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Here’s the best way to peel tomatoes— and seed them, too, if you like. It may sound fussy, but trust me, this method couldn’t be easier. Plus it’s the key to velvety smooth tomato sauces, soups, and salsas.
Hear me out: if you can boil water, you can master this culinary technique in one try! Blanching raw tomatoes in boiling water for a few seconds (or longer, if you need a cooked tomato) is a game changer for all your favorite tomato recipes. And best of all, no more little bits of tomato skin getting stuck in between your teeth!
It’s the important things, right?
Suddenly, soups get more refined. Like magic, marinara sauces melt into the pasta. And little by little, people just might start asking you for your recipes.
Why peel a tomato?
Tomato skins are a little tougher than the rest of the fruit (that’s right, tomatoes are technically a fruit!) Compared to the inside of a sweet and juicy tomato, the skins have a slightly bitter taste. That bitterness comes from flavanols, which are natural compounds that also make tomatoes so good for you.
Most of the time you’ll do just fine without ever having to peel a tomato. But when you have to, it’s probably for…
- Tomato sauces and some salsas. Recipes call for peeled tomatoes so they don’t interfere with the silky smooth texture of the sauce. Another example is cherry tomato salsa, which calls for peeled cherry tomatoes.
- Canning tomatoes. If you’re blessed with a bushel of garden tomatoes, you will also need to prepare tomatoes properly for canning. Blanching and peeling tomatoes before preserving means you’ll have a winter’s worth of delicious hearty pasta sauces and tomato soup at the ready, whenever the mood strikes.
But, do you have to peel tomatoes?
No, the skins are full of fiber and good-for-you anti-oxidants. Rustic and fresh tomato sauces and salsas, even Gazpachos, are absolutely fine with unpeeled tomatoes. And slow roasted tomatoes hold together better with the skins.
Of course, feel free to eat unpeeled tomatoes raw any way you see fit. I love them in Caprese Salad or Caprese Chicken, even. And you certainly don’t have to peel tomatoes for pizza, salad, or sandwiches.
- To start, get a pot of water simmering on the stove. It doesn’t have to be a large pot of water, just enough for the tomato(es) to float freely. While the water is heating up, make a bowl of ice water to keep it close by. (If you need to peel lots of tomatoes, you can make it a larger pot. But since the process moves so fast, it may be easier to work with just a few tomatoes at a time.)
- Here’s the tomato peeling hack: Using a serrated knife, gently make a shallow “X” into the bottom (not the stem end) of each whole tomato, just through the skin. This will help release the skin in the hot water.
- Once the water simmers, lower the tomato down into the water using a slotted spoon. Then whatever you do, don’t walk away! It only takes a few seconds for the hot water to loosen the skin of the tomato. Any longer, and you run the risk of cooking the tomato. If you’re making a salsa, that may be okay.
- Keep your eye on it. When the skin begins to pull away from the “X” you cut, usually at the 15-second mark, remove the tomato from the water and lower it into the ice bath to halt the cooking.
- Once cool, you can easily slide or peel the skin right off, starting at the “X”. At this point, you’re ready to go to the next step of your recipe. Unless, that is, you need to know how to take the seeds out of a tomato.
How to seed a tomato:
What’s the best way to remove the seeds out of a tomato? Keep reading—it couldn’t be easier!
- Cut the peeled tomato in half, right along the equator. Then grab one half in your hand and gently squeeze the seeds out into a bowl.
- You can also use a fingertip or spoon to scoop out any remaining seeds and pulp, too.
- What you are left with is seedless tomato meat that you can chop, dice, purée, or sliver up any way you see fit.
How to Peel Tomatoes
- 1 pound tomatoes (about 4 romas) or more as needed
- Bring a large pot of water to boil (use 2 quarts of water for every 3-4 roma tomatoes as a guide, remembering you can always work with the tomatoes in batches). Meanwhile, fill a bowl with ice water and set aside.
- Using a serrated knife, gently make a shallow “X” into the bottom (not the stem end) of each whole tomato, just through the skin.
- Add tomatoes into the water using a slotted spoon, or just drop them in by hand. Let tomatoes simmer until the skin begins to pull away from the "X", about 15 to 30 seconds.
- Remove tomatoes from the water and transfer to the ice bath to stop the cooking. Once cool, slide or peel off the skin starting at the “X”.
Meggan Hill is a classically-trained chef and professional writer. Her meticulously-tested recipes and detailed tutorials bring confidence and success to home cooks everywhere. Meggan has been featured on NPR, HuffPost, FoxNews, LA Times, and more.