What To Do With Leftover Tomato Paste

Call it a quirk, but food waste drives me crazy.  If you do any cooking that calls for tomato paste, so often the required amount is only a fraction of even one of these little cans*. I don’t do the kind of Advanced Level Meal Planning that would use up the entire can within a few days and it pains me to throw the majority of the container away, so here’s what I do:

Grab a small plastic ice cube tray.

Figure out what measurement will fill each of the “cubes.” This tray holds a perfect 2 teaspoons. Using a spoon and a small rubber spatula, scoop out the remaining tomato paste and fill as many cubes as you have paste.

Pop in the freezer and freeze overnight.

When cubes are frozen solid, pop out of the tray and into a freezer bag. Store in the freezer and use individual cubes as needed.

*I know you can buy tomato paste in tubes, but none of our local markets seem to carry it.

Do you have any handy tips for leftover ingredients?

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  1. January 22, 2013 / 12:05 pm

    Do you have a Whole Foods near you? They sell tubes of tomato paste. Amazon carries them on their website too.

  2. Carol
    January 22, 2013 / 12:06 pm

    No need to dirty (and stain) an ice cube tray. I just plop approximately tablespoon-sized blobs onto a piece of waxed paper, and slide that into the freezer. Once frozen, I transfer the blobs to plastic freezer bags.

  3. January 22, 2013 / 1:07 pm

    Ah, la femme frugale! Love it. We put leftovers (of the tomato paste type) into zip locks. En masse. Then we break it up a little after it’s partly frozen. When we need it, we break off a piece. (You can microwave slightly to do that if it’s a solid mass).

    I always leave the tomato paste out of recipes because of the very issue you describe. Some people add a bit of ketchup (aka tomato paste, vinegar, sugar) in its place.

    I wonder if the much-missed (to me) Trader Joe’s has the tubes?

  4. sarah van Holland
    January 22, 2013 / 1:13 pm

    What a brilliant idea! How I didn’t think about it myself….
    I usually make a big pan of soup in the weekend and freeze half of it in portions so I can always have some warm soup during the week. It helps to have something warm(&healthy) to eat in moments of hungry crisis!

  5. January 22, 2013 / 1:19 pm

    I’ve heard you can do the same thing with pesto, though I don’t because I don’t make pesto in huge batches. (My stick mixer’s food processing attachment makes just enough for one pot of pasta.)

    I used to buy my tubes of tomato paste at Cost Plus World Market. Do you have one near you? If you buy a bunch of tubes, they last a good long while, unopened.

  6. January 22, 2013 / 2:49 pm

    I am in awe of your mad housewifery skillz. However, I feel obliged to mention that the ubiquitous Trader Joe’s carries tubes of tomato paste in.

  7. January 22, 2013 / 2:50 pm

    That’s a good idea, if you have to use canned paste. I haven’t bought a can of tomato paste in decades, simply because of the waste issue. I always use the tomato paste in tubes – I don’t have any trouble finding it in West LA supermarkets. Have you tried Gelson’s, Trader Joe’s? Or I bet you could get them at Surfa’s.

  8. January 22, 2013 / 2:54 pm

    (Sorry about the superfluous “in” at the end of my comment!)

  9. January 22, 2013 / 4:33 pm

    That is a great idea!
    I have been throwing out food lately…we are eating less but I have had a difficult time cooking smaller portions. I have very little freezer space in my fridge and have been contemplating buying a small chest freezer.

  10. January 22, 2013 / 4:37 pm

    Takes me back to the homemade baby food days — that’s exactly how I’d freeze that.
    Now the big question: do you remember to use the cubes up before their best-before date gets a bit iffy and they get turfed after all? That, I have to admit, would be my challenge. . .

  11. January 22, 2013 / 5:26 pm

    You can get the tubes of tomato paste here, but it’s even more fun to get them in France. Then, every time you squeeze the tube, you think, “This is French tomato paste!” and you feel like your food is extra special.

  12. January 22, 2013 / 5:43 pm

    Too many recipes require small amounts of different ingredients and the rest is often wasted. I finally figured out to plan on making at least two dishes of of these specific and usually perishable ingredients. For example, this week I made meatballs which required only one cup of ricotta cheese. So tomorrow I am making ricotta pancakes for a light dinner. I also make sure I have plans for a whole bunch of basil if the primary recipe calls for just a few leaves– following it up with a batch of pesto or a pot of sauce. I’d love a tee shirt that says ” My money is a terrible thing to waste”

  13. Marla Robinson
    January 22, 2013 / 11:16 am

    Ok, that is a great idea!

  14. Anonymous
    January 22, 2013 / 7:57 pm

    When I have more bananas than I think we can eat I peel and freeze three bananas in a plastic bag. Because 3 bananas is what most banana bread recipes call for.

    Left over whole tomatoes? Freeze then and toss into your next batch of vegetable soup. They will likely dissolve completely, adding flavor and color.

  15. January 22, 2013 / 8:34 pm

    Make a pot of sauce or soup with the leftover tomato paste and freeze your leftovers from that. Two birds with one stone, as it were…

  16. January 22, 2013 / 8:57 pm

    I freeze everything too! Food waste is the pitts.


  17. Pam @ over50feeling40
    January 22, 2013 / 1:11 pm

    Did not know this would work! thanks for sharing!

  18. Fairevergreen
    January 22, 2013 / 1:28 pm

    Just yesterday I eyeballed a half package of grape tomatoes sitting on my counter and decided to dehydrate them before they spoiled They were already slightly desicated and beyond putting on a salad, but hadn’t started to mold. Now I have a small container of oven-dried tomatoes to add into a soup or sauce later.

  19. Sulky Kitten
    January 22, 2013 / 1:52 pm

    Good idea! I hate wasting food and try and preserve as much as I can by freezing it. I saw another good tip on another blog about freezing fresh herbs in olive oil.

  20. January 22, 2013 / 11:20 pm

    What a great idea! I do something similar using sandwich zip loc bags.

  21. Patricia
    January 22, 2013 / 3:22 pm

    Good idea, I do something similar with ginger root. I usually don’t need the whole thing, so I grate the rest, put it in little mounds on a small tray and freeze, then into a baggie.

  22. Kathy
    January 22, 2013 / 3:51 pm

    Feeling too guilty to comment.

  23. mette
    January 22, 2013 / 4:23 pm

    A good tip which looks neat!

  24. Mel
    January 23, 2013 / 12:43 am

    I usually just go to the SuperCook recipe site and put in the ingredients I want to use up. It’s remarkable how often they can find a recipe that uses exactly what you have on hand.

  25. January 23, 2013 / 1:39 am

    Tomato paste often comes in jars here. After using a small amount I either pour a layer of olive oil on top of the paste or, keep the jar in the refrigerator lid side down. Don’t know why but both keep the tomato paste ‘fresh’.

  26. January 23, 2013 / 2:32 am

    A side of you previously unseen 😉 We can find the kind in tubes here but that’s a neat trick. I like to freeze fruit juice as cubes, then drop one in a glass of Perrier as a mocktail.

  27. Anonymous
    January 23, 2013 / 3:14 am

    I have a lemon tree in my yard, which is small but can produce 3 dozen or so lemons in a season. Problem is, they ripen in November/December, and I mostly use lemons in iced tea, which I drink more in summer than winter. So I juiced up a bunch of lemons, and froze the juice in 1 & 2 tablespoon amounts in ice cube trays. This is really handy for cooking!

    —Jill Ann

  28. Viktoria
    January 22, 2013 / 7:51 pm

    I never throw anything away either. If I have lots of smallish portions of vegetables, meats, and such, I make pancake batter and put it all in a batter pudding, which I serve with lingonberries or rowanberries. It´s one of my favourite dishes.

  29. Anonymous
    January 23, 2013 / 4:01 am

    Ha! I do the same thing with tomato paste, white and red wine and chicken stock leftovers. Oh – also homemade pesto. Leftover duck fat is frozen gold.

    I picked this tip up from my parents who were raised by immigrants who grew up depression era. You did NOT throw food away in my house growing up, and things that went off went into the compost bin (thrifty and green go hand in hand) To this day waste in general really gets me; I don’t think its really a flaw 🙂


  30. Erika
    January 22, 2013 / 8:26 pm

    I save it too! I do this:

    After I use it the first time, I also cut off the bottom of the can. Then I freeze the whole can + tomato paste in a ziploc bag.

    When I need more, I take the bag out a few minutes before cooking, run the can under hot water for a few seconds, and push out how much I need and cut off that section with a knife. Then I put the can back in the plastic bag/freezer.

  31. sarah @ the modern lifestyle
    January 22, 2013 / 9:05 pm

    i do this with homemade basil pesto as well – the perfect portion size. who knew ice cube trays would still be relevant in today’s world!

  32. January 23, 2013 / 10:47 am

    I do the same, only with silicone muffin tins, easier to ‘hit’ the space than with ice trays (which I’ve pretty much whittled down since living in a cold country); also more flexible. I often feel I’m wasting the paste when I get the tubes – you can never be certain of squeezing it all out. We can buy quite small tins of the stuff, but I’m just as happy with whatever size is cheapest (I don’t like to waste money either). If there are only little bits of things like veg and tomato paste, they go into a soup for lunch the next day. I used to keep a large covered container in the freezer and add such things to it until I had time to make a big pot of soup or stew. If there is any leftover wine, I sometimes put it into a smaller plastic bottle and freeze it; I can’t tell that it loses any flavour or alcohol content.

  33. Anonymous
    January 24, 2013 / 6:12 pm

    I leave out the ice cube tray step. I just fill a small ziplock bag with leftover tomato paste and smoosh it flat and freeze. It is easy to break off a chunk when it’s so thin and flat. And less freezer burn.
    Duchesse, where do you find tubes? I never see them here in New Brunswick. I thought it was a Europe-only thing.

  34. Highland Fashionista
    January 24, 2013 / 7:11 pm

    I sometimes take the pulp from my juicer if I have been juicing veggies and use it as a soup base. old bananas go in the freezer and get made into a vegan banana loaf later on.

  35. Thea
    April 14, 2014 / 5:46 pm

    Apparently you can freeze the leftovers in the can, once frozen, cut the other end of the can off, push the entire log of paste out and slice it up like cookie dough… Read his handy tip, haven’t tried it though…

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