The Best Way to Store Tomatoes

Just how bad is it to refrigerate your tomatoes?

May 25, 2022

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Fresh Cherry Tomatoes on Wooden table


Fresh Cherry Tomatoes on Wooden table

Photo by: Emilija Manevska / Getty Images

Emilija Manevska / Getty Images

First, it was, "Don't refrigerate tomatoes!" Now, we're hearing, "Refrigerating tomatoes is the only way to keep them fresh!" If all this conflicting advice is giving you whiplash, you're not alone. Let's dive into some tomato know-how, starting with how to buy the best tomatoes that'll last the longest.

How to Pick the Best Tomatoes

This summer is prime time for local produce so get out to your local farmers’ market or farm stand where colorful and plump tomatoes are abundant. Choose large tomatoes that are free of bruises and heavy for their size (heavy equals juicy). For smaller cherry tomatoes, look for ones that are brightly colored with tight skins. Don’t look only for perfectly round or red tomatoes. Oddly shaped, bizarre-colored heirloom and other unique varieties are some of the tastiest kinds!

A Concise Guide to the Different Types of Tomatoes

How to select, eat and cook 9 common tomato varieties.

Should Tomatoes Be Refrigerated?

So which rule is correct: refrigerate or don't refrigerate? The answer is both — depending on how ripe your tomatoes are. "Don't refrigerate" applies to unripe tomatoes. They'll never reach their full potential at colder temperatures. Worse, the chill will dull the flavor and make the texture as mealy as an old bodega apple.

How to Store and Ripen Tomatoes On the Counter

  1. Line a plate or Tupperware with a layer of paper towels and place it in a cool, dry spot on the counter.
  2. Park your unripe romas, plums and beyond stem-side down in a single layer. It's okay if they're touching.
  3. Check on their ripeness over the next few days. If the tomatoes are super fresh, like from the farmers market, they can last about a week this way.

Once tomatoes are fully ripe, it's time to pounce. Tasting a perfectly ripened tomato can elicit the purest joy, so don't miss that small window of opportunity.

How Long Do Tomatoes Last In the Fridge?

Try to bring home tomatoes already vine-ripened and only enough to eat that day or the next. But if you can't finish all your ripe beauties at once, that's when the refrigeration-is-ok rule kicks in. Otherwise, they'll rot and that'll elicit the exact opposite emotion of joy.

Store ripe tomatoes in the refrigerator somewhere where they will not be squished, like on the top shelf of the refrigerator, for up to five days, according to the USDA. Store them away from other produce that might be affected and spoiled by their ripening gas, such as lettuce and dark leafy greens.

For the best flavor, let the chilled tomatoes come to room temperature 30 minutes before diving in.

Cutting tomatoes slices, A Coruna, Galicia, Spain


Cutting tomatoes slices, A Coruna, Galicia, Spain

Photo by: © Santiago Urquijo/Getty Images

© Santiago Urquijo/Getty Images

How to Store a Cut Tomato

It's also okay to refrigerate half a tomato or whatever is left from cutting into one. Just be sure to pack the remnant in an airtight container to prevent its picking up other fridge flavors. You'll also want to place the tomatoes, cut or whole, in a warmer location in the refrigerator, like on the top shelf near the door. Use cut tomatoes by the next day.

How to Store Tomatoes In the Freezer

Although the classic way to freeze tomatoes is to blanch them and peel them first, you can simply freeze whole tomatoes. Spread them out on a baking sheet to freeze them, then transfer them to a resealable plastic bag and store them for 4 to 6 months. The skins will slip off when they thaw. For more information on freezing tomatoes, head over to our story Can You Freeze Tomatoes?.

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