8 Popular Types of Tomatoes, Plus How to Use Them

Mid-summer means loads of different types of fresh-picked tomatoes. Get the most out of the season by learning which types to use for which dishes.

The magic of a perfect tomato—when these juicy fruits peak with flavor, texture, and ripeness—is a fleeting summer moment, brief but glorious. Growing your own tomatoes is one way to get fresh-off-the-vine produce but, while probably easier than you think, it's not for everyone.

Yes, your supermarket carries a variety of tomatoes year-round, but they probably had to travel a bit and were more likely bred for their transport and storage hardiness rather than flavor and juiciness. Farmer's markets are usually the better bet for finding tastier tomatoes grown closer to home, but picking from among a wide range of tomato colors, shapes, and sizes can be daunting.


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Don't miss out! Use our simple starter guide to distinguish beefsteaks from Brandywines, and to determine which type pairs perfectly with your go-to tomato dishes. We also offer up our favorite tomato recipes and suggest the type that's best for each. So savor the season and get your tomato on!

01 of 08


Several beefsteak tomatoes grouped together

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Large and meaty, this smooth red fruit is an excellent all-purpose tomato. Layer with mozzarella for a classic Caprese, or slice and sandwich with bacon and lettuce for a quintessential BLT.

Focaccia Breakfast Sandwiches

Victor Protasio

Only beefsteak tomatoes are big and bold enough to hold their against a litany of breakfast favorites in these hearty Focaccia Breakfast Sandwiches. Quarter-inch slices are broiled and then stacked atop halved cheesy focaccia loaves, scrambled eggs, prosciutto, and spinach.

02 of 08

Cherokee Purple

Several Cherokee purple tomatoes on a counter

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This medium-sized heirloom tomato—prized for its rich color and concentrated sweetness—is deep reddish-pink with distinctively green "shoulders" (the area around the stem). To best enjoy its unique flavor, just slice, drizzle with olive oil, and top with flaky salt.

Tomato With Ricotta and Herbs
Greg Dupree

This recipe for Tomatoes With Ricotta and Herbs shows off the unique colors of this heirloom tomato. Its limited ingredient list—heavy cream, ricotta, olive oil, herbs, salt, and pepper—allows the rich taste of the Cherokee purple to take center stage.

03 of 08


Plum tomatoes on the vine
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You'll find this oblong type—roma being the most popular variety—in most cans of whole peeled tomatoes. Because they're fleshy and don't have too many seeds, they're great for cooking. Try them slow-roasted or simmered into sauce.

Easy DIY Salsa Recipe, tomato salsa with chips
Cara Cormack

Unless you like your salsa watery, use plum tomatoes to make this Easy Homemade Mild Salsa Recipe. Once you make your own, you'll never settle for a store-bought jar again.

04 of 08

Green Zebra

Several green zebra tomatoes on a table
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Stroll through a farmer's market for this flashy fruit named for its green-on-green striped exterior. Slightly more acidic than other varieties, it makes a nice sidekick to salty cheeses, and its colors work beautifully in a gazpacho or Caprese salad.

Heirloom Tomato & Herb BLT
Heami Lee

While any flavorful heirloom would do, green zebras lend their uncharacteristic color and tangy, sweet-tart taste to these classic Heirloom Tomato & Herb BLTs. The variety's crisp texture stands up to this sandwich's herby mayo, crusty bread, and thick-sliced bacon.

05 of 08


Cherry tomatoes on a vine resting on a plate
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While all tomatoes are best in summer, cherry tomatoes can be flavorful year-round. Come August, look for super-sweet varieties—like Sungold and Sweet 100—for snacking out of hand or tossing into salads.

Linguine with Cherry Tomato Sauce
Greg DuPree

This eight-ingredient recipe for Linguine With Cherry Tomato Sauce calls for multicolored cherry tomatoes to maximize flavor and color interest, but any single color works fine, too. While cooking, mash some of the tomatoes to create a luscious sauce, and keep the rest whole for a juicy bite.

06 of 08


Two Brandywine tomatoes on a blue table

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Big and broad, this reddish-pink tomato is the most recognizable of the heirlooms. With its firm texture and balanced sweet acidity, it's ideal alongside boldly flavored grilled steaks or pork chops.

Tomato-Burrata Toasts Recipe
Greg DuPree

Brandywines are the perfect variety for this Tomato-Burrata Toasts recipe. Juicy slices marinated in olive oil are sandwiched between crusty toasted bread and torn pieces of burrata cheese sprinkled with oregano. Is it lunchtime yet?

07 of 08


Baskets of Roma tomatoes outside
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Roma tomatoes are a type of plum tomato that is often used for canned tomatoes or tomato paste. Also known as Italian tomatoes, Romas have less moisture and seeds than other tomato varieties, and are known for their thick, durable, flesh.

Neapolitan-Style Margherita Pizza

You can use canned Roma tomatoes to make this Neapolitan-Style Margherita Pizza, or, you can simply slice fresh Roma tomatoes to top a pie of your own.

08 of 08

Tomatoes on the vine

Small tomatoes attached to a vine

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Tomatoes on the vine can actually include several different tomato varieties, such as grape and cherry tomatoes. Since these tomatoes are sold with the stem, they tend to have a longer ripening time, as well as a stronger aroma and sweeter taste than the same tomato varieties with no vine. Plus, since these tomatoes are typically grown in greenhouses, you don’t need to worry as much about dirt or pesticides, though you should still wash these tomatoes before use.


When you’re ready to use on-the-vine tomatoes, gently pluck them from the vine and use them for sauces, snacking, or salads, such as this Orzo Tomato Salad. You could also leave the vine intact, and roast these tomatoes as is for an earthy, delicious result.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How many types of tomatoes are there?

    There are several different types of tomatoes, including many mentioned here, as well as other types such as cocktail and globe tomatoes. Additionally, there are thousands of varieties of tomatoes that are typically the result of crossbreeding among the many types. 

  • How do you pick the best tomatoes at the grocery store?

    When shopping for tomatoes, look for ones that are firm but yield slightly to pressure. They should have a pleasant aroma and bright color, and be free of dark spots or blemishes. Larger tomatoes should feel heavy in your hand. Avoid tomatoes with wrinkly skin or mold, as those are signs that they have begun to spoil and are no longer at peak freshness.

  • How long do tomatoes last after they're picked?

    Unripe tomatoes can last on the counter for several days. Once ripe, tomatoes should be eaten or placed in the refrigerator, where they can stay fresh for about two weeks. Just note that tomatoes at room temperature will maintain the best flavor and texture. Resist the urge to refrigerate tomatoes on the vine, as they will quickly lose their plump texture and irresistible sweetness.

  • What are some of the best ways to cook tomatoes?

    When it comes to the best ways to cook tomatoes, it really depends on your personal preference. In-season tomatoes of course shine when cooked down in pasta or pizza sauce, but also do well when sliced or diced straight from the supermarket or garden, and added to a salad, sandwich, or salsa.

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