How to Make Sun Dried Tomatoes

Here’s how to make and how to use sun dried tomatoes – the ones that cost so much in the fancy food stores. Sun dried tomatoes are low carb friendly and healthy. You don’t even have to have a dehydrator to make them yourself!

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Why Dehydrate Instead of Can Tomatoes?

I really do NOT enjoy canning tomatoes – they’re messy, they’re stinky, they’re itchy. But what can I do ? It’s not like I can actually live without tomatoes throughout the year.

Last year, a friend suggested I try dehydrating my tomatoes in slices. This means that instead of having to can tomato sauce, I simply powder dry tomatoes in my blender for homemade sauce, paste, ketchup, BBQ sauce. The process is so simple and the results are so versatile. To learn how to do this, please read this article from A Farm Girl in the Making.

As I’ve discovered the joys of dehydrating my tomatoes, I’ve also found that I love “sun dried” tomatoes. This is a slightly different nuance of tomato preservation. Read on…

What Does “Sun Dried” Mean?

The term sun dried refers to the traditional process of drying cherry and plum tomatoes in the direct sunlight. After the tomatoes have been dried, they’re often preserved in olive oil and sea salt. Or, you may use them right away in baked goods or in salads. 

A traditional method of sun drying is as follows:

  1. Rinse and halve cherry or plum tomatoes.
  2. Lay them face-up on a screen – a dehydrator rack works, so does a clean screen door (what my family uses). You may also make a solar dehydrating screen like this herb and flower one by Grow, Forage, Cook, Ferment. We use a screen door because we’re usually dehydrating a large volume of product at one time.
  3. Cover with an open weave, natural fiber cloth or sheet. On our screen door, we use a fitted twin sheet. This protects from the produce from bugs and dust while it dries.
  4. Place in an open, sunny spot where the produce will be elevated several feet off the ground and get great air circulation around it. We usually place our screen door on two sawhorses and use clamps to secure it so a wind doesn’t carry it off.
  5. Bring the set up inside at night to protect from animals, sprinklers and dew fall. Dehydrating can take hours or several days, depending on what you’re preserving. 
  6. Test the produce for done-ness repeatedly. Sun dried tomatoes should be firm, though slightly rubbery. If they dry to the papery, cracking stage they’ll still be yummy. However, there should no longer be any wet or overly smushy parts

Speed it Up with a Solar Oven

If you have a solar oven, you can also convert it to dry your tomatoes very easily. This process will be much faster than using only the sun and air.

We did this with apple chips last year and it worked wonderfully. To read how we did that, click here. Just follow the same process for sun dried tomatoes.

Use Your Solar Oven as a Food Dehydrator to Make Apple Chips l Preserve food with your solar oven l Homestead Lady (.com)

What Variety to Use for Sun Dried Tomatoes?

My favorite tomato variety to use for a true “sun dried” flavor is Principe Borghese. They’re a nicely sized grape tomato that grows and dries well. They dry quicker than other, larger tomatoes because they’re not as wet inside. 

Borghese tomatoes can also reseed happily in the garden. So, you don’t even have to think about replanting them.

I wait to harvest the Borgheses until they’re really red and nearly falling off the vine. This is when they’re a great combination of sweet and salty.

If Borghese aren’t to your liking, then any grape tomato will do for making sun dried tomatoes. I often use yellow pear tomatoes, some Sungolds and even Mr. Stripey green tomatoes. Really, I use whatever I have on hand as I am no respecter of tomatoes. I love them all! However, the drier the tomato – that is, the fewer inside wet, gooey, seedy parts it has –  the quicker it will dehydrate.

To learn more about how to grow tomatoes, and many other veggies, and to help you keep track of you garden plans, be sure to check out the gardening notebook below:

How To Dehydrate/Dry Tomatoes

The process for making sun dried tomatoes in a dehydrator is basically the same as described above.

  1. Rinse and slice the cherry or plum tomatoes in half.
  2. Place the tomatoes face up on your dehydrator racks. Lay them close together, but avoid having them touch or lie on top of each other.
  3. Fill the dehydrator with tomatoes and close it up. Use your dehydrator’s instruction booklet to set time and temperature.
  4. Or, use your copy of Shelle Wells Prepper’s Dehydrator Handbook like I do and at set to 135F/57C for 8-12 hours.
  5. The tomatoes will be slightly rubbery or even brittle when dried. There should be no wet or mushy parts left.
  6. Store in an airtight container in a cool, dark place. Use within a year.

For great troubleshooting and tips for dehydrating, I really do suggest you get your own copy of Shelle’s book. It’s available on Amazon here or below.

Can I Use Frozen Tomatoes?

Amanda, an observant reader, wondered if dehydrating frozen tomatoes would work for sun dried tomatoes. Here’s what she found:

“The frozen tomatoes worked out fine. Best to cut them while they’re still semi-frozen. If you want to remove the skin, it will fall right off as it un-thaws. I dried all of them and now have a bunch more to do.”

Thanks, Amanda!

How Long Should I Dry my Sun Dried Tomatoes?

Drying time is totally dependent on what temperature you set your dehydrator to, how wet the product is and the ambient moisture around the unit. So, if you live where it’s humid, this process will most likely take a little longer.

I like my veggies to stay kind of close to raw, so I set the dehydrator between 115-120F. Bear in mind that the lower the temperature, the longer it takes to dry them. Usually a batch of tomatoes at this temperature takes a good 24 hours. A batch dehydrated at 135 will take around 12 hours.

If you use a solar oven, you may be able to cut that time in half – or even more! Your conventional oven will probably take less time, too. Be sure to check them often so they don’t over-dry or burn. To learn to dehydrate your tomatoes in a standard oven, please visit this link from An Italian in my Kitchen.Sun Dried Tomato Chips l A healthy snack l Homestead Lady (.com)

Dehydrated…to Sun Dried Tomato Flavor!

To give my sun dried tomatoes that traditional flavor, and to preserve them, I prepare to put them in oil and salt. I also add a bit of garlic!

  1. You can use any upcycled glass jar you have lying around your kitchen.
  2. To each jar, I add one to three cloves of garlic (without their covering), and a teaspoon of sea salt.
  3. I then add as many dehydrated tomatoes as I can comfortably push into the jar. I don’t want to pack it so tightly that I can’t get anything out of the jar easily, but I do want to preserve as many as possible.
  4. Finally, I cover the tomatoes with a fine olive oil and screw on the cap.


If you’re not going to refrigerate your jars, you’ll probably want to use dried garlic to safe guard against botulism. 1 clove of fresh garlic equals about 1/4 teaspoon dried, minced garlic.

I will say, though, that I typically steep my tomatoes and raw garlic on my counter at room temperature for about a week, before I put them in the fridge. Do what feels comfortable to you. I’m always making tinctures and herbal oils and messing around with stuff that might bother some people. If it doesn’t seem right to you, don’t do it – simple as that.

Store Your Sun Dried Tomatoes

I can store these in a my fridge for about a year using fresh garlic. Or, I can use dried garlic and put them in my cold storage room. My cold storage room isn’t as cold as I’d like, so I use my fridge and fresh garlic.

One thing to keep in mind about using olive oil is that, while it’s a much healthier option, it doesn’t last as long as something like canola oil. Olive oil can get smelly and taste a bit off (the official term is “rancid”) after as little as three months outside of the fridge. Honestly, these sun dried tomatoes are so good, they may not even last that long, but its something to keep in mind.

The longer they steep in the oil, the stronger the salted garlic flavor. I could also add dry herbs like basil or rosemary, if the notion struck me. I learned this process from the book Preserving Food Without Freezing or Canning.

How to Use Sun Dried Tomatoes

I use sun dried tomatoes all year, but especially all winter when I’m starved for that garden-fresh tomato flavor. May I just say that homemade, sun dried tomatoes are fantastic mixed into dinner bread. Or on top of homemade pizza. Or added to raw kale salad – for that recipe, click here.

Raw Kale Salad with Homemade Sun Dried Tomatoes l Classic raw food l Homestead Lady (.com)

Once you’re done with the tomatoes, use the amazingly flavorful oil in salads or stir fries. You can always make pesto out of your sun dried tomatoes with this recipe from Small Footprint Family – click here.

Here’s what Schneider Peeps does with their tomatoes. And it is always a good idea.

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51 thoughts on “How to Make Sun Dried Tomatoes

  1. Wow, this is a great post! I do can tomatoes, but I like other methods of preserving them, too. Thank you for sharing your method. Have a great week!

    1. So pleased it was helpful! Where are you in the Smokies? We lived in NC for six years and we still pine for those mountains…

      1. We’re on the Tennessee side of the Smokies near Townsend which is known as the peaceful side of the Smokies – unlike Pigeon Forge which is crowded and crawling with visitors. Nobody actually lives in the park, but lots of folks like us live in the foothills that surround the mountains.

  2. Hey, thanks for sharing this on the hops. I, too, hate canning tomatoes and now I only dry. I love drying, because they take up so much less space without all that water. After they dry, I put them in containers and store in freezer (no oil or anything). However, they are then only good in sauces and soups, not for eating with cheese and crackers, like dried tomatoes packed in oil, so next year I plan to pack some in oil as you did. Nice post!

    1. Aren’t dried tomatoes great?! We keep a large amount just in containers in the pantry and when I need spaghetti sauce I just grind some up, add water and simmer with some herbs and veggies.

      Ooooh, crackers and oiled tomatoes – sounds like lunch!

  3. Sun dried tomatoes are wonderful and this sounds like a easy way to do it. Thanks for sharing your experience. I am going to past this on to my sister. Visiting from Real Food Fridays.

  4. I actually refrigerated my sundried tomatoes and they went quickly. My question is can I use the oil that is left and put new tomatoes (sundried) in it?

    1. I’m sure you can as long as it isn’t cloudy or moldy in any way. Olive oil can get reisty over time, even in the fridge so just smell it. I usually use my leftover oil for cooking – I hadn’t even thought to reuse it! Thanks for the idea!

  5. Please, please be aware of and do the research on the risk of botulism from storing raw garlic in oil! A quick google search all be a good start. I haven’t researched enough to know if the salt you add will prevent botulism, but the little I’ve read suggests it may not.

        1. I haven’t done garlic exclusively this way (been planning to, just haven’t gotten around to it yet), but I have eaten the garlic I fermented along with pickles and other veggies. Tastes good! Milder than raw, and nicely crunchy. The garlic in my fermented dilly beans tastes just like the spice in the beans, and the bits in my fermented cherry tomatoes taste like the basil I put in there. So I’d guess by itself it would taste more like mild salty garlic. ….ok now I really need to do this so know for sure! 🙂

  6. I was hunting for recipes for making sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil yesterday and found all sorts of info saying not to put anything in the oil with the tomatoes that is not also dried. This is because there is water in whatever fresh ingredients it is you put in there, whether it be herb or garlic, and the water will cause botulism which is more like a silent killer. Botulism is not readily visible as mold is and far worse. But it was shown that dehydrated herbs (garlic) were fine and you would still need to store it in a cool place. You’re not dead, so your family has been fine. And yet your store your dried tomatoes in oil with raw garlic. Have you heard anything about this? Because I have a bunch of roma tomatoes that I tossed in the freezer, so they didn’t go bad, that I need to either can or dehydrate, and more on the vine. Thank you! 🙂

    1. I use raw garlic, dried tomatoes, cold pressed EVOO and store them in my refrigerator. If I were going to store them on my shelf, I’d use dried garlic, dried tomatoes and olive oil but I’d need a colder storage room than I currently have. A real root cellar would do it. Olive oil has a pretty short shelf life before it gets reisty – its not necessarily bad for you but it tastes and smells off. If I was off grid, I’d dehydrate my tomatoes and then do individual batches of them in oil for that yummy flavor. I’d infuse them for a week with dried garlic as opposed to just storing them with raw garlic in the fridge. Hope that helps!

      1. Yeah, I live in an apartment and it is not a large one. So my storage space is limited in the fridge and in the cupboard. I made a deal with a girlfriend on 10 acres that I could put in a garden and share the produce if she watered. Thus my roma’s. I also have some Heinz tomatoes and I actually like them better. But, I digress, I don’t have a TON of tomatoes, as she told me she didn’t like them, but as it turns out she loves home grown, which she’d never had, just not store bought. So she will hoover many, straight from the vine, and had I known, I would have planted more than 3 paste tomatoes. She doesn’t know the difference, even though I’ve tried to explain, between those, the cherries, and the slicing. lol At any rate, I have 2 gallon bags full of them in the freezer and I just went and collected more today. I’d say I’m getting a bag full a week. Not enough, imo, to can. And since sun-dried are infinitely more expensive than canned, I’d rather make them instead. I use tomatoes in everything and year round. Next year I’ll be planting many more. When I had land, we planted 17, thinking we’d have a lot of casualties. I lost only 1 and was selling excess at the farmers market. Now, with my garden at her place, and her having a black thumb, I’ve had many issues that I’ve never had before. Now as of today, I’ll be down to 2 paste plants as my 3rd is the victim of some kind of wilt. It’s not completely dead yet, but I hate to dump stuff on it and I’m not sure what kind of wilt it is. My zucchini’s also have wilt and my melons are covered in aphids, but also have a lot of ladybugs to eat them. At least they’re all producing still. I get over there roughly 1x a week to pick what she hasn’t and weed. She lives 8 miles away. I’m rambling…sorry, been a long day. 🙂 We do have a long growing season, southern NM, so if I can get rid of that wilt, they should recover.

        But so, yes, most ideal would probably be to just dry them and then use as a powder and do the oil as needed. I haven’t ever used a powder before though. But I’m sure I can figure it out. As for freezing them, I read that a lot of folks freeze them until they have plenty to process for puree. I don’t usually use puree, but whole canned tomatoes. I figured I could try it, canning them whole after freezing, until I got the bright idea to do them in oil. lol And thus my research. It was totally coincidence that I your post on FB came up today. I was hoping I could find a way to make them shelf stable, since I don’t want to fill my fridge with them.

        1. Its amazing the lengths we go to for fresh tomatoes isn’t it?! It sounds like you’ve had a busy gardening year, though not the easiest, and I commend you! Use dried garlic for shelf stable but even so, the olive oil will go rancid after awhile. You can dry them all and then soak small batches in oil and garlic as you need them. Using powdered tomato is as much art as it is science in my experience and I’m so lazy about recipes. You’re own homestore has a post about using a commercial food storage brand of tomato powder but she has a conversion chart about halfway down the post and that looks like about what I do, which seems to work – I usually use it to make ketchup, spaghetti sauce and soup. I’m with you and if I’m using a canned tomato, its whole tomatoes. I hope you find a solution that works out well for you and good luck with next year’s tomatoes, too!

    2. PS I went back and amended the post to be more clear – it was vague and I apologize! Thanks for asking the question! The book I mentioned is a fun one for non-modern food preservation methods – the USDA would not necessarily approve of every one, which is fine with me and not cool for others.
      As far as your Romas go, how many pounds are we talking about? I’ve never dehydrating tomatoes after freezing them – that might get a bit sloshy but I see no reason why it wouldn’t work. I really, really don’t like canning tomatoes but will do a small batch – if I must! 🙂

      1. Sorry for the delay. I’ve been so very busy lately. Had my wisdom tooth taken out and have had dry socket again. Ugh! Anyway, I’m fixing to dehydrate them today and see how it goes. Just took them out of the freezer and I’m going to guess I’ve got at least 10 lb. They’re a mix of Roma’s and Heinz, which I actually like the flavor of the Heinz better so far. And their new for me. They work great as a slicing tomato or processing I think because of so few seeds and a lot of meat. But anyways, I digress. I’ve got them all in the sink right now, debating on removing the skins or not. I’ll let you know how they turn out after drying, having been frozen. And thank you for the link. That is going to come in handy because I don’t go through sun dried tomatoes fast enough to warrant keeping a bunch. So I’ll have to dry all of these, grind some and then make sun dried tomatoes out of others. I have more on the bushes too.

      2. The frozen tomatoes worked out fine. Best to cut them while they’re still semi-frozen. If you want to remove the skin, it will fall right off as it unthaws. I dried all of them and now have a bunch more to do. Thank you so much!

  7. Oh wow! I had wondered about using my dehydrator for the tomatoes! YAY!!! Totally starting some in it tomorrow…mmmmmm….. Thanks for the great idea! I’ll totally share my journey and your part of it on my blog soon!!

  8. I cannot live without my Excalibur!! I actually just made 18 trays of venison jerky. I am excited to try drying my grape tomatoes!!!! What an amazingly yummy idea.

  9. I love the way you write! It feels like I’m sitting down, chatting with my best friend! Great article too! I gave up on canning tomatoes years ago when my neighbor brought over her dehydrator after getting a new one for Christmas. I never looked back either, lol. I love love love it!

    1. Thanks, Chrysta, stop by any time for a chat! I did make spaghetti sauce this year and put it up but I don’t skin my tomatoes or seed them – into the blender and then into the pot with spices. I also tried ketchup and BBQ sauce. I don’t have enough patience though and left them too wet. I’ll try again this year. Really, though, we were making lasagna the other day and had run out of canned sauce so we just powdered some dehydrated tomatoes, added just the right amount of water and, voila, no need for canned tomato paste!

  10. I dried my tomatoes on cookie sheets in my car. It worked fine and fast. I used netting over it. That car is old and not used much. No bugs.

  11. Great piece of information with easy to follow steps. I have been canning my tomatoes but I would also try this new hack of Dehydrating them.
    Thanks for sharing.

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