Sun-dried tomatoes are so tasty, adding amazing flavor to any dish, but they're so pricey! Thankfully, you can easily make them yourself! You'll learn all about it in this post on Sun-dried Tomatoes 101: learn how to make sun-dried tomatoes, how to store them, and how to use them.
It’s that time of year when you’ve got a bumper crop of tomatoes from the garden and you’re wracking your brain about what to do with all that tomato deliciousness.
What are Sun-Dried Tomatoes?
If you haven’t had sun-dried tomatoes before, you are missing out, big time! They’re simply ripe tomatoes that have been dehydrated to remove most (80-90%) of their water content.
Sun-dried tomatoes have a strong sweet-tangy flavor that’s much more intense than regular, fresh tomatoes. They taste incredible in so many different dishes when you want that tomato flavor to really shine or just want to add some oomph or umami to any dish.
Are Sun-Dried Tomatoes Better For You Than Regular Tomatoes?
Fresh tomatoes lose some of their nutritional value quickly after being picked off the vine due to their high moisture content.
Sun-dried tomatoes, however, are dehydrated in a way that preserves their nutritional value while also retaining their flavor. They’re not only a powerhouse of flavor, but also of nutrition.
High in Vitamin C, Vitamin A, Vitamin K, lycopene, thiamin, niacin, iron, riboflavin, potassium, magnesium, and dietary fiber, while also low in sodium, calories, and fat, they are nutritionally comparable to fresh-picked tomatoes--just more concentrated.
Why Make Sun-Dried Tomatoes at Home
Small jars of sun-dried tomatoes are notoriously expensive--and often loaded with salt.
They may seem fancy or intimidating, but sun-dried tomatoes are actually super easy to make. And the best part about making them at home is how amazing they taste!
Benefits of making sun-dried tomatoes at home:
- A great way to preserve tomatoes from your garden, local farmer’s market, or CSA
- Much more economical than purchasing
- You can control the amount of salt used
- So easy to make - almost foolproof
- They taste incredible (even better than store-bought)
- Season them as you like
- They make terrific homemade gifts
Ingredients for Making Sun-Dried Tomatoes
You don't need much to make your own sun-dried tomatoes at home.
Any kind of tomato will work--from cherry to jumbo! Cherry, grape, and pear, however, will dry faster due to the lower water content.
Note: for Roma tomatoes, some say you need to hollow them out before dehydrating them, but I've never done this. Instead, you can press down on them (or any tomato really) during drying or make sure to cut Romas (or any tomato) into 1/4 inch slices and they'll work great. Who wants to waste good tomato insides?
Tip: cutting your tomatoes as uniformly as possible is the most important thing to do.
Salt is a “must-have” because the salt brings out the flavors of the tomatoes. However, go light because the tomatoes are so flavorful that they don't need much. Plus, the tomatoes dry up to less than 1/2 their size, making the salt more concentrated.
Oil is optional, I highly recommend it for added taste and texture.
Also optional, but adding dried or fresh seasonings like herbs or garlic to your sun-dried tomatoes makes them extra special.
How to Make Sun-Dried Tomatoes at Home
There are actually three ways that you can make homemade sun-dried tomatoes.
Drying in the sun is the traditional way to make sun-dried tomatoes (hence the name.) However, this is the most unreliable due to weather, bugs, and other critters. No one wants to be eating sun-dried bugs!
Using a dehydrator works really well, but not everyone has one (though I highly recommend them-they're great for so many things including preserving herbs, soaking and drying nuts and seeds, making fruit leathers, kale chips, these amazing green bean chips, coconut shreds, and more)
Making sun-dried tomatoes in the oven is obviously the most common option. I prefer the lower temps of a dehydrator (technically you can have dehydrated "raw" tomatoes) but I'll focus on the oven option, with info on how to dehydrate and dry in the sun as well.
How to Make Sun-Dried Tomatoes in the Oven
1. Wash tomatoes.
2. Slice your tomatoes as uniformly as possible and lay them out on a cookie sheet, baking pan, or baking stone in a single layer.
3. Drizzle a small amount of olive oil over them (optional) and sprinkle lightly with salt.
4. Season with spices if desired.
4. Preheat oven to a low temperature. 160 up to about 255 Fahrenheit will work, but I recommend setting it at the lowest possible temperature to prevent burning.
5. Put the baking sheets into the oven and bake, watching them carefully so they don’t burn. They'll be in there for a while--possibly even all day.
If desired, you can flip the tomatoes in the middle of the drying time (around the 2-3 hour mark) to make things move a little faster.
6. The tomatoes are done when they are dry but still pliable (not moist or sticky).
Note: You can also dry the tomatoes more until they're a lot less pliable or even not pliable at all. I love them both ways! The more dry they are, the longer their shelf life.
Making Sun-Dried Tomatoes in the Dehydrator
1. Wash tomatoes.
3. Drizzle a small amount of olive oil over them (optional) and sprinkle lightly with salt
4. Season with spices if desired.
5. Place trays into the dehydrator and dry at 125 degrees for up to 5 hours, or as long as needed. Watch them carefully.
6. They're done when they are dry but pliable (not moist or sticky)
Note: You can dry the tomatoes at higher or lower temperatures, but I use 125 consistently since this is low enough for the dehydrated foods to still likely be "raw" but they will dehydrate faster than at lower temps.
Making Sun-Dried Tomatoes in the Sun
If you really want to have the true, time-honored experience of sun-drying tomatoes, here's how to do it. Might handy if your power goes out and you have a boatload of tomatoes or for a fun experiment, but it's a little tricky.
Lay your tomatoes (with or without seasonings and oil) out on a screen with air circulating beneath outside in the sun. There are lots of screen drying options--both for purchase and DIY.
A few notes about drying tomatoes in the sun:
- You need consistently warm, dry conditions (humid conditions make the process take much longer).
- To avoid creating a critter picnic with your precious tomatoes, lay a piece of cheesecloth over your tomatoes while they are drying.
- Be sure to bring your tomatoes inside at night.
- This method takes the longest--anywhere from a couple of days to weeks.
- Blowing a fan on the tomatoes will help them dry faster and keep bugs away.
- Sun-drying in a greenhouse is a great way to do this.
How to Season Your Sun-Dried Tomatoes
Even though homemade sun-dried tomatoes taste amazing plain, adding different herbs and seasonings make them even better. You can season before, during, or after drying.
IMPORTANT Tip: Only use dried herbs and seasonings on your sun-dried tomatoes. Fresh herbs will cause the mixture to spoil quickly.
Here are some seasoning options:
- Herbs - rosemary, basil, paprika, Italian seasoning, onion powder
- Spicy - crushed red pepper flakes
- Garlicky - garlic powder or dried minced garlic
- Unique Options - This Vegetable Broth Powder would work great. Skip the salt if you try this.
How to Store Sun-Dried Tomatoes
Place dried tomatoes on a tray in the freezer until frozen. Then put them in a freezer-safe bag with the air removed until you want to use them. ( I personally like using this type of bag or a bag similar to this smaller version with these clips for sealing.) They'll last up to a year, but will taste the best within 3 months.
If you want to freeze your tomatoes in oil, put them (whole or pieces) in ice cube trays with enough oil to cover. Pop frozen cubes into bags and store in the freezer.
Refrigerate sun-dried tomatoes in a jar with enough oil to cover. They'll last for up to a week or two.
If you want jarred tomatoes, but won't be using them quickly, store the tomatoes in the freezer and move them in small batches to a jar with oil and desired seasonings.
The more you dry your tomatoes, the longer they'll keep. We've made them, and eaten them years later!
3. On the Shelf
If you dry your sun-dried tomatoes really thoroughly, you can store them in a bag or other container for quite awhile, but I still recommend the fridge or freezer.
How to Rehydrate Dried Tomatoes
To rehydrate, simply soak them in warm water, broth, or wine until soft. Remove from water, pat dry, and use according to recipe directions.
Note: If you store your dried tomatoes in oil, they'll plump up and not really need to be rehydrated.
How to Use Your Homemade Sun-Dried Tomatoes
There are so many different and tasty ways to use sun-dried tomatoes. Try them in:
- Quiches, Omelettes, or Frittatas (like this Sun-dried Tomato and Sweet Potato Frittata or this Dairy-free Quiche)
- Pizzas (on top or in the crust)
- Pastas (Chicken and Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta)
- Biscuits (like these Easy Drop Biscuits)
- Main dishes
- Dressings (simply add to dressings like this Moroccan Vinaigrette)
- Savory muffins (like these Oat Bran Muffins)
- Breads (like this Focaccia Flax Bread)
- Salads (like this Broccoli Jicama Salad)
- Soups (like this Creamy Vegetable Root Soup)
- And more!
More Homemade "Sun-dried" Tomato Process Photos
Here are some more photos showing you how it's done.
Homemade Sun-dried Tomatoes
- 3 pounds tomatoes (use as many tomatoes as you would like to process)
- salt (optional; to taste)
- olive oil (optional; to taste)
- dried or fresh herbs (optional; to taste)
- Prepare tomatoes by washing.
- Slice tomatoes as uniformly as possible to a maximum of 1/4" thickness. and lay them out on a cookie sheet in a single layer.
- Heat your oven to a low temperature. You can potentially set it from 160 up to about 255 Fahrenheit, but I recommend going with the lowest possible temperature to prevent burning.
- Drizzle a small amount of olive oil over them (optional) and sprinkle lightly with salt.
- Season with spices if desired.
- Place baking sheets into the oven and bake, watching them carefully so they don’t burn. They'll be in there for a while--possibly all day.
- If desired, flip tomatoes in the middle of the drying time (around the 3 hour mark) to make them dry a bit faster.
- The tomatoes are done when they are dry but still pliable (not moist or sticky).
I love drying tomatoes this way for so many reasons, but mostly because they are so easy to make and taste incredible. What are your favorite ways to use sun-dried tomatoes?
Update Information: This post was originally published in Sept. 2011 and was rewritten and published with new images in Oct. 2020. For reference, following is the previously used image.