Running out of time or energy to process the season's tomatoes? Here are the easiest ways to freeze tomatoes to use for both regular and canning recipes throughout the winter. It's so simple, you are going to love this!
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There have been many times in my gardening life where it's a case of too many tomatoes. It usually happens towards the end of the season, and if you grow tomatoes I'm sure you can relate!
It's kind of a complete turn around from the mid-season in the garden where we are just waiting for the first tomatoes to ripen, right?
We typically plant 12 to 18 tomatoes, so by the height of the season we have buckets of tomatoes to process into addictive tomato chutney, thick and flavorful salsa, knock-off Rotel, freezer garden roasted tomato sauce, dried tomatoes, and more.
But every year there comes a time when I just can't anymore - and that's when I use one of my favorite tricks in my preserving arsenal:
They are frozen at the height of their nutrition content as well as flavor and are then waiting to be used in more preserving recipes or cooking recipes like chili, soups, and sauces whenever you are.
Plus, it's just so EASY.
I'm sharing the three easiest ways to freeze tomatoes, as well as some tips for using the frozen tomatoes and why you may want to have some of each method.
Easiest Ways to Freeze Tomatoes
Any way you want to freeze tomatoes, you'll need to start by giving them a good wash.
Especially since we will mostly be freezing with the skins on, you want to make sure there is no dirt on them.
Set the tomatoes on a drying mat to dry. If you're working quickly, take a tea towel help them along.
It's best if there's no extra moisture when freezing, so dry them as best you can.
Choose one - or more - of the following ways to freeze tomatoes for up to a year:
1. Frozen Whole
Simply remove any remaining stems on your washed tomatoes and freeze them just like that!
You can lay them out on a cookie sheet to freeze and then transfer them to labeled freezer baggies OR you can make it even simpler and do what I do:
Place the washed, whole tomatoes right into a gallon freezer baggie in a single layer and freeze flat.
Why would you freeze tomatoes whole?
Besides being easy to do when you're swimming in seasonal produce and simply run out of time to process everything, using whole, frozen tomatoes is super convenient - and a lot fresher tasting.
You can use frozen, whole tomatoes any time a recipe calls for canned tomatoes - here's how:
- Remove the number of tomatoes you need directly from the freezer bag.
- Run the tomatoes under hot water for a minute, turning so the water runs over all the surface. OR, if you're doing more than the 5-6 tomatoes needed to equal a 14.5 ounce can, you can set them into a bowl of warm water.
- Slice the core out and then simply peel off the skins!
- Use whole or cut as you need for your recipe: halved, quartered, or diced.
TIP: While you can thaw the tomatoes in the baggie, they will be much harder to deal with since they become a bit mushy when thawed completely.
2. Frozen Whole & Cored
When I want to make pizza sauce or another canned recipe that is best with skinned tomatoes, I like to freeze them first.
There are two reasons to do this:
- When thawing, the tomatoes release a lot of clear juices that you can pour off, which cuts your cooking to thicken time in half.
- The skins are super easy to remove or put through a mill without blanching.
I go into this in more detail in this tutorial for making our favorite pizza sauce (having jars of this in the cupboard, along with this recipe for quick pizza dough makes pizza night super easy - not to mention a LOT cheaper!).
Here's how to freeze whole tomatoes cored ready for canning:
- Weigh the tomatoes BEFORE CORING and write the weight on a freezer baggie or container. This is very important for keeping to your safe recipe guidelines, as weighing the tomatoes after coring and freezing won't be as accurate.
- Use a small paring knife to core the tomatoes, leaving them whole. If the blossom end on the bottom is large like some heirlooms, go ahead and slice that off, too, as well as any cracks or blemishes that are deep.
- Place the cored tomatoes into the labeled baggie and freeze.
That's it! You're now ready to make your preserving recipe when YOU want to knowing you've frozen the tomatoes at the height of flavor and ripeness.
These are the two main ways I freeze tomatoes, but there is a third way if you have a bit more time in the beginning, but will save time during meal prep.
3. Frozen Diced
When you freeze tomatoes diced, you can have can-sized amounts ready for meals with zero prep.
There are two ways to freeze tomatoes diced:
Blanched & Diced When Fresh. Using a colander, lower tomatoes into a large pot of boiling water for 1 minute and then immediately transfer to a bowl of ice water (you can see more details on this in The Easy Way to Peel Tomatoes).
Peel, dice, and place into freezer baggies or mason jars.
Unblanched & Frozen. Freeze whole, cored tomatoes as shown above and freeze until firm (or wait until you have time). Place frozen tomatoes into a pan of warm water.
Peel, dice and place into freezer baggies or mason jars.
You can probably guess I'm partial to the second method since I try to avoid blanching in a hot summer or fall kitchen if at all possible. Either way is good, though.
How many tomatoes equal store bought cans?
- 5 to 6 peeled tomatoes (about 1 pound) = 14.5 ounce can
- 10 to 12 peeled tomatoes (about 2 pounds) = 28 ounce can
This is a general amount, obviously, since tomatoes come in all different sizes. Smaller paste tomatoes would probably need a few more added to the total while larger tomatoes less.
It's a good guide, though, and most recipes you will use these in - chili, soups, sauces - don't require exact measurements of tomatoes.
So, that's it - three of the easiest ways to freeze tomatoes when they are at their best! Do you use one of these methods? Which is your favorite?
UPDATE NOTE: People have asked about FREEZING TOMATILLOS and YES, you can also freeze tomatillos just like tomatoes - whole or cut!
Remove the husks, wash, dry and lay out on lined cookie sheets to freeze until firm before adding to freezer baggies/containers. If you want to use in a canning recipe, do like tomatoes and weigh them first, writing it on the bag before freezing.