There is nothing like fresh garden tomatoes for a flavor burst of sweet goodness. When you make freeze-dried tomatoes, they taste just like fresh to use in your favorite pasta sauce recipe or pizza, soup, stew, and more!
Follow this simple tutorial to enjoy garden-fresh-tasting tomatoes any time of year.
Why I Love Freeze-Dried Tomatoes
Tomatoes are a crop that won’t survive a frost, so there are times at the end of the season when we are harvesting several bushels at a time. Everything must come off the vine, and if they aren’t fully ripe, we will ripen green tomatoes indoors.
Our goal is to put up enough tomatoes to last until the next growing season, so fermented tomatoes, dehydrated tomatoes and canned tomatoes will all be found in our pantry. Among them, freeze-dried tomatoes have found a spot.
The preparation time to freeze-dry tomatoes is less demanding. I don’t need to remove the skin; just slice or dice, place on the trays and let the Harvest Right Freeze-Dryer do the rest (check out my review of the Harvest Right Freeze Dryer here). The result tastes like fresh tomatoes that will last years if stored properly.
The convenience the freeze dryer has offered leads me back to choosing freeze-drying as a preferred food preservation method time and time again.
Not only do we freeze-dry vegetables like corn from our garden, but we also have freeze-dried herbs, freeze-dried eggs, freeze-dried milk, and even freeze-dried dog food. The options are truly endless!
Ways to Use Freeze-Dried Tomatoes
Freeze-dried tomatoes are excellent in cooked or fresh recipes. Here are a few ideas to try:
- Sandwiches – To some, the texture of freeze-dried tomato slices can be mealy, but I’ve also read that people love putting freeze-dried tomato slices right on their sandwich, allowing them to slightly soften just with the juices in the sandwich. You be the judge!
- Sauces, Soups, and Stews – Depending on the variety, you can add diced tomatoes to soups, stews and chili; they reconstitute in the liquid for a fresh garden flavor.
- Pizza and Red Sauces – Sliced garden tomatoes are great on pizza or this pizza popper recipe. Freeze-dried tomatoes reconstituted with spices, onions, and garlic make quick and easy marinara, spaghetti and meat sauce.
- Tomato Powder – Once the tomatoes are freeze-dried, you can quickly grind them into a powder. The intense flavor is delicious! Sprinkle it on popcorn made with olive oil, and use it in a homemade vinaigrette dressing or to season scrambled eggs.
- Tomato Paste – Reconstituting what you need with a bit of water makes the most flavorful tomato paste. You can prepare as much or as little as you need!
The Best Tomatoes for Freeze-Drying
Tomatoes of all varieties, shapes and sizes can be freeze-dried. If a good marinara or pizza sauce is what you’re looking for, use tomatoes with a low water content, like San Marzano or a meatier tomato with fewer seeds, like Roma’s.
You can’t beat cherry tomato varieties such as Sun Gold or Black Cherry that yield a sweet treat. They are quick to prepare and easy to freeze-dry with or without seasonings. Homesteading Hack: Be sure to slice them in half or poke them prior to freeze-drying. You can try using this tool meant for piercing berries.
You can use any diced garden-variety tomato in a casserole or as a pizza topping.
Preparing Tomatoes for Freeze-Drying
All preserved foods need proper preparation and tomatoes for freeze-drying are no exception. These tips will give you delicious freeze-dried tomatoes with little effort.
- Wash Thoroughly – It’s important to wash your tomatoes and remove any dirt, insects or other debris, especially if it’s picked fresh from your garden. Freeze-dried dirt and insects can introduce mold, fungus and any other unwanted bacteria to the food.
- Dry Thoroughly – I recommend drying the tomatoes well. The freeze-drying process removes water from the fruit; the more water left on it, the longer it will take to freeze-dry.
- De-stem – Remove the stems from all tomato varieties before freeze-drying for best results. No need to remove the skin, it freeze-dries well.
- Remove Blemishes – Use a paring knife to remove any blemishes, insect holes or spots.
- Freeze-Dryer – I use and highly recommend the Harvest Right Freeze Dryer. I like it so much that we now operate two for all the freeze-drying we do for our large family.
- Sharp Knives – A clean, sharp paring knife makes quick work of de-stemming and removing blemishes, while a serrated knife works well when slicing the tomatoes. Homesteading Hack: Food processors are functional kitchen tools that dice tomatoes quickly and efficiently. I prefer this food processor because of its 16-cup capacity, but any processor with sharp blades will work well.
- Cutting Board – A clean cutting board with a non-slip surface works well when slicing or dicing tomatoes.
- Towels or Paper Towels – Dry the tomatoes thoroughly with a kitchen towel or paper towel.
- Storage Containers – The best way to store freeze-dried tomatoes is in vacuum-sealed glass jars or Mylar bags with oxygen absorbers. I prefer glass jars to observe any changes if air or moisture penetrates the tomatoes.
- Parchment Paper – We prefer natural products to petroleum-based wax paper to prevent tomatoes from sticking to the dryer trays. We use and recommend If You Care brand parchment paper from Azure Standard.
- Vacuum Sealer – I recommend this tool to remove as much air from the containers that you decide to store your freeze-dried tomatoes in for future use. I have used this jar sealer for years, and it works great.
- Labels and Pens – It’s a good idea to mark the date and product of the tomatoes freeze-dried, especially if you stored them in Mylar bags. Homesteading Hack: Record the type of tomatoes you freeze-dried for a quick reference when making a sauce or adding diced tomatoes to a recipe.
- Tomatoes – Your tomatoes should be clean and dry with stems and blemishes removed; prepared how you want to use them (sliced, diced or pureed).
- Herbs – Herbs are optional if you want to sprinkle chopped fresh or dried herbs on top of the tomatoes before freeze-drying them. Homesteading Hack: I recommend not using salt on the tomatoes before freeze-drying. In my experience, it concentrates the flavors, diminishing the authentic, fresh tomato flavor.
- Salt (optional) – Some people like to omit the salt, choosing rather to season later on. But if you’d like your freeze-dried tomatoes to be ready to eat, you may want to add a sprinkle of salt. We only use Redmond Real Salt here on the homestead. Use coupon code “HFSalt” at checkout for 15% off your order.
How to Freeze Dry Tomatoes
- The newer freeze-dryers no longer have a “not frozen” option. After years of use, I’ve found I pretty much pre-freeze everything now. Pre-freeze the tomatoes for 24 hours before freeze-drying. These tray stackers come in real handy when freezing multiple trays at a time.
- Once your tomatoes are frozen, turn the machine on and select the customize button. Increase the Additional Dry Time to 12 hours. Homesteading Hack: This is necessary because of the seeds (the hard shell locks in moisture that can ruin your tomatoes in storage).
- If preferred, line your dryer trays with parchment paper or a silicone mat to prevent sticking. Cherry tomatoes’ natural sugars may bubble out (looks like a white foam) and stick to the tray without parchment paper.
- Slice, dice or puree the tomatoes. Make sure they are not more than ½” inch thick when slicing. Cut the cherry tomatoes in half; if they are extra large, cut them in quarters with your knife.
- Place the tomatoes on the trays, with space between each slice. If diced, separate as best as possible and avoid stacking for the best freeze-dried results. If pureed, place the trays into the freeze dryer before pouring the tomato puree onto the trays. This helps avoid spilling! Spread the puree evenly on the sheets to ensure even freeze-drying.
- Add the trays to the freeze-drier and set the recommended time for your appliance. The Harvest Right Freeze-dryer has a beeper that alerts you when the food is properly freeze-dried.
- If more time is needed, pop the tray back in and set it for another 1-2 hours. Be aware that the seeds in tomatoes take longer to freeze-dry thoroughly, and more time may be needed.
How to Tell If Freeze-Dried Tomatoes Are Done
The best way to tell if your tomatoes are fully freeze-dried is to break them into pieces and see if moisture is still present. The tomatoes should not be cold to the touch, and there should be no gumminess.
Sliced and diced tomatoes will be crunchy. Pureed tomatoes or tomato sauce will crumble easily into a powder when fully freeze-dried and rubbed between your fingers.
How to Rehydrate Freeze-Dried Tomatoes
The technical way to reconstitute your tomatoes is to weigh the tray before freeze-drying and then weigh it again after freeze-drying; the difference in weight is how much water would need to be added back to the entire tray to rehydrate them.
Divide this number by the servings on each tray to reconstitute one serving at a time.
If you didn’t weigh your trays, here are some ideas for reconstituting tomatoes:
- Soups & Stews – When making stew, soup or chilis, toss them in the pot and let the juices or stock rehydrate them quickly.
- Paste & Sauce – If you want to make a paste or sauce out of them, toss them in a blender or food processor with increments of water until it’s the consistency you want.
- Pizza – Topping pizza with sliced tomatoes? Soak them in a bowl of warm water until hydrated, blot dry, and top the pizza and bake.
Slowly add small amounts of liquid when making pastes or sauces. It really is simple and easy to rehydrate and use quickly for your favorite recipes.
How to Store Freeze-Dried Tomatoes
Protect all freeze-dried food from direct sunlight, moisture, and oxygen. When stored correctly, freeze-dried tomatoes have a shelf life of up to 25 years.
Use Mylar bags or vacuum-sealed Mason jars for food storage. Be sure to label and date the container. Since oxygen causes faster spoilage, we recommend resealing the jars with a vacuum-sealer after each time you open them.
Additionally, you can add an optional oxygen absorber to the jar to help soak up any residual oxygen before sealing. This is especially recommended if you are planning to store your food for longer than one year.
Did you try freeze-drying tomatoes? If so, please leave a star rating in the recipe card below, then snap a photo of how you’re using your freeze-dried tomatoes and tag us on social media @homesteadingfamily so we can see!
Harvest Right Freeze-Dryer
There is a difference between freeze-dried and dehydrated foods, and while each has its benefits, I continue to gravitate toward the freeze-dryer more and more.