Tomatoes are among the most nutritious, delicious, and versatile vegetables in the world. From soups to sandwiches, pasta sauces to polenta dishes, tomatoes are used everywhere. But as we all know too well, using fresh varieties also requires lots of cutting, trimming, blanching, and other preparations steps.
The good news is that canned tomatoes save you a ton of time and effort while providing you with all the flavor and nutrition you expect. Which are the best canned tomatoes to buy, though? We’ll explore the top 12 choices out there, as well as the considerations you should make before making your final decision.
Our best pick goes to Muir Glen Organic Diced Fire Roasted Tomatoes with medium green chilies. You get 12 cans of flavorful diced tomatoes with just a kiss of heat. Whether you’re looking to spice up Italian night at home or cook up some Tex-Mex fare, these are the tomatoes you want on hand.
Carmelina ‘e… San Marzano Italian Whole Peeled Tomatoes are our budget pick. You get authentic Italian flavor and freshness at an affordable price. Plus, with six 28-ounce cans, you’ll have enough on hand for large-volume meal prep or to make sure your family has delicious meals for a long time to come.
Quick Comparison: Top 12 Best Canned Tomato Options
If you’re looking for the best California tomatoes out there, then Muir Glen’s offering might be right up your alley. These are picked at the peak of freshness and packaged immediately to retain their maximum flavor and nutrition. Each can contains 14.5 ounces of diced, fire-roasted tomatoes, seasoned with a dash of sea salt and augmented with green chilies for a little bit of heat and to deepen the taste. You get 12 cans per package, too, so it’s easy to stock up.
These are among the most nutritious tomatoes out there, and each serving provides a good amount of calcium, potassium, iron, and fiber. They are also fat-free and cholesterol-free.
Need to cook up a big meal to satisfy a lot of people? This six-pack will do just that. With six 28-ounce cans, you have enough peeled, genuine tomatoes to satisfy just about any needs. Each can contains authentic, peeled, whole San Marzano tomatoes. They are low in sodium, preservative-free, and packed in a can with a non-BPA liner for better quality and health. You’ll also find that these are among the most flavorful tomatoes available, as they are picked at the peak of ripeness and canned immediately.
In terms of nutrition, these tomatoes provide plenty of vitamin C, iron, calcium, vitamin A, and potassium. They’re also high in fiber and protein.
3. Hunt’s Diced Tomatoes, No Salt Added
Looking for an alternative to whole or halved tomatoes? Hunt’s has the answer. This 12-pack contains 14.5-ounce cans filled with delicious diced tomatoes, all packed at the peak of freshness and with no added salt. These tomatoes are gluten-free, keto-friendly, and all-natural. They are also Non-GMO Project Verified, although they are not certified organic. If you prefer organic tomatoes, Hunt’s has other options available.These tomatoes are high in potassium and also provide a decent amount of protein. They also have 7g of fiber per serving, and because they are not canned with salt, they’re good for anyone on a no or low-sodium diet.
4. Cento San Marzano Organic Peeled Tomatoes
San Marzano tomatoes are the only option for that authentic Italian taste. That’s exactly what you get with this six-pack of 28-ounce cans. Each can contains 28 ounces of USDA Certified Organic, whole, peeled tomatoes. In addition to the ripest tomatoes available, each can is packed with a hint of basil to offer additional flavor. The tomatoes are packed in a low-acid puree that can be used as a sauce, too. The can liners are all BPA-free for peace of mind, as well.You’ll find that Cento’s tomatoes offer lots of potassium, as well as calcium, iron, and protein. They are fat-free and cholesterol-free, as well.
5. 365 Everyday Value Organic Fire Roasted Diced Tomatoes
The Whole Foods house brand, 365 Everyday Value, offers delicious fire-roasted, diced tomatoes in sauce. These are organic tomatoes and they’re also certified vegan, picked at the peak of freshness, and then canned as quickly as possible to maximize flavor retention.Fire-roasted, diced tomatoes can be used for a wide range of dishes, from soups to salsas, and everything in between. They are also high in nutrition, offer a good amount of vitamin C, calcium, vitamin A, iron, and fiber.
6. Cento Imported Italian Tomatoes
When you want authentic Italian taste, imported Italian tomatoes are the place to start. The Cento Italian Peeled Tomatoes come packed in tomato juice and they are completely peeled and ready to go, saving you time, energy, and hassle.
Whether you’re making a stew or a sauce, peeled tomatoes are the perfect foundation. These are picked at the peak of freshness and then immediately peeled and canned, ensuring you get as much of that delicious flavor as possible. In terms of nutrition, you’ll find these tomatoes offer ample calcium, potassium, iron, protein, and even fiber. Check the back of the can for a great recipe for homemade marinara sauce.
7. Rega San Marzano DOP Authentic Whole Peeled Plum Tomatoes
While Roma tomatoes are often pawned off as San Marzano tomatoes, these are the genuine article, as denoted by the DOP designation on the label (Protected Designation of Origin). They’re grown in the rich volcanic soil around Mount Vesuvius and deliver the most flavor possible.
With this six-pack of 28-ounce cans, you have enough peeled, whole tomatoes for almost anything you might need. From sauces to stews, you can cook up a storm and not worry about running low on your key supplies. You will also find that these tomatoes are quite nutritious. They offer a significant amount of iron, vitamin C, vitamin A, calcium, and fiber. They’re also fat-free and cholesterol-free.
8. Mutti Finely Chopped Tomatoes
These Mutti tomatoes offer the delicious flavor only found with authentic Italian tomatoes. They are sun-ripened and then packed with just a touch of Mediterranean sea salt for flavor and freshness. This 12 pack of 14-ounce cans is an ideal option for large families, restaurants, and foodservice businesses, or anyone who has a passion for delicious tomatoes. Finely chopped tomatoes can be used in a wide range of dishes, from sauces to bruschetta, and can even be substituted for crushed tomatoes.
These tomatoes are vegan, Non-GMO Project Verified, and gluten-free. They’re also packaged in cans with non-BPA liners for your health and peace of mind.
9. Scalafani Whole Peeled Tomatoes
When you need a large package of peeled tomatoes, turn to this product from Scalafani. Each can contains 28 ounces of delicious tomatoes, and you get 12 of them in every package. Each can contains genuine US-grown tomatoes from New Jersey, hand-selected at their ripest. They are then peeled and processed, then delivered right to your door.
10. Bianco DiNapoli Organic Whole Peeled Tomatoes
Bianco DiNapoli tomatoes are used around the world in fine restaurants and home kitchens alike – anywhere that delicious tomatoes are needed for pizzas, sauces, and more. These tomatoes are grown in California and hand-selected to ensure they are the highest quality possible.
Once picked, the tomatoes are cleaned and then steam peeled to preserve their texture and consistency. Finally, they are canned with organic basil, a little bit of sea salt, and tomato juice. With six 28-ounce cans, you always have plenty of delicious tomatoes on hand for whatever you might need to cook up.
11. Tuttorosso Crushed Tomatoes with Basil
Tuttorosso offers some of the most delicious crushed tomatoes available. Each can contains plum tomatoes picked at their ultimate ripeness right from the vine and then processed within just a few hours to ensure you get the best flavor possible.
You can use these crushed tomatoes in a broad range of sauces and other dishes, and you’re guaranteed to get the robust, fresh flavor that you want. Plus, with six 28-ounce cans, you’ll always have plenty on hand. These tomatoes are also high in nutrition, with a single serving offering plenty of vitamin C, vitamin A, iron, and fiber. They are fat-free and cholesterol-free, too.
12. Stanislaus Alta Cucina Whole Tomatoes
When you need access to a large volume of fresh, delicious peeled tomatoes, Alta Cucina is the place to turn. This single can weighs in at 6.43 pounds – more than enough tomatoes to ensure you have plenty, even in foodservice businesses.These tomatoes are grown and harvested in the US, picked at the peak of freshness, and then processed quickly to retain their flavor and nutrition. Each can contains only the finest ingredients, as well, including salt, naturally-derived citric acid, fresh basil, tomatoes, and tomato juice.
Key Considerations When Shopping for the Best Canned Tomatoes
Whether you’re shopping for your home pantry or your restaurant or food service organization, we’ve covered some of the best canned tomatoes out there. From US-grown to authentic Italian, from crushed to chopped to peeled, there’s something out there for everyone.
However, it may still be confusing to buy canned tomatoes. What can you use them in? What are they good for? How do you ensure that you’re making an informed decision?
In our buying guide below, we’ll walk you through some of the key considerations that should go into your purchase.
Why Canned Instead of Fresh?
We’ll start with a discussion of why you might want to use canned tomatoes instead of fresh ones. Can’t you achieve the same results with whole tomatoes from the produce section of your grocery store? Yes, you can, but it will be more challenging.
Using canned tomatoes offers many benefits, including the following:
- You save time, hassle, and energy that would be required to process tomatoes yourself
- You benefit from additional sources of flavor, such as fresh basil and sea salt
- Canned tomatoes offer additional liquid, acidity, and flavor
As you can see, there’s more to it than mere convenience. Using canned tomatoes helps you achieve results that you might not be able to with just fresh tomatoes. Of course, there are lots and lots of types, and they’re not all the same, so we’ll help you choose the right option for your needs.
Understanding the Types of Canned Tomatoes
As mentioned earlier, there are many styles or types of canned tomatoes. While they all share some similarities, they’re not the same and shouldn’t necessarily be used in the same dishes. In this section, we’ll explore the main types and help you understand the differences between them.
Whole Peeled Tomatoes
Whole peeled tomatoes are exactly what they sound like – entire plum tomatoes with their skin removed. They’re the most versatile of all canned varieties because they can be used in the widest range of ways. You can also turn them into any other type of canned tomato with a good kitchen knife, including chopped, crushed, and diced.
Whole peeled tomatoes are usually packaged in their juices, a little salt, possibly some basil, and maybe a little citric acid. If there are any additional ingredients, try to make sure they are healthy and won’t detract from the flavor you’re going for.
Diced tomatoes are usually chopped very finely. These small chunks are then packed in juice, along with salt and possibly a little bit of basil. Calcium chloride can also be used as a preservative and to ensure that the little pieces retain their shape.
Diced tomatoes are best used in specific dishes – anything you’d like to small pieces of tomato to. Often, you’ll need to combine diced tomatoes with other canned products, such as tomato sauce and crushed tomatoes.
Stewed tomatoes are more processed than whole or diced options and are often slightly cooked before the canning process. However, they are closer to peeled tomatoes than anything else.
These are big chunks of tomato that are slightly soft and are often packaged with spices and seasonings to bring a particular taste to your dishes. Because of the seasonings, they’re a little less versatile than other options and shouldn’t be used in a recipe that calls for something plain.
If you’re looking for a canned tomato product that’s somewhere between diced tomatoes and paste, this is it. There’s a little more texture than what you’ll find with paste. Most of these products are made by combining tomato puree with fresh crushed tomatoes, delivering a medium consistency with small, meaty chunks.
You’ll use crushed tomatoes in sauces and soups where you don’t want a lot of texture but still want the bright flavor of fresh tomatoes.
If you’re interested in something close to a sauce, but with a little more body and texture, then puree is what you need. You may also find this labeled as “ground tomatoes”, and it has a smooth texture but thick consistency. Use tomato puree as a stand-in for crushed tomatoes in sauces and soups.
The thickest of the canned tomato options out there, tomato paste is made from tomatoes that have been cooked down for a long time before being dehydrated. Tomato paste has a powerful, strong flavor, and only a little bit should be used at a time. You’ll usually add it by the tablespoon to dishes where you want a little color or tomato flavor.
The least pure tomato product out there, tomato sauce, usually contains a lot of other ingredients. This is a ready-made sauce and usually includes herbs and spices, ready to be put into your dishes or onto your pasta. With that being said, it can be a helpful ingredient in achieving the desired flavor or consistency in a particular dish, so don’t count it out entirely.
What to Avoid When Buying Canned Tomatoes
When buying canned tomatoes, it’s best to study the ingredient list carefully before you buy. The rule of thumb to follow is “the fewer, the better”. It’s fine if your tomato product contains sea salt, and even a little citric acid is fine – it will only enhance the brightness and acidity.
However, you should see a few other additives. Some of the more common ingredients that you might want to avoid include the following:
- Significant Amounts of Salt – Salt is a vital element and can bring a lot to your dish. However, check the salt level on your canned tomatoes to make sure that you’re not inadvertently turning what would be a low-sodium food into something packed with salt. This is particularly true if you’re following a low or no-sodium diet, but most Americans should consume less salt anyway.
- Sugar – Sugar is sometimes added to canned tomatoes to make them sweeter. However, this is more common with tomato sauces and purees than with stewed or crushed tomatoes. If you are on a sugar-restricted diet, pay close attention to your food labels to watch for these hidden sources of sugar.
- High-Fructose Corn Syrup – This one should be an immediate no-go. If you see HFCS on your ingredient label, put the can down, and find another option. High fructose corn syrup is a sweetener added in an attempt to make dull, plain tomatoes taste better. It’s often used in products that are made with inferior tomatoes or those harvested and processed after their prime. In addition to masking low-quality food, it also adds unnecessary sugar to your diet.
- Calcium Chloride – We touched on this additive previously. It is often used in diced tomatoes to help them retain their shape in the can. The body also does not treat it the same way as sodium chloride (regular salt). It can actually increase your calcium intake. Note that if you are watching your calcium intake, you should pay attention to food labeling.
- Herbs and Seasonings – Some canned tomato varieties contain herbs and seasonings. The most common is fresh basil, which adds a little bit of authentic Italian flavor. This is most common with tomatoes sourced from Italy. However, other products can contain any number of other seasonings. Technically, there is nothing wrong with this, but remember that those seasonings ultimately end up in your finished dish, where they may or may not have a place. It’s usually better to opt for a plain canned tomato product and add your own seasonings to taste.
Pay Attention to Processing
Tomatoes are delicate and finicky. To ensure that you get the best flavor and to avoid the need for unwanted additives, growers must pick them at the height of freshness. Vine-ripened tomatoes are always best.
However, it doesn’t stop there. The tomatoes must then be processed as quickly as possible to preserve their flavor and texture. Look for manufacturers that process their tomatoes within hours of them being harvested. Many brands state on their labeling how long it takes from harvest to canning.
Does Organic Matter?
Organic foods have gained a lot of acceptance in recent years. FDA-Certified Organic labeling means that the grower has passed US government requirements in terms of growing conditions, soil health, pesticide use, and more. These products do contain lower levels (or no levels) of pesticides, fungicides, and other chemicals.
If organically grown produce is important to you, several different brands offer organic canned tomatoes. However, remember that you need to look for FDA certification. Labeling that says “all-natural” does not mean the same thing.
When to Use Canned Tomatoes
Canned tomatoes can and should be used in a wide range of dishes. The only time you should opt for a fresh tomato is if you’re making a fresh sauce, a Caprese salad, or something similar where the tomato needs to be fresh and raw, such as pico de gallo.
Everything else, from sauces to soups, is better made with canned tomatoes. We touched on some of the benefits of canned over fresh tomatoes previously, but we need to dig a little deeper here. That’s because, in these situations, canned tomatoes aren’t just easier or faster – they’re better.
Canned tomatoes deliver great flavor, and they do so consistently. You can’t get that from fresh ones you pick up at the grocery store. Think back to the last several tomatoes you purchased, and you’ll probably realize that they were pretty inconsistent from one to the other in texture, flavor, even scent.
With canned tomatoes, you also get peak season flavor even when tomatoes aren’t in season. If you have ever bought a tomato from the store in April and found that it just didn’t measure up to what a tomato should be (say, bought in August), then you know exactly what we’re talking about.
So, canned tomatoes deliver consistent results for all your dishes. They also give you peak-season flavor and freshness even in the depths of winter, which is something you can’t get from one grown in a hothouse.
What Are San Marzano Tomatoes?
You may have noticed that several of the canned tomato products we reviewed were described as “San Marzano” tomatoes. What does that mean, though?
San Marzano tomatoes are grown in Italy in specific geographic areas where the soil, water, and sun are just right. These tomatoes are supposed to be more flavorful than any others, with sweetness, intensity, and a balanced acidity perfectly suited for pairing with rich dishes.
There’s more to it than that, though. True San Marzano tomatoes only have two seed pockets, while most other plum tomatoes have four or five. Other differences include:
- Firmer pulp
- Deeper red in color
- Skin is easy to remove
- Seed count is low
- Picked by hand
- Only harvested from August through September
Of course, the same seed varieties are used to grow tomatoes in other areas of the planet. However, while these are technically in the same family, only tomatoes with an official DOP label on the can should be considered authentic. It’s a lot like how real champagne only comes from one region in France, and everything else is a sparkling wine.
Are San Marzano tomatoes worth the hype? There are many home cooks and professional chefs who swear by them. There are also just as many who feel that as long as you’re using a tomato that tastes good, you’ll be fine.
Your mileage may vary. The best option is to try San Marzano tomatoes and see what you think for yourself. Compare them to other options and make an informed decision.
What Types of Dishes Can I Make with Canned Tomatoes?
Canned tomatoes are among the most versatile of foods. You can use them to make an incredibly wide range of dishes. Below, we’ll explore just a few of the myriad options.
- Homemade pasta sauce
- More flavorful rice and grains when substituted for plain water
- Bean and cheese dips
- Spiced up mac and cheese
- Sloppy joes
- Grilled cheese dipping sauces
- Bolognese sauce
- Tikka masala
- Polenta dishes
Again, these are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Canned tomatoes can be used any way you might want. Get creative and have fun with them!
From massive cans designed for the foodservice industry to packages that work great in a home pantry, we’ve covered some of the best canned tomatoes on the market. Whether you need whole tomatoes, diced tomatoes, fire-roasted tomatoes, tomato puree, or something else, you’ll find an excellent option on our list.We’ve also covered a lot of information related to canned tomatoes, including the various types out there, what to avoid when buying them, and even some of the best ways to use them in your kitchen. The truth is that canned tomatoes are delicious, nutritious, and incredibly versatile, and they deserve a place of honor in your pantry.