Making homemade oven-dried tomatoes is a great way to enjoy all the flavor of the sun-dried tomatoes you get from the store with none of the added oil or preservatives. No secret tricks or special equipment required to make these intense flavor bombs – tomatoes, dried herbs, and your oven. Let’s go!
Why bother with oven-dried tomatoes?
I’ll be honest, my motivation for making my own version of ‘sun-dried’ tomatoes was an oily issue. Specifically, I couldn’t find any that weren’t swimming in the stuff. I tried rinsing them with hot water and that just made matter worse because I got an ‘up-close and personal’ experience of the oil as it went down the drain, destined to someday clog it up. And no, the water did not defeat oil in this case. I ended up with limp not-so-dried tomatoes that were still glistening with my unhealthy, calorie-laden nemesis.
And yes, I know I could just give in and have a 'little bit' of that oil, but frankly, but I’ve made it a goal to eliminate as much of that stuff from my diet as possible in the past few years. And discovering ‘hidden’ oils in prepared foods is difficult enough. Buying an ingredient that is so obviously swimming in the stuff, seemed a bit of a slap in my aspirational face.
How to make oven-dried tomatoes
Like the sign (or recipe) says – we’re going to use our oven to dry tomatoes. Why the oven? For me, it’s a matter of convenience and because nearly everyone has an oven. So, dig out the pans or whatever you are storing in there, and let’s go.
Step one: prep your tomatoes
Start by rinsing and then slicing your tomatoes in half, lengthwise. That means from stem to end. Depending on the kind of tomato you use, you shouldn’t need to core them, just remove the brown ends.
What kind of tomatoes should I dry?
There are a few things to consider when you choose your drying tomatoes. First, size. Smaller cherry tomatoes (we call them salad tomatoes), will dry faster, but they can shrink down to nothing. Full-sized tomatoes contain a lot more water and after taking forever to dry, you may end up with little flavor and not so much substance.
I found that for best results, go for something in the middle, like Roma or paste tomatoes. Think red, plum, oval, or pear-shaped. My current favorites are Tasty Toms which we have readily available in our shops here in The Netherlands, but Toms have made their way around the world (https://dutchgreenhouses.com/blog/how-on-earth-have-the-dutch-done-it), and may just have landed in a store near you.
Step two: season your tomatoes
That oil-elimination motivate has been the catalyst for quite a few of my ‘ingredient’ developments of late. The more I explore, the more I’ve come to realize that making your own ingredients can be really straight-forward. Easy even. Tahini, for example, is nothing more than toasted sesame seeds blended into a paste and although they require a few more ingredients, red curry paste or even the slightly more exotic, Massaman paste is really just a matter of getting the herbs and spices right.
Once you have your tomatoes ready, just spread them on a lined baking tray, and add your herbs. You can also sprinkle a few pinches of salt. That can help speed up the process, but honestly, I’ve used and not used and haven’t seen a significant difference.
I used Herbs de Province, an aromatic blend of savory, marjoram, rosemary, thyme, and oregano to herb up my tomatoes. The cooking goddess, Julia Child helped popularize this French herb blend back in the '60s when she used it for seasoning chicken or something. As a result, and no doubt because of her influence, herbs de province became the blend of the ‘70s, which always makes me think of those rusty-colored kitchens of that time period (because I grew up in one).
Fast forward and this blend found a new home right on my tomatoes. I like this particular blend because it has a great flavor and goes with a lot of different cuisines without interrupting the flavor integrity of the final dish.
That said when you season anything and in particular, a condiment or ingredient, you want to consider it’s intended use. Because I knew, my tomatoes were going to eventually end up in pizza sauce or mixed with white beans for flashy wraps, I used a lot of herbs. If you wanted to make oven-dries for snacking or particular cuisines, like Indian, Italian or Mexican, you could use other herb or spices. Chili powder, a mix of garlic powder and hot smoked paprika, even a Berbere spice blend. Spice up, spice down, anything goes.
Step three: Start high, go low
Oven-drying tomatoes are like oven-roasting red peppers. By this I mean – messy! Be advised that unless you have a baking tray you are willing to sacrifice, use parchment paper or a baking mat. I learned the hard way about this when I decided to roast chilis on my good pizza stone. You can guess what happened. It still works, but it will never look the same. I swear it’s never forgiven me either – at least that’s what I blame undercooked pizza crust on.
The long game
Oven-drying is all about low temperatures and long processes. It’s like the boiled pot, just stop watching it. That said, there are a few things to keep in mind that can help. Start on a higher heat for the first hour (2750F/1400C). That gets things moving. After that, reduce to around 1760F/800C for the remaining 3 hours or so you’ll need to fully reduce the tomatoes. If you leave them on the tray for an hour or so after removing them from the oven, they will continue drying.
Reducing, but not to nothing
Your tomatoes are oven-‘dried' when they reduce to about half (or a little less) than their size. It's entirely up to you how far you want to take it, but you want them to still have enough moisture to be somewhat pliable so they can be chopped, pureed, or eaten without breaking a tooth.
In a word, the idea behind oven-drying is reduction. Whether on the stovetop or in the oven, reduction removes moisture and intensifies the flavor. It’s the same principle behind a balsamic reduction, moisture dissipates, leaving more flavor per tablespoon.
How to store dried tomatoes
Store dried tomatoes in the refrigerator in an airtight container or sealed bag. They will last about a week. You can also freeze them for up to 3 months without a problem.
Reduction cuts through the superfluous and gets to the flavor of the matter. It might take time and a bit of patience to get there, but in the end, you are left with the intense sweetness of the fruits. The first step is deciding that change is needed (like no more oil-packed tomatoes). Then, you act. You intentionally change course, to get to a healthier end that is even sweeter because you created it. Peace.
If we only ask for the cheapest food no matter how the produced, that’s what we’ll get. But if we reframe the conversation and show intent with our pocketbooks, we have the capacity to create change. Besides, what would you rather have? 6 Wasserbomben or 1 delicious tomato? I know, it depends on what you want them for you tomato-throwers, you. Mindful consumption. Peace.Print
oven-dried tomatoes: oil-free flavor bombs
These oven-dried tomatoes are oil-free, intense flavor bombs with a concentrated sweet tomato and herb flavor sure to healthfully boost your taste buds.
- Prep Time: 5 minutes
- Cook Time: 4 hours (inactive)
- Total Time: 4 hours 5 minutes
- Yield: 1 cup 1x
- Category: Dressings & Condiments
- Method: Bake
- Cuisine: Plant-based
- Diet: Vegan
- 10 small-medium tomatoes (this will yield 1 cup dried)
- 1 – 2 Tbsp. Herbs de Province
- Wash and halve the tomatoes and remove the brown ends.
- Lay the tomatoes cut side up on a baking tray lined with parchment paper and sprinkle each piece with Herbs de Province.
- Dry the tomatoes in the oven. Start at 2750F (1400C) for one hour, lower the heat to 1760F (800C) and continue to dry for another 3 hours until your tomatoes are about half their original size and are a dark red.
- Be sure to use only halved tomatoes, this process won’t work with tomatoes cut into quarters as you will end up with mushy pieces. The skins between the baking tray and the tomato meat create a container for slow moisture reduction that holds the flavor.
- Store your tomatoes in the fridge for up to 1 week and then pop any leftovers in the freezer. To thaw, place them in the refrigerator for a few hours or run hot water over them if you are cooking with them immediately.
Keywords: oven-dried tomatoes