What to Do With Lots of Tomatoes When You Don’t Want to Can

When the growing season winds down, you might wonder what to do with lots of tomatoes when you don’t want to can them. You’ll love these simple ideas!

If you have a garden, know someone who has one, or shop at farm markets and stands, you know what it’s like to bring in baskets full of tomatoes all at once.

It’s a great feeling. But it can be a little overwhelming, too. After all, you have to do something with all of that fresh garden goodness or it’s destined for the compost pile!

Tomatoes are packed full of nutrition, so it makes sense to find ways to use them while they’re abundant. These ideas will help you know what to do with lots of tomatoes, even when you don’t want to can them.

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Why Canning is Great, But Not Always

Canning is a great option for getting your tomatoes stored for the year. Once your jars are sealed, your tomatoes won’t require any refrigeration and will last you until next season.

But it may not always be the best fit for you. You might

  • Be out of canning lids (and if you are, I highly recommend the USA-made Superb brand canning lids from Lehman’s. Use the code TAKE20 to get $20 off your purchase of $150 at Lehman’s!).
  • Be burnt out on canning for the year once you bring in a lot of tomatoes at the end of the season.
  • Have lots of little ones underfoot and not have the energy to take on a big kitchen project.
  • Have another good reason for not wanting to can lots of tomatoes. Like just not wanting to.

I stopped canning years ago because it made our house incredibly hot (my kitchen is essentially upstairs) and I had so many young children. So when I have lots of tomatoes and don’t want to can them, I stick with these other options.

How to Freeze Tomatoes

If you plan to use your tomatoes in sauces, soups, and stews, freezing is an extremely easy way to preserve them. Depending on how much time you have to prepare them, you can freeze them in a few different ways.

Freezing Whole Tomatoes: It Couldn’t Be Easier

The easiest way to freeze tomatoes is to simply wash, dry, and core them, then place them whole in a freezer bag. No peeling, slicing, or chopping required.

When you need fresh tomatoes for a sauce, soup, casserole, or other cooked dish, simply take the bag out of the freezer and let it thaw. The meat of the tomato will plop right out of the skin!

You use these frozen-then-thawed tomatoes just like you would canned tomatoes in cooked dishes. You can also boil down the tomato flesh and juice to make thicker sauces, like pizza sauce.

The Slice, Freeze, and Bag Method

The University of Minnesota Extension suggests a unique way to freeze sliced tomatoes.

  1. Wash, dry, and core your tomatoes.
  2. Slice in 1/2-inch slices.
  3. Lay your slices on a cookie sheet or other flat tray in a single layer and stick the tray in the freezer.
  4. Once your tomato slices are completely frozen, take them off the tray and place them in a freezer bag.

You can then pull out individual slices to add to pizza, casseroles, or even a grilled cheese sandwich (on homemade sourdough bread, of course!).

These frozen tomato slices will be very fragile when they thaw. For best results, add them to your food while they’re still mostly frozen.

Cook, Freeze, and Feast Later

You can also turn your tomatoes into tasty sauces and salsas now, then freeze them to eat later.

This is a great option if you want to really preserve that garden-fresh flavor. Fresh cilantro just doesn’t taste the same after it’s been canned!

Also, some salsa recipes and sauces can’t be safely canned without a pressure canner. If you don’t have a pressure canner or aren’t comfortable using one, freezing these items allows you to quickly and easily keep them fresh.

You can freeze your salsa and sauces in freezer bags, but I prefer using glass jars. If you want to skip the plastic, too, make sure you know how to safely freeze glass jars!

Keep in mind that if you don’t cook off some of the tomato juice when you make your sauce or salsa, that extra water will separate out during the freezing and thawing process. It’s no big deal, though. You can either stir it back in or strain it off through a fine metal mesh sieve and add the liquid to soup or broth.

dehydrated tomatoes, homemade sun-dried tomatoes

Homemade Sundried Tomatoes in the Dehydrator

When I’m wondering what to do with lots of tomatoes, my mind immediately turns to my dehydrator. It transforms fresh tomatoes into chewy, flavorful homemade “sundried” tomatoes almost overnight!

Dehydrating tomatoes couldn’t be easier. Here’s how I do mine.

  1. Wash and dry your tomatoes, then remove the stem end and core, if there is one.
  2. Slice your tomatoes so they’re around 1/2-inch thick. If the tomatoes are much thicker than that, they take a lot longer to dry. If they’re a lot thinner, they tend to break apart.
  3. Lay the tomato slices in a single layer on the silicon sheets that came with your dehydrator, or on parchment paper. If you need a new dehydrator, I highly recommend the quality selection you’ll find from Pleasant Hill Grain.
  4. Set your dehydrator to around 125*F and dry for 8-12 hours.

I store my dehydrated “sundried” tomatoes in plastic bags, but you can also store them in glass jars on your shelf. Some people like to pack them in jars with olive oil to add more flavor, and you can even add other dehydrated herbs if you do!

I’m a fan of adding extra herbs to everything. It’s an herbalist thing.

If you don’t have a dehydrator, you can also make “sundried” tomatoes in your oven. This method works best for cherry or grape tomatoes.

I use dried tomatoes in soups, roasts, sandwiches, stews, and on pizza. They’re very tasty in eggs, too!

Recipes for Lots of Tomatoes

Having tomatoes stored up for the rest of the year is great, but it’s also really nice to use them up in meals to soak in that fresh flavor. Grocery store tomatoes don’t even compare!

bunches of tomatoes

Here are some fantastic recipes that use up lots of tomatoes:

  • Roast a giant batch of tomatoes and turn them into soup. Simply wash, chop, and place in a shallow dish, then roast in the oven at 400 until lightly browned. Blend them with some broth, salt, and herbs until you have a tasty soup. Some heavy cream or Parmesan cheese on top makes it extra special! You can even roast onions, peppers, and garlic with your tomatoes for the soup.
  • You can also use the roasting method to create a yummy Roasted Salsa recipe! Roasting salsa vegetables gives the dip a rich, smoky flavor.
  • Don’t want to heat up the kitchen? Gazpacho soup lets you use up lots of tomatoes without turning on the stove.
  • Homemade pasta or marina sauce is so delicious but can be a bit of a labor. That is, unless you use a method like this brilliant slow cooker sauce method! I make sauce like this multiple times throughout the summer and fall and freeze any extra we don’t use.
  • If you’re making pizza at home, skip the sauce and use sliced tomatoes instead. Pizza takes on a whole new flavor!
  • This Tortilla Soup uses four tomatoes, but you could easily make a double or triple batch to freeze or pressure can.

With all of these options at your side, you never have to wonder what to do with lots of tomatoes when you don’t want to can them again. Between cooking them, drying them, and freezing them, you can use them up in all sorts of ways.

So the next time you see a great deal at a farm stand, don’t be afraid to grab an extra box or two of perfectly ripe tomatoes. Just think of the yummy sundried tomatoes you’ll enjoy all winter long!

Do you have a favorite way to use up lots of tomatoes?

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    1. Just looking at those garden tomatoes makes me happy. 🙂 We didn’t get all that great of a crop this year, but have been enjoying a surplus of other foods. My dehydrator is working full time and I’ve been adding to the freezer, but we’ve mostly just been enjoying the fresh produce. (Honestly, I don’t know how Moms of huge families keep their kiddos fed without massive grocery bills, lol! These kiddos can gobble up the fresh veggies like. : ))

      1. I hear you, Anna! I always try to snatch up the “seconds” at our farm market and have often wondered what our grocery bill would look like if I didn’t!