Struggling to decide between canned tomatoes vs fresh ones? We’re here to help you make that choice. From their health benefits to environmental impact, here’s the ultimate guide to canned tomatoes. 

When it comes to incorporating tomatoes in your diet, you may find yourself faced with a common dilemma: fresh or canned? While fresh tomatoes have long been regarded as the epitome of flavor and nutrition, canned tomatoes offer a compelling array of advantages that make them a kitchen essential. From their year-round availability and extended shelf life to their convenience and intensified flavors, canned tomatoes have continued to carve a place for themselves in countless culinary creations.

In this ultimate guide to canned tomatoes, we will delve into the reasons why canned tomatoes deserve a spot in your pantry, from their availability and convenience to flavor and nutritional benefits. So, let’s uncover the wonders of canned tomatoes and discover why they are more than just a practical alternative to their fresh counterparts.

Why should you use canned tomatoes?

Canned tomatoes are available year-round, regardless of the tomato season. This allows you to enjoy the flavor and benefits of tomatoes in your dishes even when fresh tomatoes are out of season or not readily accessible. They are also convenient to use as they are pre-cooked, peeled, and often diced or crushed. This can save you time and effort in preparing dishes that require tomatoes as an ingredient.

Furthermore, canned tomatoes are often more affordable than fresh tomatoes, especially when the latter is out of season or in regions where they are not locally grown. This makes canned tomatoes a cost-effective option for adding tomato flavor to your dishes.

Environmental impact 

Canned tomatoes can be more environmentally friendly than fresh tomatoes in certain circumstances. Here are a few reasons why.

  • Reduced food waste: Fresh tomatoes have a relatively short shelf life and can spoil quickly if not consumed or refrigerated promptly. This can lead to significant food waste if not managed properly. Canning allows tomatoes to be preserved for extended periods, reducing the likelihood of spoilage and minimizing food waste.
  • Extended availability: Canned tomatoes provide a consistent and readily available source of tomatoes throughout the year, even when fresh tomatoes are out of season. This reduces the demand for out-of-season fresh tomatoes, which often require long-distance transportation and energy-intensive greenhouse production methods. By opting for canned tomatoes during the off-season, consumers can reduce the environmental impact associated with the production and transportation of fresh tomatoes.
  • Efficient transportation: Canned tomatoes are generally more compact and have a longer shelf life, allowing for more efficient transportation and reduced carbon emissions. Transporting fresh tomatoes often involves refrigerated trucks or air transportation to maintain their quality and freshness, which can have a higher carbon footprint compared to canned tomatoes that can be transported at ambient temperature.
  • Reduced water usage: Tomato cultivation requires significant amounts of water, particularly in regions with water scarcity. Canning tomatoes can help reduce water usage by preserving tomatoes that may otherwise be discarded due to imperfections or surplus supply. Additionally, canned tomatoes often require less water for processing and canning compared to fresh tomato production, which involves washing, sorting, and packing.
  • Reduced packaging waste: While packaging materials are required for canned tomatoes, they are typically more efficient in terms of weight and volume compared to the packaging used for fresh tomatoes. Canned tomatoes also have a longer shelf life, which means they can be stored without the need for additional packaging or preservation techniques, such as plastic wraps or coatings.

Health benefits

Canned tomatoes can offer several health benefits, so here are some of the key health benefits you should know about.

  • Nutrient-rich: Canned tomatoes are packed with essential nutrients, and are a good source of vitamins A, C, and E, as well as minerals like potassium and folate. These nutrients contribute to a healthy immune system, support eye health, and help maintain overall well-being.
  • Lycopene content: Tomatoes are a rich source of lycopene, a powerful antioxidant and carotenoid pigment responsible for their red color. Canned tomatoes are actually known to have higher levels of lycopene compared to fresh tomatoes. Lycopene has been linked to a reduced risk of certain types of cancer, including prostate, lung, and stomach cancers. It also has potential cardiovascular benefits and may help protect against heart disease.
  • Antioxidant properties: Canned tomatoes contain various antioxidants (such as vitamin C, beta-carotene, and flavonoids) which help neutralize harmful free radicals in the body and reduce oxidative stress and inflammation. This can support overall health and may help reduce the risk of chronic diseases, including certain cancers and cardiovascular conditions.
  • Nutritional stability: The canning process used for tomatoes helps preserve their nutritional value. Canned tomatoes retain their vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants over time, making them a reliable source of nutrients even during off-seasons when fresh tomatoes may not be as readily available or affordable.
  • Cooking benefits: Cooking tomatoes enhances their nutritional benefits by making the lycopene and other antioxidants more bioavailable, meaning they are easier for the body to absorb and utilize.

How to use canned tomatoes in the kitchen

Canned tomatoes are incredibly versatile and can be used in a variety of dishes to add a burst of flavor and richness. Let’s wrap up this ultimate guide to canned tomatoes with some of our favorite ways to use them in the kitchen.

A big shoutout to Tomato Wellness members for some of these amazing recipes!


In the world of culinary choices, the decision between fresh and canned tomatoes often arises. While fresh tomatoes have long been cherished for their taste and nutritional value, canned tomatoes offer a range of advantages that make them a practical and flavorful option. From their environmental impact to astounding health benefits, canned tomatoes are one pantry staple you should always have on hand. 

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