Dried tomatoes are not hard to make, they are easy to store, and reconstitute easily. Your preferences and your climate will help you decide whether you want to sun dry your tomatoes, use a dehydrator, or your oven.
How To Prepare The Tomatoes
I used whatever variety of tomato I have on hand. The plum tomatoes are very good dried, but be sure they are firm and not overripe. I like to dip the tomato into boiling water for a few seconds and slip off the skin. Next, cut the plum and cherry tomatoes in half to dry (they should be no thicker than 1/2″) while slicing large tomatoes crossways into slices that are about 1/4 inch think.
Learn more: How To Choose Tomatoes For Your Garden
If you have heirloom tomatoes with seeds you want to save, now is the time to scoop out the seeds and let them dry on paper toweling. Some people will leave the seeds to dry with the rest of the tomato, and some like the seeds gone with only the “meaty” pulp of the tomato dried and saved. If you take out the seeds, be sure to not dig out the pulp when removing the seeds. As to whether you “should” leave them or take them out, I will say defer to your family’s taste to decide. Me? I leave them in. Some children won’t eat anything with a tomato seed in it so if yours fall into this category, you should probably remove them.
Now you are ready to begin dehydrating!
If you want to learn more about growing heirloom vegetables we recommend:
How To Make Sun Dried Tomatoes
Sun dried tomatoes are quite expensive to buy, but cheap to make yourself.
First – repare the tomatoes as described above.
Use a plastic or stainless steel fine-mesh screen, or use large covered baking sheets to place your tomatoes. I, personally, would not use aluminum screens, as the acid might leach materials out of the screen.
When possible, place the rounded bottom of the plum-type tomatoes on the pan, allowing the juices to accumulate in the natural bowl of the halved tomato. You can’t do much about the leaky tomato slices but if you can place the little tomatoes, shaped like bowls, on porous screens, and use baking sheets for the slices, They will retain as much of the tomato’s natural juices as possible. Don’t let the pieces touch.
Optional: Sprinkle a little salt onto the tomatoes to flavor and to help remove the liquid from the pulp.
Next, cover the tomatoes with a piece of cheesecloth to keep out the creepy crawlers. Raise the cheesecloth up off the tomatoes – don’t let it touch and wick off the juice – by placing an object or two amongst the tomatoes that will hold the cloth up.
Place the cheesecloth-covered trays or screens out in the sunshine. You will want to put something like a couple boards under them to allow air to flow up through and around the tomatoes, and keep them off the ground, where bugs, cats and dogs can track over your drying racks. A good idea is to make a shelf of two boards set up on two barrels or step ladders, that you can place the racks on during the day.
Depending upon your climate, you can expect drying to take anywhere from a few days to 2 weeks to get to the right level of dryness. Dehydrating tomatoes in the desert will take less time than in the humid south, so you have to monitor the amount of sunshine and relative humidity and not be too much in a hurry. Needless to say, you have to bring the drying screens or sheets in during the night, and put them back out in the morning.
You’ll know that your tomatoes are done when the color turns into a darker, stronger version of the original color, looks and feels dry but with a pliable leathery quality to it. Proper dryness means it is not hard and brittle yet it is no longer moist inside. It’ll have the same amount of dryness all through the pulp.
Learn more: How To Store Dehydrated Vegetables
How To Make Oven Dried Tomatoes
Prepare the tomatoes as described above.
Oven drying is easier than sun drying because the oven can be used day and night, and kept at a uniform temperature when set on the lowest setting.
- You’ll want to know the exact temperature of your oven when on the lowest setting so use an oven safe thermometer to check.
- You want the oven temperature to be about 130 degrees, a few more or less won’t matter. If however, your oven won’t get below 200 degrees then you will have to keep your oven door slightly open while drying.
- Place tomatoes on baking sheets, not touching, and allow 6 to 12 hours for drying.
- Keep an eye on them to make sure they don’t overdry. The tomatoes will be ready when they are wrinkled, flexible and bendable.
- Some pieces will dry before others so make periodic checks and remove the ones that are dry.
- Allow them to cool completely before placing them in any container.
Using a Dehydrator to Dry Tomatoes
This is my favorite way of drying tomatoes, and I think the easiest.
Dehydrators maintain the proper temperature, and the forced air dries all pieces equally. They can be a little pricey, but I think dehydrators are worth the money.
Use the instructions above to prepare your tomatoes and place them on the racks, leaving about an inch or more between the pieces. Some pieces might benefit from being turned over partially through drying.
Don’t worry if it seems complex, you will be an expert by the time you finish your first batch. Drying should be complete within 8 to 12 hours. Allow to cool completely before storing
Learn more: How To Make A Solar Dehydrator
Storing Dried Tomatoes
Once dried, take your tomatoes and pack them. I like to use glass canning jars with new lids.
Some like to use a vacuum sealer and pack them into small amounts, and others will just toss them into resealable plastic bags. You can store dried tomatoes in the freezer or in a dark pantry at room temperature.
With the quality and flavor intact, you’ll get about a year at room temperature and for about one and a half years when kept air-tight in the freezer.
Tip: Ground up dried tomato can be sprinkled onto food out of a shaker for really intense tomato flavor.
It’s not hard to learn how to dehydrate tomatoes, and with dried tomatoes you’ll have a taste of summer available to you all winter long. It can be totally chemical free, organic and natural depending on what tomatoes you use.
Have you ever dehydrated tomatoes? What’s your favorite way to dry tomatoes?
Learn more from MomPrepares:
- How to Reconstitute Dried Vegetables
- Using Dehydrated Vegetables
- How To Preserve Tomatoes
- Traditional Cooking and Preserving Food
- Vegetables You Can Dehydrate