Why I Stopped Buying Canned Tomatoes +
What I Use Instead

tomatoes

When I was studying food science, we spent a lot of time learning about food preservation techniques.

I loved the story of the invention of canning as a preservation process.

Apparently Napoleon offered a prize to develop a new method to preserve food. So he could keep feeding his troops.

Nicholas Appert came up with the idea of cooking food inside a sealed bottle. Winner!

The only problem with canning is that modern tin cans are lined with plastics.

Plastics and food always make me nervous.

And even though it’s possible to get BPA-free cans these days, I’ve read there are other harmful compounds still present in BPA-free plastics.

So about a year ago I decided to experiment and stop buying canned tomatoes.

We haven’t missed them at all.

Because I’ve been using bottled tomato passata instead.

Works like a charm.

A regular jar of passata is about 700g (24oz).

So 1/2 jar passata (about 1.5 cups) = 1 can tomatoes.

It’s actually slightly less, but I haven’t had any problems with this rule of thumb.

Now I just need to figure out an affordable alternative to my beloved canned sardines.

What about you?

Are you a passata fan? Do you know what I mean when I say passata?

Are you worried about using canned food?

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Also see

How to Cook Without Garlic, Onions & Tomato

Have fun in the kitchen!

With love,
Jules x

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34 Comments

    • If I can ask a stupid question, is ‘Passata’ a soft drink?

      Hi Jules,

      Is Passata a passion fruit and/or pineapple flavoured soft drink?

      My apologies for these questions because it has literally been decades since I last drank a Passata-flavoured soft drink.

      I have a memory of a Passata bottle having a larger-than-average opening at the top of the bottle, which means it is a handy and efficient way of entering tomatoes to store them and pouring tomatoes out of this bottle when you need them later on.

      Am I making any sense, Jules?

      You are using the empty Passata bottle as an efficient and healthier alternative container to tinned tomatoes.

    • Sadly, I have seen bottled tomatoes at ONE speciality store here in the United States – of course, the bottles were outrageously expensive *and* tiny. Canned in metal cans is the only real option over here. :(.

    • I understand your concern but unless you eat them everyday, I think you are probably taking in more pollutants elsewhere and not even realizing it.. Besides, I like to make pizza.. I can’t find any tomatoes that come close to the quality of some of the commercial brand canned tomatoes such as Stanislaus and Escalon..

      • You’re right Bill,
        Frequency and quantity matter. I’m not a pizza purist so I’m happy with my passata – but if it’s important to you keep going with the cans!

    • Hi Lola!

      Yes tins are certainly convenient. I used to love tinned pulses but I rarely eat them these days because they’re too carby for my blood sugar.

      I still have my canned tuna / sardines / mackerel.

      And canned coconut milk – although now I have a new food processor I’m planning to try switching to making my own coconut milk from desiccated coconut.

  • I don’t like canned things for multiple reasons, including both plastic and flavor. For things like beans, I just cook my own. But for things like tomatoes, I have a hard time finding pasta (our tomato sauce) in glass. Ditto for things like chopped tomatoes, which I sometimes prefer in place of sauce/puree. We do have tomato sauce in poly containers, but my husband doesn’t like the flavor. I do shop at a farmers market type grocery store, so they have the better quality stuff, but at least in my city (out in the desert in the middle of nowhere) I can’t get tomatoes in glass. :-( If I could I would definitely make the switch.

  • Well, I have to say I use them both because of the different texture. I can see it’s an issue but probably it hasn’t hit here (Italy): going to a supermarket aisle you’d find so many canned tomatoes (whole, diced, yellow or red cherry, etc) of different brands.
    One issue instead that came up here is how much tomatoes are imported (all over the world) from China, in what type of product are used (frozen pizzas? ketchup? concentrate?) and even in passata, at least abroad, here in Italy it has to be made from fresh tomatoes.
    So last year I tried making canned tomatoes and it’s not as hard as I expected but time consuming!!

  • Thanks for the info (and motivation) Jules :-) Will never buy tinned tomatoes again. Passata is an easy solution for ditching them but what about tinned beans? I’ve only come across chickpeas in a jar but everything else seems to be tinned (kidney, black, lima beans :( Cooking dry ones is no option with our crazy schedules and tiny freezer.

    • I don’t really eat beans these days Emilia. I’ve seen chickpeas in a jar in the UK but not here in Australia.

      I think you either need to just buy BPA-free cans Or invest in a pressure cooker – they take a fraction of the time then.

      Not great alternatives I know :)

  • I cut the core out of the tomato, cook until soft, run through a food mill. Put two T. bottled lemon juice and 1 T. kosher salt (optional) per quart and water bath for 20 minutes. I do this because I don’t like pieces of cooked tomato, but just recently learned I was making Italian passata!! It is perfect for any recipe in which you would use canned tomatoes.

  • I agree with trying to keep food away from plastics generally as I think it took a while to realise BPA, phthalates etc were not good and there’s likely other chemicals still being used which will later be found to be toxic and contaminating as well. But all my food storage containers are plastic! Do you use glassware for the fridge, freezer and microwave and if so have you found a decent price/quality brand?

    • Yes I use Pyrex for fridge / freezer / oven (I don’t have a microwave but you can use them as well). I don’t think they’re expensive and they last for years – I’ve had most of mine since I lived in Sydney which was 1- years ago. Definitely worth the investment Jess :)

  • I grow tomatoes in summer. At the end of summer I cook and freeze them. That way I have lovely tomatoes to add to all my sauces throughout winter. However do you think plastic ziplock bags are a problem for frozen produce?

    • Lucky you with the tomato abundance Kerry!

      I try and limit my ziplock bag use from an environmental perspective. But they’re probably not great from a plastics + food perspective either.

      So I freeze things like pesto and bolognese sauce in glass jars. They take up more space but it feels better :)

  • Have used passata for years. Cheap n tasty. Inside the top of the lid is lined with plastic……………..but there is way way less compared to cans.
    When it comes to plastics, I am not a “radical” in dissing them, in food use. My mum n dad had a microwave right from the get go of them coming to Australia, somewhere in the 1980’s. Dad lived until he was 97 (2017 he passed) and mum is almost 96, now.
    So 40+ years of cooking in the micro in guess what ……….. the dreaded plastic microwave containers of old (they refused to throw out what was not broken) and covering it in plastic wrap.
    Personally, since knowing of what are said to be the potential dangers of cooking in plastic in the micro, I have not. But thinking back on it and my mum n dads ages, I know use the occasional bit of plastic wrap – not often, but I do – guilt free. :)

  • This is such a great idea Jules. I’ve just used passata when it’s in your recipes but hadn’t realised it was being used instead of cans to minimise BPA. I’m converted!

  • I too have switched off canned tomatoes. That was the first switch and yes to passata. Having moved to a remote location I am finding the passata three times the price I was paying. But I can get it cheaper 1.5 hours drive away so I try to stock up. I have also switched to dry beans of all kinds and am still buying, although much less, canned fish of varying types.
    Happy to have happened upon your blog. I look forward to checking out more content.

    • Great minds Tricia :)

      Are you pressure cooking your beans? I’ve been reading a lot about lectins recently and if you’re switching from canned to dried beans, you might want to consider pressure cooking them as this reduces the lectin content and makes them easier to digest :)

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