A food dehydrator can change how you use the foods from your garden. Almost anything can be dried for storage, including tomatoes. In this article, I’ll share my methods for dehydrating cherry tomatoes.
For tomatoes, dehydrating can take quite a while. They are, after all, made up of almost 95% water! The basic formula for dehydrating foods is to remove water content by providing low heat, circulating air, and time.
For drying, cherry tomatoes are a perfect variety to choose from the tomato family. They come in a compact size and usually dry perfectly when sliced in half. The dried saucers are the perfect size for topping pizza, sandwiches or just snacking!
3 Dehydration Methods
Since tomatoes are so full of water, I can’t recommend air-drying. Instead, use one of these basic methods for drying your cherry tomatoes at home.
- In a dehydrator. This is the preferred method for drying any fruit or veggie. These purpose-built machines can hold a relatively low temperature while circulating the air all around your tomatoes. They also come with non-stick screen trays so that food doesn’t have to be flipped to dry evenly. The result is much quicker dry times and maximum flavor retention. Skip to dehydrator method.
- In the oven. In a pinch, ovens will work for dehydrating cherry tomatoes. If you have a convection oven, even better! The circulating air is key to a timely drying process. Standard ovens will take significantly longer to reach a fully dried state. The other drawback of drying in the oven is that temperatures can not usually be set below 200°F. This cooks the tomatoes, removing some flavor and causing discoloration. Skip to oven method.
- In the sun. You see these in the supermarket all the time – sun-dried tomatoes! Yes, drying tomatoes in the sun is actually a viable method for dehydrating, but it is important to follow a proven technique. If the tomatoes don’t dry quickly enough, mold or fungus can begin to form, ruining the fruits. Skip to sun-dried method.
If none of these options will work for you, perhaps another preservation method is a better option. Air-drying indoors is not recommended.
Dehydrating Cherry Tomatoes in the Dehydrator
Using a food dehydrator is undoubtedly the best method for drying tomatoes. They are essentially the easy-bake-oven, only made for grown-up gardeners.
I understand that not everyone can justify buying a food dehydrator, but since you are looking to dry your cherry tomatoes, allow me to share my experience!
My dehydrator has gotten more use than almost any of my other plug-in appliances. I have made delicious beef jerky, dried fruit leather, dehydrated tomatoes and peppers, mushrooms and much more.
Drying food is an easy method for long-term preservation. It reduces the food size, removes moisture to avoid mold, and often brings out delicious flavors. If you have a large garden, a dehydrator can help you keep your harvests for longer.
I use this dehydrator (on Amazon) for all my food drying needs.
- Select ripe tomatoes. Make sure you choose ripe, healthy-looking cherry tomatoes to dehydrate. Avoid moldy or rotted tomatoes and cut away any imperfect bits before drying them.
- Clean and dry tomatoes. Rinse under cool water and dry thoroughly. Remove any stems.
- Slice cherry tomatoes in half or saucers. Depending on the size of your tomatoes, you may only need to slice them in half. If they are larger, slice into 1/4″ slices. Try to keep the slices consistent for even drying times. Tip: Don’t slice them too thin as they will become extremely thin when dried.
- Place slices on dehydrator trays. In a single layer, arrange the sliced tomatoes on your dehydrator trays.
Optional: Sprinkle lightly with salt, pepper, or fresh chopped herbs. Do this if you plan to use the tomatoes for a specific purpose, like pizza or pasta dishes. Otherwise, leave them plain.
- Dehydrate at 135°F for 8-12 hours. Drying times will vary widely based on the desired texture and the thickness of your tomato slices. Air humidity can also make a difference. If you like a leathery texture, you should store them in the refrigerator. For pantry storage, dehydrate until the tomatoes are more crisp.
- Store in an airtight container. Use a Ziploc baggie and remove all air by submerging in water or sucking it out with a straw. Use food-safe silica gel packets to keep the tomatoes dry while they are in storage. If they are still pliable, I recommend storing in the refrigerator for a longer shelf life – up to 2-3 months. If fully dehydrated and brittle, they can store in the pantry for up to a year. Keep out of direct light.
For the best storage times, I recommend getting a vacuum sealer. Alternatively, you can store them in Ziploc bags and suck all the air out with a straw before sealing.
Note: Always check for mold when using your dehydrated tomatoes. Any leftover moisture can cause the tomatoes to go bad. Also check for any unusual smells.
Some discoloration is normal during dehydration. If you want to retain the bright color, you can pre-soak your tomatoes in a diluted ascorbic acid (vitamin C) water solution for a few minutes before drying.
Dehydrating Cherry Tomatoes in the Oven
If you don’t have a dehydrator, the next best thing is your oven. Some newer models (like this toaster oven) have a dehydrate option, so check your instruction manual!
Conventional ovens are not made for dehydration, but will work in a pinch. The main problems are temperature and air circulation. Most ovens won’t go below ~200°F, causing your tomatoes to cook while they are drying. This can cause changes in flavor and color.
Many ovens provide air circulation, but not all. Convection ovens will work much faster for dehydrating your cherry tomatoes. In short, dehydrating in the oven will take longer.
- Preheat oven to lowest temperature. Most ovens cannot be set below around 200°F. Set the oven to its lowest temperature and allow it to preheat. If you can, set it around 145°F.
- Choose ripe tomatoes. Always choose ripe, healthy tomatoes, free from any mold or insect damage.
- Clean and dry tomatoes. Rinse thoroughly under cool water and dry the tomatoes. Remove the stems.
- Slice into 1/4″ saucers. Slice the cherry tomatoes into evenly sized saucers, around 1/4″ in width. Keep the thickness consistent to avoid uneven dehydration times.
- Arrange on oven-safe drying tray. Use an oven-safe cookie drying tray and arrange the tomato slices in a single layer. Place the prepared tray on top of a baking sheet to catch any dripping water.
- Bake for 6-12+ hours. Check on the tomatoes after about 6 hours for dryness. If your oven has a convection option, turn it on for much faster drying times. Without convection, dehydration may take 12 hours or longer, so be sure to check every few hours.
- Store in airtight container. Once the tomatoes are either leathery or crisp, store them in an airtight container with silica gel packets. For leathery tomatoes, store in the refrigerator for 2-3 months. For more crisp dried tomatoes, store in the pantry for up to a year.
The end result should be the same as if you used a dehydrator, only with some potential discoloration from higher heat. The tomato flavor should still be great and the shelf life will be the same.
Making Sun-Dried Cherry Tomatoes
Sunshine. It is an amazing thing. It is essential for growing big, bountiful tomato plants. After a harvest, it can be used to dry out the fruits!
Sun drying tomatoes has been a method for many centuries. Before the advent of the dehydrator, the sun was the best option. In warm, consistently dry climates, it can still be done. However, there are some potential drawbacks to know.
First, if you live in a rainy or especially humid climate, sun drying is not ideal. The tomatoes will need to be brought inside during rain and at night.
Second, leaving tomatoes outdoors in the sun welcomes critters to a sweet, tasty snack. There are a variety of herbivores that would love to feast on your harvests.
Lastly, sun dried tomatoes can take weeks to dry completely. If you are hoping for a quick dehydration, the oven or dehydrator should be your first choice.
If none of these potential issues scare you, use the following method to make your sun dried cherry tomatoes!
- Choose ripe tomatoes. Always choose healthy tomatoes free from mold or spots.
- Clean and dry tomatoes. Rinse and thoroughly dry the tomatoes. Remove the stems.
- Slice tomatoes. Using a tomato knife, slice into 1/4″ slices (or thinner – sun drying can take a long time for thick pieces).
- Lay tomatoes on a screen. Using a screen or cookie sheet, lay out the sliced tomatoes in a single layer. A screen material will allow air to reach above and below the tomatoes for faster drying.
- Sprinkle with salt. Use a coarse sea salt and sprinkle generously across the sliced tomatoes. This will help release some of the water content, and can improve flavor once dried. This isn’t 100% necessary, but recommended for sun drying. You can also add ground herbs and spices if desired (oregano, thyme, and rosemary are all great options).
- Blot with a paper towel. To speed up the sun drying process, blot the cherry tomatoes with a paper towel to remove any sitting water or moisture.
- Place the tomatoes in a sunny location. The more sun, the better. Check the weather to start your sun dried tomatoes when you expect a stretch of dry, hot weather.
- Protect the tomatoes. When the tomatoes are fresh, insects, chipmunks, squirrels and other animals may be attracted to them. Provide protection with thin garden cloth and/or fencing. Choose the location wisely!
- Bring tomatoes indoors at night. Since this process takes several days, the tomatoes will need to come in at night. The kitchen, a shed, or a garage work fine to protect the drying tomatoes. Keep them covered if they will be in an unsealed location.
- Dry for 1-2 weeks or longer. Drying times will vary widely based on your climate. Humid air, rain, sun exposure and wind will all factor into the duration. Wait for the tomatoes to have a leathery texture.
- Store in airtight containers. Store the tomatoes in a Ziploc baggie or vacuum sealed container for 2-3 months.
Sun drying is the old-school, cool way to dry your tomatoes. Some say that the flavor is better, but it certainly is a fun experiment. You can tell your friends you made your own sun-dried tomatoes without upping your electric bill!
Can You Dehydrate Whole Cherry Tomatoes?
If you are looking to dehydrate your cherry tomatoes with minimal prep work, you may wonder if they can be dried whole. Keeping them full-sized may be important for your intended use.
In short, cherry tomatoes can be dehydrated whole, but should be pierced to allow moisture to escape. Without puncturing the skin, mold or rot may develop before the tomatoes are dry. Cherry tomatoes dry much faster when cut in half or into 1/4″ thick slices.
If dehydrating whole is important for presentation or another reason, pierce each tomato a few times with a fork or toothpick. You could also slice off the very end of each tomato (but at that point you may as well just slice them in half).
If you’re looking for a quicker preservation method, why not freeze your cherry tomatoes whole?
Can You Over-Dehydrate Tomatoes?
There are essentially two levels of dehydration that I like to target. One is for shorter-term storage, and another for long-term storage. Which you choose will depend on your intended use.
Simply put, tomatoes cannot be over dehydrated, though a slightly pliable texture is usually preferred. Full dehydration leads to a brittle texture and prolonged drying can lead to cooking and flavor loss.
Leathery texture. A leathery texture means that the tomatoes are still slightly pliable. When eaten, they are slightly chewy and are great for snacking or eating in salads. This method requires less dehydration time, but may eventually lead to mold since some of the water is still in the tomatoes. This is my preferred texture!
Brittle texture. Drying cherry tomatoes to a brittle texture will ensure the maximum storage time. When the tomatoes are bent, they should crack in half. This means almost 100% of the water has been removed. These can be stored at room temperature, but should be stored in air-tight containers with silica gel to avoid unwanted rehydration. To use, they should be rehydrated in hot water.
It is important to set your intentions before turning on the dehydrator. Check on the tomatoes every few hours to ensure they don’t go past your desired dryness!
How Long do Dehydrated Cherry Tomatoes Last?
While I would love to tell you that your dehydrated cherry tomatoes will last forever, they probably won’t. Hopefully this will be because you have eaten them all up!
In short, dehydrated cherry tomatoes will last anywhere from 2 months to 1 year, depending on storage conditions and dryness. Storing in the refrigerator and with silica gel will prolong shelf life.
Brittle dehydrated tomatoes will stay fresh for much longer than leathery dried tomatoes, but they also require rehydration for use. Weigh the pros and cons and choose which is best for you.
Vacuum sealing is another method you can use to prolong the shelf life of dehydrated cherry tomatoes. Oxygen, moisture and bright light should all be avoided during storage.
I hope this article has helped you with dehydrating cherry tomatoes. Drying is a great preservation method to keep your harvests from going to waste. Let me know what you use your dried tomatoes for!