Tomatoes can be such a fussy fruit to grow year after year.
But every now and then, a growing season comes along when you’re blessed with an abundant harvest of these tasty nightshades.
Sometimes you get blessed real hard. And then you’re standing in front of a large tomato-covered surface, wondering where the heck your dining room table went.
What are you going to do with all of those “blessed” tomatoes?
I’ve put together a list of great ways to use them up. You’ll see tomato classics here as well as some new and interesting recipes. And you’ll even find some cool non-edible ways to put those ‘maters to good use.
Don’t worry; we’ll help you find your dining room table again.
Yeah, I know, not the most original, but let’s talk for a minute about why I’ve included this.
There are a billion salsa recipes out there.
But, by far and away, the best salsa I’ve ever eaten has also been the simplest using the freshest ingredients – pico de gallo.
What’s the difference?
Well, in Spanish, salsa means sauce. So, your ‘salsa’ can really have anything going on. There’s a ton of variations for what you can put in it and how you cook it. Or don’t cook it. As the saying goes, variety is the spice of life.
Pico de gallo, on the other hand, is a fresh sauce. Straight from the garden, uncooked and full of flavor.
Only five fresh ingredients come together in pico de gallo – tomatoes, chili peppers, cilantro, lime juice and salt. Roughly chopped and tossed together, they make the perfect salsa to eat with chips.
A quick note – most pico recipes call for red onion. Swap the red onion out for a white onion for better flavor.
2. Caprese Salad
Yup, this is another classic, but it’s so easy to make and so refreshing, it deserves a spot on this list. I love caprese salad because it takes moments to make. It’s a quick lunch or an easy side dish, or even a late-night snack.
You can go out to your garden and select the perfect tomato and be enjoying this savory dish mere minutes later.
Simply alternate sliced tomatoes with sliced fresh mozzarella. Top with fresh basil leaves, a drizzle of olive oil, salt and freshly cracked pepper, and a splash of balsamic vinegar. For an extra zing, drizzle your caprese salad with a balsamic glaze instead.
If it’s not too hot out, warm up the oven, and give these cheesy stuffed tomatoes a try. These make a fantastic (and easy) side dish or a vegetarian entrée.
This is an excellent way to use heirloom tomatoes. Their beautiful colors only add to the overall appeal of the dish.
If the thought of turning on the oven makes you want to hide in the freezer, give these tuna-stuffed tomatoes a try. They make for a perfect lunch or snack. Make them ahead and enjoy them all week long.
You could easily sub the tuna salad with chicken salad.
This quick bread is easy to make and packed full of comforting flavors. It’s a great way to use up cherry tomatoes. Serve it toasted with olive oil drizzled over it alongside your favorite pasta dish.
Or for a lunch that you won’t soon forget, slice the tomato bread and layer it with fresh mozzarella and provolone cheese and then grill. This is one grilled cheese sandwich you’ll want to make over and over again.
Shakshuka has to be my favorite easy weeknight dinner. In the wintertime, I use canned tomatoes, and it’s pretty darn good. But in the summer, when you’ve got beautiful vine-ripened tomatoes to use, this dish really shines.
Pair it with a loaf of good crackly bread for sopping up all that delicious tomato sauce. This is an excellent dish for meal preppers as the flavor improves the longer it sits.
Skip those tiny tins from the store and make your own homemade tomato paste. If you’ve never given it a try, you’re in for a big surprise. Like nearly everything we’ve handed over to a company to make for us, we’ve sacrificed flavor for convenience.
And storing it in pre-frozen tomato paste cubes is a brilliant way to have tablespoon portions premeasured and ready to go.
Once you make your own, you’ll never go back.
Sun-dried tomatoes are such a simple food, but they’re packed with the flavor of sunny afternoons spent in the garden. The flavor of the tomatoes becomes more intense as the tomatoes lose their water content, so you get a lot of flavor from a little tomato.
They’re wonderful on pizza, tossed with pasta or in a salad, or eaten straight from the jar. Chop them up and add sun-dried tomatoes to a frittata or to top grilled chicken breasts. Don’t forget to use the oil for dressings and cooking.
Mix up plenty of jars to give as gifts and help family and friends enjoy a little sunshine even in the darkest winter.
I often feel as though people look at recipes like this and think, “Sure, it sounds good, but what the heck do I do with it?”
So, to help ward off any tomato jam jitters, here are a few great uses for tomato jam.
- Use it instead of ketchup for fancier (and tastier) french fries
- Top crackers with goat cheese and a dollop of tomato jam for an easy and impressive hors d’oeuvre
- Spread tomato jam on your favorite sandwich (okay, maybe not peanut butter and jelly)
- Add a spoonful to your instant ramen noodles
- Top meatloaf with it before you bake the meatloaf
That should get you started in the right direction. Make up a batch, and I’ll bet you’ll go through it faster than you think.
When it comes to garden harvests, you get to a point where you feel like you’re pickling everything. And why not?
Pickling veggies is a great way to preserve them. It’s usually inexpensive to do and makes for some seriously tangy and delicious veggies to snack on.
Naturally, this applies to tomatoes as well. And when nature provides us with bite-sized tomatoes in abundance, you can bet it’s time to break out the pickling spices.
The best part about this savory puff pastry is that it can be eaten for any meal. Breakfast? You bet. Lunch? Naturally. Dinner? Well, of course!
Use whatever tomatoes in your garden that are ripe; tiny halved cherry tomatoes, luscious heirloom tomatoes or even big beefsteaks. Mix it up and use several different kinds. This crispy pastry topped with ricotta and vine-ripened tomatoes will quickly become a favorite in your house.
Pizza? Pfft, pizza has nothing on this tart.
I’ve seen plenty of weird ice cream flavors in my life, but this one takes the cake. Or rather the cone. But you can’t deny the classic flavor of tomato and basil, though. And if you add cream, you’re one step away from one of the most comforting soups of all time.
So, why not turn that into cool and creamy ice cream?
13. Tomato Powder
This stuff is relatively new to me, but boy do I wish I had heard of it sooner!
What do you use it for? Stir it into everything! (Okay, you might not want to stir it into your chocolate milk.) Use it to add extra flavor to sauces, soups and gravy. Stir it into homemade salad dressings or barbecue sauces. Sprinkle it over your mac and cheese. This stuff has endless uses.
Are you a backpacker? You’ll definitely want to make this stuff up and take it with you. You get all of the tomato taste without the bulk.
14. Soothe a Sunburn
Mix pureed tomato with a little plain Greek yogurt and slather it on a sunburn to cool and heal your tender skin. The lycopene in tomatoes not only helps to heal your burned skin but eating more tomatoes can actually give your daily sunscreen a boost.
No yogurt? No problem. You can even put tomato slices on your sunburn.
15. Naturally Brightening Skincare Mask
Deseed one large tomato and toss it into a blender with two tablespoons of raw honey. Now blend until it’s pureed. Voila!
You’ve just made a homemade skincare mask that is packed full of vitamins, lycopene, naturally occurring acids, and all of the skin-loving properties in honey. Your skin is in for a treat.
And you did it a fraction of the cost of beauty counter prices. Aren’t you smart.
Slather this homemade mask on your face using a clean paintbrush and let it sit for fifteen minutes. Rinse off with cool water, pat dry and apply your favorite moisturizer. The vitamins, acids, and honey naturally brighten skin and leave you with a dewy glow. You look amazing!
For an extra soothing experience, chill your tomato honey mask in the fridge for an hour or so until you’re ready to use it.
Oh, hey, look! It’s your dining room table!
I knew we would find it. Now that you’ve got your tomatoes under control, it’s time to talk about all of those zucchini…