The Simple Storage Hack To Save Open Tomato Paste Tubes

Tomato paste is a kitchen staple for a reason: This humble ingredient can add a massive punch of flavor in small amounts. You can use it to add depth and acidity to a slow cooker chili, homemade Kansas City barbecue sauce, or a classic boeuf bourguignon. Because it is far more concentrated than canned tomato sauce, most recipes only call for only a tablespoon or two of the paste — which inevitably leads to leftovers.

When you're left with an open can or tube of tomato paste, it's likely you're worried that the remainder will go bad. In fact, despite its long shelf life when unopened, the paste can spoil pretty fast after it's exposed to air. Still, there are a few easy tricks that can keep it fresh for much longer. If you don't plan on using the whole can or tube within a few days, you can freeze the rest. The easiest way to do this is to squeeze or scoop your tomato paste into an ice cube tray. Once they've hardened, you can pop the cubes into a resealable plastic bag and store them in your freezer for months. 

Don't own an ice tray, or maybe your freezer is seriously short on space? You can also freeze tomato paste in a slightly more compact way that still allows for easy portioning. Thawing it out is quite effortless, as well.

How to freeze and defrost tomato paste

Freezing your tomato paste in an ice cube tray has the benefit of pre-portioning — each hole in the tray usually holds about one tablespoon of liquid, so you don't even have to measure it out! However, you can also put your paste in a plastic bag and section out individual portions by hand, since laying foods flat before freezing can save a ton of space. 

Simply squeeze or spoon your tomato paste into the bag, press it flat, seal it, then use your finger or the dull side of a knife to split the slab of paste into equal portions. The idea is to create indentations so you can easily break off one portion of the paste and use it, while leaving the rest frozen. From there, just freeze the bag — the paste should be thick enough to hold its shape.

Once you're ready to use frozen tomato paste, defrosting is easy. You can either bring it to room temperature in the fridge overnight, or simply toss it into your dish of choice as it cooks. This works well with soups and stews, which will dissolve the small serving of tomato paste in a flash. However, properly defrosting it will allow you to lightly brown your tomato sauce in a skillet, a step called for in some recipes that will gives it a richer caramelized flavor.

Ways to use up a lot of tomato paste

Before you freeze your tomato paste, you have to make sure it's still good in the first place, and its shelf life depends on its original container. In a tube, tomato paste can keep for around 30 to 45 days in the refrigerator once opened. This is far longer than an opened can of tomato paste, which only keeps for about 5 to 7 days (and should be stored in an airtight container, not left exposed in its open tin can). Rolling the bottom of your tube of tomato paste like it's a tube of toothpaste is a great way to keep air out, extending its lifespan, but there's not much to do with the canned stuff but freeze it or use it.

If you're looking for ways to use up a lot of tomato paste, homemade pasta sauce is a great option. Simply add the rest of your paste to a saucepan with a tin of anchovies and some garlic, and the ingredients will blend into a fragrant sauce full of savory flavor. You could also use it to make a big batch of Bloody Marys for company, or add tomato paste to a can of crushed tomatoes, some garlic, and vegetable stock. Simmer and blend for a no-fuss tomato soup. You don't always have to use tomato paste in such small quantities — get creative and none of it will go to waste.