How to Store Fresh Tomatoes

Bite into a juicy slice and you’re in summer garden heaven. Learn how to keep tomatoes fresh, and you preserve the texture and flavor of peak ripeness. Here’s how.

By Elizabeth Harris, Contributing Editor and James Schend, Food Editor


Expert Tips from the Taste of Home Test Kitchen

  • Skip the fridge if tomatoes aren’t ripe. Store them at cool room temperature.
  • Keep them cool. While it’s pretty to put tomatoes on a windowsill, you’re better off with a cool basement or cupboard. You want the tomatoes to continue to ripen after being picked, but you don’t want them to go so quickly that they’ll start to spoil.
  • Since these beauties are so delicate, you’ll also want to keep them in one single layer so their weight doesn’t crush their neighbors. If one does get a little smushed, use it—before it causes the others to rot.
  • Air movement is also key when it comes to freshness. A plate or wicker basket allows air to move around the tomatoes, resulting in slightly longer life.
  • Keep the stems down. This helps prevent moisture from escaping through the stem. It also may help prevent any mold growth around the stem.

Should You Store Tomatoes in the Refrigerator?

  • Not unless they’re fully ripe. Chilling stops ripening in its tracks, so unless your tomatoes are at their absolute peak of ripeness, you’ll never get a ripe tomato.
  • But if you have perfectly ripe tomatoes that you just don’t have time to use at that moment, you can store them in the fridge.
  • How long do tomatoes last in the fridge? Ripe tomatoes can go a day or two in there without ill effects.
  • Always eat tomatoes at room temperature for optimum flavor and texture. Just let them warm up to room temperature before slicing and putting on a salad or sandwich.
  • What happens if they’re in the fridge too long? Chilled tomatoes will start to dehydrate, so kiss that juicy tomato slice goodbye. Also, the flesh of the tomato will get mealy or mushy.

How to Store Tomatoes Long-Term

  • Put extra garden tomatoes in a plastic freezer bag and store in your freezer. To use in soup, stew or sauce, just hold the frozen tomatoes under warm water, and the skins will slip right off. Drop the whole skinless tomatoes into the pot—they’ll break up during cooking, which also saves time chopping. —Elaine T., Palmetto, Florida

  • When our garden is producing a bountiful harvest of tomatoes, I make tomato "muffins." I ladle peeled and cored tomatoes into muffin pans and pop them in the freezer. When they're solid, I take the tomatoes out of the pans and slip them into plastic bags, so they're ready to add to soups, chili and other recipes. —Barbara Kynock, Centreville, Nova Scotia

  • To quickly use a huge supply of garden tomatoes, I wash and core them, then puree in the blender with lemon juice, onion and celery to taste. This makes a great vegetable juice. I simmer several batches until slightly thickened for spaghetti sauce or until very thick for pizza sauce. I store it in the freezer. —Marion W., Greenfield, Wisconsin