Types of Tomatoes for Cooking

It's no secret that tomatoes have secured a prominent place in kitchens worldwide. This versatile fruit comes in an array of varieties, each boasting its unique flavor, texture, and ideal culinary uses. From rich and meaty options perfect for sauces to sweet and juicy varieties suitable for salads, the world of cooking with tomatoes offers a diverse range of choices. In this exploration of the most common various types of tomatoes, we will delve into the distinct characteristics that make each variety stand out, enlightening aspiring chefs and seasoned cooks alike on how to select the perfect tomato to elevate their dishes to new heights.

Types of Tomatoes


1. Cherry tomatoes

Cherry tomatoes are small, round, and measure about an inch in diameter, resembling their namesake fruit, the cherry. Known for their delightful sweetness, cherry tomatoes offer a flavor that surpasses that of grape tomatoes. These vibrant gems shine when grilled, roasted, or elegantly sliced for refreshing salads. Their robust, thicker skin lends them a delightful texture and makes them an excellent addition to pasta dishes, infusing them with bursts of color and flavor.


2. Grape tomatoes

Grape tomatoes are smaller and more elongated than cherry tomatoes, closely resembling the shape of grapes. They are elongated and cylindrical in form, similar to a grape. Grape tomatoes have a thinner skin and a juicier, tender flesh. While still sweet, grape tomatoes might have a slightly more intense and tart flavor compared to cherry tomatoes. Grape tomatoes are great for snacking, as they can be easily popped into the mouth. They are also commonly used in salads, as they hold their shape well and add a burst of color and flavor. Don't be afraid to blister them in a skillet until half of them begin to burst, and add them to a gnocchi, pasta dish, or scrambled or even make them into a bruschetta.


3. Roma tomatoes

Also known as plum tomatoes, these oval-shaped tomatoes are long and slender. With a good balance of acidity and a slight sweetness, a hint of earthiness paired with a lower water content compared to larger tomatoes, these tomatoes are extremely versatile. They are most commonly used in salsas, tomato paste, and marinara sauce, and you may find them in a salad at your local Italian ristorante. Roma tomatoes have a meaty texture that makes them a fantastic choice for canning or even baking into dishes where the tomato flavor really shines.


4. Beefsteak tomatoes

Beefsteak tomatoes are probably what you picture in your head when you think of a tomato. They are known for their rich and full-bodied flavor and are typically round and firm. These tomatoes tend to be the home gardener's choice to grow, with many hybrid varieties available like bright yellow lemon boys, orange wellingtons, and even heirloom tomatoes. These tomatoes shine on an open-faced tomato sandwich (toast, mayonnaise, thickly sliced tomatoes, and salt) or sliced for burgers or sandwiches. Try hollowing out your beefsteak tomatoes and stuffing them, or juicing them for tomato juice to drink or use in cocktails or as a base for soups.


5. Heirloom tomatoes

Heirloom tomatoes are the star of the farmer's market aesthetic when it comes to tomato varieties. They come in gorgeous shapes and sizes and are commonly found at your local farmer's market. Brandywine heirlooms are reddish pink in color, have a rich and sweet flavor, and are considered some of the best-tasting tomatoes. Cherokee purple heirlooms can have a purple-brownish tint, with a hint of smokiness that is delicious when sprinkled with flaky sea salt or browned butter. Use this gorgeous, versatile variety in a galette or a tart with goat cheese, in a beautiful Caprese salad, in a refreshing and chilled gazpacho soup, or grilled and drizzled with balsamic reduction and topped with herbs.


6. Green tomatoes

Unripe green beefsteak tomatoes are commonly used in fried green tomato dishes, offering a tangy, slightly tart flavor when enjoyed raw. Fried green tomatoes are typically sliced and coated in a flour or cornmeal mixture, and then fried until a deep golden brown color. They are delicious enjoyed with ranch as common in the South, or a spicy cajun aioli. Check out our recipe for Spicy Swiss and Gouda Pimento Cheese Fried Tomatoes [here]. Not only can you fry your green tomatoes, but you can also pickle them in a jar, make them into a vibrant salsa, or even make them into a chutney, green tomato jam, or green tomato pie. Who knew there was a whole world beyond our beloved fried green tomatoes?


7. San Marzano

San Marzano tomatoes originate from the region of San Marzano, Italy. Similar to how champagne can only be labeled as such if it is from Champagne, France, the Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) seal helped make a name for San Marzano tomatoes. They are technically plum tomatoes and are shaped like peppers with long and pointy tips. You will typically find canned San Marzano tomatoes in grocery stores in the United States, which are fantastic for marinara sauces.

8. Campari tomatoes

Campari tomatoes, also known as cocktail tomatoes, are often found as tomatoes on the vine. They are globe-shaped and have a higher sugar content than other tomatoes, making them perfect for enjoying raw. are delicious when chopped or quartered to toss into a Greek salad or to pair with fresh mozzarella for a caprese salad. These juicy tomatoes are extremely versatile, perfect for being chopped and made into a salsa or bruschetta as well.

9. Sun-dried tomatoes

The flavor profile of sundried tomatoes is rich, intense, and concentrated. Sundried tomatoes are made by allowing ripe plum tomatoes like Roma, Napoli, or San Marzano tomatoes to dry in the sun or a dehydrator, which removes much of their moisture. They might be described as having a sweetness, tanginess, intensity, and earthiness in flavor. Due to their bold flavor profile, sundried tomatoes are a popular ingredient in Mediterranean cuisine, salads, pasta dishes, sandwiches, pesto, and various other recipes where their intense taste can shine. They can be rehydrated in water or oil before use if you prefer a softer texture or added directly to dishes for an extra punch of flavor.

10. Canned tomatoes

Canned tomatoes are an exceptional and economical choice, perfect for creating delicious marinara sauces, hearty pastes, flavorful chilis, and soul-warming soups. Your local grocery store will likely offer a range of canned tomato options, including whole tomatoes, diced varieties, and rich tomato paste. Among the popular canned choices are Roma, San Marzano, Amish Paste tomatoes, and celebrity tomatoes, renowned for their well-balanced flesh-to-seed ratio, making them ideal candidates for canning.

The convenience of canned tomatoes is especially appealing when fresh tomatoes are not in season or if you desire an extended shelf life for your tomato supplies. With canned tomatoes on hand, you can savor the taste of ripe tomatoes all year round and transform your culinary creations into delightful tomato-infused masterpieces.


What tomatoes are best for baking?

Baking tomatoes enhances their natural sweetness, caramelizes their sugars, and creates a depth of flavor that is not present in raw tomatoes. When roasted, tomatoes become tender and develop a rich, umami taste that works well in various recipes, such as pasta sauces, roasted vegetable medleys, pizza toppings, and more.

Ultimately, the best tomato for baking depends on the specific recipe and your personal preference. Experimenting with different tomato varieties in your favorite roasted dishes can lead to exciting and delicious culinary experiences.

What tomatoes taste best raw?

Heirloom tomatoes, beefsteak tomatoes, yellow pear tomatoes, and grape/cherry tomatoes are all delicious when eaten raw on their own or topped on a burger or sandwich. You can always quarter them and top them on a salad or pair them with basil, mozzarella, and balsamic for a refreshing Caprese salad. Seasonings like salt or even smoked salt with bring out the earthiness and depth of flavor in your raw and juicy tomatoes, or add herbs like shredded basil that will make your tomatoes pop with an explosion of flavor tasting like they're straight out of the garden.

How to Purchase Tomatoes at the Grocery Store (tips and tricks)

When choosing your tomatoes at your local market, look for tomatoes that are smooth and firm with no bruising, soft spots, or wrinkles. They should feel heavy for their weight and smell sweet and earthy. If they smell musty or have no scent, the tomato is most likely not at its peak ripeness. Make sure to pick tomatoes that are bright in color for their variety, and avoid choosing tomatoes pale in color and therefore not at peak ripeness.

Preparation and Storage

You may have tried to slice a tomato with a knife and ended up absolutely butchering it. You most likely used a straight-edge knife (or even a butter knife, anyone?) when you met this messy fate. You'll want to use a really sharp serrated-edge knife to slice your tomatoes and use long strokes.

Tomatoes are actually stored best at room temperature on your counter space. You may think storing them in your refrigerator would prolong their life, however, they may kill the flavor of your tomato and give it a meaty texture instead of the robust, juicy flavor and texture you are looking forward to.

Versatility of Tomatoes in the Kitchen

When it comes to using tomatoes in a dish, the possibilities and versatility are endless. You can go simple; with the purpose of snacking on your juicy and colorful beefsteak tomatoes or grape tomatoes, or even summon your inner baker for a beautiful heirloom tomato galette Ina Garden would be proud of. Maybe you want to elevate your breakfast scramble by blistering some colorful grape tomatoes in olive oil and salt and adding some basil or bake them in a dish with feta, olive oil, and garlic to make an easy and delicious tomato feta dip.

Impress your friends and family with a homemade bruschetta (pronounced bru-skett-tah) atop a toasted buttery baguette, or stay in the Italian mindset with a delicious marinara using canned San Marzano tomatoes. If you have excess tomatoes from your garden, try making them into a salsa or washing, quartering, and freezing your tomatoes to make them into a spaghetti sauce at a later date. You can even use a blender to blend your tomatoes into a delicious and creamy tomato basil soup to pair with buttery grilled cheese.

The diverse array of tomato varieties available for cooking presents a bright palette of flavors, textures, and colors to enhance our culinary experiences. From the sweet and juicy nature of cherry tomatoes to the meaty and robust Roma tomatoes, each type brings a unique element to our dishes. Whether it's adding brightness to a fresh summer salad or enriching the depth of a hearty pasta sauce, the versatility of tomatoes in the kitchen is unparalleled. As home cooks and chefs alike, embracing the richness of these different tomato types allows us to elevate our culinary creations and infuse them with a burst of natural goodness. Incorporating the various types of tomatoes into our cooking not only enlivens our taste buds but also highlights the significance of preserving these delightful flavors for future generations to enjoy.

Ready to try a new tomato recipe? Try this Heirloom Tomato Salad that's light, refreshing and delicious! Get the recipe here!