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The 4 Best Canned Tomatoes of 2023 | Reviews by Wirecutter – The New York Times

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Having worked in the food and restaurant industry for a decade, I can tell you that no two brands of canned tomatoes are exactly alike. Some tomatoes are velvety, brilliantly red, and full of flavor, while others are tough, underripe, and insipid. To date, we’ve assessed over 25 different cans of whole peeled tomatoes—some with our colleagues at NYT Cooking—to find the best.
In all our tests, we tasted all of the tomatoes twice: once straight out of the can and heated through, and then again made into Marcella Hazan’s Tomato Sauce. In doing so, we’ve encountered a huge range—from tomatoes that were sweet enough to eat straight out of the can to ones that carried a whiff of dead animal. We were also surprised to learn that price didn’t always correspond to quality.
A note on pricing: We display the online prices of these cans, and some of them are slightly marked up—that’s the cost of nationwide availability and convenience. Some picks are sold online in multipacks, which may be reflected in the prices. Keep in mind that you may be able to find these tomatoes for significantly less at your local grocery store. (For an explanation of why we avoided regional brands and stuck to cans that could be found throughout the country, read How we picked and tested.)
Worthy of eating straight from the can, these tomatoes balance sweetness and acidity, with a simple yet strong tomato flavor. Their thick puree and semi-firm texture make for an indulgent, velvety sauce.
What we like: Good balance of sweet and tart, with a strong tomato flavor right out of the can.
Good for: Simple preparations, sauces, all types of cuisines.
The Bianco DiNapoli Organic Whole Peeled Tomatoes have been some of the best canned tomatoes we’ve tasted for three years running. They have a nice balance of sweetness and acidity, with a strong tomato flavor.
In our 2020 tasting, NYT Cooking’s Julia Moskin said she wouldn’t hesitate to put these tomatoes on a sandwich right out of the can. In fact, she liked them so much she ordered an entire case. I found that their attractive deep red color, slightly thick puree, and semi-firm texture resulted in a rich, velvety sauce. When we first tested these in 2020, they were canned with a sprig of fresh basil, which lent an herbaceous sweetness that our tasters liked. Since then, Bianco DiNapoli removed basil from its canned whole tomatoes, so they have a slightly more plain flavor that works for all types of recipes. The Bianco DiNapoli tomatoes are sold at some Whole Foods stores or online, as well as various local stores across the country.
These well peeled tomatoes stood out for their pleasantly firm and meaty texture. They cook down into a rich sauce that would serve well as a base for any dish.
What we like: Firm, meaty texture. Produced a buttery, rich sauce.
Good for: Tomato-centered sauces and other simple preparations.
The San Merican tomatoes were a close second to the Bianco DiNapoli tomatoes we tested. Though not as brilliantly red, they were well peeled, consistently shaped, and quite meaty. NYT Cooking editor Sara Bonisteel noted their “good mouth texture,” which we all found to be pleasantly firm without seeming unripe or crunchy. NYT Cooking’s Ligaya Mishan wrote in her testing notes, “I felt like I could eat this on its own without even cooking.” Wirecutter senior editor Marguerite Preston enjoyed the buttery richness of these tomatoes in the sauce. Like the Bianco DiNapoli tomatoes, the San Merican tomatoes don’t contain basil, so they work for a wide range of recipes.
These tomatoes are our only pick with basil, which dominates the flavor straight from the can, but lends a mellow, herbal sweetness to sauces. These make an exceptionally silky sauce that’s thick, creamy, and complex.
What we like: Plump, meaty tomatoes with pulpier juice and a notable basil flavor. Made the best, most emulsified sauce we’ve tasted yet.
Good for: Pizza, sauce, when you want plush textures.
Out of the can, the Pastene San Marzano DOP Tomatoes were nice and meaty, with a thick, pulpy juice and a notable basil flavor. We all agreed these would be a great option for pizza.
The basil flavor took center stage when tasting these tomatoes from the can, but once they were cooked into Marcella Hazan’s sauce, the basil mellowed yet still provided some herbal sweetness. These tomatoes also made the sauce with the best texture—silky and emulsified, not watery like many others we tried. Wirecutter supervising editor Marilyn Ong wrote, “This sauce is really delicious—complex, layered, and cohesive,” while editor Gabriella Gershenson said, “The tomato has a nice creamy texture—it’s easy to cut with a spoon.” Marguerite jotted down that, overall, this sauce is “thick and sweet with some tartness that really punches through.”
Though we didn’t love their flavor or texture when eaten uncooked, these tomatoes break down into a lovely, balanced, and velvety sauce.
What we like: Fresh, simple tomato flavor. Tomatoes cook down nicely into a velvety consistency.
Good for: Sauces, recipes calling for softer textures and pure tomato flavor.
The Mutti tomatoes weren’t our favorite when eaten straight from the can, but they were transformed when made into sauce. When tasting these tomatoes raw, Marguerite detected a papaya note, and multiple testers found the tomatoes to be a bit stringy. Once cooked, however, the tomatoes became nice and balanced, releasing sweetness and plenty of umami. Gabriella wrote, “I bet the sauce would coat pasta noodles nicely. I just want to keep eating it.” We appreciated how the tomatoes broke down into a velvety sauce and didn’t remain crunchy like some others we tasted. The Mutti tomatoes don’t contain basil, so they lend themselves to all types of cuisine.
Easy to find in stores, and excellent quality for the price: The Cento Italian Style Whole Peeled Tomatoes (about $2.65 per 28-ounce can at the time of publication) and the Cento Certified San Marzano Tomatoes (about $4.20 per 28-ounce can at the time of publication) were about on a par with each other. The Italian-style tomatoes have a strong tomato flavor that’s sweeter than the San Marzano ones. The San Marzano tomatoes have a slightly chunkier puree, and they’re a bit more acidic. In our 2020 tasting, Ligaya said the Certified San Marzano variety was “velvety tasting, but more earthy than bright.” And Wirecutter’s Winnie Yang “discerned more tomato flavor in the [juice] than in the solids.” The same was true in our 2021 tasting. Both tomatoes are on the sweeter side but not bad overall. Both versions of the Cento tomatoes contain basil.
The best budget tomatoes we’ve tested: The Target Good & Gather Whole Peeled Tomatoes (about $2.40 per 28-ounce can at the time of publication) were packed in a thinner, more-watery juice that wasn’t quite as flavorful as that of our other top-rated tomatoes. The Good & Gather tomatoes had a milder, muted flavor when tasted raw. They weren’t as velvety when used for sauce, and they had more of a crushed-tomato consistency. That said, these tomatoes produced a much brighter, more flavorful sauce than similarly priced brands did. If you want to spend about $2 per can, Good & Gather is the brand to get. This can doesn’t contain basil.
The Hunt’s Whole Peeled Plum Tomatoes had a nice balance of sweetness and acidity when we tasted them raw. But the tomatoes are quite firm, and when they were used for sauce, they didn’t break apart as easily as our top-rated canned tomatoes. Some unripe tomatoes and peels were mixed in, which was unpleasant. And the sauce we made was less flavorful than others we tasted.
The Whole Foods 365 Organic Whole Peeled Tomatoes were serviceable and much better than the nonorganic Whole Foods 365 tomatoes we tasted, but they were nothing special. Winnie wrote that the raw tomatoes “lacked depth, but they’re bright.” Marguerite said the sauce was “a little too sweet and a bit tart.”
The Food52 Whole Peeled Tomatoes are only available online and in a 14-ounce can (whereas most cans are 28 ounces), so they’re quite expensive even without the cost of shipping. Our testers unanimously disliked these tomatoes straight out of the can, describing nearly fermented or off flavors. They improved when made into sauce, but the deep caramelized flavor was reminiscent of SpaghettiOs (nothing against SpaghettiOs, but for the price, we expected these tomatoes to really blow us away).
The Redpack Whole Peeled Plum Tomatoes in Puree were bright tasting and had a robust tomato flavor, but several testers noted that they were a bit too sour. The resulting sauce was very tart; Marilyn said, “It’s making my salivary glands work overtime.”
The Red Gold Whole Peeled Tomatoes were a bright, vibrant red, but they were a little tart. When made into sauce, the tomatoes were still so acidic they burned the back of my throat. Ultimately, the flavors weren’t well balanced.
The Tuttorosso Peeled Plum Tomatoes had some peels still attached to the tomatoes, and the fruit didn’t break down when made into sauce. Gabriella said, “The texture isn’t great, and the tomatoes are watery and chunky.” Some of us also detected a slight tinny flavor, which was off-putting.
The Amazon Brand Happy Belly Whole Peeled Tomatoes had a bright and fresh taste when eaten raw. Marguerite said, “They have a pleasant sweetness and a clean tomato flavor.” When made into a sauce, the tomatoes were quite buttery, but a bit too tart.
The ​​Great Value Whole Peeled Tomatoes were meaty in both flavor and texture. Some testers noted tinny or plasticky flavors. The tomatoes were also very firm and didn’t break down in the sauce, resulting in a less homogenous texture that was slightly watery.
The Contadina San Marzano Style Whole Tomatoes were somewhat tough and lacked both sweetness and salt. These tomatoes were too watery, even after being cooked down into sauce. Marilyn wrote, “These tomatoes are very firm. I had to work pretty hard to cut them with the side of a spoon.”
The Rega San Marzano Tomatoes were the only ones we tested (besides Pastene) that were certified DOP (protected designation of origin). They were acidic, not too sweet, and had a pleasant tomato flavor. They also had a soft, velvety texture and a deep red color. But the sauce was pretty sour, and it received only average marks.
The Organico Bello Premium Whole Peeled Tomatoes were not well balanced. The word “sour” came up again and again in our tasting notes. Sara wrote that the raw tomatoes “smelled like bones—that whiff you get when walking through the woods when you know you’re passing a dead animal. Astringent.” The tartness didn’t mellow with cooking, either, and it dominated the sauce.
The Bella Terra Organic Italian Whole Peeled Tomatoes had an off flavor discerned by several tasters. NYT Cooking editor Alexa Weibel wrote, “Tastes like chemicals, a flavor that should not exist in nature. Vile.”
The Whole Foods 365 Whole Peeled Tomatoes tasted notably different from their organic counterpart’s tomatoes. They were flat, bland, and poorly peeled—a cardboard cutout of a tomato, if you will. The sauce made from these tomatoes was both bland and overly tart, with very little tomato flavor coming through.
The Muir Glen Organic Whole Peeled Tomatoes San Marzano Style had a surprising amount of peels left on and a dull, predominantly sour flavor. Several of our testers also sensed an off, chemical fragrance emanating from the tomatoes. The sauce was overly acidic.
The Contadina Whole Roma Tomatoes With Basil were the most repulsive ones we opened. The addition of dried Italian seasoning overpowered the flavor of the tomatoes and the sauce, flooding the kitchen with the smell of oregano. On top of that, these tomatoes were cloyingly sweet and had a doleful, muddy-brown color. Julia summed this can up in two words: not good.
With countless canned tomato options to consider, we first polled Wirecutter employees living in 10 states across the country to get a sense of which brands were available in their areas. We’ve also tested brands suggested by our readers in the comments section. We wanted to try tomatoes that would be relatively easy for most people in the US to find at major grocery-store chains or online. We intentionally avoided regional supermarket-brand tomatoes, such as those sold exclusively by Safeway or Winn-Dixie, since they’re difficult to find outside the area in which they’re sold. That’s not to say that supermarket-brand tomatoes are better or worse than national brands. If you’ve found a can you like, keep using it.
We also spent some time examining ingredients and labels. If you’re browsing canned tomatoes in the store, it’s helpful to be familiar with a few terms and ingredients:
I’ve enlisted various palates for this brand-concealed taste test over the years, including a few members of the NYT Cooking team (writers Julia Moskin and Ligaya Mishan and editors Sara Bonisteel and Alexa Weibel) as well as colleagues from Wirecutter’s kitchen and appliance teams (editors Marguerite Preston, Marilyn Ong, Winnie Yang, and Gabriella Gershenson). Though the participants have varied from year to year, we conduct the test the same way each time. Our panelists taste each can of tomatoes twice: first straight out of the can and heated through, and the second time used in Marcella Hazan’s Tomato Sauce (using a teaspoon of kosher salt and 195 grams of onions each time for consistency). We also decanted one of every can into a quart container for testers to examine the contents whole.
During each round of testing, we evaluated the sweetness, acidity, texture, color, flavor, and overall appearance of the canned tomatoes. Between tastings we cleansed our palates with water, saltine crackers, and bread. After the initial tasting, our panelists were allowed to add salt, if desired, to see if it improved the flavor of the tomatoes. We’ve found the quality of each brand to be consistent from one can to the next and from year to year (though one brand we tested, Bianco DiNapoli, did remove basil from its cans). Given that crops can vary and formulas may change, we plan to revisit our favorites whenever we have new options to test so we can compare them.
This article was edited by Marilyn Ong and Marguerite Preston.
Michael Sullivan
Michael Sullivan has been a staff writer on the kitchen team at Wirecutter since 2016. Previously, he was an editor at the International Culinary Center in New York. He has worked in various facets of the food and restaurant industry for over a decade.
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