Canning is a great hobby, and nothing is more famous for home preservation than the tomato. Most gardeners become interested in canning at some point. We have romantic visions of the jars of homegrown goodness lining our pantry and feeding us all winter long.
As you plan your garden or go shopping at the farmer’s market, you might be drawn to slicing tomatoes most of the time, but canning tomatoes have different requirements. Let’s explore the best tomatoes for canning.
🍅 The bottom line: you can use any tomato for canning. Paste varieties are best because they have less water and will cook down into a sauce faster. The worst are cherry tomatoes because of all the skin. Our absolute favorite tomato for canning is Supersauce, a large Roma type. 🍅
What are paste tomatoes and why are they good for canning
Paste tomatoes are elongated, oval-shaped tomatoes. One type you’re probably most familiar with is Roma tomatoes, but there are other types as well. Romas are great paste tomatoes, and you’ll see lots of similar varieties of tomatoes referred to as Roma type.
Paste tomatoes are mild in flavor, but this is not necessarily bad. The taste will be somewhat intensified as you condense the tomato into a sauce, and a mild tomato makes sauces that don’t overpower the flavor of the rest of your ingredients.
They are great for canning because of their lower water content. Paste tomatoes are tomatoes that have less juice and seeds, which cuts down on processing time. This cuts down on cooking time while you’re trying to turn watery tomato mush into a rich sauce.
Another thing that makes paste tomatoes great for canning is how they grow. They’re also often grown on determinate, bushy plants that have high yields in a short period. An indeterminate tomato plant will produce a few tomatoes throughout the whole summer, but determinate Roma types will produce all at once, which is perfect for processing.
Now, are there some tomatoes that are better than others? Of course, but a lot of this is a personal preference. These are our favorites, but no worries if you can’t find the varieties on this list.
The best tomato varieties for canning
1. Amish Paste
If you’re looking for a tried and true canning tomato, this is the one to pick! Amish Paste is an old, classic variety, Amish Paste is a large Roma with great flavor and consistent production. It was developed within Amish communities near Lancaster, Pennsylvania and does well in most climates.
My favorite! Super sauce is my #1 pick because of the sheer volume this plant produces. Each tomato is huge, and the plant has so many. All the fruits ripen simultaneously, meaning you can produce huge batches of tomato sauce at once.
We plant many of these in our late summer garden every year, and they have been our favorite type since we first tried them five years ago.
3. San Marzano
San Marzano is widely considered the tastiest canning tomato, with a famously sweet flavor. It is perfect for dehydrating into sun-dried tomatoes if that is something you’re interested in.
In our experience, it, like many heirloom tomatoes, is disease prone and not as productive as hybrids. In the past, this particular variety has given us trouble with blossom-end rot in particular. But the flavor is exceptional, and if you live in an area with lower humidity, it might perform well for you.
4. Roma VF
Roma VF is another classic heirloom paste tomato. If you want “regular” Roma tomatoes, this is it.
They have a meaty flesh, and the plants are healthy and vigorous. They’re among the most disease-resistant heirloom varieties in our garden.
If you’re canning whole tomatoes, these are a great choice because of their size; they will fit nicely into quart jars.
Since they are open-pollinated, you can save the seeds year after year.
5. Big Mama
Big Mama is a hybrid tomato that produces 8- to 10-ounce meaty fruits. The fruit is perfect for canning as it doesn’t have a lot of seeds and has a great flavor.
Big Mama tomatoes are a variety of heirloom tomatoes that grow up to 6 feet tall and spread 5 feet. They produce large, oval fruit with excellent flavor.
(This is our second favorite of all the canning varieties on the list.)
6. Fresh Salsa
The flesh on these is remarkable. Chopped into tiny cubes for fresh salsa, it doesn’t drip, and stays sweet and soli. It has very small seed cavities and very few seeds. It’s ideal for canning diced tomatoes.
Determinate ‘Fresh Salsa’ bushes set fruit quickly, usually in just 65-70 days. A good pick for small space gardeners, the plants reach 36-40 inches tall and spread just 18 inches. It’s slightly less productive than Amish Paste and some of the other Roma types, but still worth a spot in your garden.
These, like any Roma, are great canning tomatoes, but also lovely for fresh eating in bruschetta and salsa.
(There is a yellow version of this too, Golden Fresh Salsa, and mixing them together is very pretty!)
These gorgeous heirloom tomatoes make the list because it’s one of the best for tomato juice. Juice tomatoes have very different requirements: a lot of water in the flesh is an advantage.
Brandywines come in all shades: you can find orange tomatoes and warm yellow, as well and pink and red. They produce juicy, large fruits with lots of flavor.
A super flavorful variety, most people grow them for salads and sandwiches, but they are also perfect for juicing and for adding more flavor to your final sauce.
Tips for growing and using the best canning tomatoes:
- We like to plant roma type tomatoes a bit later in the season so we’ll have a huge crop in September. Canning is more pleasant when the weather has cooled down a bit. For a later crop, try planting your canning tomatoes in early summer.
- For large yields, fertilize your plants as soon as the fruit has set. Tomato-tone is a great choice. All you need to do is sprinkle it around the plant.
- Make sure you have canning supplies ready early in the season. Home canning has boomed in popularity recently, and supplies can be hard to find. Most recipe will call for bottled lemon juice or citric acid, so stock up on those as well.
- Again, if your garden is producing a mix of tomatoes and youu’d like to do a. large batch canning project, you should go ahead and use them all. The best tomatoes for canning are the ones you have ready at the moment.
- If you’re serious about home canning tomatoes, invest in a food mill. This simple machine makes quick work of skins and lets you skip the tedious process of dipping tomatoes into a hot water bath and peeling by hand.
There you have it: the best tomato varieties for canning. Like picking most things in the garden, there’s a balance between disease resistance and other practical things vs. what you find beautiful and what you really want. Don’t be afraid to choose a little of each. With a little bit of planning, you can enjoy your homegrown tomatoes all winter long!