Tomato jam recipe

Tomato jam DSC6762

One of my favorite guilty pleasures when I was in preschool was ketchup on biscuits. I’m not sure how I got into the habit of doing this, but a bit of that old, strange love lingers on today when I eat barbecue: I won’t put sauce on the meat but I’ll dip those soft, spongy slices of white bread in a bucket of a tomato-based sauce if given the chance.

I realize this isn’t the most sophisticated thing to eat, heck, some of y’all might even say it’s downright gross. Well, fortunately, a reader asked me if I had a recipe for tomato jam. Now, I’d never eaten tomato jam but I’d certainly heard of it. I even have a T-shirt from the Tomato Jam café in Asheville, North Carolina that my mom sent to me. (I haven’t been to Asheville but I hear it’s the Austin of North Carolina, which means it’s probably a very cool place.) So when this reader asked me for a recipe, I told her I’d get right on it.

First, I checked my old recipe files to see if any of my grandmas and great-grandmas had directions on how proper tomato jam was done. They didn’t. So before I came up with one, I asked the reader what exactly tomato jam was supposed to taste like. She said it was a wonderful mix of sweet and savory; she ate it on her biscuits while her grandpa spread it on his rye toast.

Tomato jam | Homesick Texan

A sweet and savory tomato spread that isn’t ketchup? I was curious. I started thinking about how I would make my jam, and decided I’d do my usual citrus, sugar and spice blend as I do with my apricot jam.

A little research led me to Mark Bittman’s recipe in the New York Times where he had the same idea. I followed his approach with a few modifications and, I must admit, this tomato jam was curious. It looked like a cross between strawberry jam and ketchup. Which seemed odd. But once it cooled a bit and I could really taste it, I was hooked.

Tomato jam is indeed sweet, spicy and savory and, because I’m Texan, I also make it a little bit fiery. It’s like a more sophisticated ketchup, though it could certainly pose as a fruit spread as well. (Though I’m not sure if tomato jam is quite ready to be paired with peanut butter.)

Tomato jam | Homesick Texan

Spreading it on my biscuit, I was a kid again dipping my biscuits into ketchup. But this time it was not only socially acceptable but a heck of a lot more sophisticated and delicious as well. I’m now a fan of tomato jam and I think it’s splendid on burgers, grilled cheese sandwiches, eggs and, of course, biscuits as well. And if you try it, perhaps you’ll find it splendid, too.

Do you eat tomato jam? What do you like to do with it?

Tomato jam DSC6762
5 from 1 vote

Tomato jam

Servings 1 pint
Author Adapted by Lisa Fain from the New York Times


  • 1 pound Roma tomatoes, chopped and cored
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 2 teaspoons lime zest
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 or 2 dried chiles de arbol, crumbled
  • Pinch of chipotle powder


  1. Combine all the ingredients in a pan, bring to a boil and then simmer, stirring often until tomatoes have dissolved and jam is thick and glossy, about 45 minutes. Pack jam into a sterilized container. Keeps in the refrigerator for 2 weeks.

Recipe Notes

Variations on this could be made by adding chopped jalapeños, chopped cooked bacon or I’ve even heard of people stirring in a bit of bourbon. And if you thinking this is close to chipotle ketchup, it is, though that has a few different spices and vinegar to give it that familiar tang.

  1. Marjorie

    It sounds like a spicy tomato ketchup.
    I buy a brand that is made in Maine. I think it is my favorite. I will try your recipe and see how it goes on our next hamburger.

  2. Miss Meat and Potatoes

    Never tried it but have wanted to since Giada made it on Everyday Italian a few years back. This is a whole different take on it though – and being Texan – I'm sure I'll side with yours! Seriously can't wait until your book comes out!

  3. firstkitchen

    My boyfriend's grandma makes tomato jam with her tomato crop. I haven't ever tried it, but it seems interesting. I've had jalapeno jam before though, which is delicious… a jalapeno-tomato jam would be superb! Might have to try it next summer.

  4. Farmer Jen

    Thank you for the recipe! I made tomato jam once before, but it came out too thin. Not gelled enough. I will try yours.

  5. Anonymous

    My grandmother (who lived in South-Central Texas) made this forever! I didn't like it the first time I tasted it, but I sure miss it now. Hers was heavy on the cinnamon and never included peppers or lime, but it was delicious, nonetheless. My grandfather loved eating sliced tomatoes with sugar and cinnamon sprinkled over the top, which came close to the flavor of her tomato jam.
    Thanks for the recipe and for the memories.

  6. ita darling.

    My grandfather was a south texas rice farmer, and i have memories of him in his hometown mexican restaurant spreading his paper napkin out on the table- lining up tortilla chips in rows, and then slowly dolloping ketchup on each of his chips and commence methodically eating his little concoctions and then repeating until his meal arrived. He wasn't adverse to spicy. He just liked his ketchup. He probably would've loved this.

  7. Denise | Chez Danisse

    I've never tried tomato jam, but I've been seeing it pop up lately and I'm intrigued. I like that your is a little bit fiery.

  8. Anonymous

    This does sound yummy! Will have to try some.

    I have made tomato preserves, but it was the type that you actually could put with peanut butter, but I usually just eat it on toast or biscuits. Especially the spicy (as in cinnamon and allspice) one.


  9. Trish Sharp

    wonder what that would taste like on a cracker with cream cheese?

  10. Andreas Kitchen

    I have heard of tomato jam but never tried it! It sounds wonderful! I am thinking it would be great as a sandwich spread- you could go so many different directions. You could do roast beef, tomato jam, roasted green chiles and cilantro or you could take it an Italian direction with the roast beef, tomato jam, fresh basil and sauteed onions.
    What about using it as a base for a Mediterranean dip? Yum! So many choices!

  11. I make a chilli jam – which is really just a tomato jam with lots of chillies in it – I can vouch for the crackers and cream cheese combination! Also really nice with goat's cheese…in fact, come to think of it, it's really nice with just about anything.

    I must try this recipe…

  12. I love ketchup on bread, too, but usually as sandwiches. My stepsister and I once bonded over ketchup and cottage cheese sandwiches (apparently it was a favorite treat of Nixon's … hmmmmm). I am drowning in tomatoes right now, so I need good canning recipes. I'm putting this one aside to try!

  13. lisa is cooking

    I have to admit, I haven't eaten a lot of tomato jam, but it sounds delicious on a biscuit or on a grilled cheese sandwich. I like the use of lime and dried chiles in your version. I'd love to give this a try!

  14. Christina

    Thank you, Lisa! This sounds delicious – it's definitely an amped up version of the tomato jam of my childhood! Can't wait to try it! I'm ready to slather some on some rye toast right now!

  15. Lisa Fain

    Marjorie–It's a bit like that, but not quite as tangy as ketchup because there's not any vinegar.

    Miss Meat and Potatoes–Let me guess, I bet hers had garlic and basil. (Which also sounds very good, I admit.) And thank you!

    Firstkitchen–I'm a big fan of jalapeño jam as well!

    Farmer Jen–This is pretty thick–I think you just need to keep cooking and stirring.

    Anon–You're very welcome!

    Ita Darling–What a memory! Now I've never heard of ketchup on tortilla chips–and you're right, I bet he would have loved this.

    Denise–It's that time of year when you have to get creative with your tomatoes!

    Pete–Well, then. I will have to try it with peanut butter.

    Trish–I think it would be superb on a cracker with cream cheese!

    Andreas Kitchen–Exactly! It's wonderful as a sandwich spread and very diverse!

    Julian–Your jam sounds pretty wonderful as well!

    Ann–Nixon? Good night!

    Lisa–It rocks on grilled cheese sandwiches!

  16. Lisa Fain

    Christina–Thank you for the inspiration!

  17. This sounds just like a jam my grandfather always keeps in the house to spread on sourdough toast and eggs. As a kid I thought it was a weird substitute for ketchup but as I grew older I fell in love with the spicy mix of flavors. I would love to try making this at home!

  18. Yardwork

    Sounds great! Like the biscuit idea too!

    And, Asheville is nowhere near as cool as Austin. 🙂

  19. Lisa Fain

    Phoo-D–I love it on eggs!

    Yardwork–Ha! And I have to agree that few places are as cool as Austin!

  20. DessertForTwo

    I'm imagining this on a grilled cheese sandwich. Mmmm!

    I agree with everyone-no place is as cool as Austin! 🙂

  21. Susan @ SGCC

    An old college roommate of mine used to keep a stash of tomato jam. Wonderful stuff! We used to eat it poured over a block of cream cheese and spread on crackers. Mmmm!

  22. Cowgirl Chef

    I'm so glad that you shared this recipe – I've been so curious about tomato jam, too, and have always loved ketchup (my preferred dip for a grilled cheese sandwich – I'm also quite the sophisticate), but this sounds even better, especially with a sack of sweet summer tomatoes.

  23. Jenna Krewson

    Interesting that you liken your tomato jam to ketchup because the only kind I've ever tried is up in Iowa, where the family roots are, and if you didn't know it, you'd have thought it was strawberry jam. Appropriately enough, I think I do recall having it on biscuits. The boy and I are obsessive about jalapeno jelly, so this seems right up our alley, something great to pour over cream cheese and munch on with crackers, as another reader mentioned.

    Also, have to "Here, here!" the Atx reference. Few towns are greater.


  24. Jennifer

    Forget the jam, how do I make a biscuit like that?

  25. It sounds delicious. (I am chuckling a bit because I love to spread ketchup on toast, so I'm pretty sure I'd like this even more!)

  26. Yumlicious! Will you pretty please post it on Punk Domestics?

  27. Lisa Fain

    DessertForTwo–It's wonderful on grilled cheese.

    Susan–I love the idea of pouring it over cream cheese and serving it with crackers!

    Cowgirl Chef–You're as classy as I am!

    Jenna–I'd heard it was compared often to strawberry jam. I reckon if it's super sweet without all the spices it could be construed as such.

    Jennifer–Here's my biscuit recipe. Enjoy!

    Kalyn–I'm not alone!

    Sean–Yes, sir!

  28. Anonymous

    This is wonderful over cream cheese. I first purchased the jam in a little shop in Hot Springs, AR while on vacation 20 years ago and fell in love with the spicy flavor and chunky tomatoe texture. Been trying to duplicate that flavor ever since…I've come very close, Maybe the memory of it is just better than reality…lol.

  29. Tasty Eats At Home

    Leave it to my favorite Texan blog to make me finally REALLY, really want to make tomato jam. Yum.

  30. We like to use it as a condiment with lamb chops or chicken or grilled cheese sandwiches. My husband's father was from Texas and his mother from Louisiana. He became a fan of your website when I sent him the link. Oh, I have just made three batches of your wonderful refrigerator pickles. Thank you for your blog.

  31. Lisa,
    Loved seeing this. We always had tomato jam when I was growing up. Stored in the cellar. I make it now and really like it dabbed on crab cakes. Delicious.

  32. Linsey M.

    I saw that recipe too and have had it in the back of my mind to try. I love your additions to it! Totally Texan!!

    Yes, when is your book coming out? I need to know when to start stalking Hastings!

  33. Working Girl

    This sounds yummy. When I was growing up in Conroe, we didn't have a lot of money. My mother was a single mom and worked two jobs without much time (or talent) for cooking. However, she used to make tomato biscuits as a special treat on Saturday nights. She would buy the cheapest can of biscuits at the Piggly Wiggly, and wrap each biscuit around a piece of tomato (sometimes fresh, sometimes canned) and a cube of butter. Then bake. Yum!

  34. This is for "Steve": Oh, why had I not thought of having it with crab cakes?! My mother was from Baltimore.

  35. Carolina Girl in the City

    This sounds wonderful! I'm going to set it aside for my next trip to the farmer's market. Wonder if tomato jam tastes anything similar to the "tomato sauce" I had in South Africa. They tried to pass it off as ketchup but it was definitely too sweet to pass as American ketchup.

    Also, Asheville is amazing. Its not the North Carolina version of Austin either. Having grown up in Asheville and visited Austin and I can say that Asheville is unique and wonderful in ways all its own. Definitely worth a visit if you ever get the chance.

  36. I have never had tomato jam but I am going to hav eto try this out asap! It looks amazing – and I love the idea of spreading it n rye toast. I wonder if it would be yummy on a bacan and egg sandwich?

  37. Just wanted to mention that last week I was back in Texas (the territory that's the setting for my work) and I introduced several people to this tasty website.

  38. Oh YUMMO! My sis-in-law gave me a buttload of tomatoes, some are yellow and very tasty. We are in North Carolina now and don't have room to bring the box home. This will be the perfect solution, though I may have to do a water bath to seal them.

    I do agree with Carolina Girl, Asheville is no Austin but its funky, fun, and eclectic for sure. We were there Friday night and going again today for thrifting. My parents moved from east Texas to the mountains of NC 8 years ago. We can't wait to be able to get here permanently ourselves.

  39. Never tried or even heard of tomato jam, though I am from TX. But…dipping white bread in BBQ Sauce has always been one of my favorites. Lots of memories of doing that at my grandmothers house, as she kept her sauce warm on the stove at dinner. MMMM!

  40. Really looks like a chutney to me. Love anything like this even though I am not fond of ketchup but love tomatoes. I pour Cholula sauce on my tortilla chips and eat them just like that. There appears to be some sort of jam revival here in the UK with people making their own for the first time.

  41. this sounds delicious. i'm guilty of soaking white bread in almost anything sauce-like. this sounds like a new adventure i'd love to try.

  42. CopyKat Recipes

    I am so making this, I wish I had known about this recipe 2 summers ago when I had more tomatoes than I knew what to do with!

  43. Funnelcloud Rachel

    I've never been to Austin, but I have been to Asheville and it's delicious! Seriously, everything we ate there was fantastic. It's not a fancy restaurant scene like Chicago or NY, but all the food there is made from fresh organic ingredients – yum!

  44. I'm very excited to try this recipe! I'll be making it tomorrow! Assuming that I'll love it, do you have a method for canning it so it will last on my shelf for the year?

  45. Anonymous

    Oh my goodness! I just found your blog after I googled a recipe for homemade sopapillas. I, too, am a homesick Texan, living in FL and missing my hometown of El Paso. I completely miss the mexican food and was craving sopapillas, so tonight I AM making a batch! Just read your cantaloupe blog. Have you ever had cantaloupe water, or agua de melon, as they call it? SO yummy! I am so glad I stumbled across this blog, will be adding to my google reader!

  46. I've never had tomato jam, but I definitely want to try it! Thanks for the recipe.

  47. dutchoven

    Sounds great. Gotta find a way to save some of these tomatoes… Might try a variation with some of my cherry or grape.

  48. Jason Fasi

    My boyfriend and I made this according to your recipe. It's really not very savory, just sweet & spicy. Delicious on sandwiches and grilled chicken!

    Still, think I'm going to tinker with this and other tomato jam recipes online to make something more savory. Less sugar and/or add bell pepper…? Any thoughts on a more savory version?

  49. Val & Mani

    Oh man! That looks amazing and your pictures are beautiful!

  50. Katy Scott

    My mom has made tomato relish for years, and it is DELICIOUS. I'm pretty sure it's my grandma's recipe from the early 1900s. Basically: 10 large tomatoes, diced, 2 large onions, sliced, 1-1/2 cups each vinegar and sugar, 1/2 teaspoon each cinnamon, cayenne, and cloves, 2 teaspoons salt. Cook slowly all day long until thick, then process and can. Your version with chiles and lime is intriguing — I'll try it next time.

  51. At Mesa Grill in NYC they serve a tomato jam with their bread basket at brunch…Is this anything like it? (BTW, Mesa Grill for brunch is amazing…)

  52. Hi. I found this post by searching for "what to do with tomato jam". I had an overabundance of tomatoes and ended up making a batch of jam with them before I knew what to do with it!

    Thanks. Now I'm really looking forward to cracking open a jar. The recipe I used looks similar to yours, with tomatoes, spices, and some hot peppers.

    As far as savory jams and jellies go, I've made jalapeno jelly before and loved it. You might want to rethink the peanut butter sandwiches! Who says peanut butter has to be paired with only sweet things? I discovered that I LOVE peanut butter and jalapeno jelly sandwiches. It kind of reminded me of Thai food.

    Though, for the tomato jam, I think I'll try it first on a grilled cheese sandwich or burger. Thanks for the inspiration!

  53. This reminds me of the tomato gravy my mom and grandmother make. We eat it with biscuits. It's just a simple flour gravy with the juice of whole canned tomatoes. So good.

  54. This turned out great! I had two minor changes. I couldn't find any chipotle powder so used a dash of chipotle salsa instead and I sliced a serano pepper in half and let it hang out in the jam while cooking and removed it later. I don't think the pepper did much, next time I am going to chop it up and leave it in. Thanks again.

  55. Oh, good gawd. I'm about to go to Chicago and probably have one of their wondrous dutch babies, but being a New Mexican YOUR take is wonderful.


  56. I'm making tomato jam for christmas presents this year…your recipe looks delicious, and I will definitely be incorporating many aspects of it! (I'm actually combining a few recipes…and want a sweet jam and a spicy jam!)

    I saw where you spoke of your t-shirt from Asheville…and compared it to Austin. Now, I haven't lived in Texas since I was a child. But, I live in NC, and visit Asheville often. Asheville is a culinary wasteland, unfortunately. The restaurant you spoke of is a little cafe, that just doesn't do their recipes justice.

    I hate to sound so mean…but I have been disappointed so many times there.

    If you are in the area try Charlotte, just a couple of hours away, for some truly unique restaurants…or Atlanta!

  57. My Grandma and I used to make Tomato Jelly every summer until she passed. I miss it!! We used to smear it on toast and fresh biscuits. Hers was more of a fruit jelly because she made it sweet with cinnamon and nutmeg and not spicy.

  58. Anonymous

    I am so happy to know that someone out there had this Tomato Jam recipe. As a child my mother use to make this and i loveed it,but forgot to ask my mom for the recipe when she was still here with us;she is now gone but i still remember her Tomato Jam. Thank you so much for sharing it.

  59. Variations of this are commonly eaten in the UK – we call it tomato chutney and it's most often eaten either with crackers and cheese or on a sandwich. Delicious!

  60. Anonymous

    My grandmama made what she called homemade "catsup" and it sounds similar to your recipe. Hers was chunky (tomato and onion), sweet and spicy. We always put it on top of biscuits with redeye gravy.

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