15 Unexpected Ways To Use Tomatoes

The summer months grace us with sunshine, beach days, blooming flowers, and most importantly, tomatoes. The versatility of the tomato is endless, complimented by both sweet and savory flavors in dozens of forms. Hoarding perfect tomatoes at the tail end of the summer is a genius move, but using them all up in creative ways can be tricky. There are the go-to's like tomato sauce and ketchup, but how else can we celebrate tomatoes all year long?

Ingenious kitchen gadgets can help us make our favorite snacks and mix-ins right at home, like fruit leathers and sun-dried tomatoes, but upfront costs aren't cheap. Luckily, peak-season tomatoes can be utilized in countless recipes that require nothing more than a knife and an oven. Whether biting into a tomato like an apple or simmering them down into a paste, tomato lovers unite when this season rolls around, and we're prepared to hang onto that tasty goodness all year long with these unexpected ways to use tomatoes.

Stuffed tomatoes

Filling vegetables with flavorful blends of grains and protein is common practice, particularly with peppers, but tomatoes make an ideal vessel for such fillings. When roasted, fresh tomatoes develop an almost caramelized sweetness. The heat releases some of the water which allows for the sugars to concentrate, resulting in a less acidic taste. When it comes to stuffed vegetables and fruits, some may argue they're just a vessel for the delicious filling, but unlike peppers and onions, tomatoes interact with the contents. Stuffed tomatoes manage to hold their shape as they bake, with the juices seeping into the filling, multiplying the flavor.

The joy of this dish is its adaptability. It's a great whatever-is-in-the-fridge type of dinner, as your fillings can range from cheesy pork to spinach, mushroom, and feta. The only thing to consider is the bigger and firmer the tomato, the better the outcome will be. A quality beefsteak tomato is the smartest move.

Pickled tomatoes

Pickling isn't just for cucumbers. Pickling is a simple way to use up a plethora of fresh tomatoes and preserve your harvest for months at a time. A pickling concoction can be thrown together within half an hour or so and tweaked as desired. The best part is, tomatoes will only get better as days go on and they absorb all the tangy flavors of the brine, leaving them with a long shelf life of up to a year, provided they aren't gobbled up first.

These pickles can be tossed back two at a time for a speedy snack, mixed up in a salad, layered in a sandwich, anything goes. With a base of vinegar, water, salt, and sugar, just about any fruit or vegetable can be transformed into a pickle, and tomatoes are the underrated choice. Paul Virant's dill pickled tomatoes sub the more traditional mustard seed for dill seed along with fresh dill fronds, garlic, and black peppercorns. These tangy tomatoes are so delicious, it would be wise to can and store as many jars as possible, but if eagerness wins, then they can be stored in the fridge for at least two hours for quick pickling.

Tomato vinaigrette

A simple vinaigrette can capture tomatoes' robust flavor in just one bite. While the right dressing can liven up an ordinary bowl of greens, a tomato vinaigrette isn't reserved for salads. A blend of bold tomatoes, olive oil, vinegar, and aromatics can complement just about anything. Sweet, bright Sun Gold tomatoes are blended with shallots, garlic, and vinegar to create a tangy dressing, but the real kicker is the added blistered tomatoes. Biting into one adds such a complex layer to any dish, whether it be a hearty salad, poultry, grilled fish, or pork.

For a creamier vinaigrette, whisk or blend all ingredients together and save the roasted tomatoes for a midnight snack. Dressings of any kind are useful to have on hand, and one can save a fortune whipping up their own. Whizzing a tomato vinaigrette together allows you to disguise the overripe ones, making it an ideal way to use up a surplus of tomatoes.

Caesar cocktail

Despite the endless debate, the tomato is in fact technically a fruit but its juice isn't typically found alongside apple juice. When it comes to chugging a tall glass of tomato juice, people often hold strong stances with little room to waver. Although, when vodka is added, the hesitancy often leaves the building. Bloody Marys are a brunch staple but they're only one of many tomato-based cocktails. The Caesar is its often-forgotten cousin, sometimes even referred to as the Bloody Caesar. If the thought of sipping tomato juice makes you shudder, then just wait until you hear what's in a Caesar.

Caesar's foundation is tomato juice but with a little unexpected addition: clam juice. The star of the Caesar, clamato juice, is tomato juice punched up with clam broth, onion, celery, and an assortment of spicy seasonings. The clamato cocktail is traditionally made with vodka, a few dashes of Worcestershire, and as much Tabasco as the drinker can handle. If you're sick of mixing up cocktails with boring ol' tomato juice, try whipping up some clamato juice with extra tomatoes and bring some fishy flair to happy hour.

Tomato tartare

Tomato tartare is a vegetarian's dream. When prepared perfectly, diced tomatoes can somehow encompass all the textures that a decadent tartare has without leaning on a hearty protein such as beef or tuna. The savory, umami flavors of roasted tomatoes replicate their predecessors beautifully and give tartare a whole new dimension. While different types of tartare are mixed together with all kinds of fixings, they all have one component in common and that's acidity. With steak tartare, it's often Worcestershire. With tuna tartare, lime is typically the choice. And with tomato tartare, balsamic vinegar is a tasty option. Tender, diced tomatoes absorb a balsamic reduction without a hitch.

Kimpton Gray Hotel's cocktail bar, Vol. 39, has a sensational tomato tartare that stays true to a traditional steak tartare with shallots, chives, and capers. Although, they switch things up with a creamy, sweet touch and top the tartare with a dollop of whipped goat cheese.

Tomato cobbler

Move aside, strawberries. It is the tomatoes' turn to be sweet. We know that roasting tomatoes yields an entirely new texture, but it also alters the flavor by adding a whole new level of sweetness. When we think of fruit cobblers, savory renditions aren't the first to come to mind, which is a shame because there's a full spectrum of cobblers to enjoy. With cobbler dough being somewhat similar to a biscuit, it's super easy to switch gears by adding sweet or salty ingredients. For a tomato cobbler, you can ease up on the sweetness by adding onions and garlic to create a rich, tomato filling. Topping it with a cheesy biscuit dough is the cherry on top.

For a lighter after-dinner cobbler, reach for sweet, cherry tomatoes. Topped with basil ice cream (or any other savory-leaning ice cream), this sweet version celebrates summer produce to the fullest.

Fried green tomatoes

The words "fried" and "green" may raise eyebrows with this Southern classic, but there's no need to be intimidated. Despite the Dr. Suess-esque name, fried green tomatoes are surprisingly delicate and mellow. Sizzling oil softens premature tomatoes, and then the crunchy coating gives them a whole new texture.

The norm is to reach for the ripest tomato, so it can feel unnatural to openly pick a firm, unripe variety. However, when it comes to frying tomatoes, green is the way to go. The firmness of the unripe fruit keeps it from falling apart when breaded and fried; the dreaded outcome of deep frying anything just picked. A perfectly ripe tomato would never even make it to the breadcrumb bowl before becoming complete mush. These tomato patties can be the highlight of a sandwich, piled on an egg's Benedict, or the perfect starter dipped in a smoky remoulade.

Tomato tart

A savory tart is the ultimate way to debut those stunning heirloom tomatoes. When the farmer's market produce is that gorgeous, it can feel sacrilegious to toss them in a blender or mash them in a mortar and pestle. Thankfully, a tomato tart calls for no such thing. Layering thinly sliced tomatoes atop a flaky crust results in a bubbly, savory tart that could pass for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

One could argue that this tomato and ricotta tart is more an art piece than a dish, but why not both? With a buttery, Gruyère crust, and a herby ricotta filling, it's hard to imagine it getting any better, but an assortment of perfectly ripe tomatoes makes this tart a true masterpiece. Ricotta lends itself well to luscious tomatoes thanks to its salty, creamy notes, but lighter fillings that don't crowd tomatoes can be just as scrumptious.

Charred tomato oil

Simple infused oils are one of the easiest things to toss together and yet one of the most sophisticated garnishes. Whether it's mixed in a salad, keeping bread moist, or drizzled over pizza, finishing oils pack big flavor in small droplets. With just a touch of flavored oil, you can take a bland snack and zhuzh it up within seconds. Not to mention, it's a clever way to preserve the season's bounty as the oil preserves that just-picked taste of a summer tomato.

As if ordinary tomato oil wasn't delicious enough, Chef Jeff Mahin of Stella Barra Pizzeria takes taste buds to another planet with his blackened tomato oil. He chars tomatoes, garlic, and bell pepper in the broiler before blitzing them with oil, anchovies, and some Italian seasonings to create a mouthwatering glaze. Packed with bold, savory flavors, it's a unique briny addition to nearly any dish, but Mahin insists it's the best pizza topping.

Tomato granita

Before writing this one off, consider a gazpacho on a hot summer day. It can be tough to distance crushed ice from snow cones and frozen treats, but chefs have been experimenting with the technique for years. A traditional Italian granita is somewhat similar to a snow cone, with shards of flaky ice melting in unison with sweet, fruity syrups. When taking a savory path, granitas can act more as an accompaniment than the primary treat. Cool flavors like cucumber and aromatic notes are well suited for the frozen form and can enhance anything from oysters to watermelon.

Tomato granita is refreshing and slightly salty like a cold glass of tomato juice, if that's your kind of thing. We like to call it "tomato snow," as a nod to snow cones, despite the tartness. To create this special fusion, tomato juice is frozen with sherry vinegar, lemon juice, and agave. This is another recipe that's well suited for extra ripe tomatoes, making it a great go-to for using up an abundance of tomatoes on a sweltering day. It can be enjoyed solo via spoon or accompanied by some grilled veggies or a nice piece of fish.

Tomato and halloumi skewers

Tomatoes aren't an uncommon kebab component, but they're not often the main attraction. These tomato and halloumi skewers give tomatoes their much-deserved moment alongside salty, grilled halloumi. Tomato and cheese are perfect together, which has been proven time and time again. Whether it's tomato soup with cheesy croutons, grilled cheese dunked into ketchup, or a classic cheeseburger with the standard fixings, we're always looking for ways to combine the acidity of tomatoes with cheese's creamy texture.

A summer soirée wouldn't be complete without Caprese salad, and tomato and halloumi skewers are somewhat of a hybrid take on the classic tomato and cheese pairing. These two ingredients are a match made in heaven, and they're even more delicious when dressed in limey mint and chili oil. Halloumi is undoubtedly an overlooked protein. The semi-firm Cyprus cheese is extra tangy due to its brining process and is famously delicious when seared perfectly on the grill. It keeps its shape so it's not the best pick when a gooey cheese is called for, but it certainly has its time and place.

Bloody Mary popsicles

For days when it's so scorching outside that the ice in your drink barely lasts a minute, popsicles are the only salvation. There's nothing like that first bite of a light, frozen treat on a humid day, much like cracking open a cold beer after a day in the sun. With these Bloody Mary popsicles, you can have the best of both worlds. If downing frozen drinks is one of your favorite summer pastimes, then Bloody Mary popsicles are your new favorite seasonally-inspired treat.

"Poptails" are all the rage, and with good reason. They're fun to eat, easy to transport, and make us feel like we're kids again. While those are all A+ selling points, the real advantage of these boozy pops is the lack of work. The last thing anyone wants to do on a muggy beach day is mix up a cocktail that stays warm for all of thirty seconds. By throwing Bloody Mary popsicles in the freezer the night before, all that's needed is a Solo cup of vodka that your popsicle can be swirled into.

Tomato confit

Confit is a classic French culinary technique that transforms virtually anything into a luscious paste. Directly translating to preserved, confit is slowly cooking anything in its own liquid, or nowadays, in any fat. This is an especially good way to run through a lot of tomatoes, as it's easy to prep and can be canned for ages. Plus, since it's the tomatoes that flavor the oil, the longer it rests the stronger the flavor. That lengthy shelf life means no need to polish it all off in a hurry, but you'll want to. Some popular preparations are duck confit and garlic confit, but tomato confit deserves special attention.

When making tomato confit, all that's needed is some quality olive oil, flaky sea salt, and a sprinkling of fresh herbs. Any variety of tomatoes can be used to make confit, but cherry tomatoes are our preferred choice, along with some garlic cloves of course. Spread this magical condiment on sandwiches, atop grilled chicken, mixed into pasta, or eat it right from the jar.

Tomato lemonade

We can't get enough summer tomatoes, so we're even putting them in our lemonade. This one may seem like a prank, but we promise it's worth a shot. Nothing screams warm weather like freshly squeezed lemonade. Pre-made mixes are tempting, but it's so incredibly easy (and affordable) to whip up a fresh batch that it's tough to justify the packaged stuff. A simple blend of lemons, water, and sugar creates the perfect frosty lemonade, and then you have the freedom to season it to your liking. For example, with bright, heirloom tomatoes.

For tomato — yes, tomato — lemonade, simply muddle ripe, juicy tomatoes at the bottom of a pitcher and then fill it with your freshly mixed lemonade. Take the beverage and pour it through a strainer a few times to ixnay any pulp and achieve a smooth, delicate beverage. We like to garnish our tomato lemonade with some savory herbs such as rosemary, dill, or thyme for a unique finish.

Tomato jam

Tomato jam is another reminder that tomatoes belong to the fruit family. With some added sugar and seasonings, tomatoes can evolve into a sticky sweet spread that tastes good on, well, everything. It's truly unlike any other condiment, with layers of intoxicating aromas and the magical ability to be both sweet and savory. After a spoonful of tomato jam, every second brings a new sensation to your palate. Some bites feel reminiscent of a sweet tomato paste, while others lean more towards a spicy, earthy flavor. Suffice it to say, odds are it would be a thinker in a blind taste test.

This delicious condiment is merely a blank canvas for endless possibilities. Whether it be adding a fiery touch or a hint of berries, different additives can completely alter a tomato preserve. This mustard tomato jam is one creative Creole twist on the basic that has more than one secret ingredient. In this version adapted from Alamos Wines, tomatoes are cooked down with their red blend as well as a seeded berry jam. Creole mustard is then stirred in at the end for a tangy finish. This rendition, as well as any tomato-based chutney, compliments burgers and sandwiches alike. It can also be a stand-out on an elegant cheese or charcuterie board.