How to Peel Tomatoes

Yesterday I posted a recipe for matbucha, a Moroccan cooked tomato salad. When making this salad with fresh tomatoes (rather than canned), you want to use peeled tomatoes. After I posted the recipe, I suddenly thought I should post a little tutorial on how to peel tomatoes. You can’t exactly use a potato peeler, especially if they’re very ripe or soft. There are three easy ways to peel a tomato (that I know about), so I thought I’d write up a quick “how to” post. I’ve written the instructions and posted step-by-step photos below. With tomato season starting soon, it’s a helpful thing to know how to do.

So, why peel a tomato? Tomato skins, when cooked slowly in liquid or sauce, tend to separate from the soft tomato flesh. This can create a stringy, unappealing texture in an otherwise lovely sauce. Here are three simple ways you can peel a tomato. All of them are easy-peasy and take less than a minute per tomato.

In a few days, I’ll do a post about seeding tomatoes and another about roasting them– both are useful techniques to have under your belt. Can you tell I’ve got tomatoes on the brain? I’m really looking forward to the warm weather coming back. I can almost smell those fresh, ripe, sweet tomatoes at the farmer’s market…

How to Peel Tomatoes

You Will Need

  • Tomatoes

For Gas Flame Method You Will Need

Gas stovetop

  • Fork

For Boiling Water Method You Will Need

  • Pot of water
  • Large bowl of ice water
  • Sharp knife
  • Slotted Spoon

For Knife Method You Will Need

  • Sharp knife
  • Cutting board
Servings: Varies
Kosher Key: Pareve

Gas Flame Method

  • Using a gas flame is the easiest way to peel tomatoes, in my opinion. It also produces the best results. You will need a gas stovetop and a fork.
  • Remove any stems that are still attached to your tomatoes. Rinse the tomatoes clean and pat dry. Spear the tomato with a fork at the top, where the stem core is visible.
  • Turn the stovetop flame to medium high. Hold the tomato an inch over the flame, turning slowly, until the skin begins to split and blister. It should take about 15-25 seconds for the skin to loosen all the way around the tomato. Don't hold it over the flame too long or it will start to cook the tomato.
  • Place the tomato on a smooth surface and let it cool off enough for you to comfortably touch it. Begin peeling the skin where it split, making your way all around the tomato till all the skin is peeled off.
  • Discard the skin and proceed with your recipe.

Boiling Water Method

  • The boiling water method is useful for when you have a large batch of tomatoes to peel. You can process 3-4 tomatoes at a time using this method.
  • Place a pot of water on the stove and let it come to a rolling boil. Place your bowl of ice water next to the stove so it is easily accessible. Rinse your tomatoes clean and remove any stems that are still attached.
  • Using a sharp knife, slice a shallow X into the bottom of the tomato (opposite the stem side).
  • Gently place the tomatoes into the boiling water. If you have several tomatoes, boil them in batches of 3-4 at a time.
  • Boil the tomatoes till you see the X begin to split open wider, or for 25 seconds, whichever comes first. Do not boil them for longer than 25-30 seconds or they will begin to soften and cook.
  • Remove the tomatoes immediately from the boiling water using a slotted spoon.
  • Place the tomatoes directly into the bowl of ice water and let them cool off. This will help to stop any "cooking" that has started.
  • Remove the tomatoes from the ice water. Begin peeling the skin at the X, pulling the skin back gently.
  • Not much tomato flesh should come off with the skin-- if the flesh comes off or the tomato seems soft/mushy, you've cooked it a bit too long. Try cooking it for a shorter time on the next round.
  • Discard the skin and proceed with your recipe.

Knife Method

  • This is my least favorite method for peeling tomatoes, because you can end up discarding some tomato flesh no matter how good you are with a knife. However, it's the only method that doesn't involve heating the tomatoes, however briefly. I'm including it so you have all the options. Rinse your tomatoes and pat them dry. Slice the tomatoes into large wedges.
  • Work with one tomato wedge at a time. Place a wedge on a cutting board, seed side facing up, skin side facing down. Press the tomato wedge firmly to the board to keep it stable. Using a sharp knife, starting at one tip of the wedge, slice the skin away from the tomato flesh. Keep the knife as close to the skin as possible, so you're slicing off the skin only and not slicing off the flesh of the tomato.
  • Work your way from one tip of the tomato wedge to the other, till all the skin is removed from the wedge.
  • Discard the skin and proceed with your recipe.

Comments (42)Post a Comment

  1. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    The way my mom taught me to peel a tomato is like this.
    Hold your tomato in your left hand and with your right hand use the back side (the non cutting side) of a butter knife. Go over the entire tomato “bruising” the tomato or scraping at the skin but not actually cutting it. When you’ve done the whole tomato use the tip of a sharp knife and lift a little bit of the skin. The skin should peel right off. If you get those mealy type of tomatoes this won’t work as well because the skin will take some of the flesh with it. This is a great way if you don’t have a gas stove top and you just want to peel a tomato for a sandwich.

    1. That’s exactly the way a dear, old friend taught me to do it, too, about 40-45 years ago. She was Austrian, married over 60 years to an Italian man. I don’t remember if it was the way HER MOTHER or her mother-IN-LAW taught her to do it that way, but over 100 yrs. ago, this is how it was being done!

  2. Very good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 stars
    Great tips! Last year we had so many fresh tomatoes from the garden that I ended up freezing them. They were super easy to peel for use in my tomato sauce. Just ran them under warm water and the skin came right off.

  3. Very good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 stars
    Great tips! However, I found a fruit peeler which is different from a potato peeler and it works perfectly on tomatoes as well as on fruits like peaches, plums etc. I don’t remember where I got it though…

  4. Coincidentally, I just did the boiling water method with tomatoes last week. It worked like a charm. Now I’m definitely going to try the gas burner method next time. :)

  5. I use a SERRATED vegetable peeler on tomatoes all the time and have no trouble. The straight edged vegetable peeler doesn’t work anywhere near as well.

  6. Brilliant! I just used the boiling water / ice water method. The cross cut at the bottom made all the difference. It was simple to do and worth the extra effort because the skins just lifted off. Thankyou

  7. Nice. Halfway through peeling 30 tomatoes for my sauce, I found your suggestion during a break (to rest my hands). I used the gas stove method on the rest and found that I didn’t even need to wait for them to split — 30 seconds was fine. I turned each over the flame using the fork and left them on the counter to cool while I completed the others. They peeled like a charm. Used on: Big Boy, Lemon Boy, and Big Beefsteak tomatoes from my garden.

  8. I just did a whole batch by using a coarse cheese grater (1/4 inch size). Slice the tomato in half down the core and rub against the grate. I used a rubber jar lid opener to hold the tomato and protect my hand. You get a nice puree without all the pots and pans.

  9. I have never had any luck with the boiling/ice water method. I always end up with only quarter or half peeled tomatoes. I’m definitely going to have to try the gas stove method as I have about 60 pounds of tomatoes to do!

  10. Thanks for the tip. I don’t like tomatoes at all, but my husband does and always wants them peeled. I’ve destroyed one too many tomatoes by trying to cut the skin off with a knife.
    Should have looked it up sooner!

  11. I will use the butter knife and bruising method. I am trying to stay away from the fluoridated municipal water supply and have yet to buy a RO filter for the kitchen so I am using distilled water for now.

  12. Very good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 stars
    Great tips for a first timer like me! I did choose the ‘old-fashioned’ way as it reminds me of all of the great cooking secrets that I learned from my Grandma. I just finished peeling a dozen tomatoes in less than 10 minutes. Wahoo! Now to make that sauce I’ve been thinkin’ about. . .

    Nice blog by the way!

  13. Very good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 stars
    These are great tips. I use and have used the boiling water method my grandmother taught me when I was ten. I am 75 now and have canned my husband’s garden produce for years.
    I am thankful to my grandmother for her teaching and love.

  14. I would like to offer another method to peel tomatoes if you
    would like not to heat it!
    Put your knife with a short angle on the tomato, and rub it all over the tomato skin. Then slice a shallow X into the bottom of the tomato and start skining.
    good luck.

  15. After I peel them, can I put them back in the fridge? I am making dinner tomorrow but I want to get as much word done ahead of time. I am new at this and its for a date, so I do not want to end up bailing on the idea when it all goes wrong.

    1. Depends on what you’re making– if it’s for a sauce, it shouldn’t be a problem, as long as you keep them covered in an airtight Tupperware or something similar so they don’t dry out too much. If it’s only a day ahead, it should be ok. Good luck!

  16. I use the method my father taught me to peel tomatoes, the method his father taught him and his father before him so on and its probably many centuries old, lol get the misses to do it lol so simple.

  17. I appreciate all these ideas and have used most of them YET I would point out that if you are in a hurry to get you pot going for standard tomato sauce or other use which will be liquid in nature you can get by by NOT peeling them. I would admit you need to core them to remove the stems/cores then fill a blender with 40 percent of water by volume and then add your first tomato, I suggest cut in quarters, allowing the blender to grind up your tomato in the fluid. Once done add a second tomato and allow it to become fully ground into the liquid. By now your blender is probably pretty full so you must now pour off 60$% of the blender contents and then add the next two tomatoes and then pour off 60% of the liquid again.. repeat this process until all of your tomatoes are fully ground up into liquid adding water as needed to maintain a slurry. Now your sauce is own its way complete with those healthy wholesome skins.included. You will also find it takes less cooking time to get the sauce to a creamy texture for sauces. Now I will admit this technique does not work for any other tomato uses.

  18. Besides the boiling method, couldn’t one also use a steamer? I have a boiler insert that I use for broccoli, cauliflower, etc. Seems like it would also work well for peeling tomatoes. Maybe I will try it. I’ll have to guess on the length of time needed.

    1. I found a website that suggested 3 minutes in a steamer. That’s versus 30 seconds to a minute in boiling water. In either case, you don’t want to overcook the tomatoes. I pull them out as soon as I see the skin split. A secondary ice water bath is recommended regardless of whether you steam or boil.

      I make roasted tomatoes halves and although the original recipe does not call for the skins to be removed, there’s a sort of melt in your mouth texture when they’re peeled.

  19. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    Thank you! We had heirloom tomatoes with lots of grooves that we wanted to peel. This was really helpful. We did Method 1 this time and it worked perfectly. We’ll try it over the flame next time for contrast!

  20. great to find your tom peeling tips. I have over 60 Mortgage Lifter tomato plants reaching for the moon so will have a task making relish etc (gallons ???) when they fruit. These tomatoes can attain a weight of a kilo for one tomato.

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