Sun-dried tomatoes have a special sweet, tart acidotic taste that can turn any meal into something that tastes gourmet! They also retain most of their vitamins and antioxidants, making them healthy as a snack, or added to a wide variety of dishes. And, fortunately, you don’t need harsh sunlight and temperatures to make a delicious sun-dried tomato. If you live in a warm, dry sunny place, sun-drying may be a fun activity that can take a few days to a couple of weeks. But by drying your tomatoes in the oven, or using a dehydrator, you can get the same delicious results in a fraction of the time.
When you use your home-grown indoor tomatoes to make sun-dried tomatoes, you of course know that they are free of pesticides, herbicides and GMO’s. But you can also choose to use a wider variety of tomatoes than you will find in your supermarket isles. While red Roma or plum tomatoes are typically used, you can use a variety of types and colors for your homemade sun-dried tomatoes. You can also choose to leave them dry, or pack them in oil with various herbs and spices for taste.
Below, we’ll first let you know how to dry your tomatoes in the sun, with an oven, or with a dehydrator. Then, we’ll tell you how you can store them dry, or oil-pack them like you find in most supermarkets.
Preparing your tomatoes:
Slice your tomatoes in half. Some prefer to carefully remove the seeds without disturbing the tomato pulp, but they are delicious and attractive either way. Sprinkle them lightly with salt and/or dried herbs if you’d like, but use the salt and herbs sparingly because while your tomatoes shrink, you will have the same amount of salt remaining.
Drying tomatoes in the Sun (3 days to 2 weeks):
If you’re interested in doing things the old-fashioned way, and you live in the right climate for it, sun-drying your tomatoes can be a fun project, although it is more difficult than drying them in an oven or dehydrator. Simply place them on a raised screen in direct sunlight to allow for air circulation. The hotter the temperature and the more direct the sun, the shorter it will take to turn your tomatoes sun-dried, which is typically anywhere from 3 days to two weeks.
Don’t forget to cover your tomatoes with cheesecloth when you’re drying them outdoors. This will keep flies and other critters from enjoying your tomatoes before you do. If you don’t live in a particularly dry climate, bring your tomatoes in at night to prevent evening or morning dew from undoing the drying process.
Drying tomatoes in the oven (2.5 – 4 hours):
If you don’t live in a warm, dry place with lots of sun, or if it just isn’t the right season for you, drying your tomatoes in the oven or a dehydrator will give you much more consistent results in a small fraction of the time.
Pre-heat your oven to 250° F, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place your tomatoes on the parchment paper at least ½ inch apart with the pulp side up. Slowly dehydrate your tomatoes for ~2.5 hours before checking on them. Don’t worry, you don’t have to flip or rotate your tomatoes to dry them. You will know your tomatoes are done when they are dry (not sticky, squishy or moist), but have not been overcooked to the point where they are crisp or brittle. Your tomatoes should still be a little flexible when done.
They will probably require another hour or so in the oven to fully dehydrate, but check on them intermittently after that to ensure they don’t burn.
Drying tomatoes in a food dehydrator (6-10 hours):
Set your dehydrator to 140° F. Place your tomatoes on the dehydrator tray, pulp-side up, with at least ½ inch of space between tomato halves. Leave 1-2 inches of space between racks for good air circulation and consider rotating the racks to dry everything evenly.
Check your tomatoes first at around the 6-hour mark. Your tomatoes will be dry (not sticky, squishy or moist) when done, but they should not be dried to a crisp or burnt. Your sun-dried tomatoes will have some pliability when they’re done. The process can take up to 10 hours, so check them as needed to make your perfect sun-dried (or dehydrator-dried) tomatoes.
As soon as your tomatoes are dried, you can begin using them as snacks, in cuisines, or you can also oil-pack them.
Oil-Packing Sun-Dried Tomatoes:
- Allow your tomatoes to cool if they have just come out of the oven or dehydrator, and ensure they have dried well.
- Choose an olive oil that will pare well with the tomatoes, and please your palate.
- Use glass jars rather than metal cans to avoid adding a metallic taste to your homemade, sun-dried tomatoes. Small glass jars will reduce air exposure and keep your sun-dried tomatoes fresh longer.
- Layer your sun-dried tomatoes in the glass jar, while sprinkling dried herbs and/or dried garlic intermittently, and to your liking. By layering the dried herbs and dried garlic in, you will spread the taste around. Consider using Italian seasoning, or any of the seasoning you can make at home with your home-grown herbs. Also, keep in mind that you should not use fresh herbs or garlic unless you plan to consume your sun-dried tomatoes in the next few days, else they will go bad quite quickly. More on that in the storage section, below.
- Pour olive oil over the tomato and herb mixture until your tomatoes are completely covered in oil and will not be exposed to air.
- For best results, allow your sun-dried tomatoes to rest in the oil and herb mixture at room temperature for 1-2 days to allow the flavors to mingle.
- After 1-2 days, it’s safest to store your sun-dried tomatoes in the refrigerator, where they should last for approximately 3-months (if you used only dried ingredients)
Storing your sun-dried tomatoes in the refrigerator will keep them the longest. Keep dried tomatoes in an airtight container or plastic bag with as little air as possible, and make sure that your oil-packed tomatoes are covered with enough oil to not allow an air to get to your tomatoes. Plan on them lasting ~3 months, but make sure to check for mold. They will perish earlier if moisture is left over from the drying process.
Remember to only use dried herbs seasoning, or else your oil-packed tomatoes will only last several days in the refrigerator because the non-dried seasoning will go bad.
Use your tomatoes as a snack, on charcuterie boards, in sauces, salads, soups, pasta dishes, sandwiches and more. That zingy flavor will keep you coming back for more!
If you have not oil-packed your tomatoes, you can rehydrate them for pasta dishes and more by soaking them in warm water for about 30 minutes. That will make them softer and better for certain meals. Oil-packed tomatoes will not have to be re-hydrated.
Enjoy your homemade sun-dried tomatoes, and Let’s Grow Together!
Check Out Our Sun-Dried Tomato Recipes!