How to peel tomatoes like a Pro

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Fresh tomatoes are useful and versatile in the kitchen. Slice them for a Caprese salad, make salsa with them, chop them for a topping or crush them to make a sauce. For many of their uses, you can leave the skin on them, but for sauces or soups, removing the skin is necessary. This task can seem impossible if you don’t know what you’re doing, once you learn how to peel tomatoes, it gets easier every time. 

Romas for peeling.
Roma Tomatoes. Photo Credit: Yayimages.

Why peel tomatoes?

Peeling tomatoes is a great way to use fresh tomatoes in soups, salsas, sauces and baked dishes. Tomato skin is not ideal to find in your dinner, it can be tough and stringy. Peeling them makes tomatoes easy to use and easier to enjoy.

With this method, you can use any fresh tomatoes. There’s no need to peel thinner-skinned grape tomatoes, cherry tomatoes or thin-skin heirloom tomatoes. But romas or beefsteak tomatoes are perfect for peeling.

If you try to peel tomatoes just using a paring knife, you’ll remove most of the tomatoes under the skin. Using this method, the skin slides right off and the tomatoes will still look like tomatoes. The flesh will be intact, and it’s ready to use in any dish you like. 

“I peel tomatoes if I’m looking for an entirely uniform, smooth texture in a meal. A gazpacho, for example, would benefit from a completely smooth texture, so I will take the extra step to peel my tomatoes for that dish.”

— Gen La Rocca, Two Cloves Kitchen

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Gather the necessary tools

Before diving into the tomato peeling process, ensure you have the following tools readily available:

  • A large pot
  • Water
  • A large bowl 
  • Ice 
  • Fresh tomatoes
  • A sharp knife
  • Slotted spoon
  • Kitchen towels

How to peel tomatoes

Once you’ve gathered your tools, it’s time to peel tomatoes.

  • Fill the pot with water and set it to boil.
  • Fill a bowl with ice and ice-cold water.
  • Wash the tomatoes, don’t trim off the stem or cut the tomatoes except as directed below.
  • Slice an X in the skin across the bottom of the tomatoes.
  • Set the tomato on the slotted spoon and dip the spoon into the boiling water.
  • Let the tomato sit in the boiling water for 30 to 60 seconds or so. Look for the skin to start peeling up around the score marks.
  • Then scoop it out of the water and plunge it into the ice-water bath.
  • While the tomato is chilling, add another one to the pot, don’t forget the tomatoes in the boiling water.
  • Let the tomato set in the cold water until cool enough to handle.
  • The skin will have peeled up from the cooking, so you can just use your hands to finish peeling the skin off.
  • Once peeled, trim out the stem. 
  • Set the peeled tomatoes aside until the rest of the tomatoes are peeled.
  • After peeling, cut the tomatoes in half and gently remove the seeds.
  • Use the peeled tomatoes however you want or need to. 
Tomatoes cooling in an ice bath.
Tomatoes in ice bath. Photo Credit: Yayimages.

Problems with the tomatoes

Using this method, you can easily peel tomatoes even if you’ve never peeled them before. If you have small parts of the tomatoes where the skin isn’t coming off easily, you can use a paring knife to cut it off. 

How to use peeled tomatoes

Once tomatoes are peeled, they can be used in any recipe that calls for canned tomatoes, crushed tomatoes or stewed tomatoes in any of your recipes. For any recipes that call for diced tomatoes, simply dice your fresh peeled tomatoes. If the recipe calls for stewed tomatoes, you can add them whole. And if it calls for crushed tomatoes, you can crush them right in your hand or in a bowl with a spoon and add them to your recipe. 

Try using your homemade peeled tomatoes in place of Rotel or spaghetti sauce, too. For this Creamy Chicken Taco Soup you can add the equivalent of the called for Rotel and add some red pepper flakes for a little heat. If replacing spaghetti or pasta sauce add Italian seasoning, salt and a pinch of sugar. Using it as a pizza sauce? Crush the tomatoes, and cook them with a little olive oil, fresh garlic, salt, sugar and Italian seasoning.

Peeled tomatoes on a plate with other vegetables around them.
Peeled Tomatoes. Photo Credit: Yayimages.

Taste your recipes

Be sure to taste your recipes when using fresh peeled tomatoes. Since they’re not processed with any salt, your recipes will probably need extra salt and even some extra herbs. Since you’re already cooking, this is an easy problem to solve. 

“Sauce tomatoes like paisano or San Marzano are best used after peeling! While using a food mill can help peel and purée the tomatoes for sauces, peeling the skins is a must if you want a silky smooth sauce!” 

–Shruthi Baskin-Makanju, Urban Farmie

Peeling tomatoes may seem like an extra unnecessary step in the kitchen, but the flavor that fresh tomatoes can bring to your recipes will be worth it. Learning a new skill is almost always rewarding. So grab an apron and get cooking like a grandma!

Laura Sampson of Little House Big Alaska is on a mission to teach modern family-oriented home cooks how to make old-fashioned foods new again. She shares her passion for home cooking, backyard gardening, and homesteading on her website and blog,

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