How to Make Tomato Sauce in an Instant Pot or Slow Cooker
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Making tomato sauce in an instant pot or slow cooker is not only possible, it is a great solution for easy tomato sauce. If you’re looking for a way to make tomato sauce that requires less supervision, using the slow cooker or your instant pot, is the solution you’ve been looking for.
The popularity of the Instant Pot has led to directions to make virtually anything using its variety of settings and bonus features. The homesteading community is no different – from yogurt to applesauce, homesteaders are DIY’ing with the Instant Pot in all sorts of ways.
Making tomato sauce in an instant pot is convenient and easy, and allows you to “set it and forget it” during multiple stages of the cooking process. You can even leave your sauce to thicken overnight! The process mostly makes use of the slow cooker setting, other than a quick saute at the beginning. Thus, this recipe can also be used to make your tomato sauce in a traditional slow cooker (or crock pot).
I prefer to make a simple sauce with just tomatoes, especially if I am going to can it. But you can also add onions, garlic, and herbs if you are going to freeze the sauce or use it right away. If you want to add onions and garlic, saute them in the Instant Pot first, then begin the process described below. Add seasonings in the last step.
What type of Tomatoes should you use for Sauce?
Before we move on to making your tomato sauce, a note about choosing the right tomatoes for sauce. The quick answer is that you can use almost any tomato to make a great sauce (we’ve even made green tomato sauce!). However, the best tomatoes for sauce are the ones that have more meat than juice and seeds. These are typically called “paste” tomatoes and include varieties like Roma, San Marzano, and Amish Paste.
There are a few reasons these tomatoes are better for sauce. First, because they have more meat and less juice, they thicken up faster; in other words, there is less liquid that needs to evaporate. Second, they have fewer seeds. Seeds can make a tomato sauce taste bitter or add unwanted texture. With paste tomatoes, you have fewer seeds, so you can just chop them into chunks and throw them in your pot without needing to de-seed before or after the sauce cooks.
In our opinion, the best tomato for sauce is the Amish Paste tomato. Larger than San Marzano and Roma tomatoes, Amish paste can get as big as a beefsteak, with a more oval shape. They are full of meaty flesh and light on seeds and juice, meaning they will cook up perfectly for sauce. They are also just a bit sweeter, which makes for a delicious tomato sauce.
As long as the bulk of tomatoes you are using for your sauce are paste tomatoes, you can also throw in other tomatoes that you have available – from beefsteaks and italian slicers to cherry tomatoes, by all means add them in!
How long does it take to make tomato sauce in an Instant Pot?
At minimum, you’ll need at least 5 hours to make a great tomato sauce, but up to 10 if you are using the slow cooker method or if you want a thicker sauce.
As noted above, the more meaty your tomatoes and the less liquid to begin with, the quicker you’ll go from tomatoes to sauce. Likewise, the time it takes to make tomato sauce will depend on how thick you want your sauce. A nice sauce for pasta can be a bit thinner than, say, a sauce you want to use on pizza. Some of it comes down to personal preference.
The recipe included here suggests 3-4 hours of cooking on high, and then another 4-8 hours on medium or low. You have options, in other words. As you get closer to the end of the cooking process, you’ll want to keep an eye on your sauce to make sure you don’t over do it and end up with ketchup!
Is this tomato sauce recipe appropriate for canning?
Yes! You can definitely can tomato sauce made in a pressure cooker or slow cooker. This recipe does not include specific directions for canning your tomato sauce, but this sauce can definitely be canned if you follow appropriate directions. You’ll use a hot water bath method for canning, and the sauce, just like the canning process described in this basic recipe from Ball.
When canning tomato sauce, you need to add either lemon juice or citric acid to be sure your sauce is acidic enough for storage. You can also add salt to boost the flavor of your sauce; this step is optional but we recommend it.
Keep in mind that canning recipes are carefully tested to ensure that they have enough acidity for shelf storage. Do not add additional ingredients unless you are following an established and trustworthy canning recipe. Luckily, basic tomato sauce is adjusted for acidity jar-by-jar, so with this recipe you can make as much sauce as you have tomatoes (and space) to make, then adjust when you pour into jars.
Instant Pot (or Slow Cooker) Tomato Sauce
- Instant Pot or Slow Cooker
- Mesh Screen (or something else to protect the sauce from fruit flies while cooking)
- Chef's knife
- Cutting Board
- At least 5lbs Paste Tomatoes or a mixture of mostly paste with other tomatoes
- Rinse your tomatoes in a sink or bowl full of cold water to remove any debris. Sort out any damaged or bruised fruit. You want to use ripe, fresh tomatoes for sauce.
- Set your instant pot to the saute setting, or place a large stock pot on the stove and set to medium-high heat. Chop your tomatoes in quarters or halves, depending on their size, and drop into the Instant Pot or stock pot immediately after turning on the heat. There is no need to remove seeds from the tomatoes, but you should remove stems and any damaged parts of the fruit. Fill to the 2/3 mark (or however many tomatoes you have).
- Once all of your tomatoes are in the Instant Pot (or stock pot), leave on the saute setting, uncovered, for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. This will give you a quick first cook of the tomatoes to get them softened down and begin to release the liquid.
- Turn off the saute setting if using an Instant Pot. If using a slow cooker, transfer your tomatoes from the stovetop to the slow cooker after sauteeing.
- Select “slow cooker” setting, pressing the button until the “more” light is selected. This will give you a higher temperature simmer.Set the time to 2-4 hours (less time if your pot is not at least half-way full). Let the sauce sit in the slow cooker for that whole time, uncovered and stirring occasionally. You may want to place a screen over the top to avoid splattering and keep fruit flies out.
- After the initial slow cook, puree your softened tomatoes. You can use an immersion blender right into your instant pot or slow cooker. If you don't have an immersion blender, transfer the sauce to a regular blender in batches, then return the sauce to your Instant Pot or Slow Cooker. If you don't want any seeds or skin in your sauce, you can also run it through a food mill; that said, if you've used mostly paste tomatoes the seeds and skin will blend right in nicely.
- Once blended, set the slow cooker to low or medium setting and cook (uncovered) until you reach your desired consistency. Check the sauce every few hours if possible to give it a stir and check consistency. If you are going to leave the sauce overnight, make sure the Instant Pot is at least half full and set it to low. It should still be fairly thin when you go to bed if it is going to be allright for 8 hours.
- Once you reach the desired thickness, you can use your tomato sauce right away or you can store it. This sauce stores well in the fridge for about a week, in the freezer for up to 6 months, or in canning jars for up to a year. If freezing, be sure to allow space at the top of your container for expansion when frozen. Follow appropriate tomato sauce canning instructions to can in a hot water bath (see note above).