Canning may be the most popular way to preserve tomatoes, but since learning how to dehydrate tomatoes, I’m convinced this is a fantastic option!
Most people preserve tomatoes by canning, but what if you only have a small harvest? Learning how to dehydrate tomatoes is a great way to preserve tomatoes for the year.
When the tomatoes come in heavy, canning makes the most sense, but as the harvest spreads, I dehydrate tomatoes. Dehydrated tomatoes are a versatile item to add to your pantry, and the prep time to get them into the dehydrator is minutes.
Everyone knows that canning tomatoes is nearly an all-day job.
Dehydrating tomatoes has some advantages you may not realize aside from the ease of getting them into the dehydrator. They retain most of their flavor, so those dried tomatoes will taste like they just came off the vine when you pick at peak freshness. Also, the drying process retains most of its nutrients.
If you ever cook recipes that call for sundried tomatoes, those are dried tomatoes stored in olive oil unless you get the ones only dried.
So, whether you are drowning in cherry tomatoes or need an easy way to preserve leftover tomatoes, here is how to dehydrate tomatoes.
Why Do I Dehydrate Tomatoes?
I used to only can tomatoes; I have tried fermenting them, but they weren’t used often. We don’t own a freeze-drier, but one day, I looked at the dehydrator on my counter and wondered how it would work out.
It turns out; I loved it! Here are some of my reasons for dehydrating tomatoes.
- It has a short prep time. It takes less than 15 minutes to wash and fill my dehydrator trays with cut tomatoes. Homeschooling four kids keeps me busy, so I appreciate the quickness.
- They store well in a glass jar or other air-tight containers.
- The dried tomatoes shrivel so small; how many you can fit into a single jar is wild. The quantity of tomatoes I can store in this method compared to tomato sauce jars is vastly different.
- It’s quite easy to toss these into recipes. I use these more regularly than an entire jar of tomato sauce. I found more ways to utilize the dried tomatoes.
What are the Best Tomatoes to Dehydrate?
All types of tomatoes dehydrate well.
I prefer dehydrating cherry tomatoes, Roma tomatoes, and plum tomatoes because they contain fewer seeds and juices. Plus, all of those grape tomatoes need a way to be used up when you have a huge tomato harvest.
However, any tomatoes will dry and taste great once dehydrated. The water content may extend the drying time, but in the end, they all end up the same way.
If you dehydrate tomatoes from the grocery store, I recommend using organic tomatoes since tomatoes are part of the “Dirty Dozen” list. That means farmers tend to spray more pesticides on them. This isn’t as much of a concern if you grow your own tomatoes.
It’s easy to find plenty of clean tomatoes at your local farmer’s market if you don’t have a garden.
How to Dehydrate Tomatoes
Dehydrating any food starts with the same step: cleaning up your area. I take a few moments to wipe down the countertops, the sink, dehydrating trays, and anything else that will come in contact with the tomatoes.
Now, let’s get started!
Pick the Right Tomatoes
Start by picking fresh tomatoes without blemishes, mold, or anything that could decrease the quality of the fruit. Firm tomatoes are the best for dehydrating.
Wash & Prep the Tomatoes for Dehydration
The next step is to wash the tomatoes. Whether you use organic tomatoes or not, washing any produce before dehydrating is wise. You don’t need to scrub the tomatoes; soak them in a 50/50 solution with water and vinegar in your sink for a few moments.
Then, remove them from the sink and dry them on a clean towel. Gently pat them dry before starting the next step.
Cut the Tomatoes to the Size You Want
Putting tomatoes whole in a dehydrator won’t work well; you must cut them. The size and shape you cut the tomatoes varies – you decide.
The larger the tomato size, the longer it takes to dry.
Most cherry tomatoes only need to be cut in half, but larger ones may need to be quartered. Large tomatoes must be cut into no more than 1/4 inch thick pieces. That will allow the tomatoes to dry evenly.
Removing the seeds and pulp inside is optional; I only remove them when they start to fall out during the cutting process. I rarely remove them when I have cherry tomatoes or small ones. It’s entirely up to you!
Dehydrate the Tomatoes
I typically use a dehydrator, but using your oven to dry tomato slices is possible. We’ll start by looking at using a food dehydrator and then at how to use an oven.
- If the dehydrator tray has large holes, use mesh screens or parchment paper to line each tray. I prefer to have silicone and mesh screens for my food dehydrator; it makes it more versatile and easy to use.
- Place the tomato slices on the trays, leaving space between each slice. The food shouldn’t touch to allow air circulation around each one.
- I suggest laying them skin-side down if possible because the juices cause the tomatoes to stick to the trays.
- Dehydrate at 125 degrees F (or 135 degrees F according to my dehydrator) for 8-14 hours until completely dried.
- In some machines, you may need to rotate the trays to allow each level to dry properly. Be sure to read the manual that comes with your model.
I have the Nesco Snackmaster Pro Food Dehydrator. It was a middle-of-the-road priced dehydrator and works fantastic. I also have the mesh screens and plastic fruit roll sheets. I love having the versatility, and since the dehydrator wasn’t too expensive, it was easy to justify. I use them a lot!
If you don’t have a dehydrator, you can still dry tomatoes at home! Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat to prevent sticking and dry at the lowest setting for your oven. Crack the oven door to allow some of the humidity to escape; humidity will prevent the tomatoes from drying quickly.
Flipping the pieces every hour will allow them to dry evenly, but it is frustrating!
Test for Doneness
Once the tomatoes are dry (or you want to see if they are), let them cool. Once cooled, bend and squeeze a few pieces. If you notice any moisture, put them back into the dehydrator or oven for a few more hours.
You can’t dry food too much, but you can under-dry them, leading to mold and spoilage.
Store the Dried Tomatoes
Tomatoes contain high levels of moisture, so proper storage is essential. When properly stored at room temperature, tomatoes keep for quite a long time. Conditioning the tomatoes before storage will ensure they store well.
Here are some tips.
- Ensure you allow the tomatoes to dry to room temperature before transferring them to a mason jar or an air-tight container.
- Keep the lid on for a week, and shake the jar daily. Look for signs of moisture inside the jar or any of the pieces sticking together (or to the glass).
- If you notice moisture developing, that is a sign you need to place them back into the dehydrator for more drying.
- After one week, if you don’t see moisture development, it’s time to move the tomatoes to long-term storage.
Fully dried tomatoes store well for a year or longer. Extend that shelf life by using a vacuum sealer each time you open the jars, or store them in mylar bags with oxygen absorbers. These are great for long-term storage.
How to Use Dehydrated Tomatoes
When I posted on my social media page that I dehydrate tomatoes, the most common question was: how do you use dried tomatoes?
The tomatoes rehydrate easily when placed in boiling water for 10-15 minutes until soft and pliable. I have yet to rehydrate simply to do so; I commonly toss these into recipes. My favorite way to use them is to toss them into all soups and stews. They’re an easy substitute for diced tomatoes in any recipe.
Here are some ways to use up the dried tomatoes:
- Replace in any recipe that calls for sun-dried tomatoes.
- Toss into sauces, stews, soups, braises, or anything else that contains liquid.
- Chop them into smaller pieces and use in a pasta salad (or any other salad).
- Put into dehydrated backpack meals for camping or hiking.
- Grind up into tomato powder with a food processor or coffee grinder, which you can use to flavor recipes or rehydrate into tomato sauce. It also works as a substitute for tomato paste.
Dried tomatoes have a strong flavor; they punch a strong bite. If you combine it with dehydrated herbs or salted herbs, you’ll end up with a deliciously flavored meal.
Have you tried dehydrating tomatoes? Undoubtedly, it’s one of my favorite ways to save all of the tomatoes we grow.
If you haven’t tried it yet, now is the time to do so.