The Scrappy Tomato Trick We're Obsessed With This Summer

Bonus: It'll help you enjoy those ruby-red beauts long after tomato season is over.

August 13, 2020

We’re officially into double digits of quarantine weeks, and tomatoes have been a faithful companion in my kitchen now more than ever. I use them in everything from Nigerian stew to Italian sugo, Gigi Hadid's creamy tomato sauce using tomato paste, salsa, and focaccia gardens, studded with sweet, halved heirloom tomatoes. Week in, week out, we've gone through fresh, canned, pureed, paste.

Often—for at least a few days, sometimes even a couple of weeks—we focus on one tomato sauce. When I say "we," I mean my three teenage children, who find the best recipes on TikTok, Instagram, and from watching Anime—and then co-opt me occasionally into cooking it for them.

It was in “phase sugo" (a smooth, creamy tomato sauce made with chunky ingredients blitzed down at the end) that the thought of preserving tomato skins came to me. I soon found that the powder or flakes are easy to make, and are a great addition to many things—from lining the rims of cocktail glasses to folding into softened butter for speckled compound butter; sprinkling it over yogurt, salads, soups, and much more. With this powder, I love the look of my classic Canadian Caesar, rim shimmering red. Adding some to vinaigrettes and sprinkling over flatbreads are firm favorites.

I make my sugo with whole peeled plum tomatoes from a can. I've tried with skin-on fresh tomatoes, and though the flavor ended up right, the texture was not—cream interspersed with tomato shards and coiled skins. One day, I only had fresh roma tomatoes, and the children wanted “pasta sauce," as they call sugo. So I made quick work of removing the skins, and had a huge pile of them when I was done prepping a batch. I decided that there was no need to waste them. If I wasn’t already invested in making the most of herbs, ends and leavings, this—the quarantine would have done it.

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Top Comment:
“As for dehydrating the skins -- or plum tomato halves for that matter -- this year I'm using the hot sunny dashboard of an old truck in my driveway. No mesh domes to protect the tomatoes from insects, no rescuing semi-dried tomatoes from sudden rain. They cook in the solar oven of the truck. It's amazing what whimsy a pandemic will drive you to.”
— patricia G.

My 21st-floor apartment has stunning views of sunrise and sunset but no balcony garden or compost bin. So, in the same vein as bread ends and Parmesan crumbs (rinds cooked, blended, squeezed, and baked), I seasoned the tomato skins, put them on a baking sheet and into the oven on a low temperature, and let them be till they were dry and crisp. Then I blitzed them until they became a fine powder with a sweet-bitter-tangy flair.

For tomato powder, I find that romas and plum tomatoes give me the best result—there’s more flesh remaining on the skins when I remove them, so the resulting powder is ultimately more tomatoey than that of thin whispers of skin from beefsteaks.

A word on peeling tomatoes: After some trial and error, I've found the method that I use consistently. I cut an X into the bottom of fresh tomatoes, dunk them in boiling water, and leave them for a couple of minutes, in which time the skins curl away from the flesh. I drain the tomatoes, run cold water over them if they’re too hot, and then begin the work of skinning. To do this, I simply pinch the head of the tomatoes, and the skin comes right off, like a cloak, leaving juicy orbs of tomato flesh.

When the skins are freed from the flesh, I pat them dry with a towel, then dehydrate them either in the microwave or oven (the microwave saves a lot of time, but low-and-slow in the oven makes for the best flavor). After the skins are dry and crispy, I blitz them in a spice mill or mortar and pestle, then mix them with any manner of seasonings and spices: red pepper flakes, freshly ground black pepper, cayenne, cumin powder or seeds, flaky salt.

And umpteen batches of tomato powder later, we’re out of “phase sugo” and right into “phase Gigi’s sauce.” Just. Like. That.

How to Make Tomato Powder


  • Fresh roma or plum tomatoes, as many or as few as you like


1. Peel your tomatoes

  • Boil about a quart of water in a kettle or pot.
  • Meanwhile, score your tomatoes by cutting an "X" on the bottom of each one.
  • Place the scored tomatoes in a large heat-proof mixing bowl and pour enough boiled water over them to cover.
  • Let the tomatoes sit for a minute or two till the skin begins to curl away from from the flesh.
  • Drain off the water, let the tomatoes cool for a minute (rinse with cold water to speed the process along), then peel.
  • Pat the tomato skins dry with a towel and reserve. At this stage, you can use the tomato flesh for sauces, soups, and more, or freeze them for later.

2. Dehydrate the skins

Microwave method

  • Place paper towels on a microwave-safe plate.
  • Spread out the tomato skins in one layer.
  • Microwave on high for an initial 3 minute period, then check and continue in 30 second increments, till the skins are dry and papery.

Oven method

  • Heat your oven to 200 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Line a baking sheet with parchment or a silicone mat and lay the skins on top in a single layer.
  • Bake till they are completely dry, between 1 1/2 and 3 hours.

3. Make tomato powder

  • Powder: Grind the dehydrated skins in a spice mill or coffee grinder until they're in a fine powder.
  • Flakes: Crumble the dehydrated skins in your hands, or coarsely grind in a mortar and pestle, until they reach your desired texture.

What dishes would you sprinkle tomato powder on? Let us know in the comments.
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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Maria Sotelo Obregon
    Maria Sotelo Obregon
  • Lea Conner
    Lea Conner
  • Helen
  • Keta Bill
    Keta Bill
  • patricia gadsby
    patricia gadsby
I love food and I'm interested in making space for little-heard voices, as well as celebrating Nigerian cuisine in its entirety.


Maria S. January 4, 2021
Madam Butterfly, I'm so excited i cam across you. This is an amazing idea , can wait to make it. thank you so much.
Kitchen B. March 11, 2021
Thank you!
Maria S. March 11, 2021
Your welcome!
Lea C. October 1, 2020
Is there any reason you couldn't dehydrate sliced tomatoes and use that to make tomato powder?
Kitchen B. March 11, 2021
No reason if you have a good dehydrator - it would be deeper flavour. This is my way of using things I'd normally discard
Helen August 25, 2020
Madam Butterfly-while I enjoyed your tips for tomato powder, I'm am extremely excited about your recipe on your site for Nigerian stew! Comments are closed there, so I'm seeking you out here hoping to reach you as I have some much water to add to steam the meat? And are the bouillon cubes added to the meat pot to make a stock instead of plain water? And the recipe lists measured spices and additional for cooking meat..where are the measured ones added? I reread it many times and didn't see spices added to the tomato/onion when cooking down so I'm unsure..unless it's added at the end when everything is all in 1 pot as final seasoning?.sorry 4 the long questions but I want to get this proper,(making for a native Naija friend) your pic looks delicious and I can't wait to try more recipes too! Thank you :)
Kitchen B. August 26, 2020
Thank you, Helen - it was a silly glitch that closed off comments older than 28 days!!! Thank you for letting me know. I've updated the post, added the spices in, removed the bouillon cubes - I don't use them and I really should do an updated post.

Why? I have a method for making stock which you can use. Also, you might find it easier to use the stew ratios from my Jollof rice recipe

Let me know x best
Helen August 28, 2020
Ahh brilliant! Thank you kindly for replying back and reworking the recipe and comments... I'll be sure to go check it out as well as your stock and rice recommendations!
Keta B. August 23, 2020
This was sent to me by my good friend. I am so intrigued ! Just picked about 20 pounds from the garden. It is an embarrassment of riches when you throw the peels away, you are right!
Kitchen B. August 27, 2020
Yay - enjoy
patricia G. August 21, 2020
I've fooled around with tomato powders and salts for years and came to the same conclusion: you want to start with a tiny bit of flesh on the skin. I also score an X into the tomato base but instead of dunking the tomato in boiling water, I use my fingers to slowly and steadily pull the skin off the cold tomato. If the tomato is ripe, the skin will often peel off with just the right layer of flesh clinging to it. I find this time-saving and you can always blanch any recalcitrant tomatoes that don't peel easily. As for dehydrating the skins -- or plum tomato halves for that matter -- this year I'm using the hot sunny dashboard of an old truck in my driveway. No mesh domes to protect the tomatoes from insects, no rescuing semi-dried tomatoes from sudden rain. They cook in the solar oven of the truck. It's amazing what whimsy a pandemic will drive you to.
Kitchen B. August 26, 2020
Brilliant. I love that dashboard :) - what an amazing, ingenious idea!
BRShomecook August 21, 2020
I used my convection oven. 170 degrees until dry...about 90 mins. Love tomato powder on home made focaccia bread with onions.
Kitchen B. August 26, 2020
Thank you for sharing this!
Kitty August 21, 2020
Tomato skins and seeds have lectins.

Lectins have become a more prominent health issue these days. Actually, for some, the issue of lectins has been around for 20-25 years. But Tom Brady and Gisele Bundchen helped to promote awareness of adverse impacts from lectins.

Traditional cultures which use a lot of tomatoes, like Italians, often remove the skins and seeds and dispose of them. Traditional Italian tomato sauce has no skins and seeds.

I think the lectins might cause an inflammation response, and other adverse reactions.

Kitchen B. August 26, 2020
Thank you. Interesting too.

In Nigeria - also a traditional culture - we eat a lot of tomatoes and never skin them or deseed them. Traditional - might I say delicious Nigerian tomato stew has all of them. Stew is also the base of Jollof rice and red rice across West Africa and many parts of the world

Lea C. October 1, 2020
Cooking eliminates "lectin activity."

Traditional Italian tomato passata (tomato sauce) is prepared with skins and seeds, then processed through a tomato press to remove skin and seeds that haven't already disintegrated while cooking.

Tomato skins and seeds have pectin and contribute a great deal of flavor to food. (Besides, even if I eliminate tomato skins and other lectins, there is zero chance of me ever looking like Gisele Bundchen.)
Nora August 17, 2020
Wow. I will be trying that soon. We have lots and lots and lots of material!
Kitchen B. August 26, 2020
Enjoy it when you do x
Paul M. August 14, 2020
I wonder if you could do something similar with apple peels. Mixed in with cinnamon and a bit of brown sugar would be amazing on top of overnight oats
Kitchen B. August 14, 2020
I made Peach skin powder yesterday - it is sooooo good.

No reason my apples, properly dehydrated wouldn't work.
Kitchen B. August 27, 2020
No reason why*