Don't let their looks deceive you -- sun-dried tomatoes may appear shriveled and lifeless, but they carry intense and sweet taste. That said, you do need to compare different types, including jarred and dry-packed varieties, to find the ones best suited to your cooking needs, and the ones in the best shape.
For either dry-packaged or jarred tomatoes, choose those with the most recent "use by" date to allow them to last longer. Or, buy smaller-size packages or jars if you use the tomatoes rarely.
The sun-dried tomatoes you buy in the bulk foods section of your grocery or in paper or foil packages are much drier and more chewy than those packed in jars. Those that are too old may have a musty taste and smell -- look for tomatoes with bright red color on the top side and pale yellow on the underside. For best results, choose those in foil or plastic packaging over tomatoes stored loose in the bulk foods bin.
Unopened sun-dried tomatoes stay safe in your pantry for 9 months, and for 3 to 6 months once you open the package, according to the Still Tasty website.
Sun-dried tomatoes in jars are easier to use than dry-packaged tomatoes because they have been reconstituted. Use these straight from the jar, chopped and added to quick breads, pasta, sandwiches and sauces. Tomatoes packed in oil typically have more flavor than those packed in water.
Choose jarred tomatoes with additional herbs and spices if you want to use the tomatoes in salads or dips; those without added flavors work best for sauces, stews and soups where you want the flavor of the tomatoes themselves to shine. Some varieties also contain color preservatives. Unopened jars last for 12 months in your pantry. Refrigerate opened jars for 6 to 12 months.
Snip dry-packaged sun-dried tomatoes with your kitchen scissors to avoid having them stick to your knife.