The best salsa can only be made with the finest tomatoes. But how do you know what type of tomato to use for the salsa you’re making? Here are some key tips to consider:
- The best type of tomato will depend on the type of salsa being made
- Texture and taste variations between tomato types make a difference
- Canned tomatoes can work for some salsas, but generally fresh is best
We’ve compiled a complete tomato guide – from descriptions of each type of tomato and popular salsas to a rundown of which tomato is best to use for which salsa.
In This Article
- Ultimate Tomato and Salsa Guide
- Tomato & Salsa Variations Defined
- Characteristics of Tomatoes to Look For
- Start Making That Salsa
Ultimate Tomato and Salsa Guide
The best tomato for your salsa can depend on the ideal flavor and texture you’re aiming for. In the following sections, we define the various tomato and salsa varieties and explain how flavor and texture differ between them.
Here is a complete tomato and salsa flavor guide to help you choose the best tomato option for your salsa:
|Pico de Gallo
|Roma (Plum) Tomato
|Dense, meaty, grainy
|Meaty, juicy, large
|Fully blended, thick paste
|Sweet to tangy
|Sweet to tangy
|Sweet to tangy
Tomato & Salsa Variations Defined
There are endless types of salsa served around the world, many with geographical and cultural differences in preparation. Salsas rooted in Mexican cuisine are some of the most popular to make at home:
- Fresh Salsa (Pico de Gallo or Salsa Fresca) is made of chopped and lightly tossed tomatoes, serrano peppers, onion, cilantro, lime juice, and salt. This salsa offers a chunky texture and fresh flavor.
- Red Salsa (Salsa Roja or Restaurant-Style Salsa) is made by combining tomatoes with either jalapeno or serrano peppers, garlic, onion, cilantro, lime juice, and salt. It can be a range of consistencies depending on how well it is blended, but many enjoy a smoother salsa roja with less texture.
- Green Salsa (Salsa Verde) is a salsa made of tomatillos, onion, peppers, cilantro, and lime juice. The tomatilloes give this salsa a green color. This salsa has no tomatoes in it but is worth noting due to its popularity and similarity in composition to the other types.
- Salsa Taquera is a smoother salsa that is often served with tacos or as a topping. It is made by combining tomatoes, arbol chiles, onions, garlic, lime juice, and salt.
Types of Tomatoes
Just as there are endless types of salsa, there are also endless types of tomatoes, each with a slightly different taste profile.
- Roma Tomatoes are a popular choice for salsa-making due to their dense and meaty texture, small number of seeds, and full-of-flavor tanginess. Variations of this tomato are sometimes called “plum” or “paste” tomatoes.
- Red Beefsteak Tomatoes are another favorite for those who favor a juicier tomato in their salsa. Its large size, meatiness, and mild flavor make it a safe choice for those wanting a less intense tomato flavor.
- Green Beefsteak Tomatoes are similar in size to their red counterparts but offer an extremely tart and tangy flavor to the salsa.
- Heirloom Tomatoes come in a variety of colors and flavors that range from sweet to tangy. They are not as frequently used in salsa, and it can be difficult to ensure a consistent flavor.
- Grape Tomatoes also range from sweet to tangy based on their color. They are crisper and meatier with thicker skin and more seeds. Though they also pose a threat of inconsistent flavor, they may be a good option to use in fresh and chunky salsa like pico de gallo where more texture is sought out.
- Cherry Tomatoes are similar to grape tomatoes in size and seed count but have more delicate skin, more juice, and a sweeter flavor. Since they are tender and sweet, they aren’t best used in salsa.
- Cocktail Tomatoes also offer a sweet taste and juicy bite but are larger. Their sweetness also lends better to purposes other than salsa.
Characteristics of Tomatoes to Look For
The best tomatoes to add to your salsa can depend on what kind of flavor you’re looking for. Red beefsteak tomatoes have a mild flavor that allows other ingredients to shine, while Roma (or “plum”) tomatoes add a fun tangy flavor to the salsa.
If you want a sweeter flavor, try grape tomatoes, cocktail tomatoes, or tomatoes on the vine. If you’re looking for the other extreme – green beefsteak tomatoes add a little tart flavor to the mix.
Many seasoned salsa-ers choose Roma tomatoes for their addition of a tangy flavor without being too subtle or overpowering.
Tomatoes can range from seedy to seedless, crunchy to soft, and full of juice to relatively dry. If you’re concerned about the texture of your salsa, these characteristics are important to consider.
Most salsa lovers stand by using tomatoes that are juicy, less seedy, and dense. Red beefsteak tomatoes check all these boxes and are often the best pick for texture – not to mention they’re huge!
However, some claim that the juice can get in the way of flavor and your salsa thickening, so it’s best to look for a tomato with less liquid, such as a Roma tomato. Ultimately, this decision will depend on your preference and might take some trial and error.
Fresh v. Canned Tomatoes
Many people assume that canned tomatoes are a comparable alternative when making most types of salsas. However, fresh tomatoes offer several unique benefits over canned options.
If you’re making a salsa that is well-blended to create a smoother texture, such as restaurant-style salsas, then canned tomatoes can help you achieve it sufficiently. Canned tomatoes offer benefits including:
- Lower cost
- Longer shelf life
- Smooth texture
With most other salsa types, especially chunkier options like pico de gallo, fresh tomatoes are best since they offer the required texture and a crisp, high-quality taste. Fresh tomato benefits include:
- Higher quality taste
- No added ingredients
- Fresh, crisp texture
For shelf-sold salsas, using fresh tomatoes can make a real difference in quality. Many typical brands use drum tomatoes from barrels that are then combined with sugar. This process creates an almost ketchup-like salsa experience.
Other brands, such as Member’s Mark Salsa, use fresh-from-the-vine tomatoes – allowing the natural flavor and texture of the tomatoes to shine.
Start Making That Salsa
Now you can feel prepared to decide which type of tomato you’ll need to make your homemade salsa. Go ahead and write it down on your grocery list so you don’t forget!
As you embark on your salsa-making journey, you might want to start thinking about which meals pair best with which type of salsa. If you’re a beginner or don’t have the time to whip up salsa from scratch with the perfect tomato, find salsa near you with this Salsa Locator.