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Tomato Sauce, To Peel or not to Peel

Hutto, TX(Zone 8b)

I posted this on the Canning forum, but got a limited response. I see lots of recipes that suggest peeling and seeding tomatoes before making sauce. I'm doing some roasted tomato sauce, and I'm wondering about the effect of the peel on the flavor of the tomatoes.

I have an immersion blender that I've used in the past when making jam. How much effect on the flavor would you expect, either positive or negative, if I roasted tomatoes with their skins and seeds (quartering and coring out any green stem) then blended with the immersion blender?

The other option I have is to cook the tomatoes, then run through my hand-cranked food mill. The food mill is more work than the blender, but less work than scalding and peeling the tomatoes by hand. At this point, it is too late to peel before roasting, since I did the first batch this afternoon. The tomatoes cooled while I was on dialysis tonight, so I have to either blend the peels and seeds, or pull out the food mill.

Thoughts? Opinions?


Thumbnail by dreaves
Phoenix, AZ(Zone 9b)

David, I don't think it has to do with flavor so much as texture. The peels generally remain intact throughout the roasting/cooking process and are undesirable in the finished product - they don't look good in the sauce and can be tough to chew. I believe the seeds and gel (surrounding the seeds) make the sauce too watery.

Anyway, fwiw, that's my thoughts. I'm interested to hear what others think as well.

What's the sauce recipe? I have some San Marzano's I want to cook down.

Phoenix, AZ(Zone 9b)

David, there is an interesting thread on the tomatoville site about juicing and whether to seed/skin or not. You can read it here:

I liked this part the best!

"What I have done when I've frozen peeled tomatoes is to take the skin, put a little oil on it, roast it in the oven for an hour or two, until it is dry, then grind that up in a spice mill.

I keep it in a shaker in the freezer. It's great on pizza!

Saylorsburg, PA(Zone 6a)

Some years ago there was a great recipe article on making roasted sauce. Everything was kept in tact and once the sauce was thick it was put through a food mill. I have tried this and find it to be a super delicious recipe! I have also ground everything up in my VitaMIx then cooked it down and strained it. That was a lot of work too but the sauce wasn't as tasty as the roasted. Buying the food mill was a great idea even if it can be a little messy. The end product is worth it. Here is the link if it still works!

The link works!

This message was edited May 30, 2012 10:31 AM

Phoenix, AZ(Zone 9b)

YUM! Thanks gardadore.

Ozark, MO(Zone 6a)

I agree with gardadore - keep the tomato skins on for roasted sauce flavor.

I'm really into making Salsa de Molcajete, which is roasted tomato sauce with the addition of chiles and other ingredients to make it authentic Mexican GOOD STUFF as in this video:

You wouldn't want to omit the great flavor that comes from those blackened, roasted tomato skins.

Cleveland,GA/Atlanta, GA(Zone 7b)

I make rustic sauces and soups using home canned whole tomatoes with skins and seeds but also use a food mill attachment to my Kitchenaid for sauce without seeds and skins. The later would be for finer dishes. If you reduce your tomatoes by thirty to fifty percent (which is standard for canned sauce) for a rich tomato sauce then skins and seeds in the sauce will be too prevalent. The seeds will add a noticeably bitter flavor. If you make a loose sauce and add commercially canned tomato paste to thicken you probably won't notice but you also won't have an authentic garden sauce. When roasting plum tomatoes or largeer tomatoes it's a good idea to lightly squeeze out some of the excess seeds before roasting to eliminate bitter seeds. If using a watery variety you can squeeze the seeds over a strainer and use the tomato water.

Ozark, a molcajete is a Mexican mortar and pestle so that's like sauce of knife and cutting board. Funny. The video shows the dish to the right side with most of the tomato skins in it. Too many charred skins will, along with the seeds, make a salsa bitter. It's a personal preference but keep in mind home grown tomatoes are generally thinner skinned than store bought and that might help determine whether or not to remove the skins.

Hutto, TX(Zone 8b)

OK, so my approach for the first batch was to roast with the skins and seeds. I believe that I will continue to roast with the skins and seeds. As Ozark says, there is a lot of flavor in the skins.

I then processed everything through my Foley-style food mill. The resulting sauce still had some black flecks and a few small seeds. Larger seeds and many of the skins were captured by the food mill. The interesting thing is that it looked like only the un-charred skin was filtered out. There was very little black in the peel and seed mixture that I tossed out. Volume-wise, it looks like I lost about a pint from a 6 quart pot of sauce by removing the peels and seeds.

In the interest of science, for the next batch I will take a quart or so of the tomatoes after roasting and blend up with my immersion blender with seeds and peels. That will give me the ability to compare the same sauce, side-by-side, after blending or running through the mill. I'm certain that I will need to do one or the other. MaryMcP is right that the skins would be unpleasant in the sauce if not processed in some way.


Northeast, IL(Zone 5b)

Although I love that roasted tomato sauce recipe, I do not love the time and mess of using a food mill to filter out the tomato skins.

Last fall, I made a very simple tomato sauce from one of Rick Bayless' cookbooks. The tomatoes are first roasted just long enough to partially blacken the skins. After they cool enough to handle, the skins slip off easily. The rest of the recipe involves sauteing onions, then adding the tomatoes, roasted and skinned hot peppers and chicken or veggie broth. Way less mess, delicious and freezes well.

Charlotte, NC(Zone 7b)

MaypopLaurel - I didn't know there was an attachment for a Kitchenaid stand mixer to remove skins/seeds from tomatoes!

I have the meat grinder attachment - if I purchase the tomato thingy, will it fit what I already have, or do I need to buy them together?

Cleveland,GA/Atlanta, GA(Zone 7b)

David, I have taken to re-milling tomato skins and seeds two additional passes and found there is still much to be extracted. I mill before cooking down, not after, because the more viscous product means more is lost in the milling with my mill. Maybe it depends on your food mill. We prefer our salsa cruda (raw or fresh) so I don't can salsa. I only make cooked salsa with tomatillos for salsa verde.

Honey, I have the meat grinder and acquired the food mill last summer. The mill is really an add on to the grinder so you don't need additional parts if you already have the grinder. After working out some logistics, such as elevating the bowl until it is right under the mill to minimize splash, I am very satisfied. I bought both attachments at a super discount by cruising Overstock and the Kitchenaid "store" site for refurbished/returned attachments. Kitchenaid gives the same warranty as for new and the pieces I've received look like new. I canned twelve cases (144 jars) of quart tomato products last summer plus several cases of pints. Approximately half were milled.

Charlotte, NC(Zone 7b)

MaypopLaurel - thanks for the update. I've put the attachment on my wish list for later in the year.

Saylorsburg, PA(Zone 6a)

Like the idea of milling before cooking down. Will try that this summer and see if it tastes better. I was a bit concerned about the seeds causing bitterness but then the skins do add good flavor. Will have to experiment!

This message was edited Jun 2, 2012 10:26 PM

Ozark, MO(Zone 6a)

Ozark, a molcajete is a Mexican mortar and pestle so that's like sauce of knife and cutting board. Funny.

Yes, MaypopLaurel, mortar and pestle are "molcajete y tejolote". Many foods are named for the process by which they're made and not for the ingredients. Refrigerator pickles aren't made from refrigerators. lol

"Salsas de Molcajete" are known by that name by all Mexican people, and for good reason. Using a molcajete is the only "right" way to make Mexican salsas in which the ingredients are roasted and it's been done that way for about 3000 years - no other way can produce the right consistency and flavor. A real molcajete must be carved from the lava of volcanoes in the central valley of Mexico - no other lava in the world is right for this, though there are a lot of poor copies around. Then, there's quite a curing process before a new molcajete can be used, and the porous lava has to be kept saturated with garlic so bacteria won't grow within the stone. Molcajetes last forever, and are passed down in families for generations.

And yes, the roasted skins of tomatoes, tomatillos, and chiles are ground up in the salsa - that's where a lot of flavor comes from. Sometimes a piece of skin is stubborn and doesn't want to get shredded so the cook may remove it, but there are plenty of blackened flakes of skin in the salsa.

Since you're interested in "rustic sauces", you should be interested in "Salsas de Molcajete", the oldest sauces in the Americas. A Google search will produce plenty of information.

Cleveland,GA/Atlanta, GA(Zone 7b)

Perdon that I thought it funny and lo siento that you did not. No need to Google to get information regarding molcajetes or sauces from the Americas. We've been cooking fresh Mexican food with friends and family for forty plus years. I have versions of mortars and pestles from all over the world.

I first learned to cook food from the Yucatan, which is similar but more spicy. We experienced Mexican food from traveling to Mexico and from an ex-pat friend (and his Mexican friends) who lived there for over twenty years. I have little experience with TexMex. My only travel to Texas has been on our way elsewhere.

Our access to authentic ingredients and cooking tools is great here in Georgia. We have the largest U.S. Mexican population of any non-border state. Our local farmer's market carries a host of specialty beans and chilies and has a whole department dedicated to a dozen or more takes on chicherons. The chicheron chef is actually a Chinese Mexican! Born there but of Chinese immigrant parents. We have had discussions about the similarities of Mexican chicherons and Chinese fried pork skins because I was raised in a Chinese kitchen. :) The market has a great selection of Mexican seafood including jack, eels and blue crabs.

We love and respect authentic foods from all over the world. It is how I make my living. Thanks for sharing your recipe.

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