How to Peel Tomatoes

Peeled tomatoes in a measuring cup
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While most tomatoes get eaten with their peels on at my house—on their own or turned into salads—when it's time to make sauces or can tomatoes for those sad times when tomatoes aren't in season, you want that peel off. Luckily, peeling tomatoes isn't quite as tricky as it may seem at first glance of that thin skin and tender flesh.

Here are two methods, depending how many tomatoes you have on hand and how ripe they are. A few firm tomatoes? Quick work with a classic vegetable peeler or paring knife will do the trick. Lots of tomatoes or super ripe specimens? Or you'd like a more elegant presentation, without bits of peel floating around, in cooked dishes? You're going to need to blanch them, then peel them. Luckily, blanching is quick and easy. 

Method One: Use a Vegetable Peeler 

Firm tomatoes can be simply peeled with a sharp vegetable peeler or paring knife just like any other vegetable. You tend to lose a bit of tomato flesh with this method, but it's a good one if the tomatoes are firm and you don't have too many of them to peel. If you take your time, the tomatoes can even look pretty good when all is said and done, although softer, riper tomatoes may get a tad mangled with this method.

Method Two: Blanch the Tomatoes 

If you're peeling softer, likely riper tomatoes or have a lot of tomatoes to peel you'll want to blanch them, which can be done very easily:

  1. Cut a small "x" just through the thin skin on the bottom of each tomato.
  2. Dip the tomatoes in a pot of boiling water for 30 seconds or put them in a large bowl, pour boiling water over them, and let them sit for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Long enough so that the skin near the "x" that you made is starting to curl away from the tomato.
  3. Lift or drain the tomatoes out of the hot water. If you're worried about them sitting hot too long, you can quickly dunk them into ice water to stop them from cooking or softening too much.
  4. Be amazed by how the peel slips off each tomato like a loose sweater. Use a paring knife to lift or scrape them off, if you like, but properly blanched tomatoes can often be peeled with just your fingers.

For photos of how this is done step-by-step, see How to Peel Peaches (the method is the same!).