Sun-dried tomatoes can add a delicious burst of flavor to a dish. They also have an incredibly long shelf-life compared to fresh tomatoes, making them a valuable pantry ingredient. However, you may like to know if they will hold up for a long time. So, can sun-dried tomatoes go bad?
Yes, sun-dried tomatoes will go bad if not stored correctly. Plain sun-dried tomatoes will last for a year when stored inside an airtight container in a dry space. Oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes will last for two years. However, they will only last for a few weeks once opened, even when refrigerated.
Let’s now understand this in a bit more detail.
What Are Sun-Dried Tomatoes?
As the name suggests, sun-dried tomatoes are tomatoes that have been dried in the sun.
Tomatoes are juicy fruits with a lot of moisture content. The presence of moisture shortens their shelf-life.
So, tomatoes will not last for more than a few days at room temperature once they ripen.
One of the ways to preserve tomatoes for a long time is by sun-drying.
Leaving them in the sun causes the water to evaporate and make them shrivel up.
Although they lose their moisture content, their flavor stays intact.
As the tomatoes dehydrate, their flavors intensify. They will also develop a chewy texture during drying.
Tomatoes are usually put aside for sun-drying when they’re ripe or just over-ripe.
At this stage, they will naturally start losing their moisture. The tomatoes will also develop a very strong tomato flavor.
The sun-drying process begins by cutting ripe and juicy tomatoes into halves or quarters and treating them with salt.
The addition of salt speeds up the dehydration process.
Salt also acts as a preservative that helps the tomatoes retain their color.
After adding salt, the tomatoes are placed in the sun for several days until they shrivel up.
Once they lose all their moisture, they’re ready for storage.
You can either rehydrate dried tomatoes before using them in a dish or add them directly.
One of the main benefits of using sun-dried tomatoes in a dish is that it introduces concentrated and complex tomato flavors.
Different Types Of Sun-Dried Tomatoes
Sun-dried tomatoes are generally classified according to the storage method. Let’s find out what they are.
- Plain sun-dried tomatoes: These sun-dried tomatoes are stored directly without any preservatives or additional ingredients.
- Oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes: These sun-dried tomatoes are stored in a neutral-tasting oil like olive oil. The oil acts as a preserving agent that protects the tomatoes from moisture and germs. It also keeps the tomatoes moist and prevents them from shriveling up any further.
- Store-bought sun-dried tomatoes: These are packaged sun-dried tomatoes that you buy from a store. They may contain additional ingredients like herbs and seasonings. Store-bought sun-dried tomatoes usually come in tightly sealed, airtight packaging with the expiry date mentioned clearly.
The lifespan of sun-dried tomatoes differs according to the category that it belongs.
It also depends on how you store and use it. Let’s look at this in closer detail.
How Long Do Sun-Dried Tomatoes Last?
Sun-dried tomatoes last longer than fresh tomatoes because they’ve less moisture.
Fresh tomatoes will not last for more than a few days at room temperature. They will store for slightly longer when refrigerated.
Meanwhile, sun-dried tomatoes will last for weeks or even months at room temperature.
Their shelf-life will depend on how you store and use them.
Let’s look at the different types of sun-dried tomatoes to understand this better.
Plain Sun-Dried Tomatoes
Bacteria that cause food spoilage thrive in moist environments.
Since plain sun-dried tomatoes have no moisture, they’re not a favorable environment for germs to grow.
Placing them in a well-sealed airtight bag or container will further reduce their rate of spoiling.
To store freshly-prepared sun-dried tomatoes, place them in an airtight bag and remove the excess air by pressing down on all sides.
Then, store them in a dry and dark space like the pantry, where they will keep for several months.
Their shelf-life will reduce once you open the packaging.
By exposing the tomatoes to environmental elements like moisture and air, you make them prone to spoilage.
Once opened, plain sun-dried tomatoes hold up only for a few days. You can keep them for a little longer in the refrigerator.
Nevertheless, use them up within a week to ten days after opening before they show signs of spoilage.
Oil-Packed Sun-Dried Tomatoes
Another method to store sun-dried tomatoes is in oil. Olive oil or any other neutral-tasting oil is usually used for this purpose.
The benefit of using oil to pack sun-dried tomatoes is that it forms a barrier between the tomatoes and the environment.
The oil prevents the tomatoes from contact with moisture or air. If they’re properly sealed and stored well, oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes last for a year or two.
However, the shelf-life reduces once you open the packaging or bottle. It will expose the tomatoes to heat and moisture and encourage spoiling.
It will still hold up for two to three months before the oil turns rancid or the tomatoes develop mold.
Store oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes in the refrigerator after opening to ensure they remain usable for longer.
Store-Bought Sun-Dried Tomatoes
Sun-dried tomatoes are available in many grocery stores. You can buy them in sealed airtight packages or packed in oil, as per your preference.
These tomatoes may or may not contain preservatives. The label will usually indicate this information.
In either case, aim to use up the tomatoes by the expiry or use-by date on the packaging.
Store-bought sun-dried tomatoes will usually hold up for a very long time when unopened.
You must refrigerate them or use them quickly once you remove the packaging.
How To Tell When Sun-Dried Tomatoes Are Bad?
Sun-dried tomatoes aren’t non-perishable food.
Regardless of the measures you take to extend their shelf-life, they will eventually spoil when stored for too long.
The best way to identify whether sun-dried tomatoes have gone bad is to inspect them with your senses.
Changes in color, odor, or texture indicate that the tomatoes have gone bad.
Discard the sun-dried tomatoes if you notice any of the following signs.
- Change in color: Sun-dried tomatoes become darker as they spoil. Brown bits will appear on their surface. Don’t consume them if you notice any such color change.
- Mold: Tomatoes develop mold when exposed to moisture or when placed in a humid environment. The mold will spread to all the tomatoes in the package or container before you realize it. So, throw out any tomatoes with mold on the surface. If you spot any moldy tomatoes, check the rest of the tomatoes to see if the mold has spread. Ensure that they don’t have any mold growth and are safe for consumption.
- Change in smell: Discard any tomatoes that have developed funny or musty smells. Foul odors appear only when the tomatoes go bad.
- Change in texture: Sun-dried tomatoes are chewy and dry. If they appear moist or soggy, they have absorbed moisture. Avoid consuming them as they can harbor illness-causing bacteria and germs.