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Whether you are planning on making a batch of my homemade canning salsa, my simple fresh tomato sauce or my canned spaghetti sauce recipe, you’ll want to learn how to peel fresh tomatoes fast. This blanching method is the easiest and quickest ways to peel fresh tomatoes for use in any recipe.
You’ll want to save these step-by-step directions for how to peel tomatoes.
Step one is washing your tomatoes. As I typically process pounds and pounds of tomatoes for my homemade salsa recipe and fresh tomato sauce I find that it’s easier to wash and cut all of the tomatoes at the same time.
If you plan on peeling lots of tomatoes at once, then you may find it’s easiest to do what I do: place all of the tomatoes into your sink and wash them to remove any visible dirt. Then, keep them in the sink as you follow step two. This way all of the ready-to-peel tomatoes are in one place and you can quickly boil and blanch them in batches for whatever recipe you are making.
The blanching method is best if you need to process a lot of tomatoes at once, which is why I consider it to be superior to flame or torch methods. I do not recommend using the microwave to peel tomatoes as the tomatoes can burst and make a mess in the microwave. While you can easily peel a tomato by hand with a knife, this blanching method is my go-to method whenever I have more than a couple of tomatoes to peel.
To do this, you’ll make an X into the bottom of your tomatoes. Large X’s tend to work better than smaller ones.
The easiest way to do this is with a sharp paring knife or other sharp knife that won’t penetrate too deeply into the tomato flesh. A quick slash in opposite directions to make an X is all you need. Continue to mark an X in as many tomatoes as you want to peel at one time.
The next step is prepping the stations. You’ll need a large pot of boiling water and a large bowl of cold water with ice. If you are familiar with blanching for other recipes, then it’s essentially the same method here: boil your tomatoes for a minute, then plunge into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking and make the skin easier to peel.
Once your large pot of water is boiling on the stove, place as many tomatoes as can comfortably fit into the pot making sure not to overcrowd the pot as this can lead to it boiling over.
Let the tomatoes cook for a minute or two, until the edges of the skin where you made your X just start to peel away. You don’t want to cook the tomatoes, just get the skin soft enough that it can easily peel off. It’s OK if your water isn’t at a rolling boil, a simmering pot will still work.
Quickly remove them from the boiling water using a slotted spoon, tongs or a spider and place right away into the bowl of ice water.
This will stop the tomato from cooking so you aren’t left with tomato mush. If you cook the tomatoes too long in the water, they will become overcooked. They aren’t ruined, but they will be messier to peel then tomatoes that are still firm.
After the tomato has cooled, the skin will slip right off. Remove the cooled tomato from the bowl of ice water and peel the skin where you place the X at the bottom of each tomato, it should slip right off.
If the tomato skin is very hard to peel and the tomato is still hard, then you can place it back in the pot of boiling water for 30 seconds or so and then place it back in the ice bath before trying again.
To remove the tomato seeds and pulp, cut the tomato in half and scrape out the seeds using a spoon. A spoon is more gentle than a knife and will ensure that you aren’t tearing the tomato flesh as you remove the seeds. If your tomato is tough, then you can use a small paring knife or serrated knife to cut the seeds away.
This process works for any type of tomatoes! I typically buy ‘uglies’ from a local farm to use in my tomato sauce and salsa as they are much less expensive than other types of tomatoes, but any tomato will work– even smaller plums or roma tomatoes.
This all depends on the recipe you are following and preference. As an example, if you are making my homemade fresh tomato sauce for canning then you may consider peeling the tomatoes first to create a smoother, more mellow sauce. However, that’s really a matter of personal preference and I’ve made sauce both with and without the tomatoes on.
If you plan on slow-roasting your tomatoes in the oven, like in my tomato basil pasta, then you’ll want to keep the skins on. In canning recipes, like my salsa canning recipe or homemade spaghetti sauce for canning, you’ll need to remove the tomato skins first for reducing bacterial contamination.
The only downside to peeling tomatoes is that you are removing some of the antioxidant capacity of the tomato. The majority of health-promoting flavonols are found in the skin of the tomato, and are removed once you remove the skin. However, as long as your diet is rich in other antioxidants, then I really don’t stress about removing the tomato skin for some recipes where texture really matters.
Once you peel your tomatoes, here are my favorite ways to use peeled tomatoes:
Learn how to peel tomatoes for use in salsa, soup, tomato sauces and more. Easy step-by-step instructions for how to peel tomatoes.
For step-by-step directions with photos, refer to the body of this post.