Tomatoes are a versatile fruit that can be used in many dishes. When it comes to salads and sandwiches, picking the right tomato variety is key to getting the best flavor and texture. The ideal salad or sandwich tomato should be juicy but firm, with a good balance of sweetness and acidity. While personal taste plays a role, some tomato varieties are better suited for these uses than others.
Best Tomatoes for Salads
For salads, you’ll want a tomato that holds its shape when sliced and doesn’t get too soggy. Good salad tomatoes include:
- Cherry and grape tomatoes – These small tomatoes hold up well in salads. Popular varieties include Sun Gold, Sweet 100, and Sungold.
- Heirloom – Many heirloom tomatoes have excellent flavor for salads. Good choices include Green Zebra, Cherokee Purple, and Brandywine.
- Campari – These bright red tomatoes are a little larger than cherry tomatoes but have a similar sweet, juicy flavor.
- Roma – Also known as plum or paste tomatoes, Roma varieties tend to be meatier and hold their shape well.
When selecting tomatoes for salad, look for firmer fruits with taut, shiny skin. Avoid overly ripe tomatoes that feel soft, as they will break down too much when sliced and tossed with dressing.
Best Tomatoes for Sandwiches
Sandwich tomatoes need to be meaty enough to hold up to sandwich fillings and condiments. Recommended varieties for sandwiches include:
- Beefsteak – Larger, juicy beefsteak tomatoes are ideal for sandwiches and burgers. Good options include Brandywine, Celebrity, and Big Boy.
- Roma – With their denser flesh and fewer moisture pockets, Roma tomatoes can be sliced thinly for sandwiches.
- Heirloom – Slice larger heirlooms like Cherokee Purple and mortgage lifter thinly for flavorful sandwiches.
- Globe – These firm, mild tomatoes such as Early Girl and Better Boy work well for sliced sandwiches.
Avoid softer, overripe tomatoes for sandwiches, as they tend to make the bread soggy. When possible, choose sandwich tomatoes that are slightly underripe to allow them to hold their texture better once sliced.
Tomato Variety Comparison
Here is a comparison of some common tomato varieties and their best uses:
|Tomato Variety||Best Use||Description|
|Cherry||Salads||Small, sweet tomatoes that hold their shape well|
|Grape||Salads||Extra small oblong tomatoes with juicy flesh|
|Campari||Salads||Medium, bright red tomatoes with sweet flavor|
|Roma||Salads, sandwiches||Oblong plum tomatoes with firm, dense flesh|
|Beefsteak||Sandwiches||Very large, juicy tomatoes good for slicing|
|Heirloom||Salads, sandwiches||Variable sizes, often with rich flavor|
|Globe||Sandwiches||Round, firm tomatoes for slicing thinly|
In addition to variety, the growing conditions and ripeness of a tomato affect its texture and flavor. Here are some tips for growing great tomatoes for salads and sandwiches:
- Choose disease-resistant cultivars when possible to help prevent problems.
- Give tomato plants plenty of sunlight – at least 6 hours per day is best.
- Use cages or trellises to keep plants off the ground and prevent disease.
- Water tomato plants regularly to keep soil moist but not saturated.
- Fertilize tomatoes occasionally with a balanced fertilizer.
- Allow tomatoes to fully ripen on the vine for best flavor.
- Pick tomatoes when fully colored but still firm.
Growing conditions like sunlight, moisture, and nutrients impact tomato taste and texture. Allowing tomatoes to ripen on the vine provides time for sugars to develop.
Proper storage is also important for tomato quality. Follow these guidelines for storing tomatoes:
- Do not refrigerate unripe tomatoes – cold damages flavor and texture.
- Keep ripe tomatoes at room temperature on the counter away from direct sunlight.
- Consume ripe tomatoes within a few days for best quality and flavor.
- Place cut tomatoes in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 days.
- Freeze diced or crushed tomatoes in airtight bags for later use in cooking.
- Canned or jarred tomatoes last 1-2 years stored in a cool, dark place.
Avoid keeping fresh tomatoes in the refrigerator, which can make them mealy. Canned or frozen tomatoes are a good option for longer storage.
How to Pick Ripe Tomatoes
Selecting perfectly ripe tomatoes ensures the best flavor and texture for salads and sandwiches. Follow these tips when picking ripe tomatoes:
- Look for tomatoes with deep, vivid color – whether red, pink, yellow, or striped.
- Avoid tomatoes with green patches or pale color, indicating under ripeness.
- Choose tomatoes that feel heavy for their size and free of soft spots.
- Ripe tomatoes should give slightly to gentle pressure but feel firm overall.
- Sniff the stem end – ripe tomatoes will smell sweet and fragrant.
- Avoid tomatoes with wrinkled skin, bruises, or other damage.
With practice and experience, you can learn to identify peak ripeness just by looking, feeling, and smelling tomatoes.
Preparing Tomatoes for Salads and Sandwiches
The way you slice and prepare tomatoes makes a difference in salads and sandwiches. Follow these tips:
- Always wash tomatoes just before preparing to prevent premature softening.
- Use a sharp serrated knife to slice tomatoes for sandwiches and burgers.
- Cut heirloom and beefsteak tomatoes into 1/4 to 1/2 inch slices.
- Thinner slices (1/8 inch) work best for Roma and globe tomatoes.
- Remove cores and inner membranes/gel to reduce sandwich sogginess.
- For salads, cut larger tomatoes into wedges or dice into 1/2 inch pieces.
- Cut cherry and grape tomatoes in half or leave whole for salads.
- Drizzle cut tomatoes with olive oil and season with salt, herbs, etc. to boost flavor.
Proper slicing technique prevents squashing and yields tomato pieces with the best texture. Seasoning adds flavor and draws out moisture for better salads and sandwiches.
Toppings and Pairings
Certain ingredients complement the flavors of fresh tomatoes or help make up for less-than-perfect tomatoes. Consider adding these items:
- Crunchy croutons
- Crumbled feta or goat cheese
- Sliced avocado
- Chopped fresh herbs like basil, parsley, oregano
- Thinly sliced onions or shallots
- Zesty dressings like balsamic vinaigrette, Greek dressing
- Pesto or garlic aioli for spreading
- Moisture-friendly bread like ciabatta or focaccia
- Fresh baby spinach or lettuce leaves
- Sliced cheese such as mozzarella, provolone, cheddar
- Crisp cooked bacon
- Sliced avocado, onion, pickles
Complimentary ingredients like creamy cheese, crunchy vegetables, and flavorful sauces or spreads make up for less juicy tomato slices.
Tomato Salad and Sandwich Recipes
To highlight perfect summertime tomatoes, try these easy salad and sandwich recipes:
Tomato Mozzarella Salad
- 2 large heirloom tomatoes, sliced
- 8 oz fresh mozzarella, sliced
- 20 fresh basil leaves, torn
- 3 Tbsp olive oil
- 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Layer sliced tomato, mozzarella, and basil on a platter.
- Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
- Sprinkle with minced garlic, salt, and pepper.
- 1 baguette, cut in half lengthwise
- Olive oil
- 2 Roma tomatoes, sliced
- 8 oz fresh mozzarella, sliced
- 20 fresh basil leaves
- Balsamic vinegar
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Brush cut sides of baguette with olive oil. Toast lightly.
- Layer tomato, mozzarella, and basil on baguette halves.
- Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and season with salt and pepper.
Make the most of delicious in-season tomatoes with these easy yet impressive salad and sandwich ideas!
For excellent salads and sandwiches, look for tomatoes that are juicy yet firm, with great balanced flavor. Smaller varieties like cherry and grape tomatoes work nicely for salads, while meatier Roma and heirloom tomatoes hold up well on sandwiches. Allow tomatoes to ripen fully on the vine and avoid refrigerating them for the best quality. Store cut tomatoes properly and use complementary ingredients to make up for less ripe tomatoes. With the right variety and handling, you can enjoy tomato salads and sandwiches at their finest.