Why You Should Always Have A Can Of Tomato Paste In Your Pantry

In almost every single supermarket, you will find an aisle containing a ton of tomato products. This aisle has a mix of premade pasta sauces, boxes of tomato puree, and cans of tomatoes in all forms. Below, typically on the bottom shelf, there tends to be a tiny can of yet another tomato-based product – tomato paste. While it may not stand out from the rest, tomato paste is an absolute essential pantry item that you should stock up on during your next grocery store run. Thankfully it won't take up much room in your pantry, as the cans of tomato concentrate are quite small.  You'll soon realize tomato paste enhances so many dishes. 

As defined by Bon Appetit, tomato paste is essentially cooked-down tomatoes that have had their seeds and skin removed. What is left is then cooked even further to create a thick, concentrated paste. Due to this process, tomato paste is dense and packed with umami flavor. Cans of tomato paste tend to be charmingly tiny because a little really goes a long way. Trust us when we say from soups, sauces, and marinades to braised chicken or beef, tomato paste helps create bold deep flavors — you can even try adding some to your next bloody Mary mix, as suggested by All Recipes. While canned tomatoes in different forms tend to be kitchen staples already, we beg you to add tomato paste to your pantry, and here's why.

The endless possibilities of tomato paste

Adding tomato paste to dishes creates a depth of flavor that cannot be made by using other forms of tomatoes. With the majority or all of the water content being cooked out, the leftover paste is extremely concentrated and strong in flavor. While it can be used instead of or in addition to other forms of tomato, when to add it during the cooking process is extremely important. This is because caramelization is key to unveiling the umami flavor found in tomato paste. While you can still get tomato flavor when adding it at any point, the true flavor comes out if you first caramelize it in oil or fat, turning it darker earlier in the cooking process is essential (via Bon Appetit).

Given the lower water content, tomato paste works well in everything where the additional liquid would be unwelcome such as meatloaf, taco meat, or as a thickener, via The Kitchn. This being said, it is not only used in dishes without liquids. We recommend adding a touch to just about any recipe that calls for tomatoes to add complexity to the dish. Tomato paste has a way of giving sweetness to even the most savory dishes, in the best way. In addition to having its own uses, tomato paste is a great substitute for tomato puree. In fact, Masterclass suggests making your own tomato puree easily by combining tomato paste and water until the desired consistency is reached.