and current pricing:




Summary - Cost of Making Homemade taco sauce - makes 7 pint jars, 16 oz each*

Item Quantity Cost in 2021 Source Subtotal
Tomatoes  10 lbs (to make about 7 pints) free from the garden, or $0.50 cents at a PYO Garden $0.00
Canning jars (pint size, wide mouth), includes lids and rings 7 jars $8.00/dozen Grocery stores, like Publix, Kroger and Safeway and local "big box" stores; sometimes Big Lots and even hardware stores $4.50
Misc seasonings See ingredients $2.00? Grocery stores, like Publix, Kroger and Safeway and local "big box" stores $2.50
Onions       $2.00
Minced garlic       $1.00
Dried peppers       $3.00
Total $13.00 total
or about $1.85 per jar INCLUDING the jars - which you can reuse!

* - This assumes you already have the pots, pans, ladles, and reusable equipment. Note that you can reuse the jars! Many products are sold in jars that will take the lids and rings for canning. For example, Classico Spaghetti sauce is in quart sized jars that work with Ball and Kerr lids and rings. Note that the Classico's manufacturer does not recommend reuse of their jars: see what they have to say on this page:

Answers to Common Questions

What did I do wrong if my jars spoil?

Tomatoes are a borderline acid / low acid fruit (see this page about tomato acidity for more information) - adding lemon juice helps, processing at least 35 minutes in the water bath canner, or better still, using a pressure canner almost eliminates spoilage. If you don't have a pressure canner, you must boost the acid level of the sauce, by adding 2 tablespoons of lemon juice or 1/2 teaspoon of citric acid per quart of sauce.

The question everyone asks: Can you add meat?

With a water bath canner, absolutely, definitely NOT. The temperatures do not get high enough to kill the type of bacteria that can attack meat and make you sick, or even kill you. However, with a pressure canner, it IS possible. I have complete directions here! I don't do it, simply because... have you ever tasted canned meat? Yes, it is called SPAM. My recommendation is to can without the meat and add fresh browned ground meat or meatballs when you use the sauce!

Meat, Part 2 - I noticed you said it is best not to put meat in the sauce, as it might spoil as a child my mom canned all her meat with nothing but salt in it as she had no freezer. I cannot remember a problem with it going bad. She submerged the jars in a canning pot with a wire rack under it and boiled it for 4 hours always making sure the meat in the jar was covered with water so it would not spoil, also the jars kept covered with water at all times for four hours of boiling. "

It is statistically possible to engage in a very dangerous activity and still experience no harm. For example, one of my father's friends charged the beach at Iwo Jima in World War 2, (definitely, one of the riskiest things you could do) and yet he survived without a scratch, while 7 of 10 of his platoon died. Canning meat in a water bath is the same.

The problem is that Botulism is not killed by temperatures under 240. Water baths only reach 212. You could boil it for 4 days and the botulism would still survive. By the time you ate the jars, enough may not have grow to make you ill. But it is still very, very dangerous.

I could send you dozens and dozens of statements supporting what I stated above from many universities and food authorities. Here is one example from the University of Maine:

Match the canner to the food

There are two types of home canning methods: boiling-water-bath canners and pressure canners. The type of canner that you use should be based upon the type of food you are preserving. According to UMaine Food ScienceSpecialist Beth Calder, fruits, pickled foods, sauerkraut, marmalades, fruit spreads, jams, jellies, fruit butters (except for pumpkin) and salsa can be safely preserved using the water-bath canning method. "However, make sure you use a scientifically tested recipe from a reputable resource," she says.

All other foods should be preserved using a pressure canner. This is because botulism-producing bacteria produce spores that can survive boiling water temperatures, but are destroyed using a pressure canner with the appropriate time and pressure, which reaches temperatures between 240 and 250 degrees F.

I have read in other homemade taco sauce recipes that you need to cook the mixture for at least 4-5 hours. Is this necessary?

I suppose if you really want to make sure that absolutely no vitamins survive, you could cook it that long! :) The only reason people used to tomato sauce that long was the Roma paste-type tomatoes, with thicker walls, meatier with fewer seeds and less water didn't exist, so they had to cook it for hours to get rid of water and thicken it. And of course, modern sauce mixes that contain a little bit of corn starch as a thickener, also help shorten the time.

And for those who want to go strictly organic and au naturale, my method of squeezing out the excess water and seeds eliminates much of the excess juice (which you can save as tomato juice for drinking) and lets you start with a thicker tomato pulp which means much shorter cooking time!

Illustrated Canning, Freezing, Jam Instructions and Recipes

[ Easy Home Canning Directions] [FAQs - Answers to common questions and problems] [Recommended books about home canning, jam making, drying and preserving!] [Free canning publications


Above is the
2020 version of
the Ball Blue Book