We Tried Every Brand of Canned Tomatoes, Tomato Paste, and Marinara Sauce We Could Find — Here Are Our Favorites

updated Jan 8, 2021
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image
Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Stylist: CC Buckley/Kitchn

How often during a typical week do you find yourself reaching for a can of whole peeled tomatoes, a tube of tomato paste, or jarred pasta sauce? Our guess is pretty often! In the grand scheme of pantry staples, tomato-related ones have a super high turnover rate and are pretty much always on our grocery list. They provide a trusty base for tons of soups, stews, and sauces, and are the foundation of many a quick weeknight dinner.

Over the years at Kitchn, we’ve consistently tasted and reviewed our favorite grocery items to help make shopping easier, but none of our opinions are more sought-after than our very official tomato verdicts. Want to know our recommended can of whole peeled tomatoes? We have a very clear frontrunner. What tomato paste should you buy? Only these two will do. What about the best pasta sauce? Every Kitchn staffer will give you the same recommendation (it’s that good).

Here are all of our tomato-y picks, all in one place.

The Best Whole Peeled Tomatoes: Cento Certified San Marzano Whole Peeled Plum Tomatoes

These are the only canned tomatoes that Kitchn’s Deputy Food Director, Grace Elkus, will buy — for good reason. They have a rich and earthy tomato flavor with a hint of natural sweetness but no added sugar. They also have far less salt than most competitors (20 milligrams per serving versus 220 milligrams or more, with the exception of the unsalted tomatoes). Note: These are San Marzano variety tomatoes, grown in the same area in Italy as certified San Marzanos, but these aren’t, actually, certified by the Cosorzio San Marzano. And yes, these made the 2020 list of Kitchn Essentials, Grocery Edition.

Buy: Cento Certified San Marzano Whole Peeled Plum Tomatoes, $41.76 for twelve 28-ounce cans

Credit: Danielle Centoni

The Best Tomato Paste in a Can: Muir Glen Organic Tomato Paste

After rounding up every tomato paste she could find in stores, Kitchn’s tomato paste tester, Danielle Centoni, had her work cut out for her. Would there really be a detectable difference among them? She started by separating the cans from the tubes and proceeded from there. (Because she knows that people have preferences!) She noted that some tasted slightly metallic, others more tart, and that some were darker in color with a faint roasted flavor. In a cooked dish, there’d be virtually no difference. But, of course, there needs to be a winner! One can stood out ever so slightly from the rest for its sweet, rich tomato flavor: Muir Glen.

BuyMuir Glen Organic Tomato Paste, $30.96 for 24 six-ounce cans

Credit: Danielle Centoni

The Best Tomato Paste in a Tube: Cento Tomato Paste

Time for the tube test! Danielle noted that the differences here were even slighter. One brand had a smoother texture, some were brighter than others (because they had more salt), but that was about it. Trader Joe’sCento and Mutti were noticeably the most “tomato-y.” When Danielle compared the labels, she found out why: The brands with most salt had the most concentrated flavor. If the others were salted more, they’d probably taste about the same. Cento’s tube eked out as the winner overall. In a vote earlier last year, Kitchn staffers named this very tube to Kitchn Essentials, Grocery Edition.

BuyCento Tomato Paste, $7.50 for four 4.56-ounce tubes at Walmart

Credit: Amazon

The Best Jarred Marinara Sauce: Rao’s Homemade Marinara Sauce

Truly nothing comes close to Rao’s. It’s not overly tart or acidic, or overwhelmed with too many dried spices. Anyone who has tried it will tell you: This sauce is perfection. It contains just eight ingredients (whole peeled tomatoes, olive oil, fresh onions, salt, fresh garlic, fresh basil, black pepper, and dried oregano), which makes it taste about as close to homemade that you can get. It’s worth the price tag. If you’re a Costco member, look for it there!

Buy: Rao’s Homemade Marinara Sauce, $7.69 for 24 ounces

Do you agree with all of our top tomato picks?