August is prime time for tomatoes and this year tomato mania is even more intense thanks to one of the summer’s hottest food trends, ‘Tomato Girl Summer‘. ‘Tis the season for big juicy heirlooms, vine-ripened cherries, stripy green zebras and all the BLT-bound beefsteaks. Tomatoes love warm weather (don’t we all?) and July and August are prime time tomato time when your local farmers’ markets and grocery store produce aisles are overflowing with these red (and yellow and orange and green and purple) beauties.
It’s also around the time you’re probably overbuying tomatoes because a) there are only so many weeks of summer left and b) who can resist stocking up on beautiful summer tomatoes when you see them, even if you already have plenty at home?
Maybe it’s the “gotta catch ’em all” mentality, or the endless recipes to make with them—Ina Garten’s summer pasta recipe and Reba McEntire’s BLT with bacon aioli are at the top of our list—but life is just better with tomatoes. This is why it’s hard to let even one go to waste. Luckily, you don’t have to.
To ensure you have peak-season tomatoes on hand whenever you want, keep reading for the best ways to freeze them, according to chefs and culinary experts.
Related: 28 Best Fresh Tomato Recipes
Can You Freeze Tomatoes?
You sure can! According to executive chef Nadav Greenberg of Michelin-nominated Shmoné restaurant in Greenwich Village, NY freezing tomatoes is not only possible but it can also be quite convenient. “At Shmone, our philosophy revolves around using fresh ingredients, so we refrain from freezing anything; however, in my own experience growing up at my grandma’s house, freezing tomatoes was a common practice,” he says.
Danny Freeman of @DannyLovesPasta agrees that freezing is a great way to preserve tomatoes at the end of the summer season, and notes that any type of tomato—including cherry tomatoes—can be frozen.
How to Freeze Tomatoes
Greenberg says the best method for freezing tomatoes is to blanch them first and then remove the skin. “Frozen tomatoes can be stored throughout the winter months so you can enjoy them when you don’t have fresh ones, just like my grandma did.”
Freeman’s advice for freezing tomatoes depends on when you’re going to use them.
“If you plan on using the tomatoes within about two months, there’s really not much prep needed—just wash them whole, leave the skins on, place them in a freezer bag or airtight container and throw them in the freezer—it’s that easy.” In order to save space, he also suggests slicing or quartering the tomatoes and removing the seeds. “If you go this route, place the pieces on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and freeze them for about 5 hours. Once they’re frozen, you can transfer them to an airtight container,” he adds.
If you’re going to leave the tomatoes in the freezer for longer than a couple of months, you should blanch them first to help preserve the flavor. “Wash the tomatoes and then use a paring knife to cut an X into the skin (you can skip this step for cherry tomatoes),” says Freeman. “Then, bring a large pot of water to a boil and pop a few in.” Depending on how large your tomatoes are, he says you may only be able to fit 3 or 4. “Leave the tomatoes in the boiling water for about 30 seconds, or until the skin starts to curl, and then immediately place them in a large bowl filled with ice water.” Once they’re cool enough to touch, remove the skins (they should slide right off). You can leave them whole, or quartered or chop them before transferring them to a large freezer bag or airtight container. They should last about 9 to 10 months this way.
For cherry tomatoes, Molyvos‘ owner and culinary director Enrico Livanos says you can freeze them whole. “For larger ones, I would chop or puree them.”
The Best Tips for Freezing Tomatoes
- Leave room. No matter which method you choose for freezing your tomatoes, Freeman says it’s important to remember that the liquid in the tomatoes will expand, so you need to leave a bit of space in your container.
- Consider vacuum-sealing. Greenberg likes to vacuum-seal frozen tomatoes. “This process removes excess air and helps prevent freezer burn, which can negatively impact the taste and texture of frozen tomatoes,” he explains.
- Divvy them up. If you don’t own a vacuum sealer, Freeman says you don’t have to buy one just for tomatoes. Instead, he suggests freezing your tomatoes in smaller bags, putting about one serving in each container. “That way when you’re cooking you can just take out one bag and leave the rest.”
- Thaw them right. When you’re ready to use your frozen tomatoes, don’t just toss them on the counter to thaw. Livanossays to defrost them in the fridge for better texture, then use them in cooked dishes, like tomato sauce, soup or chili after thawing.
Related: How to Store Tomatoes
Canning Vs. Freezing Tomatoes
Most chefs agree that canning tomatoes is the way to go when you can. Chef Glenn Rolnick, the director of culinary operations at Alicart Restaurant Group (who oversees Carmine’s & Virgil’s Real BBQ) says the quality goes down when you freeze fresh tomatoes because freezing can make tomatoes heavy and soggy. Instead, he prefers canning.
On the flip side, Livanos points out that freezing tomatoes is often easier in the summer because canning requires more prep and equipment. “That being said, a jarring or canning day can be really fun with family and friends,” he adds.
Related: 35 Best Cherry Tomato Recipes
How Long Can You Freeze Tomatoes?
“If you’re freezing tomatoes without blanching or simmering them first, you should use them within a couple of months,” shares Freeman. “They will last longer than that, but they’ll start to lose their flavor. If you blanch them or simmer them first they should last up to about 10 months.”