The best method for freezing tomatoes

Freezing tomatoes is an alternative to water bath or atmospheric steam canning.

Tomatoes in a bucket.
Photo: Karen and Brad Emerson/Creative Commons.

The most popular way of preserving tomatoes is canning them using the water bath or atmospheric steam canning method. Sometimes late in the season, you have just a few tomatoes left to preserve but not enough to use either of the two methods mentioned. What are your options for preserving them?

You can freeze fresh tomatoes safely and easily. It is a fairly simple process and enables you to preserve tomatoes a little bit later than usual or in smaller batches. Make sure there is enough freezer space to accommodate all that you want to preserve.

Choose good quality tomatoes free of disease or pests. Rinse all visible debris off the fruit, and follow a research-tested recipe and prepare as you would for preserving in a jar.

  • Wash the tomatoes and bring a pan of water to boiling.
  • Dip the tomatoes for 30 to 60 seconds or until the skins split.
  • Dip the tomato into ice cold water for easy peeling. Once skins are peeled off, then place the whole tomato in a container suitable for freezing.
  • Leave a ½ inch headspace in the container, this allows room for the tomatoes to expand and not break the seal of the container.
  • Label and date.

The consistency of the tomatoes will be soft when thawed. They do not maintain their shape when frozen. Freeze your tomatoes according to what you plan to do with them (e.g., if you are planning to use them for sauce, use a solid freezer container). Tomatoes can be frozen sliced, then quick froze with the skin on. They do not maintain their solid form, though, so plan to use them in a cooked dish. 

When freezing tomatoes, you are able to add any extra items can be added to the mixture and it is still safe to preserve in the freezer. When preserving in a jar, the science behind the recipe and the methods are precise and need to be followed closely. You are also able to freeze tomato sauce, spaghetti sauce or even tomato juice. So freezing tomatoes may be the right method for you.

Michigan State University Extension recommends following science-based food preservation methods when storing any food for later use. If you have any questions on freezing tomatoes or any other food safety matters, please call the food safety hotline at 1-877-643-9882.

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