The Most Underrated Canned Tomato

If there's one type of canned tomatoes to rule them all, here's the case for canned cherry tomatoes.

March  2, 2022

No matter the season, my pantry is always stocked with canned or jarred tomatoes. What kinds, you may ask? Well, there are whole-peeled tomatoes for slow-cooked braises and stews (and Marcella sauce, of course). Diced tomatoes for chili. Passata for quick sauces. Sun-dried tomatoes for salads and pastas (and pasta salads). Tomato paste for too many dishes to count.

But if I’m playing favorites (and why not!), there’s one type of canned or jarred tomatoes that I love more than all the others: canned cherry tomatoes. Not heard of them? Well, I’m referring to the small, red, candy-sweet tomatoes that are prolifically fresh at the height of summer, but if they’re prepped and canned, they’re ready to use any time of year.

Compared to the standard plum tomatoes you’ll find in most cans, these definitely stand out. They’re ultra-sweet and juicy, with a bright, fresh-off-the-vine flavor. And they cook quickly and evenly given their compact size, a boon when you want rich flavor but don’t have a lot of time. I recently gave my mom 10 cans—that’s how much I love these sweet little orbs.

If you’ve never tried them, they’re absolutely worth seeking out—no matter how many types of canned or jarred tomatoes already crowd your shelves. Below is a breakdown of everything you need to know about them.

What's in the Can?

Canned cherry tomatoes have a short ingredient list: cherry tomatoes, tomato juice or purée, sometimes sea salt. Notably, you won’t find calcium chloride, the preservative that’s added to diced tomatoes (and sometimes whole-peeled) to retain their firmness and shape—so they meld quickly into whatever you’re cooking. Also, they’re packed unpeeled, which is a very good thing. Their soft, thin skins lend a pleasant texture to sauces and soups that you just can’t get from other types of canned tomatoes.

Where Can You Find Them?

An Italian market or grocer is always a good bet since canned cherry tomatoes are common in Italian cooking. And they’re becoming easier to find in supermarkets. Within the last year, I’ve found Mutti brand canned cherry tomatoes in several grocery stores in the Washington, D.C., area where I live. (If you don’t spot any in your local store, ask customer service if they can start stocking them—it never hurts to ask.) Also you can purchase them online via major retailers—either individual cans or in cases. If you have the storage space, order a’ll be surprised at how quickly you’ll use them up.

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How Can I Use Them?

Everything from speedy sauces to slow-simmered stews is fair game. They even taste good straight from the can, which I can’t say for many other canned tomatoes I’ve tried. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

  • No-cook pizza sauce: Don't need the stove here. Blend a can of cherry tomatoes (with their juices) together with good-quality extra-virgin olive oil and sea salt. It’ll put standard jarred pizza sauces to shame.
  • Bruschetta: Roughly chop and pile them on garlic-rubbed grilled bread topped with olive oil and sea salt.
  • Focaccia: Drain and scatter a handful on top of focaccia or other doughs before they go into the oven.
  • Stuffed sandwiches: Stuff them into panini, grilled cheese, or calzones before cooking.
  • Quesadillas, tacos, and tortas: Use them as a filling or as the base of a quick, no-cook salsa.
  • Fish and chicken: Scatter them around a nice filet of fish or chicken thighs you’re getting ready to roast, or use them in place of fresh cherry tomatoes in this baked salmon recipe.
  • Speedy Marcella sauce: Substitute an equal amount of canned cherry tomatoes for whole-peeled, keeping the other ingredients the same. You’ll have a richly flavored sauce in less than half the time.
  • Recipes that call for diced or whole-peeled tomatoes: Swap an equal amount of canned cherry tomatoes for diced and whole-peeled tomatoes, particularly when you don’t want distinct chunks of tomato in the finished dish, or have the time to cook down whole ones.

My favorite use of all: this Pasta With 10-Minute, Triple-Tomato Sauce, which I make on nearly a weekly basis. Canned cherry tomatoes make the sauce, with small amounts of tomato paste and sun-dried tomatoes to boost the complexity and umami in every bite. Caramelizing each type of tomato in butter increases the flavor and texture even more. The sauce is amazingly rich and complex—especially given how speedy it is—and a very good reason to always have a can (or case) of cherry tomatoes on hand.

Have you ever bought canned cherry tomatoes? What are your favorite recipes to use them for? Let us know below!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • calendargirl
  • SophieL
  • Susanna
  • AlwaysLookin
  • Ann Del Tredici
    Ann Del Tredici

Written by: EmilyC

I'm a home cook. I love salads. Two things you'll always find in my refrigerator are lemons and butter, and in my pantry good quality chocolate and the makings for chocolate chip cookies.


calendargirl March 7, 2022
Oh Emily, thank you so much for this terrific tip. I have been in the dark about these but now cannot wait to stock my pantry. All best and happy spring!
EmilyC March 8, 2022
My pleasure, and I hope you love them as much as I do! : )
SophieL March 6, 2022
I was introduced to canned cherry tomatoes in a cooking class and have since stocked this as a staple on my pantry. I love the small can size portion and the sweetness of the tomatoes balances out whatever dish I put it in. I find the Mutti brand in Italian shops; gives me the perfect "excuse" to shop there and support the neighborhood business!
EmilyC March 6, 2022
Totally agree on the small can size! Online you can buy 28-ounce cans, but I've only found 14-ounce cans in my local stores. It's the right size for so many recipes. Thanks for your comment, Sophie!
Susanna March 6, 2022
I have used and liked the Mutti cherry tomatoes for a while. Recently I have also found Mutti baby Roma tomatoes (datterini). I haven’t tried them yet, but I imagine they will do equally well in a 10 minute tomato sauce—maybe even a bit better, since they’re Romas.
EmilyC March 6, 2022
I haven't seen the Mutti baby romas; I'll look for them! Thanks for reading, Susanna.
AlwaysLookin March 6, 2022
Thanks but I'll stick with CERTIFIED Marzano Plums ... have you ever run out of the good stuff and stuck using something else? And the resulting Ragu just isn't the same and you think I wasted an afternoon cooking this and it just doesn't stand up! Well, I have, and I always have the Good Stuff on the Shelves!
EmilyC March 6, 2022
Agree with you that once you find your preferred brand/type of tomato, it's best to stick with them when making the same dish! Bianco DiNapoli is my personal favorite brand of whole-peeled tomatoes. They're adapted from San Marzanos and grown and harvested in Northern California (outside Sacramento). I love using them in Marcella Hazan's bolognese. Thanks for reading!
suz April 17, 2023
Bianco DiNapoli is the best! I always get a little sad when I don’t find them and use another canned tomato. They’re just the best!!
Ann D. March 4, 2022
Hmmm--not sure I'll like the skin in there--but I'll give them a try. My favorite "canned" tomatoes are "Pomi Finely Chopped Tomatoes" in a soft pack, shelf-stable container, 26 ounces/750 grams per package, imported from Italy. They have no added salt so I can add the amount I want. If my grocery store is out of them, I order them on Amazon.
EmilyC March 5, 2022
Thanks for reading, Ann, and glad to hear you'll try them! The skins are almost imperceptible but lend a nice texture. Hope you like them! I like Pomi brand tomatoes, as well.
Sheila March 4, 2022
I started keeping them on hand a few years ago when I was cooking a lot from Diana Henry cookbooks as she often calls for them. I buy regular canned tomatoes in large cans but always reach for these when I need a smaller amount.
EmilyC March 5, 2022
Yes, great point, lots of British cookbooks call for "tinned" cherry tomatoes! Thanks for reading, Sheila!
Rkmiller99 March 2, 2022
So excited about canned cherry tomatoes. Just bought some but have not tried them yet. Thanks for this article "Why You Should Buy Canned Cherry Tomatoes." The ideas suggested are great. Looking forward!!
EmilyC March 5, 2022
Let us know what you try -- enjoy!
Smaug March 2, 2022
I got them a few times- some Italian brand (Strianese maybe?)- as an emergency winter pizza topping. They were better than nothing. I usually include some cherry tomatoes with those I freeze for winter sauces (way better than canned). You need to be cautious, though, or it can come out oversweet- the regular tomatoes that are genuinely vine ripened (bought "vine ripened" tomatoes generally aren't) are pretty sweet on their own.
EmilyC March 5, 2022
Oh interesting -- how do you prep the cherry tomatoes that you can? My mom wants to try canning cherry tomatoes this year as she always grows/harvests more than she can use!
Dani March 6, 2022
She said she FREEZES them. I don't think she is canning them. I am off to see if my grocer carries these.
EmilyC March 6, 2022
Ah yes, I see that now. Hope you can find them at your store!
Smaug March 6, 2022
I halve them (all the tomatoes) and bag them, sometimes with some basil, in 1 1/2 lb. or so bags. To make sauce they can simply be put in a saucepan- no thawing- and cooked until soft, then run through a food mill.