Quick Low-Sugar Tomato Jam | #Tomato

Quick low-sugar tomato jam using pectin to thicken

I can’t think of a better and enduring way to capture the sunshine of summer than a jar of tomato jam. Spread it on a crusty toast with a fried egg, sunny side up, for breakfast. It’s sun, sun and sun all around. When my husband brought home the summer bounty of a friend’s backyard crop, I knew I wanted to make jam with these ripe and plum tomatoes. I like eating tomatoes raw or roasting them to concentrate the flavor. Somehow, I haven’t tackled tomato jam. Naturally, I have a big plan for an enhanced version — a quick low-sugar tomato jam.

The trick is to substitute half of the required amount of sugar with pectin. I used Pomona’s Universal. (See the link below.) It’s a low methoxyl type pectin extracted from citrus peel. Its gelling power is activated by calcium, not by sugar. Therefore, it takes less time for the jam to thicken and uses less sugar or any sweetener.

With pectin, I’m less concerned about making a jam loaded with sugar or adulterating the natural flavor of tomatoes with artificial sweetener. Moreover, this quick low-sugar tomato jam is all sweet savory goodness. The jam lingers in your mouth and on your mind, with that tomatoey flavor. Sweet and savory, in good balance, and a tangy finish with a hint of heat and spice.

Another tip for a quick jam: Use an immersion blender to process the jam into a smooth paste. The end result is a more homogeneous and silky texture. To test for a jam-like consistency, spoon a small amount of jam onto a chilled plate. Return the plate to the refrigerator and chill for a few minutes. Test the jam with your finger. If the jam hold its shape like that of jam, it’s ready.

Selection of ripe beefsteak tomatoes

Tomato jam after simmering for 1 1/2 hour.


The first tomato jam recipe that pops up on Google search is the New York Times recipe from Mark Bittman. Surely, you can count on a basic recipe about anything from Bittman. More than that, his tomato jam recipe is inspired by an inventive tapas bar in Barcelona called Quimet y Quimet. What other place would give you a better plate of Pa amb tomàquet, with simple bread and tomato rubbed all over it, than in Barcelona? Often, the image of Pa amb tomàquet and the sensational food memory of Barcelona make my mouth water.

Finally, I’m linking this post to IHCC, where I’ll be joining other home cooks. We are tackling the tomato ingredient challenge this week. Since my counter is filled with these lovely tomatoes, I doubled the recipe. That also means doubling the cooking time. I used about one to two teaspoonfuls of pectin as the thickener. Invariably, the jam will thicken further once it’s cooled.

Quick Low-Sugar Tomatoes Jam with Pectin

Print Recipe
Serves: 1 pint


  • 1 1/2 pounds good ripe tomatoes (Roma are best), cored and coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon fresh grated or minced ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 jalapeño or other peppers, stemmed, seeded and minced, or red pepper flakes or cayenne to taste.
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons pectin



Combine all ingredients in a heavy medium saucepan, Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring often.


Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until mixture has consistency of thick jam, about 1 hour 15 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning, then cool and refrigerate until ready to use; this will keep at least a week.


Adapted from Mark Bittman's recipe on the New York Times http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/20/dining/201mrex.html?ref=dining


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  • Reply
    August 13, 2017 at 11:02 pm

    Absolutely fabulous results you got there! Gelatin is easier to source in my neck of the woods, perhaps a tomato jelly would be do-able with this recipe?

  • Reply
    Kim Tracy
    August 14, 2017 at 3:55 pm

    I am so jealous of your tomato jam:) Seriously, that looks like some good stuff to smear on about anything! I love the idea of the jalapeno spicing things up a touch. Just lovely!

  • Reply
    August 17, 2017 at 12:06 pm

    It’s hard to go wrong with Mark Bittman. My husband favors a tomato and basil jam. I don’t make it with pectin, but I do reduce the sugar quite a bit, still not as low as your recipe. I’ll have to see if I can find pectin in Spain. I’m sure it’s available somewhere. Love to make small batch jams and relishes. I don’t have to mess with a hot water bath and can make just enough for two people.

  • Reply
    August 18, 2017 at 11:58 am

    Interesting way to substitute sugar!

  • Reply
    August 20, 2017 at 10:51 am

    Your tomato jam is gorgeous! I did thought of making some, but my neighbour recently gifted me with a jar bought from his travels to Australia. So homemade will have to wait until I finish that jar.

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