Ingredient Intelligence

7 Types of Tomatoes You’ll Find at the Market (and What They Taste Like)

updated Sep 15, 2022
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.
A basket of tomatoes and garlic
(Image credit: Guy Ambrosino)

When tomatoes are at their peak, it’s hard not to ogle them at the farmers market. The array of shapes, sizes, and colors can honestly take your breath away and leave you loading up your tote with large tomatoes and small tomatoes until you can hardly carry it home.

While countless varieties exist, there are a handful that you’ll most likely come across regardless of the market you frequent.

Credit: Kara Whitten

1. Beefsteak Tomatoes

These are likely the first type of tomato that comes to mind when you think of summer tomatoes. They are big, bright red, and heavy in the hand. Beefsteaks are meaty and juicy with a mild tomato flavor that plays well with others. This means they are the best contenders for slicing for your BLT or classic tomato sandwich.

Try them in this recipe: Grilled Tomatoes

Credit: Kara Whitten

2. Cherokee Purple Tomatoes

These are an heirloom variety of beefsteak tomatoes that comes with a beautiful reddish-purple hue. They have a dark-colored interior and a deep, rich, sweet flavor. Slice them for sandwiches and to make a show-stopping caprese.

Try them in this recipe: Herby Tomato Salad

Credit: Jeff Roffman
(Image credit: Jeff Roffman)

3. Plum or Roma Tomatoes

You’ll find these firm, oblong tomatoes referred to by both names at the farmers market. They are the prime candidates for canning and turning into sauce, as they have few seeds and low water content. Flavor-wise, they deliver the perfect balance between sweetness and acidity. They’re perfect if your recipe calls for a quick sauté.

Try them in this recipe: One-Pan Pasta With Tomatoes and Herbs

Credit: Coco Morante

4. San Marzano Tomatoes

San Marzano Tomatoes are native to the volcanic soil surrounding Mount Vesuvius in Southern Italy. While some say true San Marzano tomatoes must come from this soil for the ultimate flavor, they are still grown by other farms and may likely appear at your local stall. They have a meaty texture and flavor and contain very little water, so they rival plum tomatoes when canning and making sauce. They also are great oven-dried.

Try them in this recipe: Lamb Bolognese

5. Cherry or Grape Tomatoes

The biggest difference between these small, bite-sized tomatoes is their shape — cherry tomatoes are round and look like cherries, while grape tomatoes are oblong and resemble grapes. Use them interchangeably, as both are extra sweet and juicy. If you don’t eat your whole pint out of hand while strolling the market, slice them for salads, roast them, and even pickle them. Read more about the best types of cherry and grape tomatoes.

Try them in this recipe: Rainbow veggie noodle salad

Credit: Lucy Hewett
(Image credit: Lucy Hewett)

6. Sungold Tomatoes

Pop a Sungold tomato in your mouth and you’ll swear you’re eating candy — they are that sweet. The quarter-sized, orange-hued tomatoes just may be the sweetest you’ll come across and can be enjoyed just like you’d enjoy cherry or grape tomatoes.

Try them in this recipe: Tomato and Mozzarella Caprese Skewers

Credit: Shutterstock/Vadym Zaitsev

7. Green Zebra Tomatoes

Don’t mistake these medium-sized green tomatoes for unripe — in fact they are perfectly ripe. This heirloom variety has zebra-like stripes and comes with a tangy flavor. Slice them thick like beefsteaks and use them anyplace you might ordinarily reach for red tomatoes.

Try them in this recipe: Easy Gazpacho

5. Cherry or Grape Tomatoes

The biggest difference between these small, bite-sized tomatoes is their shape — cherry tomatoes are round and look like cherries, while grape tomatoes are oblong and resemble grapes. Use them interchangeably, as both are extra sweet and juicy. If you don’t eat your whole pint out of hand while strolling the market, slice them for salads, roast them, and even pickle them.