10 Types of Tomatoes and How to Cook with Them
What types of tomatoes should you be picking up at the farmers market or planting in your garden? Learn about the most common varietals and what makes each so tasty.
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Best for: Sandwiches, salads, sauces and grilling
Named because of their large size and meaty texture, beefsteak tomatoes should be your go-to tomato for topping a juicy hamburger or layering onto summery sandwiches. These tomatoes are also easy to slice and won’t get juice everywhere, so they’re perfect for picnics.
But you don’t need to use all your beefsteak tomatoes between bread. Beefsteaks are also good for salads, grilling and even making sauces. Simply put: These are great all-around tomatoes. You may just want to include a few of these plants in your tomato garden.
Best for: Salads and baked goods
Looking for a tomato that is anything but basic? Try heirloom tomato varieties.
“Heirloom” doesn’t refer to one specific type of tomato. It’s a general term for varieties of tomatoes that have been passed down between gardeners for generations. They vary in size, shape, color and flavor. If you don’t spot them at your grocery store, look for them at farmers markets or smaller garden centers that deal in specialty produce. Learn about the purple dots on tomato leaves.
To really let the unique characteristics of these tomatoes shine, eat them raw with just a sprinkling of salt. You can also try a marinated tomato salad or show off pretty slices with this heirloom tomato tart recipe.
Tomatoes on the Vine
Best for: Sandwiches, salads and salsas
You’ll often see clusters of tomatoes on the vine sold at the grocery store. These medium-sized tomatoes are versatile. You can slice them up for sandwiches, cut them into wedges to add to a green salad or dice them to make fresh salsa at home.
Best for: Appetizers, snacks, salads and roasting
These tomatoes get their name not only for their cherry size, but also for their sweetness. Despite being tiny, these tomatoes can do a lot. They’re perfect to use in appetizers and salads, or even just for snacking.
Cherry tomatoes can also be roasted, grilled or baked to bring out even more of their sweet qualities. This cherry tomato flatbread is a great example of how versatile these tiny gems can be. But you don’t need to stop there! Try more tasty cherry tomato recipes.
Best for: Canning, sauces, tomato paste and roasting
Known as plum tomatoes, you might also see these oblong tomatoes labeled as Roma tomatoes. Big on sweetness but also acidity, they have a lower moisture and water content than most other tomatoes, so they work well when canned, thrown on the grill or used in a fresh tomato soup. These tomatoes are also the star of our best-ever marinara sauce (you’ll need 12 pounds of these babies!). Find out when you should use marinara vs. tomato sauce.
You don’t need to stop at sauces. Plum tomatoes are also our Test Kitchen’s first pick when it comes to making homemade bruschetta.
San Marzano Tomatoes
Best for: Sauces
San Marzano tomatoes are a variety of plum tomatoes. They have a sweet flavor and are low in acid, which makes them a great candidate for pasta sauces. They do cost a bit more than other tomato varieties, but they are worth splurging on if you’re making a great homemade spaghetti sauce like Nonna used to make.
Best for: Appetizers, snacks, salads and roasting
With their small size, thin skin and sweet flavor, grape tomatoes are similar to their cherry-sized cousins. Anytime you see a recipe with cherry tomatoes, feel free to sub in this varietal instead.
Grape tomatoes make for delicious snacks, or use them in salads and appetizers like these Caprese skewers—they’re super easy to put together and always a hit!
Purple and Black Tomatoes
Best for: Sandwiches and salads
You may have seen dark-hued tomato plants popping up at your local garden center. These almost-black and purple tomatoes are a particular heirloom variety that has gained popularity over the past few years. Cherokee Purple is one of the more popular strains and produces large, dark fruit, though you can also find cherry-sized purple tomatoes like Black Cherry and Black Pearl.
These tomatoes are best eaten raw, so slice a few up for BLTs or try them in salads.
Pear or Teardrop Tomatoes
Best for: Appetizers, snacks and salads
Pear tomatoes, much like cherry and grape tomatoes, are tiny and sweet. This varietal has thin skin, which makes it great for salads and snacking. While these tomatoes are commonly seen with red skin, you’ll also find yellow and orange pear tomatoes at your local farmers market or grocer.
Best for: Frying, pickling and baking
Green tomatoes are just unripe tomatoes. Gardeners are often left with a glut of these tomatoes at the end of the season when the weather is too cold to ripen the last of the fruit on the vine. You don’t have to wait until the end of summer for green tomatoes, though. You can pick them anytime you see green fruit on your plants.
Green tomatoes are firm and not as juicy as ripe tomatoes, which makes them great candidates for breading and frying—who doesn’t love a fried green tomato? You can also pickle green tomatoes and include them in chowchow or green tomato relish.