Slow Cooker Marinara Sauce {Freezer Meal}

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


If I would have known how easy and cheap it is to make your own marinara sauce in the crock pot, I would have started doing this years ago! Instead I’ve been spending money on expensive jars of Prego and other brands.

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

All I had to do was cook some onions and then dump all the ingredients into my slow cooker for a few hours. Not only did it make the house smell good but I ended up with 14 cups of red sauce that can be used for tons of recipes like our Baked Beef Ravioli, Meatball Subs, or Chicken Parmesan.

After letting the sauce cool and then chill in the fridge, I bagged up two cups per freezer bag and froze them for later use.

It was so easy!

*Research is telling us more and more that we should avoid canned tomatoes. Choose tomatoes in glass bottles (which do not need resin linings), such as the brands Bionaturae and Coluccio. You can also get several types in Tetra Pak boxes, like Trader Joe’s and Pomi.

Happy red sauce making!

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

Make sure to pin this to your recipe boards!


Slow Cooker Marinara Sauce Recipe

  • Author: Thriving Home


Homemade marinara sauce that is slow cooked in a 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 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 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


  1. In large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat.
  2. Add onions and garlic and cook until softened.
  3. Add the onion/garlic mixture and the rest of the ingredients into slow cooker (no smaller than 5-quart) and cook on low for at least 9-11 hours (or 5-7 hours on high).
  4. . Adjust seasonings to taste.
  5. I store mine in mason jars and freeze them. Just make sure to leave room at the top for the sauce to expand when freezing!


Freezer Meal Instructions:

To Freeze: Let sauce cool completely. Put cooled sauce in to mason jars (choose size depending on future needs for the sauce) being careful to leave room at the top for expansion.

To Prepare: Leave mason jar in fridge for 24 hours to thaw. Use as needed.




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  1. Zoe says

    How would I prepare the marinara sauce in the instant pot? Follow the instructions for a meatless soup?

    • Rachel says

      I’ve found that about 10 minutes with a quick release works well. You can do shorter, but a longer cook time helps build flavor even more.

      • Zoe says

        Thank you, Rachel! Making it right now. Planning on the Chicken Parm Casserole tomorrow. Grateful for your blog and cookbook!

        • Rachel says

          Thanks so much, Zoe. 🙂

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

    • Rachel says

      Not terribly spicy from my recollection. My kids still ate it.

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  10. 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.

    • Polly says

      I bet you’re right!

  11. 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

  12. 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.

  13. 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!

  14. 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!

  15. jackie c says

    Do you think you could hot water bath it to keep it in the pantry instead of freezing it after the crocking time?

    • Rachel says

      You can definitely do the whole canning thing here, but we just find that freezing is a lot less complicated. 🙂

  16. 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.

  17. 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…

    • Rachel says

      Kerrie, that’s a great idea! I’m doing that this season.

  18. 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

  19. 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!

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  23. 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.