A beginner's guide to freezing whole or stewed tomatoes and tomato sauce.

By Nadia Hassani
July 20, 2021
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Freezing Tomatoes: Tips to Remember

Freezing tomatoes is a convenient way to preserve fresh, ripe, and juicy tomatoes if you don't want to go through the effort of canning them, or you don't have enough tomatoes to make it worthwhile to fire up the stove for canning.

Frozen tomatoes become soft after thawing so you wouldn't be able to use them raw, such as in a BLT sandwich. For cooking though, they are perfectly fine. In fact, freezing tomatoes for sauce is ideal when it's tomato season yet you don't have time to make sauce until after the summer harvest rush. 

shoulder jar and straight sided jar
Credit: Nadia Hassani

Containers to Use

Tomatoes can be frozen whole, stewed, or as plain tomato sauce. You can use plastic food storage containers with tight-fitting lids or straight-sided mason jars. The jars must be straight-sided. Do not use jars with a shoulder, i.e., curved at the top. The water content in the tomatoes expands during freezing and the pressure would crack the jar. That's why it is also crucial not to fill the jars to the top and leave adequate headspace of one inch.

Freeze in Portions

It is best to freeze tomatoes in amounts that you need for your favorite recipes. Pint jars (2 cups, or equal to a 14.5-ounce can of tomatoes), or quart jars (4 cups, or equal to a 28-ounce can of tomatoes) are the most common sizes. 

For jar lids, mason jar plastic lids, also sold as storage lids, work best. 

frozen tomatoes in jar with whole tomatoes around it
Credit: Nadia Hassani

Types of Tomatoes to Freeze

You can freeze any type of tomatoes — slicing or beefsteak tomatoes, paste tomatoes, or cherry tomatoes — but make sure to use only tomatoes of excellent quality. The tomatoes don't need to be pretty, but they should be fully ripe. Using underripe or inferior tomatoes will yield disappointing results.

Frozen tomatoes will last in the freezer for about six months.

Don't Freeze Tomatoes on a Baking Sheet

Do not use the method of placing tomatoes whole or cut up on a baking sheet until frozen and storing them in freezer bags. This process exposes the tomatoes to a lot of air, which causes freezer burn and leaves an unpleasant taste.

How to Freeze Whole Tomatoes

scored tomato and knife
Credit: Nadia Hassani

1. Wash and cut tomatoes

Wash the tomatoes and remove the stems. Using a paring knife, cut an X in the bottom of each tomato, unless you are freezing cherry tomatoes which do not need to be scored.

2. Blanch the tomatoes

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Blanch a few tomatoes at a time in the boiling water, just long enough until the skin starts to curl up where you scored it, about 30 seconds depending on the size of the tomato.

two tomatoes in ice bath
Credit: Nadia Hassani

3. Dip the tomatoes in ice water

Remove the tomatoes with a slotted spoon and dip them in ice water, then place them in a colander placed over a bowl to catch any excess liquid.

4. Remove the tomato skins

When the tomatoes are cool enough to handle, remove the skins. Cherry tomatoes just require a gentle squeeze to push them out of their skins. Again, make sure to catch all the accumulating liquid.

tomatoes in a jar
Credit: Nadia Hassani

5. Pack the tomatoes in jars

Tightly pack the tomatoes whole, halved, or quartered depending on size into freezer containers or straight-sided jars, leaving 1 inch headspace.

tomatoes in can with measuring tape
Credit: Nadia Hassani

Especially when using jars, there will likely be air pockets between the tomatoes, which cause freezer burn. Inserting a dinner knife works well to remove those spaces.

tomatoes in can covered with liquid
Credit: Nadia Hassani

Also make sure that the tops of the tomatoes are fully covered with liquid, push them down if necessary. If you use ripe tomatoes, they should release plenty enough liquid to do the job. 

can of tomatoes with a lid
Credit: Nadia Hassani

6. Close the jars

Close the jars with plastic lids and freeze.

How to Freeze Stewed Tomatoes

stewed tomatoes in container
Credit: Nadia Hassani

Briefly cooking the tomatoes yields a more condensed product than freezing the tomatoes raw, and there is less risk of freezer burn because the diced tomatoes will be immersed in cooked juice so there is no exposure to oxygen.

1. Wash and cut tomatoes

Wash the tomatoes and remove the stems. Using a paring knife, cut an X in the bottom of each tomato, unless you are freezing cherry tomatoes which do not need to be scored.

2. Blanch the tomatoes

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Blanch a few tomatoes at a time in the boiling water, just long enough until the skin starts to curl up where you scored it, about 30 seconds depending on the size of the tomato.

3. Dice the tomatoes

Dice the tomatoes and place them in a pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and cook, uncovered, until the tomatoes are soft, about 10 minutes, or longer for larger amounts.

4. Fill freezer containers with tomatoes

Let the tomatoes cool, then fill into freezer containers or jars, leaving one inch headspace. Close with plastic lids and freeze.

tomato sauce in jar
Credit: Nadia Hassani

How to Freeze Tomato Sauce

If you are short on room in your freezer, the most space-saving method is to turn the fresh tomatoes into sauce before freezing them.

You'll also need:
Food mill with a disk for fine texture

tomatoes in a food mill
Credit: Nadia Hassani

1. Strain tomatoes through a food mill

Follow the recipe for freezing stewed tomatoes above and strain them through a food mill after cooling.

2. Fill freezer containers with sauce

Fill the sauce into freezer containers or jars, leaving one inch headspace. 

3. Seal the jars

Close with lids and freeze.

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This story originally appeared on allrecipes.com