How a Clever Cook Peels Tomatoes

Peeling tomatoes is a valuable technique for many tomato-based dishes. In this guide, we'll cover the easiest way to do it!

Roma tomatoes with peel on a wood cutting board

Karishma Pradhan

If you've ever made a tomato soup and fished out some tomato skin, you know it's not always the most appealing texture. Sometimes, you want the smoothest, silkiest texture for a sauce or soup possible, and for those cases, it is ideal to use peeled tomatoes.

Unfortunately, peeling tomatoes can be more complicated than a typical vegetable. If you try to use a vegetable peeler for the task, you will often lose more flesh than you might like. There are other ways, too, such as microwaving or freezing tomatoes; both approaches seem simple enough, but the former can unevenly heat the fruit while the latter takes too long.

So, what's the best way to peel a tomato? Step through this guide below, and you will be an expert in no time.

Tomatoes and tomato peel on wood cutting board

Karishma Pradhan

The Quickest Way to Peel Tomatoes

The best way to peel a tomato is to boil the tomatoes first to loosen the skin. Unlike other methods, boiling is quick, easy, and scales efficiently. After boiling, the tomatoes will sit in a bath of cold water so that they are cool enough to peel with your hands.

  1. Set a pot of water to boil on the stove.
  2. While the water is boiling, prep your tomatoes. With your knife, slit an 'X' across the bottom of the tomato, making sure not to cut too deep into the vegetable. Meanwhile, prepare a large bowl of cold water. (Many recipes will call for ice water, but a Serious Eats test found no meaningful difference in cooling tomatoes in cold water versus ice water, provided there is enough room for all of the tomatoes.)
  3. Add the tomatoes to the boiling water for 20 to 30 seconds until the skin begins to wrinkle and peel away from the flesh. Don't let the tomatoes sit too long in the water, or they will start to cook.
  4. Using a slotted spoon or a strainer, strain the tomatoes and transfer them to the bowl of ice water to cool. Once cooled, peel off the skin, then use as desired.
Red roma tomatoes

Karishma Pradhan

What Kinds of Tomatoes Can I Peel Using This Method?

You can peel most varieties of tomatoes using this method. Most recipes call for peeling medium-sized to large-sized tomatoes, but large cherry tomatoes can follow this process, too. Small tomatoes will likely only need a few seconds in boiling water before the skin is ready to peel.

Tomatoes with cracked skin ready to peel

Karishma Pradhan

When Should You Peel Tomatoes for a Recipe?

You will want to peel your tomatoes any time you're looking for a completely smooth texture – preparing a hot soup or stew or tomato sauce, for example. A lot of this comes down to preference, though. You do not need to peel your tomatoes if you don't mind the skins.

Alternatively, if you don't want to go through the effort of peeling tomatoes, you can always purchase a can of whole peeled tomatoes to minimize this step. But if you want to make a dish that highlights fresh, peak-season tomatoes, such as salsa or gazpacho, peeling is the way to go.

Peeling off tomato skins

Karishma Pradhan

Can You Use a Hot Water Kettle?

If you only need to peel one or two medium or large tomatoes, you can place your tomatoes in a medium-sized bowl, heat a hot water kettle, pour the boiling water on top of the tomatoes. Cover with a lid, then let sit for 1 minute until the skin has started to peel away from the flesh. Run under cold water, then peel.

If you have more than a couple of tomatoes, I recommend the stovetop technique.

Can I Freeze Freshly Peeled Tomatoes?

If you want to prepare a large batch of peeled tomatoes in bulk, boil, cool, and peel as many tomatoes as you'd like, then transfer them to a baking sheet until frozen. Once frozen, transfer the tomatoes to a Ziploc bag or airtight container.

Freezing is a great way to preserve the ripe tomatoes from your garden or farmer's market in the summers. 

Recipes That Use Peeled Tomatoes

See below for some excellent recipes that use peeled tomatoes! Use the peeling technique outlined in this guide, and you can be sure to have the smoothest sauce around.

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