16 Ways to Use Up Bruised Tomatoes

July  8, 2019
Photo by Rocky Luten

So you went to the market and bought all the beefsteak tomatoes that your arms could hold because they were just so fat and so beautiful. You used a handful to make some BLTs (or BLT salads), but now the rest of them have started to bruise, no longer firm enough for sandwich-ready slices.

In the dead of winter, we dream of having too many tomatoes—but in the summer, it can be a serious problem. Luckily, there are many ways to use the season's red beauties even after they've lost their firmness and are too soft to slice into a salad.

More: Get to know your ingredients. Here's how to crush tomatoes by hand.

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First, however, you need to make sure your tomatoes are bruised, and not rotten: When they go bad, tomatoes start leaking liquid—at this point, it's time to hurry up and put them to use. If their skins develop black spots that are obviously not dirt or blemishes, your tomatoes have begun to mold and it's time to chuck them.

Now that you're done inspecting, we've got some ideas to get your creative (tomato) juices flowing. Here are our favorite ways to salvage bruised tomatoes:

1. Tomato Sauce

Boil the tomatoes for a minute, peel them (here's how), chop them, then let them simmer into a tomato sauce, and add whatever seasonings you like. Go with garlic, anchovies, capers, and crushed red pepper for Pasta Puttanesca, or butter and onion for Marcella Hazan's Tomato Sauce. Some other ideas: Make marinara sauce to top any homemade pizza or poach some eggs in a spicy, pungent tomato sauce and call it shakshuka.

More: Here's how to use up a big batch of tomato sauce in a week's worth of dinners.

2. Tomato Vinaigrette 

Chop up bruised tomatoes, roast or sauté them over high heat, then toss them in with some olive oil, red wine vinegar, minced garlic, salt, pepper, a pinch of sugar, and maybe a little Dijon mustard. Whisk it all together, and you have a vinaigrette that will keep in the fridge for up to a week. Mix it into a salad or drizzle it over a protein, like this grilled flank steak.

3. Tomato Jam

Roast or simmer your tomatoes with sugar, salt, lemon juice, and whatever aromatics or spices you like—maybe cinnamon, fennel seeds, and dried red chiles, or onion, vinegar, cumin, and coriander—until they are jelled. Then spread liberally on any and all bread you can find. (Butter, not optional.) 

4. Bruschetta

Roast chopped tomatoes (or sliced cherry tomatoes) in the oven under they are caramelized. Then, melt some cheese on crostini (or keep it plain), throw on your tomatoes, season, and you have a delicious hors d'oeuvre to serve to all your summertime guests. If you want a larger-scale version of bruschetta, make a tomato galette. Slice the tomatoes in half, bake them low and slow, arrange them in a puff pastry and bake it at high heat with any other toppings you like—we recommend low-moisture mozzarella—until the pastry is golden.

5. Tomato Soup

You don't need a recipe for this classic. Sauté alliums—onions, garlic, shallots, what have you—in olive oil, then add your tomatoes and your go-to seasonings. Add a little water or broth (vegetable or chicken), let it simmer until it's as thick as you want it to be, and blend until smooth. You can always add cream, too. Then dip your grilled cheese right in.

6. Salsa

Blend your tomatoes together with alliums (like onion and garlic), herbs (like cilantro), spice (like ground cumin), heat (like fresh jalapeño), and acid (like lime juice), and you have salsa, as smooth or as chunky as you like it. Bring on the tortilla chips. 

7. Gazpacho

If a hot soup feels inconceivable in the summer, make a cold one instead. Roughly chop the tomatoes, garlic, onion, bread, and any vegetables you have available. Think: zucchini, cucumbers, or bell peppers (fruit, like watermelon, works, too!). Throw in some salt, squeeze a little lemon, and let it all sit for a bit. Once the bread has softened, blend everything together, and bam: You're in Spain.

8. Pan con Tomate

Rub the fresh tomatoes all over some toasted bread, drizzle the bread with oil, sprinkle with flaky salt, and yes: You're still in Spain. Bonus points for a runny egg on top. 

9. Bloody Mary

Make a homemade mix—like this one, with basil—by simmering your chopped tomatoes with salt, pepper, onions, garlic, pepper, water, and the vegetables and herbs of your choosing, until they are completely tender. Blend, then add in prepared horseradish, Worcestershire sauce, celery salt, hot sauce, lemon juice, and vodka, and stir. Just don't forget the celery stalk. You can also make cocktail sauce from scratch using a pretty similar process.

10. Tomato Frittata

As a rule of thumb, when all else fails, throw your bruised produce into a frittata. No one will mind. Sauté your tomatoes briefly with any other vegetables you have, pour in beaten, seasoned eggs over them, stir until set, and then throw in the oven to finish. You just can't go wrong. (Another slower but very wonderful method is to cook the frittata completely in an ultra-low oven. More on that here.

11. Cheesy Baked Pasta

If a recipe calls for a pound of pasta and five cheeses (yes, five!), you know it's going to be good. Even with bruised tomatoes. Al Forno's famous dish (our co-founder, Merrill Stubbs, swears by it), uses chopped canned tomatoes, but fresh ones work just as well. 

12. Savory Bread Pudding

Bread pudding doesn't always have to be sweet. This version is like a grilled cheese and tomato soup, in casserole form. It's as good for brunch (goes great with eggs) as it is for dinner. 

13. Scalloped Tomatoes

This recipe lets the tomatoes shine, but hides any unsightly bruises by baking them at 350°F for 30-something minutes. French bread, Parmesan cheese, and a smooch of garlic make it even more Genius

14. Tomato-Braised Chicken

While so many chicken braises are wintry and fussy, this one is neither. Instead, it's full of tomatoes, basil, and fresh chile, and the method is little more than: Snuggle the ingredients in a pot and stick in the oven. Thank you, Jamie Oliver!

15. Tomato Tatin 

A classic French tarte tatin is made with apples, but this one opts for tomatoes, red onion, and dried herbs instead. Thick Greek yogurt or crème fraîche would be wonderful on top. You can cut this into wedges for dinner, or into smaller pieces as an appetizer.   

16. Tomato Cobbler

A jammy tomato cobbler with a buttermilk-cornmeal crumble on top. Dollop crème fraîche on top and serve with a crisp, bright salad (we especially love peppery arugula here). 

Bonus! See Marcella's famous tomato sauce in action:

This article was originally published in 2014. We updated it for another summer, during which we'll buy too many tomatoes, again, as we do. What are your favorite ways to use overripe tomatoes? Tell us in the comments!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

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Emi Boscamp

Written by: Emi Boscamp

Editorial Intern, Food52


The S. May 4, 2021
Dear Emi
Your recipes and the way you write are both divine. "A smooch of garlic" "butter is not optional" Inspiring Bravo
AlwaysLookin June 12, 2020
Bring this back in 6 Weeks when I'm inundated with Tomatoes after planting 3 Plants too many!! No Tomato Pie Recipes?
Evie L. March 22, 2020
You can freeze tomatoes and make sauce out of them or use them for cooking later. Surprise this wasn’t mentioned. When frozen run under warm water and the peel comes right off. Much better than canned tomatoes.
Corj July 9, 2019
Last summer I planted a crop of tomatoes that turned out to be mealy. So I sliced them, put them on paper towels and then baked them in a low oven until slightly dehydrated and froze them in a vacuum sealer . Well-! On a pizza or on bread, in soup in winter = joy!
Rosalind P. June 12, 2020
I take this idea a step further for a great snack. Really dehydrate in a 225 degree oven until they're almost leathery. Incredible concentrated tomato flavor, great snack as is, or save them in oil. This transforms even bad winter tomatoes. Alchemy!
Smaug July 8, 2019
Tomatoes can be frozen for sauces. I cut them in half and freeze them in one or two pound batches. To use, throw in a saucepan (thawed or not) and heat until bubbling and soft, run through a food mill. If the tomatoes are good this will be a considerable improvement on canned tomatoes in the winter.
Annada R. July 8, 2019
How about some tomato chutney? Bruised tomatoes for perfect for this chutney.
Ann August 21, 2014
But what to do with tomatoes that are too sweet for sauce, salsa etc.? I don't like sweet sauces.
AlwaysLookin June 12, 2020
Would adding a little vinegar help?
Smaug May 4, 2021
No, it would make it taste sweeter.
kim July 31, 2014
you all are the best- such great ideas - when do you sleep.
Stacey M. July 31, 2014
Great them all and plan to put several to the test when I have the chance. .thank you!!
Jerry P. July 31, 2014
We always have things that we wish we knew what to do with. It is always good to have a few articles like this in a collection to give a little inspiration.