Should Tomatoes Be Refrigerated? The Truth Is Juicy

Nonna always leaves her tomatoes out on the counter. But your gut tells you to pop them in the fridge as soon as you get home from the supermarket. Are you making a mistake? Nonna may think so, but it turns out you’re both onto something. Should tomatoes be refrigerated? It’s a loaded question. Here’s the truth about how to store them, plus tips for stretching their shelf life.

Should Tomatoes Be Refrigerated?

The answer is yes—as long as it’s already ripened. Whole, ripe tomatoes should be stored in the fridge, but you should let them warm up to room temp before eating them. This is because cold tomatoes can be a bit dull in the taste department. Letting them hang outside the fridge for a day or two (or even an hour) before eating them can bring back some of the flavor.

Over-ripe tomatoes (like the squishy, shriveled one you have hanging out in your kitchen right this second) left on the counter will go bad pronto. Put them in the fridge to slow the spoiling process. If they get too squishy to eat, don’t panic. They’re still great for making tomato sauce.

Refrigeration isn’t always best, though, because it interrupts the ripening process. If the tomatoes you bought aren’t quite ready for their debut, leave them on the kitchen counter for a few days until they’re juicy and soft. Putting under-ripe tomatoes in the fridge too soon is a surefire way to make them that way for good, and no one wants mealy, lifeless tomato on their homemade pizza. Just like oranges, you should keep under-ripe tomatoes out of direct sunlight and in a single layer without piling them to prevent mold. Store them stem side-down to block air from entering the tomato and to lock moisture in. You can also put them in a paper bag to speed things along. 

If you’ve already used part of a tomato, it belongs in the fridge. Just place the tomato cut-side down on a paper towel and seal in an airtight container. 

How to Make Tomatoes Last

A tomato’s shelf life is about a week on the counter and two weeks in the fridge. Stretch the life of your tomatoes by following these tips:

  • Wait for your tomatoes to fully ripen before refrigerating. Once they’re ripe, store them in the fridge.
  • Keep them on the top shelf by the fridge door. This is a warmer spot for them (no one likes icy tomatoes).
  • Cut off any big stems before storing your tomatoes stem side-down to ripen. This limits moisture loss and keeps air out, which will help them stay juicy longer.
  • Use smushed or bruised tomatoes first—they’ll rot before the others.
  • A wine fridge or cool cellar is a great place to keep ripe tomatoes that aren’t going to be eaten right away.
  • If you have lots of tomatoes at peak ripeness that you want to save from the trash, freeze them. But know that the texture and appearance might be a bit mushy once it’s thawed, so use it in something like sauce or soup. They’ll last there about two to three months. 

The One Tomato Mistake You’re Making

Ever made a salad with tomatoes only to be left with a big puddle of seeds at the bottom of the bowl? Been there. That’s because tomato seeds aren’t always worth keeping. If you’re blending tomatoes for soup or sauce, the seeds offer umami and dimension. Plus, they can’t cause too much trouble once they’re blended and broken up. But for salads, casseroles, salsa and omelets, give ’em the boot. The seeds will add too much moisture and could potentially ruin the consistency of the recipe. See ya, soggy romaine. 

How to Use Different Types of Tomatoes

San Marzano! Roma! Campari! There are tons of different tomato types and frankly, we’re ready to try them all. Here are six of our favorites to use on the regular:

Best for Sauce: Plum Tomatoes

These are particularly low in water and seeds, so you can get all that tomatoey goodness without diluting the finished product.

Best for Summer: Heirloom Tomatoes

Check out this savory tomato tart. Isn’t she pretty? You can thank these multicolored beauties. All they need is a drizzle of EVOO and a sprinkle of salt and pepper to come alive.

Best to Eat Raw: Red Beefsteak Tomatoes

No one’s turning down a caprese made with these guys. Because they’re huge and juicy, they have higher water content, meaning they’re not great to cook with. But boy, do they hold their own on a BLT or burger.

Best for Snacking: Cherry Tomatoes

They’re small, sweet and crisp, so they burst in your mouth at first bite. Try them roasted for an even sweeter spin.

Best for Salsa: Green Beefsteak Tomatoes

We’re obsessed with the tanginess of green tomatoes (especially battered and fried with a side of spicy mayo…but we digress). These make amazing salsa verde or queso.

Best for Salad: Grape Tomatoes

No crudité tray is complete without these. They’ll also hold their texture in salad without making it too watery. Try yellow ones if you’re a fan of green tomatoes.

taryn pire

Food Editor

Taryn Pire is PureWow’s food editor and has been writing about all things delicious since 2016. She’s developed recipes, reviewed restaurants and investigated food trends at...