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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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Sliced Ripe Beefsteak Tomato At Marketastrida/Getty Images

Beefsteak Tomatoes

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.

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Fresh colorful ripe Fall heirloom tomatoes in basket over wooden background, top view, horizontal compositionFoxys Forest Manufacture/Shutterstock

Heirloom Tomatoes

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 (the same way you’d pass down family kitchen heirlooms). 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.

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.

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Fresh TomatoesMmeEmil/Getty Images

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.

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Cherry Tomato SaladTaste of Home

Cherry Tomatoes

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.

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Many Roma tomatoes in baskets at the marketShutterstock/Marc Bruxelle

Plum Tomatoes

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.

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San Marzano TomatoeseZeePics Studio/Getty Images

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.

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Caprese Salad Kabobs Exps Hcka19 123345 C05 11 1b 6

Grape Tomatoes

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!

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Tomato, Salt, Parsley And Knife On Gray Concrete Backgroundyulka3ice/Getty Images

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 purple and almost-black 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.

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Yellow Pear Tomatosploveking/Getty Images

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.

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Urban Farming In Detroit MichiganBloomberg Creative Photos/Getty Images

Green Tomatoes

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.

Jacqueline Weiss
Jacqueline is a blogger and writer, passionate about sharing the latest in helpful tips and trends in food and cooking. In her spare time, you’ll find her trying new restaurants and experimenting in the kitchen.
Lisa Kaminski
Lisa is an editor at Taste of Home where she gets to embrace her passion for baking. She pours this love of all things sweet (and sometimes savory) into Bakeable, Taste of Home's baking club. At home, you'll find her working on embroidery and other crafts.
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