Tomatoes, like most fruit and vegetables, don’t have a use-by date attached. So how long do tomatoes last before they need to be tossed out? We’ve created this ultimate guide to help you out. Keep in mind many factors affect how long tomatoes last, so these are general guidelines.
What is the shelf life of fresh tomatoes?
A fully ripe tomato will last 5-7 days stored at room temperature and up to 2 weeks refrigerated in a plastic bag. Slightly unripe tomatoes are best left to fully ripen in the fruit bowl for 2-3 days.
The following table provides some handy tomato shelf life guidelines. These times apply to any popular type of tomato like Big Beef, cherry, grape, or plum tomatoes.
|Type of Tomato||Room Temperature||Refrigerated|
|Unripe||8-10 days||Not recommended|
|Ripe||5-7 days||2 weeks|
|Sliced||2 hours||2-3 days|
|Canned (unopened)||18 months||Not recommended|
|Canned (opened)||2 hours||1 week|
|Cooked||2 hours||3-5 days|
|Dehydrated||6 months||18 months|
|Unopened jar in vinegar||12 months||Not recommended|
Note: Tomatoes can be frozen indefinitely, however, they’ll start to lose their quality after 12-18 months.
How long do sliced ripe tomatoes last?
If you’ve chopped up tomato and don’t use it the same night, store it in an airtight container refrigerated for 2-3 days. The tomato will be okay for cooking in stews and sauces. It will have lost its firm texture so avoid using in sandwiches, burritos, or tacos.
Sliced tomatoes should be left at room temperature for a maximum of 2 hours. This reduces the likelihood of foodborne bacteria like listeria developing on your food.
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How can I tell if tomatoes are bad?
If your tomatoes are turning soft and mushy it’s a good sign they’re beginning to spoil. Juice leakage, discoloring, shriveled skin, mold, and fruit flies are also giveaway signals.
How long are tomatoes good after they’re used in a dish?
If you’ve used tomatoes in a recipe, their life expectancy will vary depending on the other ingredients used. A garden salad will start to turn soggy within 24 hours while a Bolognese may last 3 days refrigerated.
How long do cooked tomatoes last?
Cooked tomatoes can be left out at room temperature for up to two hours. Refrigerate cooked tomatoes in an airtight container for 3-5 days or freeze for 10-12 months.
How long do tomatoes last in vinegar?
Pickle whole cherry or plum tomatoes in pickling salt and apple cider vinegar. They can be preserved in jars for up to one year in the pantry.
How to store tomatoes
If you intend consuming tomatoes within the next 2 days you’re best to leave them at room temperature to ensure maximum flavor.
To keep tomatoes for over 2 days, place them in the fridge to reduce the speed of decay. Remember to remove them from the fridge several hours before eating. This will get them back to room temperature and help rejuvenate the flavor.
Unripe tomatoes ripen best in a single layer at room temperature. Try to find a warm place that’s away from direct sunlight. Place them stem side down to prolong freshness.
Did you know? When tomatoes are stored below 55°F (12°C) they can lose their fragrance and taste while their texture becomes mealy.
Tomato storage tips
- To ripen a tomato fast, pop it in a brown paper bag with an apple or banana. Seal off the top by folding it over a few times, then leave it on the counter for a day.
- A tomato that shows signs of mold should be discarded. If it’s squishy then the flesh won’t be ideal for sandwiches, but it can be used in pasta sauces, chili beans, or a casserole.
- Place fresh, ripened tomatoes in a bag and refrigerate them in the vegetable crisper to extend their shelf life.
- Allow tomatoes to fully ripen before storing in the fridge to maximize the fruit’s flavor and juice levels.
- If fruit flies are invading your tomatoes, on the bench, leave a bowl of water with a teaspoon of vinegar next to them. Within a day you should be rid of this pest.
- Make prep time much easier with a tomato knife that’s razor-sharp.
Can tomatoes be frozen?
Tomatoes are perfectly fine to freeze, but they will lose some of their texture and flavor. Tomatoes that have been frozen are best cooked. In most cases, they can be tossed straight into a dish without defrosting.
What affects a tomato’s life?
Temperature and humidity: Tomatoes will age much quicker in warmer climates where humidity is high.
Stage of ripening: A fully-ripened tomato bought from the grocery store will have a much shorter life than a slightly green tomato picked from a home-grown vine.
Type of tomato: Fruit longevity will depend on the variety. For example, a plum tomato will last longer than a beefsteak, thanks to its tougher flesh.
Storage method: How your tomatoes are stored will affect their aging process. Leaving them in the fridge, while not ideal, will extend the fruit’s life.
Quick tip: Tomatoes that are turning mushy can be blanched or pureed then frozen for up to 18 months.
How to select tomatoes at the store
- Look for tomatoes with vibrant, bright red skin that is free from wrinkles or bruising.
- Yellow tomatoes that are turning orange may be an indication they’re overripe so check firmness first.
- Skin should be tight and it should bounce back after gently pressing your thumb into the fruit.
- If you’re buying from a local market, expect some minor blemishes and scarring.
Tomatoes have no use by sticker so it can be confusing working out how long they’re good for. As with most fruit and vegetables, it’s best to perform a visual and feel test to decide if they need to be discarded.
If there’s no visible mold, softening tomatoes are fine for cooking up in a variety of dishes. Ratatouille, sauces, casseroles, or tomato soup are all suitable options.
Although tomatoes last around two weeks in the fridge, they may last longer before going bad. People living in a hot, humid climate will find tomatoes rapidly go bad on the counter.