Can Tomato Seeds Affect The Flavor Of Your Sauce?

From Roma to heirloom and everything in between, there are countless different types of tomatoes and at least as many ways of preparing them. But, whether as part of a comfort food or a Michelin-starred plate, one of the hands-down most classic ways of cooking with fresh or canned tomatoes is turning them into a red sauce. In fact, according to data analytics platform Statista, over 221 million U.S. people worked with tomato sauce in 2020. Iconic Italian filmmaker Federico Fellini is said to have famously observed, "Life is a combination of magic and pasta." A good tomato sauce, we'd argue, is a combination of both.

But, when it comes to preparing a red sauce from fresh tomatoes, one of the most dreaded steps is the tedious de-seeding of the tomatoes. Per popular belief, leaving the seeds in makes for a bitter sauce. But, so far, it seems like the jury might still be out. Is it a myth after all? Can tomato seeds affect the flavor of your sauce? The short answer is: Maybe. It depends on who you ask.

You can leave the seeds in if you cook 'em for long enough

According to Cooks Illustrated, the gel coating around tomato seeds is packed with naturally occurring substances called "glutamates." Glutamates, it says, have a savory flavor, but tomato seeds alone have no taste at all. The outlet even conducted an experiment in which it simmered tomato sauces with and without seeds for 40 minutes then did a taste-test comparison: Seeds or not, the tasters couldn't distinguish between the sauces.

But, not everybody agrees. Bon Appétit argues that this theory only works for slow-simmered sauces – which not every home cook has time for. "We wouldn't care so much if we were doing an all-day sauce. You know, the 'Goodfellas,' Italian nonna, type stuff," it says. "Since that style of sauce cooks for many hours, the water inside the tomatoes has time to evaporate, concentrating the flavor."

Cooking outlet Miss Vickie agrees that keeping those tomato seeds in will leave you with a bitter sauce. Plus, it says, the seeds can dramatically alter your sauce's texture: the excess liquid around the seeds could thin out your sauce, and the seeds themselves make for a mouthfeel that's kind of, well, unpleasant. However, Gardeners Yards says that the skin can also be a major contributor to bitterness. So, when it comes to your next sauce, go ahead and roll the dice if you have all day to cook. Otherwise, maybe consider deseeding.