The 4 Types of Tomatoes, and How to Use Them



Heirloom Tomatoes

Photo by: Emiko Taki

Emiko Taki

This is the time we dream about all year long: ripe, juicy summer tomatoes in myriad colors and sizes are exploding from backyard gardens, farmers markets and ordinary grocery stores alike. But with thousands of varieties out there, it can be tough to suss out the best way to use one from another. Here are the four basic types of tomatoes, and the best ways to maximize their height-of-summer flavors.

Cherry & Grape

Generally speaking, the smaller the tomato, the higher its sugar content — and the sweeter its flavor. That’s why cherry, grape and pear varieties including classic red ‘Sweet 100,’ bright orange ‘Sungold’ and deep purple ‘Black Cherry’ are perfect for popping in your mouth raw. They can be so sweet and colorful, in fact, that you might just see your veggie-adverse kid gobble them up like candy.

You can also simply roast them the oven (make a big batch and toss some in the freezer for winter months), or throw them into pasta with other summer M.V.P.s like corn and basil. Or, thread them onto skewers and toss them on the grill solo, or with fish, chicken or steak.


Skinny, oblong “paste” tomatoes like ‘San Marzano,’ ‘Roma’ and ‘Amish Paste’ boast meaty interiors and lower water content and fewer seeds than other types, making them ideal for sauces or roasting. Stir up Alton’s basic Tomato Sauce recipe and follow our step-by-step instructions for canning your own tomatoes at home so you’ll have a year-round supply.


Medium-sized fruits like ‘Early Girl,’ ‘Green Zebra’ and ‘Valencia’ (to name a few) may be the most all-purpose of all tomato varieties. They’re usually a little tarter and juicier than beefsteak or cherry tomatoes, and have a nice balance of acidity and sweetness.

Add them to any kind of green or grain salad you’d like, or use them to make Ina’s Provencal Tomatoes. You may also use these tomatoes for sauces, but beware that they’ll take longer to cook down since they’re more juicy than plum tomatoes.


These kings of the tomato world — including ‘Mortgage Lifter,’ ‘Cherokee Purple,’ ‘Brandywine Pink’ and ‘Black Krim’ — are large, heavy and meaty. That means slices of beefsteaks are the perfect size to match up with round of mozzarella in a Caprese Salad, or to tuck into a breakfast sandwich, B.L.T. or grilled cheese.

Related Links:

Next Up

Rotisserie Chicken Is the $4 Dinner Hack We All Need

It's the money- and time-saving secret to simpler weeknight meals.

10 Ways to Use Ugly Tomatoes

Bashed, bruised or split, these casualties of poor packing or neglect may not be good for a fresh Caprese salad, but they've got a lot of life in them yet. And salsa is just the beginning.

What Are Ramps and How Do You Use Them?

Here's how to buy, store and cook with this fleeting spring ingredient.

5 Healthy Ways to Use Canned Tomatoes

Cook these five canned tomato recipes so you can get a healthy dose of lycopene.

6 Essential Pantry Ingredients and 3 Surprising Ways to Use Them

One mom shares her six pantry must-haves, plus her favorite recipes for putting those goods to work.

The New Green Leaves and Vegetables, and How to Use Them

Burning out on kale? Try out these new greens in town.

5 Pantry Staples Molly Yeh Always Has (and How She Uses Them)

On the Food Network Kitchen app, the “Girl Meets Farm” star gives us a fascinating tour of her pantry.

Diet 101: Blood Type Diets

Is the secret to weight loss success determined by your blood type? If you ask some blood-type diet fans, yes. If you ask us, doubtful. Learn more about one of the latest diet crazes.

Related Pages