Slow Cooker Marinara Sauce

By Polly Conner
March 24, 2020

With just a few pantry ingredients, you can have a large batch of marinara sauce cooking in your slow cooker in no time. You can also use this homemade marinara recipe to stock your freezer. Instant Pot and freezing instructions included, as well!

slow cooker marinara sauce in mason jars
Photo credit: Hélèn Dujardin in From Freezer to Cooker

Making marinara sauce in the crock pot is incredibly easy. It’s very similar to the one in our cookbook, From Freezer to Cooker, but this batch is doubled so you can make lots (14 cups!) to stock the freezer!

What ingredients do I need to make marinara sauce in the slow cooker?

With a few simple pantry ingredients, you can have your home smelling delicious as marinara cooks in the slow cooker. Here is what you’ll need:

  • Olive oil
  • 2 onions
  • Garlic
  • Crushed tomatoes
  • Tomato paste
  • Oregano
  • Salt
  • Fresh or dried basil
  • Fresh or dried parsley
  • Red pepper flakes

How long do I cook marinara sauce in the slow cooker?

Homemade marinara is one of those recipes in which the longer your cook it, the better it is.

You’ll cook this marinara recipe in the slow cooker on low for 9-11 hours or on high for 5-7 hours.

Homemade marinara sauce in a mason jar

Can I make marinara sauce in the Instant Pot?

You bet! Here is how to make homemade marinara in the Instant Pot.

Depending on the size of your Instant Pot, you’ll likely need to cut this recipe in half. (An 8 quart Instant Pot might work for this amount of sauce, but since we haven’t test it, we can’t say for sure.) Bottom line: You always need to leave the top 1/3 of the Instant Pot empty to create room for pressure to build.

Set the Instant Pot to “Saute.” Pour the oil into the pot and heat until shimmery. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until softened, 4 to 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook for 30 to 60 seconds more, until fragrant.

Press “Cancel.” Stir in the rest of the ingredients. Lock and seal the lid. Cook at high pressure for 10 minutes, then quick release the pressure. Taste and season with salt and black pepper.

How do I freeze homemade marinara sauce?

Since this recipe makes a large batch, you’ll want to save it for future recipes. Here is how you freeze homemade marinara sauce:

  1. Let the cooked sauce cool completely.
  2. Place the sauce in BPA-free freezer bags, freezer containers, or wide mouth mason jars, being sure to leave at least 1 inch of headspace.
  3. Seal and freeze for up to 6 months.
  4. To prepare, just thaw using one of our safe thawing methods.
slow cooker marinara sauce in a bowl

Recipes that use slow cooker marinara sauce

Here are some recipe ideas that you can use your homemade marinara sauce for:

Beefy Baked Ravioli in casserole dish

Slow Cooker Marinara Sauce Recipe

  • Author: Thriving Home
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 9 hours
  • Total Time: 9 hours 10 minutes
  • Yield: 28 servings (or about 14 cups) 1x
  • Category: Sauce
  • Method: Slow Cooker
  • Cuisine: Italian


Homemade marinara sauce that is slow cooked in a 6 quart crock pot with just a few ingredients!


  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 large onions, diced
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
  • 4 (28-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh basil or 2 tablespoons dried basil
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley or 1 tablespoon dried parsley flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes


Make It Now:

  1. In large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add onions and cook until softened, about 4-5 minutes. Stir in the garlic for about 30-60 seconds, until fragrant. 
  2. Add the onion/garlic mixture and the rest of the ingredients into a 5- or 6-quart slow cooker. Stir, cover, and cook on LOW for 9-11 hours (or on HIGH for 5-7 hours).
  3. Taste and adjust seasonings, as desired.

Freeze For Later: Cook the sauce and let it cool completely. Portion into to freezer bags, freezer containers, or mason jars, being careful to leave at least 1 inch of head room at the top for expansion. 

Prepare From Frozen: Thaw the sauce using one of these safe thawing methods. Warm over medium-low to low heat on the stove, or use the microwave.


  • Cut this recipe in half for 3 quart slow cookers and for 6 quart Instant Pots (because you need head room at the top to build pressure).
Marinara sauce in mason jars

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38 replies
  1. Kim Hirsch says:

    I’m sorry if you’ve been asked this before, but what do you use as the equivalent for fresh tomatoes? Lbs/ounces/individual??

    • Rachel says:

      Hi Kim, I’m not sure what the equivalent would be. I’ve never measured when making it with fresh tomatoes. Sorry that I can’t help more.

  2. Stacey says:

    I wonder if you could update this and add instructions for Instant Pots on this marinara sauce?? I just made this sauce in my instant pot and guessed on how to cook it. I sauteed the onions in the oil till most soft, then added the garlic. After sauteing for about one minute more, I turned off the saute and added all the other ingredients. I cooked it at high pressure for 18 minutes. I am wondering if it actually needed to go that long?? We will see how it turns out. I will keep you posted. 🙂

    • Rachel says:

      Thanks for the idea, Stacey. I think this would actually make a great separate post. I haven’t tested this yet in the IP, but I know that the Tomato Soup I make only takes 10 minutes to get very flavorful.

  3. Joanna says:

    Do the red pepper flakes make it very spicy? I don’t want the kiddos to get a bite of one, decide it’s too spicy and then refuse to eat it in the future. I just made a batch without, and while it is delicious, I’m wondering if I missed out by not adding the red pepper flakes.

  4. NZMom says:

    I bet roasting the tomatoes, in the oven with olive oil and seasonings, before tossing them into the crockpot would make it even tastier.

  5. Kath says:

    If you add 3/4 anchovies they will cook down ( won’t be fishy) and give the sauce a beautiful authentic Italian flavour

  6. Mary says:

    I’ve been making this for several months now and really enjoy it. However this week I pulled a jar out of the freezer and it was cracked. I’m not sure what happened, any other ways to store it besides freezer bags or glass jars?

    • Polly says:

      Hi Mary

      Was the jar a mason jar? They usually don’t crack (but I must admit, I had one crack on me the other day as well).
      Have you ever thought about canning? I sometimes do that when I have a large batch of something.

  7. Stephanie says:

    OMG! I tried this recipe this weekend (I actually split it in half for my needs) and it was beyond amazing!!! I was literally eating the sauce out of my crock pot with a spoon. The lack of sugar was not a problem for me as I am use to sugary store bought products. I cannot thank you enough for this recipe and I would highly recommend it!

  8. Lesl1e says:

    Can this be water bath and for how long. I bought a canner but haven’t used it much. You don’t have to pressure can it, do you? Thanks for your help. This will be great to have on hand.

    • Polly says:

      No, water bathing sauce isn’t enough to kill the bacteria. The acidity is too low for a water bath to be safe. Get to know your pressure cooker. It’s a life saver and really not that scary once you get used to it!

  9. Candi says:

    Thanks for the recipe it looks delish. I have some fresh tomatoes I need to use up in the fridge. Thanks for the post on the ratio of fresh to canned tomatoes. My crock pot went out on me the other day. Do you think this recipe will be just as good if you do low and slow on the stove?

    • Polly says:

      Oh no! Time to get a new crock pot, huh? Yes, I think you could cook this over the stove. I’d only cook it for an hour or two though. Even a low setting is hotter than a crock pot.

  10. Kerrie Laminack says:

    I actually just out whole tomatoes from my garden, garlic, onions, parsley, basil in my vitamin and purée then cook. I add a little black pepper and some fresh peppers when have them also puréed. Then I put in crockpot to simmer. I add other herbs depending on what I have but rosemary and allspice can add a nice flavor as well :0). Wondering why everyone peels and de seeds the tomatoes…

  11. Shawna says:

    After a quick search I found someone who apparently believes canned tomatoes are superior, they state there are aprox. 10-12 tomatoes in a 28oz can or about 2lbs. Hth

  12. Shawna says:

    Can I just use fresh tomatoes and fresh tomato juice. I refuse to buy canned foods for the very reason you mentioned andi have tons of tomatoes.. this recipe sounds delish (with fresh devine!)

    • Rachel says:

      Shawna, Rachel here. The same thought crossed my mind this week. I had a ton of tomatoes and made some homemade tomato sauce on the stove, but I think you could easily do it in the slow cooker instead. The key, though, is that you’ll need a food mill to remove the skins and seeds from your fresh tomatoes. Or, you can do what I did, and par-boil the tomatoes for about 1 minute, plunge them in an ice bath, and remove the skins. Then, you’ll need to squeeze out the seeds. (A food mill would be much easier!) I’m not sure how many tomatoes you’ll need to replace the canned tomatoes in this recipe, but I bet a quick google search would tell you. I hope that helps some!

  13. Kathy says:

    This recipe sounds easy and tasty. I think I will try it this summer with my garden tomatoes Also, I bet if you leave the lid off for a few hours, it would concentrate enough to use as pizza sauce.