3 Easy Ways to Peel a Tomato

Test Kitchen expert Christine Rukavena reveals her tips for peeling tomatoes.

By Nicole Doster, Digital Associate Editor and Christine Rukavena, Food Editor

Glass bowl filled with perfectly peeled tomatoes resting on a yellow towel

Let's clear the air here. Most of the time, you don't need to peel a tomato. A quick slice or chop is all it takes to lend their juicy flavor to a sandwich, salad, or one of our many fresh-tomato recipes. So why make the extra effort? When you want the texture of a dish—such as salsa, soup, jam or sauce—to be as smooth as silk, removing the skin is the way to go.

Unlike firmer produce, such as carrots or potatoes, tomatoes shouldn't be peeled with a blade. Trust us; it gets messy. A tomato's delicate texture calls for a more creative approach. Culinary expert Christine Rukavena has a few tried-and-true techniques for how to peel tomatoes. Let's walk through each, step by step.

When You Want to Peel Them Fast...

Boiling is the quickest and most convenient way to peel a tomato. The skin lifts easily from the vegetable—erm, fruit—and the partial cooking helps preserve the tomato's fresh flavor and plump texture.

Cored tomatoes having x-shaped cuts put into their sides by a knife

Step 1: Prepare the tomatoes

Wrangle up a large saucepan and fill two-thirds of it with water; bring to a boil. As the water heats, use the time to give the tomatoes a little prep. Give them each a gentle rinse in the sink and remove their cores. On the bottom of each, make a small X-shaped insertion with the tip of your knife.

Step 2: Boil, boil, boil

Using a slotted spoon, carefully add the tomatoes into the water, one at a time. Cook for 30-60 seconds. You'll know they're ready when the skin at the "X" mark begins to loosen.

Test Kitchen tip: Keep careful watch over the tomatoes as they cook. If left in the water too long, the tomatoes will become mushy.

Tomatoes being removed from boiling water in a saucepan with a slotted spoon to be deposited into an ice bath

Step 3: Cool them quick

When each tomato looks about ready, remove it from the pot. Immediately transfer it into a large bowl filled with ice water. This will prevent any further cooking.

Using a knife, a person is carefully peeling a tomato starting at the x-shaped cut from before

Step 4: Peel!

At last, your tomatoes are ready to peel. Pierce the outer layer with the tip of a knife and lift. The skin will glide right off.

Test Kitchen tip: Stubborn skin? Plop the tomato back into the boiling water for a few more seconds and try again.

When You're Craving Extra Flavor...

Roasting is a hands-off technique that gives tomatoes a robust, smoky flavor that's great for making salsa or spaghetti sauce. This method works well with smaller, less juicy tomatoes such as plum tomatoes.

Halved tomatoes scattered on a baking sheet

Step 1: Prep

Give each tomato a gentle rinse under the sink and remove the core. Cut in half lengthwise and place cut side down in a lightly oiled rimmed baking sheet.

Test Kitchen tip: For an awesome pasta sauce, toss the tomatoes in oil and Italian herbs before roasting. Use the peeled tomatoes (and the fragrant oil from the pan) in your recipe.

Step 2: Roast

Dial the oven up to 425° and bake until the edges of the tomatoes are well browned. This can take 30-35 minutes. Or you can broil the halved tomatoes 6-8-inches from the heat for 8-12 minutes. Remove when the skins are split and charred.

Halved and wrinkled tomatoes on a baking sheet that a person is reaching into to remove their peels

Step 3: Peel

Let the baking dish cool slightly. Then, have at it. The easiest way to peel off the skin is with your hands.

When You Want to Save Them for Later...

Have a handful of tomatoes that you can't use all at once? Clear some room in the freezer to store for a rainy day. (Yes, you can freeze tomatoes—and tons of other fresh summer produce!) Once thawed, the tomato skin lifts off clean. Use the frozen tomatoes in cooked foods such as soups, sauces and stews, not salads, because they lose their firm texture once frozen.

person picking up a cored tomato from the baking sheet to place in a large resealable bag

Step 1: Prep and freeze

Give the tomatoes a gentle rinse, pat dry and remove their cores. Then arrange the tomatoes (whole) on a cookie sheet and send them into the freezer. Make sure they don't touch. Once frozen, transfer to a large freezer bag and seal.

Test Kitchen tip: Make sure to label the outside of your freezer bag with a "use by" date. Tomatoes can be frozen for up to 8 months.

Step 2: Thaw and peel

When you're ready to peel the tomato, simply run it under warm water and the skin will slip right off.

Test Kitchen tip: For less fuss, simply leave the tomatoes out for a few hours to thaw.

Glass bowl filled with perfectly peeled tomatoes resting on a yellow towel

There you have it! Peeling tomatoes is easier than you'd think. Next time you've got a bushel on hand—opt for these easy methods instead of buying a can of pre-peeled tomatoes. Check out our entire collection of grocery-store staples you should make instead of buy, here.