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All Things Garden,  Preserve Your Harvest

How to Freeze Tomatoes (Defrost & Use)

Are you in need of a quick, easy solution to preserve fresh tomatoes? Well, freezing whole tomatoes is arguably the most simple way – ever!  Throughout the summer garden season, we put up more than our fair share of preserved tomatoes by making simple roasted tomato sauce and dehydrated ‘sun-dried’ tomatoes. However, when the time comes to yank dwindling tomato plants and replace them with cool season crops at the end of summer, we are usually far too busy and worn out to process any more tomatoes. That’s when freezing tomatoes has become a lifesaver – no tomatoes go to waste, and we can simply deal with them later!


Read along to learn how to freeze fresh whole tomatoes. No peeling, no blanching, no de-seeding required! The process is incredibly straightforward, though I have a few tips to share to make it go as smoothly as possible. When you’re too busy (or too hot!) to spend hours over the stove making sauce or canning tomatoes, just pop that bumper crop in the freezer instead! They’ll be there – ready and waiting for when you have the time or need for them. 


Even if you don’t have a huge garden, or even a garden at all, this is an excellent way to stock up on fresh seasonal produce – and reduce waste!


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A large wooden bowl is shown full of Roma type tomatoes, some of them are attached in clusters. They are a beautiful red color, each with a slight sheen from the light.
A late-season bumper crop of ‘Granadero’ Roma tomatoes. Most of these are destined for the freezer.


What can you use frozen tomatoes for?


I’ll be honest: once you freeze tomatoes, you probably will not want to use them on your future sandwiches or salads. After freezing and defrosting, the texture changes in a way that makes them less-than-ideal to eat raw. However, frozen tomatoes are excellent to use in soup, stew, sauce, chili, or for canning later. If you think about it, canning your summer tomatoes during the slower cold days of winter is a great way to stay connected with the garden during the off season!


SUPPLIES NEEDED


  • Fresh tomatoes –  Choose tomatoes that you won’t mind turning into sauce or otherwise processing later. We save the most prime and juicy tomatoes for fresh eating, and freeze our paste and Roma-type tomatoes. Ripe (but not overripe) tomatoes are the best for freezing.
  • A baking sheet or other flat rack that can fit in the freezer.
  • Freezer bags – such as reusable silicone food storage bags, freezer-duty ziplock bags, or vacuum seal bags.


DIRECTIONS


Prep Tomatoes

Wash the tomatoes and remove the stems. If you’re freezing a tomato variety that has a large firm center core (as some big beefy heirloom varieties do), use a small paring knife to cut the core out now. 

Allow the tomatoes to fully air dry, or pat them dry with a clean lint-free towel.


Pre-Freeze Tomatoes

Once dry, spread the tomatoes out in a single layer on a baking sheet (or two) that will fit in your freezer. The goal is for them to touch one another as little as possible, so don’t pack the tray totally full. (They will roll around when you move the tray into the freezer, so don’t fuss with it too much now. Re-situate them once the tray is in the freezer.)

Freezing tomatoes individually like this first prevents them from clumping and sticking together once they’re transferred to their final storage container or bag. Then, you can easily pull out just a few frozen tomatoes at a later time as needed. 

Now, freeze the tomatoes until they’re frozen solid. This may take several hours. I often leave them overnight.


Roma type tomatoes line a baking sheet, they are spaced so that they do not touch each other. The tomatoes are a beautiful red color, each with slight sheen from the sun and reflection of the sheet.
This variety of tomato has a very minimal and soft core, so we didn’t bother to remove it.


Bag & Final Freeze

Collect and transfer the frozen tomatoes into their long-term storage container. Any freezer-friendly and fairly air-tight container will do. We love to store our frozen tomatoes in large reusable silicone food storage bags, though freezer ziplock bags work as well. Or, use a vacuum sealer if you have one! The less air inside the container, the less likely they are to develop freezer burn.

Work as quickly as possible to move the tomatoes from the trays to bags – we don’t want them to defrost at all in the process! Finally, place them back in the freezer for long-term storage. Frozen tomatoes will stay good in the freezer for up to a year, but will be the best quality if used within 6 months. 


The inside of two silicone ziplock type bags are shown sitting on top of a baking sheet. Frozen Roma type tomatoes fill the inside.
Two silicone ziplock type bags shown full of frozen tomatoes. The bags are full of red Roma type tomatoes which are great for making sauce.


Defrosting & Using Frozen Tomatoes

When it comes time to use your frozen tomatoes, there are a ton of options! Essentially, you can use them in any recipe that calls for cooking tomatoes, or in place of canned tomatoes. You may not need to defrost them first. Just toss the frozen tomatoes in the soup or sauce you’re making – whole or even grated, depending on the recipe and called-for process. 

To defrost frozen tomatoes, either allow them to thaw overnight in the fridge, at room temperature for about an hour, or under warm water.

One of the best things about frozen tomatoes is how easy they are to peel! Once they’re defrosted, the skins should slip right off. If they don’t, make a small slit in the skin with a knife to help ease them off. We typically leave tomato skins on when we make roasted tomato sauce or blended soups – they have a ton of nutrients and flavor! Yet if you do peel your tomatoes, you can also save the skins to dehydrate and create tomato powder


Seven pint sized mason jars lined up with four on the bottom and three sitting on the top, placed off center to the ones below. The jars of full of simple tomato sauce.
Looking for another easy way to use tomatoes – fresh or frozen? Check out our super simple and delicious roasted tomato sauce recipe. It is freezer-friendly too!


See? I told you freezing tomatoes was crazy simple!


In all, freezing tomatoes is an easy way to preserve a lot of fresh tomatoes in a hurry. I hope you found these tips to be useful! Please let me know if you have any questions, and feel free to share this article. Enjoy your tomatoes, and thanks for tuning in!


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4.5 from 2 votes

How to Freeze Tomatoes (Defrost & Use)

Freezing whole fresh tomatoes is a quick and easy way to preserve them. When you’re too busy (or too hot!) to spend hours over the stove making sauce or canning tomatoes, just pop that bumper crop in the freezer instead! They’ll be there – ready and waiting for when you have the time or need for them.
Prep Time10 mins
Pre-Freezing Time4 hrs
Course: Preserved Food
Keyword: freeze whole tomatoes, freezing tomoatoes, frozen tomatoes

Equipment

  • baking sheet or other tray that fits inside your freezer
  • freezer bags, such as silicone food storage bags, ziplock bags, or vacuum sealer bags

Ingredients

  • fresh tomatoes (ripe but not overripe)

Instructions

  • Wash the tomatoes and remove the stems. If the tomatoes have a large center core (as some big beefy heirloom varieties do), use a small paring knife to cut the core out now.
  • Allow the tomatoes to fully air dry, or pat them dry with a clean lint-free towel.
  • Spread the dry tomatoes out on a baking sheet or other tray that fits inside your freezer. Arrange them so they are touching one another as little as possible.
  • Freeze the tray of tomatoes for several hours or overnight, until they're frozen solid. This prevents them from sticking together in storage later.
  • Quickly transfer the frozen tomatoes into their final storage container (e.g. freezer bags). Don't let them thaw. Remove as much air as possible from the bag.
  • Store the frozen tomatoes in the freezer for up to one year. Best quality if used within 6 months. Use in any recipe that calls for cooking tomatoes, or in place of canned tomatoes.
  • To defrost frozen tomatoes, either allow them to thaw overnight in the fridge, at room temperature for about an hour, or under warm water. (You may not need to defrost them at all – could be used frozen whole or grated, depending on the recipe and called-for process.)
  • Once defrosted, the skins should slip right off. If not, make a small slit in the skin with a knife to help ease them off. 


Deannacat signature, keep on growing

8 Comments

  • Arlene

    4 stars
    Great tips! I only freeze my garden produce cos I haven’t gotten into canning yet. I froze lots of tomatoes and still have some on the plants. We’re having a warm up this week so I’ll leave them on but will finally do my veggie clean up by the weekend. It’s sad yet I’m looking forward to indoor projects and a nice fire to sit by.

  • Toni

    I have been doing this for over 40 years. A tip is that to use in sauce thaw in a bowl and pour off water after thawing. This eliminates the need for cooking it down and intensifys the flavor in the finished sauce

  • Colleen Barbosa

    I’ve been freezing my tomatoes like this for years and it works great! They do get more watery after defrosting making them perfect for winter soups using my immersion blender.

    • DeannaCat

      Yes! We love our trust immersion blender! Makes soup-making and sauce a breeze, and again, no need to remove skins if you do it that way. A win-win! Thanks for tuning in!

  • rita

    Fantastic idea as am helping friends on their working farm but as it is strawberry season, we cannot find the time to pick all the tomatoes to make passatta. This idea is perfect for when we have time to do this.

    Thank you. You’re a tomato saver.

    Regards Rita

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