I think we can all agree that the best-tasting tomatoes are the ones picked fresh off the vines of your homegrown tomato plant. But the truth is that, anecdotally and scientifically, some tomato varieties simply taste better than others!
How is this possible? Keep reading to find out what varieties produce the best tasting tomatoes, and why.
What Makes for Best Tasting Tomatoes?
Consumers and experts alike have identified certain factors that impact tomatoes in a way that makes them generally liked more or less. While, of course, personal preference comes into play, there is no denying that the perfect tomato has a good balance between sweetness and acidity—and should also give off that good old earthy tomato aroma.
If you don’t have the privilege of growing your own tomatoes (or having a tomato gardener friend) the best tasting tomatoes in grocery stores are usually marketed as being good for eating fresh (in salads, sandwiches, or on their own, as opposed to cooking or canning). Most of the time these are heirloom tomatoes, but we’ll get into that a little later.
So what determines the sweetness and acidity of a tomato? Many things do. Specific tomato varieties, to begin with, impose different flavor profiles, but these flavors also change depending on the climate, soil, ripeness, and other factors. As you might imagine, the best tasting tomatoes are usually those that are picked off healthy and well cared for plants. That means the plants are watered adequately, are located in full sunlight, have enough foliage to capture the sunlight (which helps produce sugar), are able to absorb enough nutrients from the soil, and more.
Heirloom Tomatoes Versus Hybrid Versus Genetically Modified
If you’ve done a bit of research into the tomato industry, you’ve probably come across terms like heirloom tomatoes, hybrid tomatoes, and genetically modified (GM) tomatoes. So what are the differences, and how does it impact our discussion on best tasting tomatoes?
Heirloom tomatoes are harvested from open-pollination tomato plants. That means that they are naturally pollinated by pollinators like bees and butterflies. Farmers then collect seeds from the tomato plants to plant the next generations of tomatoes, and so forth. This is called “true breeding” because when you plant an heirloom tomato’s seed, the plant that grows from said seed will resemble its parent plants. This, for example, isn’t necessarily true for hybrid and GM tomatoes.
True heirloom tomatoes have been bred in this way for fifty years or more, and passed through generations of families—that’s why they’re called “heirloom” tomatoes. Heirloom tomatoes are bred for preferred qualities by simply collecting and replanting seeds from the preferred tomato plants within the variety year after year: the plants with the best tasting and best-looking tomatoes. The process is about as natural as it gets!
Hybrid tomatoes are a different beast. They are the result of man-made cross-breeding between two different tomato varieties to create a new tomato variety with the characteristics of both parents. Plants that grow from the seeds of hybrid tomatoes might resemble their grandparent plants (as opposed to the parents, like heirlooms do), or not grow at all, because the seed could be infertile.
And lastly, we have genetically modified tomatoes. Humans are even more involved in the production of genetically modified tomatoes, because they are tomatoes whose DNA has been changed in a lab to display the most preferred qualities.
Somewhere along the way, the breeding of both hybrid tomatoes and GM tomatoes began to prioritize the production of tomatoes with bright red colors and a traditional round shape over a juicy, tasty flavor. This over-commercialization saw to it that the masses now agree that heirlooms, which are bred much more naturally, are the best tasting tomatoes out there.
Of course, this is a generalization to which there are exceptions, especially since the heirloom industry isn’t regulated, but now you know why dishes made with heirloom tomatoes come with a more expensive price tag!
Tomato Flavor and Color
If you’re at the grocery store and unsure of which color tomato to choose, you should know that there is a loose relation between tomato colors and flavors that could help direct your decision.
- Yellow Tomatoes: They have a milder taste because of lower levels of sugar and acid compared to other tomato varieties
- Orange Tomatoes: Like their close colored cousins, orange tomatoes are mild, leaning towards the sweeter end of the sugar-acid scale.
- Pink Tomatoes: Perhaps appropriately, pink tomatoes tend to be the sweetest of tomato variety.
- Black Tomatoes: While actually closer to brown or purplish in color, black tomatoes are usually described as having an earthy and almost smoky taste.
- Green Tomatoes: These uniquely colored tomatoes make you think of Granny Smith Apples. In fact, their flavor is brightly tart and tends towards acidity.
- Striped Tomatoes: These tomatoes are also known for being extra sweet (and look super unique!).
- Red Tomatoes: Red tomatoes come in a wide range of flavors, but are most known for having that “old-fashioned tomato flavor.” I take that to mean a good balance between sweetness, tartness, and acidity!
The Best Tasting Tomatoes
Best Tasting Tomato Overall:
Super Sweet 100 Tomatoes
A new and improved version of the Sweet 100, the Super Sweet 100 is loved by gardeners for its incredibly sweet taste and the long growing season of the plant. It just keeps producing tomatoes! They are also pest and disease resistant, which is a plus in any plant. These cherry-sized tomatoes are raved about all over the internet, and they sure do not disappoint!
Best Tasting Tomato Among Green Tomatoes:
Aunt Ruby’s German Green Tomatoes
Wait, a green tomato on the list of best tasting tomatoes? I know earlier I told you that green tomatoes tend to be tart and with a high acid content… but I also told you there’s an exception to everything! Aunt Ruby’s German Green Tomato will surprise you with the perfect balance between sweetness and acidity. These beefsteak tomatoes certainly weren’t bred to be the perfect commercial red tomato!
Best Tasting Tomato Among Black Tomatoes:
Black Krim Tomato
This heirloom tomato hales from Crimea and is also shocking in its deep, dark color. Its flavor is a perfect balance between sweetness and acidity, and a mouthful of this fruit comes with a rich, meaty consistency. Don’t forget that smoky earthy flavor I mentioned earlier—this beefsteak tomato has certainly got it! It’s definitely earned its spot on. The list of best tasting tomatoes.
Best Tasting Tomato Among Pink Tomatoes:
This large, deeply lobed tomato also made our list of best tasting tomatoes because of its reputation for an amazing, rich flavor that also hints at a bit of spice. Though it’s a pink tomato, this variety is often also described as having an “old-fashioned tomato flavor.” Its meat is creamy, and the sheer size of it will be enough to fill sandwiches for the entire family!
Best Tasting Tomato Among Heirloom Tomatoes:
Cherokee Purple Tomato
The Cherokee purple tomato is named so because it actually dates back to the Cherokee Native American tribe in Tennessee. Its interesting history is coupled with a complex, intense flavor that brings it to the top of most peoples’ best tasting tomatoes list! Demonstrating a rich and tasty balance of sweetness and tartness, the fruit itself is also large and darkly colored.
Best Tasting Tomato Among Cherry Tomatoes:
Sun Gold Tomato
This small but mighty cherry tomato grows in large clusters of 10 to 15 fruits each! Their flavor is described as uniquely citrusy, and it is by far the most popular cherry tomato on the market. Though we prefer the natural open-pollination of heirloom tomatoes, this hybrid member of the best tasting tomatoes club is great because it’s disease-resistant to Verticillium Wilt, Fusarium, and Tobacco Mosaic Virus.
Best Tasting Tomato Among Striped Tomatoes:
Chocolate Stripes Tomato
I promise the Chocolate Stripes tomato wasn’t included in this list of best tasting tomatoes just because it has “chocolate” in its name! This heirloom tomato truly has it all: amazing flavor, large size, and interesting color—just look at its stripes! In fact, the Chocolate Stripes tomato is well known for winning taste tests all over.
Tips for Growing the Best Tasting Tomatoes
While I’ve outlined what I think are the varieties that produce the best tasting tomatoes, there are things you can do in the garden to help improve the taste of whatever tomato you’ve chosen to grow. Here are some tips for you to follow to grow the best tasting tomatoes out there:
- Add a bit of salt to your water or fertilizer. While too much salt can kill plants, taste-testers have confirmed that tomato plants with a little bit of salt in their diet actually produce the best tasting tomatoes compared to others!
- Harvest your tomatoes at the right time! Don’t just depend on their color—make sure you’re touching them to decide when the right middle ground between hard-as-an-apple and overripe-squishy is: just the right level of tenderness. If the tomato resists being plucked off the vine, that means it’s not ripe yet.
- Make sure your tomatoes are getting ample sunlight (six to eight hours of direct light). As mentioned earlier, plants use sunlight to make sugar, so this step is super important.
- Make sure you’re watering correctly. Tomatoes have a huge water content, which impacts the fruit’s taste. Err on the side of watering a little less rather than overwatering. Some gardeners maintain that tomato plants that grow in drier climates actually put out the best tasting tomatoes.
- Consider storing your tomatoes in a dark spot for one or two days after harvesting them. Often that’s just enough time for the flavors to develop to their full tastiness!
- Worried about picking the right tomato variety for your garden? Check their listing on Hoss Tools and put in your ZIP code to see if you can grow them in your area!
Go Find The Best Tasting Tomatoes!
I hope this list of the best tasting tomatoes has inspired you to go out and conduct your own taste tests! Remember that above all, it’s your opinion that matters. Use this guide, along with the association of tomato color with taste, to help direct your choice, but always rely on your own taste buds. If you don’t get the opportunity to taste tomato fruits before buying them at your local grocery store (you usually don’t!) your best bet is to purchase tomatoes from a local trusted farmer that prioritizes taste and quality over the look of the tomato.
Want more tomato content? Check out our tomato section to learn all there is to know about growing and cooking tomatoes!