Homemade Canned Spaghetti Sauce Recipe photo by Taste of Home
Total Time
Prep: 1-1/2 hours + simmering Process: 40 min.
Canning spaghetti sauce is a delicious way to preserve garden-fresh tomatoes. Here's how to can spaghetti sauce in a water bath—no pressure canner required.

Updated: May 07, 2024

If you’re not already canning spaghetti sauce, now’s a great time to start! Canning is one of the best ways to preserve garden-fresh tomatoes.

Our canned spaghetti sauce recipe tastes leagues better than anything you can buy at the store, with a robust, tomato-forward flavor and a little kick from the crushed red pepper flakes. The texture is chunky enough to know it’s homemade but smooth enough for pasta recipes, pizzas or casseroles calling for tomato sauce.

The best part about this canned spaghetti sauce recipe is that you can make it in a water bath canner. Tomato sauce is considered a low-acid food, so it’s typically processed with a pressure canner. We add bottled lemon juice to every jar to increase the acidity and make the recipe safe to can in a water bath or steam canner.

How to Can Spaghetti Sauce

Canning is a precise science, but don’t let that intimidate you! It’s perfectly safe if you follow a recipe tested for canning safety levels (like this one). However, we don’t recommend making substitutions, especially when it comes to high- or low-acid foods. We’ll note the ingredients or methods that can be safely changed.

If you’re new to canning, our canning 101 guide will demystify the process, so start there. Then, get ready to make the spaghetti sauce by peeling the tomatoes. (You can skip this step, but the skin can add an unpleasant texture because it won’t break down as the sauce simmers.) Once the tomatoes are peeled, simmer them with all the ingredients except the lemon juice. After several hours, the sauce will be ready to can—and the whole house will smell amazing!

From there, it’s all about processing the jars. Transfer the sauce to clean, sterilized jars, and add the lemon juice, the secret ingredient that makes this recipe high-acid enough for a water bath. Process the jars for 40 minutes, then store them in a cool, dark place until you’re ready to eat.

Tools for Canning Spaghetti Sauce

Canning spaghetti sauce requires water bath processing to extend the ingredients’ shelf life. You’ll need a few tools to make sure the jars seal properly.

  • Glass mason jars with new lids: We use nine quart-sized glass jars. Reusing the jars and bands is OK, but always start with brand-new lids to ensure you get a safe seal.
  • Water bath canner: For water bath canning, you’ll need a pot large enough to fit the jars and plenty of space above them for boiling water. The pot should also have a rack to elevate the jars so the glass doesn’t crack or break.
  • Canning tools: Funnels, jar lifters and a bubble popper (to remove air bubbles) are helpful canning supplies.
  • Food processor: You could hand-chop the onions and peppers, but a food processor makes the process quick and easy. The sharp blade also helps the vegetables release water to give the sauce an ideal consistency.

Ingredients for Canning Spaghetti Sauce

  • Tomatoes: There are so many delicious and colorful types of tomatoes to choose from! Plum tomatoes are a classic choice for canned sauce, but you can use any garden tomato for this recipe.
  • Tomato paste: This concentrated tomato product thickens the spaghetti sauce.
  • Onions, peppers and garlic: These veggies add depth of flavor and aromatic appeal to tomato sauce. If you’re averse to green pepper’s strong flavor, feel free to substitute some (or all) of them with red bell peppers.
  • Canola oil: We use neutral-flavored canola oil, but you can substitute olive oil for more flavor.
  • Salt and sugar: Salt and sugar are used as flavor enhancers. The sugar also balances the tomatoes’ acidity and helps stabilize the sauce’s vibrant color.
  • Worcestershire sauce: This umami-rich ingredient gives the sauce a savory quality.
  • Seasonings: We use a combination of Mediterranean herbs, including oregano, parsley, basil and bay leaves. Crushed red pepper flakes give the sauce a little kick, but you can reduce or omit them if you don’t like spicy foods.
  • Lemon juice: Canning recipes must reach a specific pH to be shelf-stable, and lemon juice helps us get there. The acidity level of fresh lemons varies, so it’s important to use bottled lemon juice.

Directions

Step 1: Boil the tomatoes

In a Dutch oven, bring 2 quarts water to a boil. Using a slotted spoon, place the tomatoes, one at a time, in the boiling water for 30 to 60 seconds. Remove each tomato, and immediately plunge it into ice water.

Editor’s Tip: If you don’t want to boil the tomatoes, you can roast or broil them as an alternate way to peel tomatoes.

Step 2: Peel the tomatoes

Peel and quarter the tomatoes. Place them in a stockpot.

Step 3: Puree the peppers and onions

Pulse the green peppers and onions in batches in a food processor until finely chopped. Transfer them to the stockpot with the tomatoes.

Step 4: Simmer the spaghetti sauce

Stir in the tomato paste, oil, sugar, salt, garlic, oregano, parsley, basil, pepper flakes, Worcestershire sauce and bay leaves. Add water to cover. Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat, and simmer, uncovered, for four to five hours, stirring occasionally.

Editor’s Tip: All the ingredients will be in the pot except the lemon juice. In the next step, we’ll add the lemon juice directly to the jars so each jar has the proper amount of acidity for water bath canning.

Step 5: Transfer the sauce to jars

Add 2 tablespoons of lemon juice to each of the nine hot 1-quart jarsTMB Studio

Discard the bay leaves. Add 2 tablespoons lemon juice to each of nine hot 1-quart jars.

Ladle the hot spaghetti sauce into the jars, leaving 1/2-inch headspace in each. Remove the air bubbles, and adjust the headspace, if necessary, by adding or removing sauce. Wipe the rims, and center the lids on the jars. Screw on the bands until they’re fingertip tight.

Editor’s Tip: Before filling the jars, clean them and heat them with hot (but not boiling) water. This prevents the jar from cracking when you add the hot spaghetti sauce. Our guide for how to can pickles contains more details on sterilizing canning jars.

Step 6: Process the canned tomato sauce

Place the jars into a canner with simmering water, ensuring they are completely covered with water. Bring to a boil, and process for 40 minutes. Remove the jars from the canner and let cool.

Editor’s Tip: The processing time listed is for altitudes of 1,000 feet or less. The air is thinner at higher altitudes, which causes water to boil at a lower temperature. You’ll want to adjust the processing time to compensate. For altitudes up to 3,000 feet, add 5 minutes; 6,000 feet, add 10 minutes; 8,000 feet, add 15 minutes; 10,000 feet, add 20 minutes.

Homemade Canned Spaghetti Sauce in jarsTMB Studio

How long does canned spaghetti sauce last?

Properly sealed canned spaghetti sauce will last for up to one year. To be sure the lid is sealed, remove the band and try to lift the lid off. If the lid stays put, the jar is sealed successfully.

Store the sealed jars in a single layer in a cool, dark, dry place. Store any unsealed or opened jars in the refrigerator for up to five days.

Can you freeze canned spaghetti sauce?

You can freeze canned spaghetti sauce for up to six months. Freezing sauce is an excellent alternative to canning or a good option for storing jars that didn’t seal properly. Freeze the sauce in freezer-safe containers. When you’re ready to use, thaw the sauce in the refrigerator overnight.

Tips for Canning Spaghetti Sauce

A jar of Homemade Canned Spaghetti Sauce and spread on top of spaghettiTMB Studio

Is it safe to use a steam canner for canning spaghetti sauce?

You can use a water bath or steam canner for this canned spaghetti sauce recipe. As the name indicates, steam canners use steam to seal the jars. A dial on the canner tracks the temperature inside, and most models even include settings to adjust for altitude. Steam canners are safe to use on any canning recipe with a pH of 4.6 or below—just like water bath canning.

Can you add meat to this canned spaghetti sauce recipe?

Meat products require pressure canning, so we don’t recommend adding meat to this sauce. In fact, we don’t recommend adding anything to this recipe that could throw off the acidity level, including vegetables. You can add variety to the sauce when you serve it, like browning ground beef in a pan before adding the sauce to make spaghetti with Bolognese.

How much lemon juice do you need for canning spaghetti sauce?

We add 2 tablespoons lemon juice to each quart jar. The lemon juice increases the acidity of the tomato sauce, making it safe for water bath canning.

Watch how to Make Homemade Canned Spaghetti Sauce

Homemade Canned Spaghetti Sauce

Prep Time 40 min
Yield 9 quarts.

Ingredients

  • 25 pounds tomatoes (about 80 medium)
  • 4 large green peppers, seeded
  • 4 large onions, cut into wedges
  • 2 cans (12 ounces each) tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup salt
  • 8 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons dried parsley flakes
  • 2 teaspoons dried basil
  • 2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons bottled lemon juice

Directions

  1. In a Dutch oven, bring 2 quarts water to a boil. Using a slotted spoon, place tomatoes, 1 at a time, in boiling water for 30-60 seconds. Remove each tomato and immediately plunge into ice water. Peel and quarter tomatoes; place in a stockpot.
  2. Pulse green peppers and onions in batches in a food processor until finely chopped; transfer to stockpot. Stir in next 11 ingredients. Add water to cover; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, 4-5 hours, stirring occasionally.
  3. Discard bay leaves. Add 2 tablespoons lemon juice to each of 9 hot 1-qt. jars. Ladle hot mixture into jars, leaving 1/2-in. headspace. Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace, if necessary, by adding or removing hot mixture. Wipe rims. Center lids on jars; screw on bands until fingertip tight.
  4. Place jars into canner with simmering water, ensuring that they are completely covered with water. Bring to a boil; process for 40 minutes. Remove jars and cool.

Nutrition Facts

3/4 cup: 118 calories, 5g fat (0 saturated fat), 0 cholesterol, 614mg sodium, 17g carbohydrate (11g sugars, 4g fiber), 3g protein. Diabetic Exchanges: 1 starch, 1 fat.