Tomatoes are a beloved vegetable in both home gardens and orchards. With their beautifully colored fruits and iconic earthy aroma, they are a rite of passage for every gardener, who can then enjoy the satisfaction of consuming home-grown tomatoes (which we all know simply taste better than grocery-bought tomatoes).
The great thing about tomatoes is that you can eat them in many different ways, though certain varieties are better suited to different eating and preserving methods. If you’re here, it means you’re interested in which tomato varieties are best for canning tomatoes.
So keep reading to learn the best tomatoes for canning and why!
Our Top Picks
Saucy Lady Tomato
The Best Tomatoes for Canning
Keep reading for all the details on our picks for the best tomatoes for canning.
Saucy Lady Tomato
The Saucy Lady is the ultimate canning tomato. It’s determinate growth habit makes it easy to manage in the garden. The 3-4 ounce dense fruits have minimal seeds. And it tends to produce all at once in the garden, providing a quick and bountiful harvest.
- Heavy cropping
- Dense fruit
- Minimal seeds
- Smooth sauce
- Susceptible to blossom end rot
San Marzano Tomato
San Marzanos have it all: a delicious flavor, the right balance of flesh and juice, and low seed content. The only downside is that it is susceptible to diseases, as most heirloom tomatoes are.
Amish Paste Tomato
In general, paste tomatoes are phenomenal varieties to use in both canning and sauces. Amish Paste tomatoes, however, are a particular favorite among the best tomatoes for canning both because of their interesting history (they’re more than a century and a half years old!), the fact that they are tasty heirlooms, their size, and their high tomato yield.
Roma are another go-to canning tomato variety for gardeners and chefs alike. They produce a large yield all at once (thanks to their determinate growing habit) which means you don’t have to worry about storing tomatoes until you’ve harvested enough of them. Roma tomatoes also have a low seed content and firm flesh, but their superpower is being disease-resistant despite their heirloom status. They still come in at number two though because that makes it easier to grow them, not necessarily can them!
While hybrid tomatoes aren’t usually known for their flavor, the Supersauce tomato is still a fan favorite for canning simply because of how humongous the tomato fruit is (up to two pounds!). In fact, one tomato can fill up an entire jar! Plus, despite being an indeterminate tomato, the Supersauce tomato anecdotally behaves as a semi-determinate tomato plant (in the middle of the determinate-indeterminate spectrum), so you’ll be able to harvest more than enough giant fruits all at once.
If you live in the south of the USA, this one is for you. This heirloom tomato developed at the Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station is one of the best tomatoes for canning because of its resistance to root-knot nematode pests and a fungal disease called Fusarium wilt race 1. It also has great heat, drought, and humidity resistance, and usually grows to the impressive weight of between eight and 12 ounces!
Why Can Tomatoes?
If you’re already convinced that canning is the tomato preservation method for you, feel free to skip this section. If you’re still skeptical, let me offer a couple of reasons why finding the best tomatoes for canning is a great idea:
- It’s a great way to preserve tomatoes in the peak of their ripeness for consumption later on; especially when you get those fresh tomato cravings in the middle of winter!
- It’s the perfect option to avoid any tomato waste if your harvest is too big for you to consume before some of the fruit goes bad.
- Many recipes call for canned tomatoes. Wouldn’t you rather use home-grown ones instead of store-bought canned tomatoes?
- Home-made canned tomatoes make for extra special gifts. Forget about the boring gift cards!
- Chances are that your homemade canned tomatoes are healthier than the ones sold at the grocery store.
What Makes a Tomato Great for Canning?
Now that I’ve (hopefully) convinced you on why canning tomatoes is great, let’s get to what elements exist in the best tomatoes for canning.
- Great flavor: This one is obvious! Better-tasting tomatoes are naturally going to preserve into better-tasting canned tomatoes. Anecdotally, heirloom tomatoes are the best-tasting tomatoes on the market, but of course, there are exceptions to every rule. If you’re not sure what an heirloom tomato is, learn about heirloom tomatoes before getting into the specific varieties below.
- Low seed content: This point might also be pretty self-evident. People aren’t generally the biggest fans of munching on seeds every other bite—just look at how popular seedless grapes and watermelons are! While all tomatoes will have some seeds, evidently you prefer to use tomatoes with as few seeds as possible when they are an essential ingredient in your recipe.
- Low moisture: This one might surprise you. You could think that juicier tomatoes lend to juicier sauces and canned tomatoes, but it actually makes the preserve more watery than anything, and lengthens the whole process because you have to wait for the extra water to evaporate.
- Meaty: You want to use meaty tomatoes when canning tomatoes for the same reason that you want tomatoes low in moisture: these two factors go hand-in-hand. A meaty tomato with fleshy insides will cook down into a thicker, ricker sauce than a tomato whose inside is mostly juice! Plus, you want to make sure that the meaty tomato variety also has a reputation for holding its consistency through the canning process.
- Good acidity level: As you can probably guess, the acidity in tomatoes varies depending on the tomato variety. You should pay particular attention to this detail when it comes to the best tomatoes for canning, because low-acid tomatoes can cause issues with sealing jars, and may encourage the development of botulism, which is a very severe and at times fatal illness.
- Large: In this case, we’re talking about the actual tomato fruit as opposed to the tomato plant. Larger tomatoes mean you need less of them to make the same amount of sauce you’d make with more smaller tomatoes. If you choose to peel your tomatoes, having less of them makes it less of a chore, and it definitely goes by faster! Additionally, larger tomatoes scald faster than smaller tomatoes.
- Determinate: If you are unfamiliar with the determinate versus indeterminate tomato situation, then learn about it here. The most important differentiating factor between determinate and indeterminate tomatoes is the fact that determinate tomatoes produce all of their many tomatoes at once as opposed to fewer continuously throughout the season. This makes them perfect for consumers who need large quantities of tomatoes at the same time to use in sauces and canning, rather than the occasional use in salads and sandwiches.
Tips for Canning Tomatoes
Now that I’ve taken the time to list what I think are the best tomatoes for canning, let’s talk about some tips on how to use them in the actual canning process!
- Consider doing some of the prep work the day before (like washing the tomatoes). Canning tomatoes (especially without a canner) is intensive work, so it might be helpful to get some tasks out of the way before.
- Check that you have the same number of jars, rings, and lids, and remember to sterilize them.
- When scalding tomatoes, the tomatoes should float to the surface of the water when the peel has loosened enough to be easily peeled.
- Wait for the tomatoes to cool down completely after scalding them before removing their skin. It’s not worth burning your fingers over it!
- Work in small batches to make sure the tomatoes are evenly cooked, and to maintain the right consistency.
- As per USDA guidelines, add lemon juice, citric acid, or balsamic vinegar to your canned tomatoes to avoid the risk of botulism.
Using Best Tomatoes for Canning in the Kitchen
As I mentioned previously, a great reason to make your own canned tomatoes is because it’s a great way to preserve a little taste of summer for those recipes that call for tomatoes in the winter or fall. In that spirit, here are some great ideas for how to use home-made tomatoes in your kitchen:
- Make tomato sauce! Starting with homemade canned tomatoes instead of fresh tomatoes (or, God forbid, grocery-store-bought canned tomatoes!) is a great way to shorten the sauce-making process while maintaining a high standard.
- Make Shakshuka! Many versions of the recipe call for canned tomatoes to make up the base of this creamy middle eastern dish. Make sure to have some bread to wipe your dish clean!
- Make delicious chili. This recipe calls for canned tomatoes and tomato sauce—good thing you can make both with the best tomatoes for canning!
Wrapping Up the Best Tomatoes for Canning
I hope my list of best tomatoes for canning has inspired you to go out and make your own homemade tomatoes! As you now know, the things you want to keep an eye out for include low seed content, low moisture content, lots of meatiness, a general largeness of the fruit, and most importantly, great flavor!
Excited for more tomato content? Then visit our tomato page for growing tips, comprehensive guides, and tasty recipes!
- About the Author
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Margherita Bassi is a freelance writer, journalist, and editor. She grew up between the US and Europe, and nurtured her love for nature and the outdoors in both countries.
In the US, she went on dozens of RV trips with her family, scouted out the best restaurants in every city she visited, and learned how to grow herbs and veggies of all kinds by watching her mother.
In Europe, she experimented with gardening in small spaces, like the small balcony of her apartment in France. With an MA in International New Media Journalism, Margherita is also a skilled researcher in a wide range of topics, and has extensive experience interviewing both individuals and experts.