How to Dry Tomatoes with a Dehydrator | Plus Meal Ideas for Using Dried Tomatoes

by Becky
Published: Updated:

Drying tomatoes preserves many nutrients and intensifies the flavor of tomatoes. In addition to the nutritional and flavor benefits, you’ll find that drying tomatoes with a dehydrator is incredibly easy. You prepare the tomato how you like to eat it and the dehydrator does all the drying for you.

It can be helpful to have a little extra information on ways tomatoes can be dried and how to use them. I’ve put together a guide to assist you in tomato drying.

This guide includes the following sections:

  1. Preparing tomatoes- My Favorite Methods
  2. Tools Needed for Dehydration
  3. How to Remove Skins from Tomatoes
  4. How to Remove Seeds from Tomatoes
  5. Cut Tomato Size Guide for Dehydrating/ Drying
  6. Drying Temperatures and Times
  7. How To Know when Tomatoes are Dry
  8. How to Store Dehydrated Tomatoes
  9. How To Rehydrate Tomatoes
  10. Meal Ideas for Using Dried Tomatoes

#1 Preparing Tomatoes- My Favorite Methods

I personally believe there is no wrong way to dry tomatoes in terms of preparation. Preparation before drying includes how they are cut and whether or not skins and seeds are removed.

It’s important to think about how you are going to use the tomatoes you dry before you start the drying process. This can help you determine how you would like them cut, whether or not you will remove the skins and seeds. Below, I give examples of how I dehydrate tomatoes depending on the recipe and use.

My favorite way to dry tomatoes is to make them into a mock sun-dried tomato. To do this, I leave the skin on and cut in half the tomato. You can add a little bit of chopped Italian herbs to the top before drying for extra flavor. I call it a mock version because I use a dehydrator instead of the sun.

As you can see in the image below, I remove most of the seeds when I make sun dried tomatoes. This is personal preference.

This post contains affiliate links. Full disclosure can be found here.

I also like to make dried diced tomatoes. When I make these I remove the skins from the tomatoes. After the skins are removed, I chop them into large 1 inch chunks and dry them.

The last way I dry tomatoes is slicing them about a quarter inch thick. These get used most often on our pizzas but could also be used in a layering method for a lasagna.

I reserve my heirloom tomatoes for sliced dried tomatoes. Their shape and size is conducive to slicing. When using slicing tomatoes it is important to cut out the tough core prior to dehydration.

After many years of experimenting these are the methods I prefer. Depending on how you use your tomatoes you may want to do it differently.

#2 Tools needed for Drying:

Beyond general kitchen tools like a knife and cutting board, the main tool you need is a dehydrator.

The dehydrator I use can be found HERE.  It is an Excalibur.

It is pricey but I have been happy with the results.

If you are on a budget, I recommend going with LEM’s Might Bite 5-Tray Countertop Dehydrator. It still has the rear fan which is best for even drying but at way less cost than the Excalibur. They also have a 10-Tray Dehydrator found HERE.

In full disclosure, I have been partnering with LEM’s sister company Roots and Harvest and have been incredibly impressed with their products. They are committed to making useful and quality homestead tools that cost less. This post is not sponsored by either company but I want to pass along another great option to you! I wish I had heard of them earlier.

Dehydrators are also commonly for sale in local classifieds or at garage sales. I often see the smaller square or circle shaped ones with a fan on the top or the bottom for sale. I used to have one of these- a Nesco to be exact and ended up selling mine in our local classifieds. It dried foods so unevenly, I was left consistently frustrated.

If you are serious about dehydrating and don’t want frustration, a dehydrator with a fan in the rear of the unit that blows evenly across the trays is the way to go. 

When you get the right tool for the job it makes life SO much easier. Trust me.

#3 How to Remove SKINS from Tomatoes

The preferred method for removing skins from tomatoes for dehydration is dropping them in boiling water for 1 minute and then removing the tomatoes with a sieve or tongs and dropping it into a bowl of ice and water.

As the tomatoes are boiling, the skins will usually crack, a sign the skin can be easily slipped off. On occasion, the skin will not crack no matter how long you boil it.

If a minute or two has passed, remove the tomato and put it in the bowl of ice water. For these, cut off the top eighth inch from the tomato (or if you are using a slicing tomato, cut out the core) and then the skin comes off easily.

Another method I use often for canning, but don’t recommend using for drying tomatoes is broiling the tomatoes so the skins blacken and become loose.

I don’t recommend this for dried tomatoes because it partially cooks the tomatoes and they release a lot of juices on the tray. Consequently, the released juices and high temperature cooking results in lost nutrients prior to dehydration.

Roasting the tomatoes does add a little depth to the flavor so you would need to weigh your options on whether or not a different flavor profile is worth the nutrition loss to you personally. For me it isn’t worth it.

Broiling tomatoes is a method I use often for canning to remove skins. However, I don’t recommend this method for dried tomatoes.

#4 How to Remove SEEDS from Tomatoes

Seeds can be easily removed from the tomatoes by cutting the tomato in half or quarters and scooping out the seeds with a spoon. 

You can also cut and x on the bottom of smaller cherry type tomatoes and squeeze out the seeds in a discard bowl.

#5 Cut Tomato Size Guide for Dehydration/ Drying

  • Slices: ¼ inch thick 
  • Diced: ½ inch to 1 inch cubes
  • Halved: Cut tomatoes in half. This works best with a small size tomato.

You can definitely experiment with different cut sizes of tomatoes. However, you don’t want to go too small (less than a 1/4 inch thick) because it is hard to remove the tomato off the tray and they can shatter or tear into little bits. If you cut tomatoes too big and they will take forever to dry. The sizes I recommend above are ideal for drying.

#6 Tomato Drying Temperatures and Times

Temperature: Dry tomatoes at 125ºF. 

Time: 10 – 20 hours

How long you dry your tomatoes depends on many factors. One factor is the type of tomato. Paste, cherry, and slicing tomatoes all have different water content and thus will dry at different rates. 

Whether your tomatoes are in large chunks or small, will also be a factor. 

I usually set my timer for 10 hours and if they aren’t dry, I’ll check every hour thereafter. 

#7 How to Know When Tomatoes are Dry 

Tomatoes should feel dry to the touch, with no moistness, stickiness, or tackiness. Usually tomatoes will maintain some flexibility and be easily torn.

#8 How to Store Dehydrated Tomatoes

After the tomatoes are completely dry, place the dehydrated tomatoes in an airtight container. Options for airtight containers include: a mason jar with a tight fitting lid, mylar bag, or vacuum sealed bag. If you are storing long term (more than one year), add in an oxygen absorber to remove the oxygen from the container.

When the tomatoes are very dry and there is no moisture in the jar, it is safe to store them at room temperature.

However, there is one exception. If you immerse the dried tomatoes in oil, you MUST STORE THEM IN THE REFRIGERATOR. Any moisture in the tomatoes in combination with the oil can lead to a potential situation for botulism growth if stored at room temperature (Botulism is a deadly form of food poisoning that thrives in moist, oxygen free, room temperature conditions).

#9 How To Rehydrate Tomatoes

I’ve heard of people eating dried tomatoes plain as a snack! Try it out sometime. I wasn’t a big fan but my five year old loves them! Most of the time, I continue to rehydrate my dried tomatoes and use them in a meal.

There are a few different ways to rehydrate a tomato.

#1 Pour boiling water over the top and let it sit for 30 minutes. This is a quick method of rehydration that I use often.

#2 Pour warm water over the top, let sit at room temperature for 20 minutes and then place in the refrigerator for 12 hours. The advantage of this method would be less heat and more nutrition. But if you’re throwing the tomato in a soup anyway it may be not worth your time. The long time in the liquid makes for a properly rehydrated tomato in the end.

#3 Place directly in cooking liquid. I do this when I’m in a hurry or if a soup has to cook a long time anyway. It works as long as there is a lot of cooking liquid. If you were to use the tomato in eggs or on top of pizza for example, the tomato wouldn’t rehydrate very well because there is very little time or liquid involved to rehydrate it during cooking.

What is the ratio of water to tomatoes? In methods #1 and #2, I usually add two or three times the water to the amount dried tomatoes. For example, if I’m rehydrating 1 cup of dried tomatoes I’ll add 2 or 3 cups of water. If the dried tomatoes aren’t completely submerged, add more water.

Optional: You can also add salt to taste during rehydration for a little extra flavor.

#10 Recipe Ideas for Using Dried Tomatoes

Now the part that most people get stuck on is how you will use them when the time comes. I gave some examples above of how we use them but a good way to determine how to use your own is to think of your favorite family recipes.

What meals do you make using tomatoes? A recipe calling for fresh tomatoes as a topping won’t have the same appeal when using a dehydrated tomato. However, meals with liquid and cooking involved are perfect candidates for dried tomatoes!

Vegetable soup

You can adapt almost any recipe that uses cooked tomatoes to one that will work with dried tomatoes.

Here are some examples:

Stews, enchiladas, lasagna, spaghetti sauce, bruschetta, pot roast, minestrone soup, vegetable soup, pasta fagioli soup, pizza sauce and as a pizza topping. You can use them in eggs, casseroles, chili, stuffed shells, any dish that uses sun-dried tomatoes and other pasta dishes.

To use them in the recipes, most times you will need to rehydrate the tomato using the directions above. For recipes using sun-dried tomatoes, no rehydration is usually necessary unless otherwise stated by the recipe. Hopefully that gives you a good starting point.

Tomatoes dried in a dehydrator are nutritious, easy to preserve, and delicious in meals. They are a great way to preserve tomatoes in very little time!

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