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Should I soak sun-dried tomatoes before use?

Quick Answer

Soaking sun-dried tomatoes before use is generally recommended but not always necessary. A brief soak in warm water can help rehydrate them and restore some moisture, allowing them to blend or cook more easily in recipes. However, for some applications you may opt to use them dry without soaking.

What are Sun-Dried Tomatoes?

Sun-dried tomatoes are tomatoes that have been dehydrated in the sun or by artificial drying methods. The process removes most of their moisture, concentrating the flavor and creating a chewy, intense tomato product.

How Sun-Dried Tomatoes Are Made

Sun-dried tomatoes are made by slicing ripe tomatoes into halves or quarters and laying them out in the hot sun. The tomatoes are typically pre-treated with sulfur dioxide as a preservative before drying. It can take several days for the sun’s heat to fully dehydrate the tomatoes.

Alternatively, commercial producers may use food dehydrators or oven drying to accelerate the process under controlled temperatures. Either way, a finished sun-dried tomato typically contains 15% moisture or less.

Benefits of Sun Drying

– Intensifies flavor and umami taste
– Extends shelf life
– Makes tomatoes easy to store and transport
– Allows enjoying tomatoes year-round
– High antioxidant lycopene levels

Should You Soak Sun-Dried Tomatoes Before Use?

Soaking isn’t strictly necessary before using sun-dried tomatoes, but it can improve their texture in many applications.

Reasons to Soak

– Rehydrates to a softer, more tomato-like texture
– Allows tomatoes to blend more smoothly into sauces, dips or spreads
– Improves incorporation when chopping or dicing into recipes
– Shortens cooking time in recipes
– Restores some moisture for a fresher tomato flavor

How to Soak

1. Place sun-dried tomatoes in a bowl and add hot water to cover.

2. Let soak for 20-30 minutes, up to 1 hour for very dried tomatoes.

3. Drain before using.

Reasons Not to Soak

– You want to retain a very concentrated, intense tomato flavor.
– Using tomatoes in a recipe with sufficient liquid to rehydrate while cooking.
– Want a toothsome texture in salads, pastas or grain bowls.
– Oil-packed dried tomatoes will retain some moisture already.

How to Use Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Uses for Soaked Sun-Dried Tomatoes

– Blended into pasta sauce, pizza sauce or tomato sauce
– Diced and added to risottos, pasta dishes or shakshuka
– Chopped and mixed into egg bakes like frittatas
– Pureed into a smooth tomato dip
– Whizzed into hummus for extra flavor
– Added to bean salads, pasta salads or grain bowls

Uses for Unsoked Sun-Dried Tomatoes

– Thinly sliced and added to sandwiches or wraps
– Chopped and used in bruschetta topping
– Added whole or halved to green salads
– Scattered on pizza or flatbreads before baking
– Packed into burritos or tacos
– Snacking on whole as a salty, umami treat

Sun-Dried Tomato Soaking Times

The amount of time needed to soak sun-dried tomatoes can vary based on their state of dryness:

Sun-dried Tomato Type Recommended Soaking Time
Oil-Packed 10-15 minutes
Moist / Pliable 15-20 minutes
Very Dry / Brittle 30-60 minutes

Monitor tomatoes as they soak. Oil-packed and moist varieties will quickly absorb water and become softened and swollen. Very dry tomatoes may take longer to become fully rehydrated.

Tips for Soaking Sun-Dried Tomatoes

– Use very hot or simmering water to soak for quickest rehydration.

– Add aromatics to the soaking liquid like garlic, onion, herbs or spices.

– Save leftover soaking liquid to add extra flavor to recipes.

– If tomatoes will be used in a salad, only soak briefly to prevent sogginess.

– Pat dry before use to prevent excess moisture in recipes.

– Consider soaking in broth or tomato juice instead of water.

Storing Soaked Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Soaked sun-dried tomatoes stored in an airtight container in the fridge will keep for 3-4 days. For longer storage, you can freeze them in zip top bags for 2-3 months.


While soaking isn’t strictly necessary, most cooks recommend soaking sun-dried tomatoes in hot water for 20-30 minutes before use. This restores moisture for a softer texture and fresher flavor. Oil-packed or moist sun-dried tomatoes need less time soaking than very dry varieties. For maximum flavor impact, you can opt to add sun-dried tomatoes unsoaked in some recipes. When in doubt, take the quick soak approach before using sun-dried tomatoes to enhance dishes with their intense, concentrated tomato essence.