Sun-dried tomatoes are one of my favorite foods. I love their concentrated, sweet tomato-ness in just about everything, and will even eat them straight when soaked in olive oil.
But at the store, they are a pricey delicacy that either come in tiny, quickly-used jars or in bags that always look over-dry and often a little moldy. So this year, I decided I would grow my own tomatoes for sun drying, and now they are coming in to harvest.
How to Make Sun Dried Tomatoes
You can use any kind of tomato for sun drying, but it’s better if you choose a low-water, meaty variety of tomato like a Roma or plum tomato.
This year, I grew the San Marzano heirloom tomato in my garden as my drying tomato. San Marzano is the famous Italian tomato paste variety, and a perfect, flavorful tomato for fresh salads, saucing, canning or drying.
- To dry your tomatoes, first cut the smaller fruits in half. Larger tomatoes will need to be cut into ½ inch slices.
- Drain your tomatoes slightly on paper towels and scoop out any excess seeds if you wish (if you used an heirloom tomato, you can save some seeds for planting next year!)
- Place the tomatoes on a screen or tray that allows air circulation all around the tomatoes. I use a framed window screen raised up on a few bricks to do this, but if you plan to make a lot of sun-dried tomatoes, you can easily build a simple solar dehydrator for best results.
- Lightly sprinkle the tomatoes with sea salt, and place in the sunniest, hottest spot around your yard until dry. Depending on your weather conditions, this could take anywhere from four days to two weeks.
- Cover the tomatoes with cheesecloth or another screen to keep out any flies or other critters, and provide proper ventilation. Use more bricks or a wood frame to raise the cheesecloth up so it does not directly touch the tomatoes.
- Unless your solar dehydrating system is critter- and weather-proof, you will need to bring your tomatoes inside during the night, lest the morning dew or a random nocturnal animal undo your drying process.
- Plan on about 10 fresh tomatoes to get one ounce of dried tomatoes.
- Alternatively, you can place the tomatoes on the racks of your dehydrator, leaving enough space between the pieces for the air to circulate.
- Dehydrate tomatoes at 105-115°F (to preserve enzymes and nutrients). This may take from 16 to 36 hours, depending on the thickness of your slices.
- When the tomatoes are dried they should be leathery but pliable, and non-sticky. Do not over-dry.
To store your tomatoes, let them cool completely, then put them in glass jars with an airtight lid in the fridge. They will keep this way for up to 6 months. If you need longer storage, put them in the freezer.
To store your tomatoes in oil, rehydrate your dried tomatoes just until a little plump by soaking them in either wine or vinegar for several minutes to an hour. Then drain them and pack them into a jar with salt, peppercorns, thyme, basil or oregano, and some garlic cloves. Fill the jar with enough olive oil to fully cover the tomatoes. Allow the jar to sit at room temperature for 4 to 8 hours, then place it in the refrigerator.
Sun Dried Tomato Recipes
Updated June 16, 2021.