Peel Tomatoes the Easy Way

By Carolyn Shearlock © 2011 • all rights reserved

No ice required!

Canned tomatoes are sometimes hard to find when you’re cruising — but fresh tomatoes are almost always available, often straight from a farmer.  And they substitute perfectly in recipes, with 2 cups of fresh tomatoes for every “can” called for in the recipe.

The only problem is that fresh tomatoes need to be peeled to be used in place of canned or you’ll end up with little bits of peel throughout your dish. So how do you quickly peel a whole bunch of tomatoes?

Making lasagna for a big crowd, I needed to peel this bin of tomatoes.  I needed 4 cans worth of diced tomatoes, or 8 cups.

With the technique that my Aunt Martha had taught me as a child, which I modified to use a lot less water, I had them peeled and diced in 12 minutes flat (yes, I timed it just for this article).  I used this technique frequently while cruising.

Blanching Tomatoes

Begin with washed tomatoes.  Cut out the stem and make a shallow “X” in the skin on the bottom.  Although I usually have to blanch the tomatoes in batches, I prepare all of them to this stage before heating the water, so that I won’t have water boiling any longer than I absolutely have to.


Put about 2″ of water into a saucepan.  Cover the pan and bring it to a full rolling boil over high heat.  Carefully place several of the tomatoes into the water using a spoon.  The tomatoes should have a bit of space around them and no more than one layer (you’ll probably have to do several batches, just keep using the same water).  Cover the pan and let the water return to a full boil.  Once the water boils again, time 30 seconds.


Gently remove the tomatoes from the boiling water and place them stem side down on a plate or cutting board to cool. You’ll notice the peel beginning to separate from the tomato.

Traditional blanching calls for plunging them into ice water, which just doesn’t work on a boat. I’ve just let them cool in the air and it works just as well — without the extra water or the need for ice!

Putting them stem side down allows excess water to drain from the tomatoes, so they aren’t “soupy” in the final dish.


One at a time, pull the peel from the tomatoes and discard it.  I’ve found that blemishes (such as on the tomato in the photo background) tend to just pop out along with the skin, but if one doesn’t, just cut it out.


In just a couple of minutes, all the tomatoes will be peeled and ready for dicing or whatever else you want to do with them.



All diced and ready to add to the lasagna sauce.  If I’m making something where I want the sauce to be particularly thick, I place the diced tomatoes in a strainer or colander to get rid of some of the blanching water and tomato juice, but otherwise I don’t bother.

And once you use fresh tomatoes in any dish calling for canned tomatoes, it’ll be hard to go back.  The flavor is just that much better (assuming you’ve been able to get tomatoes that were picked ripe).  Even though we’re now living ashore and I can get canned tomatoes, I prefer to use the ones straight from the garden.

And since I know how to blanch and peel them, it really isn’t a bother!

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  1. Radar House on Facebook says:
  2. Radar House on Facebook says:

    That’s Dawn Wells/ MaryAnn from Gilligan’s Island!

  3. I’m going to have to try that!

  4. Your book just arrived from Amazon and I am loving it. We are preparing for the World ARC 2014. You have great info just in the first few pages. Can’t wait to try the recipes.

  5. Thanks so much! Glad you’re finding it useful.

  6. I have done this both for home canning tomatoes and working in a professional kitchen and must say I never care for the watery mess…so I found a drier solution, though it might get tedious if doing large quantities. This works well on gas stoves. I would not try it on electric in a house and have not tried it on kerosene or alcohol boat stoves, but it should be OK. You need a sturdy pair of tongs; there are a lot of mediocre, flimsy ones out there, so choose yours carefully. I do not make an X in the skin of the tomato. I simply hold the tomato over the open flame of the burner for a minute or two, rotating once or twice. You will see what happens is that basically the juice starts to boil and this lifts the skin away. If you leave it too long in one position, the skin will char and split, then the juice starts to split. Not a catastrophe, just more clean up required. The tongs also transfer the heat to the parts they are touching, so it is not necessary to have each sector of skin directly over flame. After a couple minutes, just place the tomato on a heat proof surface until it is cool enough to touch, just a few minutes, then peel away. Again, I use this for small quantities, like if you want fresh tomato in a curry sauce or burrito filling and don’t want to open a whole can of tomatoes.

  7. I just blanched peeled deseeded and made sauce from two boxes if tomatoes. I’ve been eating tomato based recipes for two weeks and have canned a few jars. Now deciding to either make salsa and more sauce or can one more batch. It sure is nice when winter is here.

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