Sun-dried tomatoes are juicy little tomatoes that have had most of their moisture taken away by drying in the sun (or the oven, or a tomato dehydrator).
Sun-drying is an excellent way to preserve and elevate tomatoes. It extends their shelf life significantly and gives them a wonderful texture and flavor that is unique and very tasty.
Typically, they are preserved in oil or salted and sometimes with additional herbs, such as rosemary or basil. They retain the nutritional value of the fresh tomato. However, they’re also higher in salt, making them less suitable for readers who need to watch their sodium intake.
Overall, sun-dried tomatoes are popular and delicious—and they’re carried by almost every grocery store. Once you’ve unpacked them from your grocery bags, here’s everything you need to know about storing them.
How Long Do Sun-dried Tomatoes Last Unopened?
The answer will depend on the type of sun-dried tomatoes in your pantry.
Generally speaking, tomatoes preserved in oil usually last over a year before their best quality starts to decrease. Store them in a cool and dark place, making sure the lids on the jars are indeed well-sealed.
As long as no oxygen or moisture can reach the tomatoes, they should last very well. If you make your own sun-dried tomatoes, it’s a different game. Store them in glass jars and avoid metallic containers, as the tomatoes may start to absorb the metal’s flavor with prolonged storage.
A dark pantry is a great storage place for unopened sun-dried tomatoes. Never leave them out on the counter or on a windowsill; other than cluttering your kitchen, they’ll deteriorate faster if constantly exposed to light and temperature fluctuations.
If your sun-dried tomatoes are in a cellophane bag, you should store them in a cold pantry or a fridge before opening for up to 9 months.
How Long Do Sun-Dried Tomatoes Last Once Open?
For some people, just a few minutes! Of course, if you have more willpower than others, you might want a more helpful answer to this question. So let’s look at the rules once you’ve broken the seal.
If they are in oil, sun-dried tomatoes will need to be used up relatively quickly when opened, or the oil could start to turn rancid.
Once you have broken the seal on the jar or packet and introduced both air and moisture to the environment, bacteria and mold can start to grow—so you will need to eat your sun-dried tomatoes before they go off.
Open containers of sun-dried tomatoes should be kept in the fridge at all times, preferably with a fitted lid or seal to minimize airflow. If that’s not possible, wrap the can or jar tightly in plastic before putting it in the fridge.
Ensure that the oil still covers the tomatoes, as this will help repel moisture and keep them fresh for longer.
Estimates on how long sun-dried tomatoes last once in the fridge vary; you are likely to find that the first thing that changes is the oil may turn rancid. This could happen as quickly as a few weeks, or you may find it lasts well for a few months.
Once the oil has shifted, it’s time to get rid of them.
Where Should I Store My Sun-dried Tomatoes?
Unopened containers of sun-dried tomatoes are best stored in the dark and the cool, as with most other foods. You should always put the jar or packet away promptly when you have finished with it—in the fridge as soon as it is open.
Store unopened jars in a dark part of your pantry, as cool as possible. Although the seal and oil should preserve the tomatoes well, you can increase their chance of lasting by protecting them from variations in surrounding temperature and light exposure.
Can I Freeze Sun-dried Tomatoes Long Term?
Like many foods, you can freeze sun-dried tomatoes to extend their life. This is particularly useful if you’ve purchased or made large quantities and don’t think you will get through them quickly enough.
If you grow your own tomatoes, this is likely to be the case—and it’s a great way to preserve your tomatoes for the winter months and stock up on tomatoes to use in recipes. Or you might just have found a bargain on sun-dried tomatoes in the store and stocked up on a lot!
Freezing sun-dried tomatoes in cellophane packets can give you a few more months to play with. Food stored in the freezer can last almost indefinitely if it doesn’t get defrosted. However, you may notice that the tomatoes’ quality and texture will decrease after longer periods.
If you are going to freeze your sun-dried tomatoes in glass jars, make sure you allow room for the expansion of the oil and any moisture in the jar. Freezing jars carries a risk of the glass breaking, so approach this carefully and test it with one jar before you freeze a lot.
Can I Eat Sun-Dried Tomatoes Past The Expiration Date?
With any preserved foods, expiry dates can be confusing. They are often very long but then depend on when you opened the product (and can be surprisingly short following that).
Expiry dates are often intended as guidelines on your food, and most people are aware that – with proper caution – it is not necessarily dangerous to eat things that have expired. However, this should be done carefully and isn’t a risk you should take if you suffer from ill-health.
If you have made your sun-dried tomatoes at home, you won’t have expiry dates to use as guides, so you’ll have to use a “creation date” and your senses to tell if your tomatoes are okay to eat.
Do Sun-Dried Tomatoes Go Bad And What Are The Signs They Have?
Like any food, sun-dried tomatoes will eventually go bad, especially if you store them improperly. After all, although the moisture has been reduced, some of it still exists, which means that the tomatoes can still go moldy.
There are a few signs that will indicate if your sun-dried tomatoes are past their best. If they are in oil and the oil goes rancid, you should throw them away. If you see mold on the tomatoes or the oil’s surface, it’s also time to discard them.
If your tomatoes aren’t in oil, check the texture. Brittle, hard, very shriveled, or very chewy tomatoes are not suitable to eat; sun-dried tomatoes should have a little bit of softness and life left in them.
Desiccated shells of tomatoes are not worth eating, even if they aren’t off – but the lack of moisture is a sign that they are.
So, how do you keep sun-dried tomatoes fresh for as long as possible? And how do you know if they’re off?
Proper storage is the key to extending the shelf-life, which translates to a cool and dark shelf in the pantry, and then some of your valuable fridge space once they have been opened.
Your tomatoes should keep for a long time—after all, this method is intended to preserve them—but look out for moldy or very dried up tomatoes, and discard the batch if they have gone past their best.
If you home-make your own sun-dried tomatoes, you will have to depend on the look, smell, and taste to determine whether they’re still suitable for consumption. As long as you pay attention, chances are you won’t end up with an upset stomach.