Can tomato paste have gluten?

Tomato paste is a common ingredient found in many recipes and pre-made foods. It is made from cooked tomatoes that have been boiled and strained to remove skins and seeds, resulting in a thick, concentrated paste. Tomato paste adds rich umami flavor and is used to thicken and enhance sauces, stews, soups, and other dishes.

For people with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, tomato paste may seem like a naturally gluten-free ingredient. However, there are some important factors to consider regarding the potential for cross-contamination of gluten into commercial tomato paste products. This article will provide a detailed overview of tomato paste manufacturing processes and discuss the risk of gluten content in various types of tomato paste.

What is Gluten?

Gluten is a general name for the proteins found in wheat, rye, barley and triticale. It acts as a glue that helps food maintain its shape and texture. For most people, gluten does not cause any issues or negative health effects.

However, for those with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, even small amounts of gluten can trigger an autoimmune reaction that damages the small intestine. This reaction can cause symptoms such as abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, vomiting, constipation, fatigue, headache and more. The only treatment is a strict lifelong gluten-free diet, avoiding any foods, ingredients or cross-contamination with gluten.

Gluten in Tomato Paste Manufacturing

Tomato paste is made by cooking tomatoes down to remove liquid, then straining out skins and seeds. This cooking process does not introduce any gluten. However, there are some points in manufacturing and processing where gluten cross-contamination can occur:

  • Crop growing and harvesting – Gluten-containing grains may be rotated with tomatoes or processed on shared equipment
  • Transportation – Tomato paste may be transported alongside wheat/gluten products
  • Blending – Other ingredients containing gluten like wheat starch may be added to tomato paste
  • Shared equipment – Shared pipes, pumping, driers, evaporators may process gluten
  • Packaging – Shared lines and equipment may expose tomato paste to gluten

To avoid any cross-contamination with gluten, tomato paste facilities need to have careful allergen control plans and segregation processes in place. Many mainstream brands of tomato paste made in shared facilities do not consistently test for gluten or label presence.

Risk of Gluten in Commercial Tomato Paste

The level of risk for gluten in commercial tomato paste depends on the manufacturing processes and how the brand addresses cross-contamination. Here is an overview of the gluten risk with different types of tomato paste:

Canned Tomato Paste

Canned tomato paste from mass manufacturers like Contadina, Hunt’s, and store brands have a moderate to high likelihood of gluten cross-contamination. These large facilities use shared equipment, have limited allergen control procedures, and do not usually test for gluten. Canned tomato paste is not considered gluten-free unless specifically stated on certified gluten-free products.

Tetra Pak Tomato Paste

Tetra Pak aseptic packaging provides an additional barrier to contamination. Brands like Pomi and Bionaturae use dedicated gluten-free facilities and have stricter allergen control plans in place. However, gluten testing is still variable among brands. Tetra Pak tomato paste tends to have lower gluten risk but checking labels is still advised.

Gluten-Free Labeled Tomato Paste

Some tomato paste brands explicitly label their products “gluten-free” and have rigorous protocols to avoid cross-contamination. This includes thorough sanitation, dedicated equipment, gluten testing of ingredients and surfaces, and often certification by third-party auditors like the Gluten-Free Certification Organization (GFCO). Tomates Fritos and enough are examples of certified gluten-free tomato paste brands.

Organic Tomato Paste

Organic tomato paste is not necessarily gluten-free. While organic regulations forbid the intentional addition of gluten grains, cross-contamination can still occur. Brands still need explicit gluten-free protocols to qualify as very low risk for celiacs. Some reputable brands like Muir Glen Organic do label their tomato paste gluten-free.

Testing Tomato Paste for Gluten

Given the uncertainty around gluten content, one option is to purchase a tomato paste product and then test it yourself for gluten. Here are some considerations for testing tomato paste:

  • Use an NIMA, EZ Gluten or similar device that detects down to 5-10 ppm sensitivity
  • Sample small amounts from multiple areas of packaging
  • Test the product over several uses, as gluten levels can vary between batches
  • Watch for symptoms if consuming, and stop if any issues occur
  • Look for verified gluten-free if very sensitive; do not rely on negative home tests alone

Testing can provide added assurance, but note that home tests for gluten can sometimes produce false negatives. Those with celiac disease should couple testing with careful observation of any reaction symptoms. When in doubt, stick to tomato paste from certified gluten-free sources.

Making Your Own Gluten-Free Tomato Paste

For maximum control over ingredients and processing equipment, some gluten-free consumers may opt to make DIY tomato paste at home. This requires just a few simple steps:

  1. Wash and core ripe tomatoes. Roma tomatoes work very well.
  2. Chop tomatoes and cook down over medium heat until soft.
  3. Press tomatoes through a sieve or food mill to remove skins and seeds.
  4. Return strained tomato puree to pot and simmer uncovered until reduced by up to 75%, about 45 minutes.
  5. Occasionally stir paste and check thickness until deeply concentrated.
  6. Transfer to a sanitized glass jar or container and store in fridge up to 2 weeks or freeze.

When making your own tomato paste, make sure all equipment, jars, counters, etc. are thoroughly cleaned to avoid any gluten cross-over. This will produce minimally processed tomato paste guaranteed to be gluten-free.

Gluten-Free Tomato Paste Recipe

Here is a recipe for making easy homemade gluten-free tomato paste:

Gluten-Free Tomato Paste

  • 3 lbs ripe tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper


  1. Wash and core tomatoes. Chop into pieces.
  2. Heat oil in skillet over medium heat. Add tomatoes and season with salt & pepper.
  3. Cook 20 minutes, stirring occasionally until tomatoes are very soft.
  4. Press tomatoes through a sieve or food mill to remove skins and seeds.
  5. Return tomato puree to skillet. Simmer uncovered 45 mins until reduced by 75%.
  6. Transfer to sanitized jar. Cool, cover, and refrigerate up to 2 weeks.

This easy homemade recipe allows you to control the entire gluten-free preparation process. Make batches to have tomato paste ready to use in your favorite recipes.

Finding Gluten-Free Tomato Paste

When purchasing tomato paste, here are some tips for finding gluten-free options:

  • Check labels for a “gluten-free” certification mark or language
  • Look for brands that specifically state gluten testing protocols
  • Opt for tomato paste in Tetra Pak, pouches or jars to avoid can linings
  • Contact the manufacturer to ask about gluten testing
  • Stick to fresh tomato puree or homemade paste if very sensitive

Some of the top gluten-free brands of tomato paste include:

  • Muir Glen Organic
  • Pomi Tomato Paste
  • Bionaturae Strained Tomatoes
  • Tomates Fritos Tomato Paste
  • enough Organic Tomato Paste
  • Tuttorosso Tomato Paste

Checking for gluten-free certification and reading the labels carefully remains the best way to source tomato paste that avoids cross-contamination. When in doubt, making your own fresh tomato puree is a great alternative.

Uses for Gluten-Free Tomato Paste

Tomato paste is a versatile pantry staple that can be used to add rich tomato flavor and color to all types of recipes. Here are some delicious ways to use gluten-free tomato paste:

Soups & Stews

Add a tablespoon or two of tomato paste to broth-based soups, chilis and stews. It dissolves easily to provide extra flavor and nutrition without thinning the texture.

Pizza & Pasta Sauce

Include a few teaspoons of tomato paste when making your favorite red sauce for pizza, lasagna, pasta and more. It amps up the tomato richness.

Roasts & Braises

Rub tomato paste on meats and vegetables before roasting or braising. It promotes caramelization and enhances umami flavors as the food cooks.

Dips & Spreads

Incorporate some tomato paste into bean dips, nut spreads, hummus and savory creams for a flavor boost. A little goes a long way.

Marinades & Dressings

Mix a spoonful of tomato paste into marinades, salad dressings and vinaigrettes. It adds color and a tangy kick of tomato flavor.

Casseroles & Bakes

Stir a tablespoon or two of tomato paste into the ingredients for casseroles, egg bakes, rice dishes and savory pies or tarts before baking.

Having some gluten-free tomato paste in the pantry makes it easy to add rich tomato flavor to all types of everyday recipes. It’s a versatile ingredient for sauces, stews, dressings and more.

Tomato Paste Storage

To maintain fresh flavor and texture, tomato paste should be stored properly. Here are some tomato paste storage tips:

  • Unopened – Store unopened tomato paste cans or Tetra Paks in a cool, dry pantry. Check “best by” dates and use within 1-2 years.
  • Opened refrigerator – Transfer opened tomato paste to an airtight container. Refrigerate up to 5-7 days.
  • Opened freezer – For longer storage, freeze unused tomato paste in recipes size portions up to 4 months.
  • Prevent waste – Swirl a thin layer of olive oil over the top before refrigerating to prevent oxidation.
  • Watch for mold – Discard tomato paste if any mold develops on the surface.

With proper storage, both opened and unopened tomato paste can retain optimal texture and tangy, concentrated flavor. Pay attention to labels, freeze for longer duration or make DIY batches to reduce waste.

Tomato Paste Nutrition Facts

As a concentrated source of tomatoes, tomato paste can provide some beneficial nutrition:

Tomato Paste (1/4 cup)
Calories: 54
Fat: 0.5g
Carbs: 12g
Protein: 2g
Vitamin C: 27% DV
Vitamin A: 22% DV
Iron: 12% DV
Potassium: 17% DV

Key nutrients provided by tomato paste include:

  • Vitamin C – Boosts immunity and acts as an antioxidant
  • Vitamin A – Important for eye and skin health
  • Lycpopene – A potent antioxidant that may help reduce cancer risk
  • Potassium – Helps control blood pressure

Tomato paste, especially when homemade, provides a healthy dose of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. It adds nutrition along with flavor to recipes.

Risks of Tomato Paste for Gluten-Free Diets

While tomato paste can be safe for gluten-free diets, there are some potential risks to keep in mind:

  • Cross-contamination from wheat flour or shared equipment
  • Addition of gluten-containing ingredients like maltodextrin
  • Unregulated facilities with weak allergen control procedures
  • Mislabeling or unlabeled presence of gluten
  • Hidden sources if not reading ingredients carefully

To avoid adverse reactions, those with celiac disease must be vigilant about sourcing tomato paste only from certified gluten-free brands or making it at home fresh. Do not assume plain tomato paste is automatically safe, and check all labels carefully. When in doubt, contact the manufacturer with any questions or concerns about gluten.

Bottom Line

While plain tomato paste would seem inherently gluten-free, the manufacturing processes of most mainstream brands may introduce a degree of cross-contamination risk. Canned tomato paste and products made in facilities with shared equipment have a higher chance of containing traces of gluten.

Reading labels carefully and looking for verified gluten-free options or making homemade paste can help mitigate potential issues. With proper sourcing and precautions, tomato paste can be safely enjoyed by those adhering to a gluten-free diet. Being an educated and selective consumer is key for minimizing gluten exposure.

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