How To Dehydrate Fresh Tomatoes For Long-Lasting Flavor Bombs

In the world of fresh fruits and vegetables, tomatoes certainly tend to have a longer lifespan than most. Ripe tomatoes can stay fresh for up to 10 days in the refrigerator whereas cherry tomatoes will stay good for as long as two weeks when stored in the same way. Beyond that, however, even the good ol' sweet, juicy, and acidic tomato will turn into a breeding ground for fuzzy mold over time, or if proper care is not taken.

This is why dehydrating tomatoes is a great idea. Dehydrating them gets rid of all the moisture, which means a fresh bounty of tomatoes picked up from a farmer's market in the summer — when tomatoes are at their peak — can last for at least half a year at room temperature. When stored in a freezer, you may even be able to use these flavor bombs for about a year!

To sweeten the deal even further, it's actually pretty easy to dehydrate tomatoes. Depending on the time and effort that you can spare, there are several ways to do so. A dehydrator is an obvious piece of equipment to use, but it's not the only way to go; tomatoes can be dehydrated under the sun, in an air fryer, or even in the oven.

Use an oven, air fryer, or dehydrator to do the trick

The most straightforward way to ensure evenly dehydrated tomatoes is to let a dehydrator do its magic. Depending on the size of the tomatoes, and how much water is contained within, the process can take anywhere between six to 10 hours using this method. To do so, simply chop up the tomatoes into even pieces and pop them in a dehydrator at 135 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. To ensure a more even result, gently press the tomatoes and rotate the tray in the dehydrator halfway through the process. Once the pieces turn a deep red, and all the sticky juice has dried up, they're good to go.

While a dehydrator certainly makes things simple, there are other ways to succeed without the machine. You can also pop chopped tomatoes in an oven and let them bake slowly. However, some ovens are unable to reach a temperature as low as a dehydrator, which is why this method requires some attention. If you do go this route, you'll want to set the temperature of the oven to 200 degrees Fahrenheit and let the tomatoes dehydrate for six hours while checking in regularly to ensure that they're not turning black and crisping up. 

There's also the option of an air fryer set to 175 degrees Fahrenheit over a four-hour period, except, since this gadget tends to be smaller, it may take several rounds to make more than a half-cup of dehydrated tomatoes.

Sun-dried tomatoes are another popular option

Another way to dehydrate tomatoes is to leave them under the sun, resulting in sun-dried tomatoes — it's a method that has long been popular in Italy and even the Aztecs used it as a way to preserve summer tomatoes throughout winter. Although this is a method that doesn't require any shiny gadgets, there are certain things to be mindful of. For one, it's an arduous process that leaves much to elements beyond your control; the climate needs to be steadily warm and dry without any traces of humidity. The tomatoes also need to be covered in cloth at all times and must be kept in a secure area at night to keep bugs away. Plus, it can take as long as two weeks to get the result.

There are, however, good benefits. Sun-dried tomatoes tend to have a very concentrated flavor of the fruit and are sweet and tart with a chewy texture. Their intense flavor is often preferred in pizzas, pastas, and salads and it's often a popular part of antipasti selections.

Regardless of which method you choose, dehydrating tomatoes will not only help preserve the vegetable, but it will also ensure that you have a flavor-packed ingredient in your pantry ready to upgrade any meal throughout the year — try dehydrated tomatoes swirled into soups and sauces, spooned over fish, meat, and eggs, or even just smeared over a slice of toast.