Best tasting tomatoes

The best-tasting tomatoes are the ones picked straight from the vine and eaten in the garden while they’re still warm from the sun. There is nothing quite like the flavor of a homegrown tomato. They are nature’s perfect blend of sweet and tart.

The best-tasting tomatoes often have a true old-fashioned flavor with an excellent balance of sugar and acidity. While everyone has their own favorite tomato variety to eat, here are three of the most popular tomatoes grown for superb flavor:

There is a broad range and depth of flavor available in tomato cultivars. Below is a list of 20+ of the best-tasting tomato varieties.

Finding the best-tasting tomatoes

The best-tasting tomatoes are usually marketed as “slicing” or good for “fresh eating.” They’re often advertised as being good in salads or fresh on sandwiches. These tomatoes have been bred for flavor instead of other characteristics (like being good for canning or making cooked sauces).

The best-tasting tomatoes generally have a complementary balance of acidity and sugar. These varieties generally have lots of sweet AND lots of sour. A fresh tomato will also give off organic compounds that enhance its flavor and bring us that “fresh garden tomato” aroma.

Some tomatoes are very sweet, while others are downright tart. This has to do with the genetics of the variety of tomatoes and the weather, soil conditions, ripeness of the tomato, and other environmental factors. These plants grow best with lots of sunlight, some compost, and deep watering.

Harvesting homegrown heirloom tomatoes

There are some patterns in the tastes of tomatoes, but as usual, all rules are made to be broken. Yellow and white tomatoes are generally delicate in taste and are low in acid. Dark red tomatoes can have an intense, balanced taste. Many green tomatoes are tart (even zesty). But there will always be a tomato to surprise you.

“There is honestly nothing that can compare to the taste of a fresh, vine-ripened tomato, plucked at the perfect peak of sweetness and eaten warm and sugary, tart and juicy, right there in the garden as you make a big mess all over your shirt.”

The “You Bet Your Garden” Guide to Growing Great Tomatoes, by Mike McGrath of You Bet Your Garden

Here are 24 of the best-tasting tomato varieties in alphabetical order. Look for these in seed catalogs, online, at local nurseries, or ready-to-eat at the farmer’s market. You’ll have your own top-ten tasting must-try tomato list before you know it!

Baby tomato plant - brandywine heirloom

1. Brandywine tomato

Brandywine is a large, pink-red tomato with an intense tomato flavor that’s well-balanced between tart and sweet. The flavor is a balanced fruity richness with a hint of spice. The flesh of these tomatoes is known to be particularly creamy. The Brandywine is perhaps most commonly named the best-tasting tomato variety. It has the perfect balance of sugar and acidity with that superb, old-fashioned tomato taste.

Growing conditions can affect the flavor quality more than some other varieties on this list. Brandywine may be the most delicious tomato in your garden, especially if it has a particularly good year. A close alternative to the Brandywine tomato is the Brandy Boy tomato. Similar in taste, they are a smaller, easy-to-grow substitute for Brandywine tomatoes.

These large beefsteak tomatoes generally weigh at least a pound (if not two) when ripe. A single Brandywine tomato will often be enough for four fresh tomato sandwiches! Brandywine tomatoes have almost the color of a ripe watermelon. They are perfect for salads, sandwiches, and eating straight off the vine.

The Brandywine tomato is a classic heirloom tomato that was first introduced in seed catalogs over a hundred years ago. They’ll need a strong trellis and lots of room to grow. This variety is named after Brandywine Creek in Pennsylvania, south of Philadelphia.

“Huge heirloom; quite possibly the best-tasting tomato.”

Brandywine Tomato, The “You Bet Your Garden” Guide to Growing Great Tomatoes, by Mike McGrath of You Bet Your Garden
How to grow heirloom tomatoes - cherokee purple tomatoes on the vine

2. Cherokee Purple tomato

Cherokee Purple is a large, purple heirloom tomato with an intense flavor that is the perfect balance between sweet and tart. The flavor has a complex balance of sweetness and tartness. It has the classic full flavor of a good heirloom tomato. Cherokee Purple tomatoes are large, sweet, and juicy. The taste of this tomato is among the most well-regarded of those who appreciate a rich tomato flavor.

Cherokee Purple tomatoes are generally quite large and can be thought of as a beefsteak type. Their color is a graded purple with green undertones (green “shoulders”). The palest parts of the tomato are a dusky-rose color. Sometimes they look like red tomatoes with green stripes. They are not a true dark purple like Black Krim. Cherokee Purple tomatoes grow in all shapes and sizes, from fairly round to imperfectly knobby. It’s not uncommon for each tomato to weigh a pound.

Cherokee Purple is an heirloom tomato cultivar grown and passed down by indigenous peoples in Tennessee. Cherokee Purple tomato plants are large, indeterminate vines that can grow quite tall. These plants will need a strong trellis system to keep the delicious fruits off the ground. The trellis is more than worth the effort – these are the perfect tomatoes for fresh eating!

“Cherokee Purple defines the ideal intersection of sweetness, tartness, depth, and texture.”

Epic Tomatoes: How to Select & Grow the Best Varieties of All Time, by Craig LeHoullier
Bowl of ripe sun gold tomatoes in the garden

3. Sun Gold tomato

Sun Gold is a small, orange hybrid tomato with an intense, sweet flavor. The flavor is always excellent but changes quite a bit as the fruit ripens. They start out with a snappy tartness and ripen to a sweetness that is like candy. Like many yellow-orange tomatoes, Sungold tastes almost fruity. This variety can have almost a mild tropical citrus flavor, unique to this variety.

Sun Gold tomatoes are cherry tomatoes. They’re small but mighty and may well be the first tomato that ripens in your garden. The skin is a pale orange color when they first start to ripen. The color deepens to a rich orange as they become ripe (and sweet).

Sun Gold tomatoes were bred by the Tokita Seed Company in Japan as part of their “Sun” series. Sungold tomatoes are the one hybrid tomato that heirloom-obsessed gardeners are willing to make an exception for. This relatively new kid on the block certainly deserves a spot in your garden. Pair them with other red cherry tomatoes like Sweet 100, Tiny Tim, or Sweet Million for a brightly colored snack!

Black krim tomatoes

4. Black Krim tomato

Black Krim is a large, dark red-green tomato with a bold, fully balanced taste. The flavor is rich and full. It has a sweet taste, balanced with an appropriate amount of acidity. The flavor is complex, with a hint of smokiness. Sweetness increases when left to ripen fully on the vine.

Black Krim tomatoes are large, beefsteak-style tomatoes. Fruits are generally a dark red-purple or maroon color. They can also be a dark red-green crimson shade – but they’re generally quite dark and smoky-looking overall in comparison to other heirlooms. They tend to darken with more sun. The Black Krim tomato is an Eastern European heirloom named for the region of Crimea and the Black Sea that surrounds it.

Pineapple tomato sliced showing the inside of the tomato

5. Pineapple tomato

Pineapple is a large yellow tomato with a red blush and a sweet, fruity taste. They are known for their fresh, fruity, almost citrusy flavor. These are among the sweetest tomato varieties (and they’re also very beautiful). They have a lower acid content than many other yellow tomatoes. The yellow flesh is nicely textured and generally has a bit of red marbling.

Pineapple tomatoes are a nice choice if you love Sungold but are looking for something a little larger for fresh tomato sandwiches. These tomatoes can get quite large, with your average tomato weighing at least a pound. The Pineapple tomato is an heirloom variety believed to have originated in Kentucky.

Sweet heirloom mortgage lifter tomatoes in crate

6. Mortgage Lifter tomato

Mortgage Lifter is a large, red tomato with a delicious, sweet, rich taste. The flavor of the Mortgage Lifter tomato is rich and sweet. It was bred to be big and delicious! It has a meaty texture with few seeds, making it perfect for slicing on a sandwich or adding to a fresh salad.

Mortgage Lifter tomatoes are very large, with individual tomatoes growing to 2 pounds or more. They have the classic slightly flattened heirloom shape and lobed form (almost like a fairy-tale pumpkin). These may well be the largest tomatoes you ever grow.

The Mortgage Lifter tomato was bred in West Virginia in the 1930s by a home gardener nicknamed “Radiator Charlie”. After breeding the stable cultivar, he sold so many tomato seedlings that he was able to pay off his mortgage after a few years.

Kellogg's breakfast tomatoes

7. Kellogg’s Breakfast tomato

Kellogg’s Breakfast is a large, orange tomato with an exquisitely-balanced sweet taste. The flavor is the perfect balance of sweetness and tartness, with the added benefit of not being too intense or too mild. It is superbly balanced, with a meaty, juicy texture. It makes a great tomato sandwich!

Kellogg’s Breakfast tomatoes are large, beefsteak fruits. Most ripe tomatoes weigh about a pound, and some will break the two-pound mark. Kellogg’s is a classic large orange heirloom tomato. The inside of the tomato is just as bright orange as the outside. The Kellogg’s Breakfast tomato was popularized by gardener Darrell Kellogg of Michigan.

Ripe green zebra tomato in the raised bed garden

8. Green Zebra tomato

Green Zebra is a medium, green-yellow striped tomato with a delicate tart taste. The flavor of Green Zebra tomatoes is somehow delicate yet irresistibly rich. These tomatoes have a lovely tartness that’s almost zesty. These are worth seeking out for their acidic “zing” that’s balanced out with an unexpected sweetness. Let them ripen fully on the vine to ensure a balanced taste.

These tomatoes aren’t particularly large and might even be a tad smaller than your average grocery store tomato. What isn’t average about them is their color! The smooth tomato skin is bright yellow with almost neon-green stripes. Green Zebra tomatoes truly are stunning, even if you’re not prone to tasting with your eyes.

The Green Zebra tomato was bred by legendary plant breeder Tom “Tater-Mater” Wagner, a botanist in Washington who grew up on a farm in Kansas. This variety is open-pollinated, but since it was first sold in the 1980s, it’s not truly a historical heirloom. That being said, many gardeners refer to Green Zebra as a “modern heirloom”!

Most flavorful heirloom tomato cultivars

9. Ferris Wheel tomato

Ferris Wheel is a large, pink tomato with a delicate old-fashioned flavor that’s a nice balance of sweetness and tartness. The flavor is a delicately balanced taste that corresponds nicely with its lovely appearance. These tomatoes have almost a velvety taste that’s perfectly sweet. A slice of this variety is perfect on a piece of sourdough toast.

Ferris Wheel tomatoes are similar to Brandywine in appearance in that they are large pink tomatoes that are generally 1-3 pounds each. They have beautiful ribbed lobes, which seem slightly less prone to cracking than Brandywine. The Ferris Wheel tomato is an heirloom variety from Wisconsin that was first introduced in seed catalogs at the turn of the 19th century.

10. Aunt Ruby’s German Green tomato 

Aunt Ruby’s German Green is a large, yellow-green tomato with a balanced sweet and tart taste. It is among the best-regarded green tomato varieties due to its intense taste. It has a richness and a bit of spice that are unexpected from its appearance. This variety is best picked and enjoyed before overly ripe or before cold autumn weather arrives.

Aunt Ruby’s German Green is a large beefsteak-type tomato cultivar. Large specimens can reach a pound each! The shape of individual fruits is irregular, flattened (oblate), and well-lobed. The tomatoes start out green but do develop some yellow and sometimes even a bit of pink when ripe. This tomato is named for Ruby Arnold of Greeneville, Tennessee, who grew it after her grandfather handed it down through the family.

Paul robeson tomato plants

11. Paul Robeson tomato

Paul Robeson is a large, red-purple tomato variety with a rich old-fashioned flavor known for its perfect balance of sweet and tart. These tomatoes have a rich, meaty texture that is perfect for enjoying fresh from the garden. This tomato is best known for its distinctive taste that perfectly balances its deep sweetness with bright acidity.

Paul Robeson tomatoes are gourmet beefsteak-type tomatoes, somewhat similar in appearance to Cherokee Purple and other purple-peel varieties. It is from Russia and is named after American singer, lawyer, and football player Paul Robeson.

12. Georgia Streak tomato

Georgia Streak is a large yellow tomato with red streaks with a flavorful taste that is the perfect balance of sugar and acidity. The flavor is well-balanced and succulent. It is perhaps more towards the sweet end of the range than the sour end, but it is certainly well-balanced. Georgia Streak tomatoes are flavorful and juicy!

Georgia Streak tomatoes are generally large, with most tomatoes weighing in at least one pound. The tomatoes are generally yellow with red marbling (streaking), both inside and out. The red streaks are delicate, and the tomatoes are generally nicely lobed. The Georgia Streak tomato is an heirloom tomato from Georgia, USA.

“Getting great flavor out of a tomato is part nature, part nurture. The genetics of the seed you start with – the breeding lines behind the variety, plus where that actual packet of seed you’re using was produced – and the way you grow it both factor in.”

A Way To Garden: A Hands-On Primer For Every Season, by Margaret Roach
Tomatoes on toast are so yummy if you've got fresh heirloom tomatoes! Tomato toast is my all-time favourite summer snack. It's the perfect garden-to-table meal during harvest season! | home for the harvest #heirloomtomatoes #heirloomtomato #tomatotoast #tomatoesontoast #gardentotable #homefortheharvest
Heirloom garden tomatoes with homemade mayo and sourdough…nothing better!

13. Glamour tomato

Glamour is a medium-sized red tomato with that classic, sweet-tart tomato flavor of an old-fashioned tomato. It has that classic, sweet-tart tomato flavor that everyone is looking for. They’re a good pick if you want to grow only one type of tomato for both fresh eating and canning.

Glamour tomatoes are average size and nicely rounded. Ripe tomatoes will weigh about 6 oz or about 170 grams. They are about the size of a tomato at the grocery store.

Glamour is a tomato cultivar that was bred in New York state in the 1950s. Glamour tomato plants are among the easier to control among indeterminate vine varieties. Because they are not too large, they don’t take very long to grow! Ripe Glamour tomatoes should be ready about two and a half months after the plants are planted out in the garden.

14. Great White tomato

Great White is a large, yellow-white tomato with a perfectly sweet, almost tropical flavor. The flavor is known for its fruity, tropical taste. The flavor is a delicate sweetness and is very low in acidity.

Great White tomatoes are large and very pale. They’re a creamy, almost white color (certainly the palest tomato I’ve seen). It’s an open-pollinated type that was first sold by the Gleckler Seedmen in the 1980s. Its parent seeds were sent to the company by a home gardener.

15. Green Giant tomato

Green Giant is a large, deep-green tomato with a full, complex tomato flavor. The flavor of Green Giant tomatoes is full, complex, and surprisingly sweet for such a dark green tomato. While many would expect it to be very tart, the taste is actually well-balanced with sweetness and tartness. Green Giant is a tomato-lovers tomato!

“The intensity of flavour nearly overwhelms, and it is perhaps most similar to Sun Gold in approaching perfection”

Epic Tomatoes: How to Select and Grow the Best Varieties of All Time, by Craig LeHoullier

Green Giant tomatoes are very large. They have very small seed cavities (which means more juicy tomato flesh). The Green Giant tomato is an heirloom variety from Germany.

16. German Red Strawberry tomato

German Red Strawberry is a medium-large, red heart-shaped tomato with a complex, sweet flavor. Well-ripened fruits are almost like candy, although there is certainly depth to the flavor. This is a great choice for those who love enjoying a sweet, vine-ripened tomato that’s still warm from being out in the sunny garden.

German Red Strawberry tomatoes truly do look like giant strawberries. Sometimes there is even a bit of green left on the top of each fruit! The inside of the tomato is bright red and very meaty. While there are many seed cavities, they are all quite small and contain very few seeds and pulp.

The German Red Strawberry tomato is a Germain heirloom popularized by Dr. Carolyn Male. Her classic book, 100 Heirloom Tomatoes for the American Garden, is a favorite among tomato gardeners. She raised over a thousand heirloom tomatoes during her career and German Red Strawberry was one of her favorites.

17. Hillbilly tomato

Hillbilly is a large, yellow tomato with marbled red stripes and a flavor that is rich and sweet. The flavor is definitely on the sweet side. There is a fruity complexity to the sweetness and certainly a low amount of acid. This is a gorgeous bi-color heirloom that looks just as lovely when sliced. Hillbilly is an heirloom tomato variety that is thought to have originated in West Virginia.

18. Lillian’s Yellow tomato

Lillian’s Yellow is a large, yellow tomato with an intense, juicy flavor that is perfectly balanced between tart and sweet. The flavor of Lillian’s Yellow is a bold, full taste with the classic heirloom tomato balance of tartness and rich sweetness. The flavor of Lillian’s Yellow is much more intense than would be expected from a yellow-fleshed tomato. The flesh is uniform, meaty, and has almost a creamy texture.

“Possessing a superbly uniform, nearly creamy, juicy texture, it is a loud tomato that fills the senses, perfectly balanced between tart and sweet.”

Epic Tomatoes: How to Select & Grow the Best Varieties of All Time, by Craig LeHoullier

Lillian’s Yellow tomatoes are large and, juicy. These tomatoes are perfect for sandwiches, salads, and just eating a slice. The Lillian’s Yellow heirloom tomato was saved and introduced by Lillian Bruce of Tennessee.

19. Lucky Cross tomato

Lucky Cross is a large, yellow hybrid tomato with a classic sweet-tart balanced taste. The flavor of Lucky Cross has the depth of red heirloom tomato with the color of a yellow type. These are incredibly flavourful yellow tomatoes and will surprise anyone used to mild-tasting yellow varieties.

Lucky Cross tomatoes are large. They are a cross of a Brandywine tomato and a striped tomato. The Lucky Cross tomato was bred in the 1990s by tomato legend Craig LeHoullier, author of the book Epic Tomatoes. He describes the Lucky Cross as having a “big tomato flavor and perfect balance.”

20. Magnus tomato

Magnus is a medium-sized, dark pink heirloom tomato with a finely balanced flavor that is slightly sweet. The flavor is the classic old-fashioned balance of sweetness and acidity. Magnus tomatoes are average-sized tomatoes, about the size of a tomato at the grocery store. While these are not the most intense-tasting tomatoes, they are very flavourful for a “normal-looking” tomato (great for picky eaters!).

Magnus was bred over a hundred years ago by a tomato breeder named Alexander Livingston. Magnus is profiled in the wonderful book “Epic Tomatoes”. Craig profiles the tomatoes as “lovely, nearly-round, medium-sized pink specimens that possessed a really fine flavor, well balanced but slightly on the sweet side.”

21. Nepal tomato

Nepal is a medium-sized red tomato with an intense flavor that is well-balanced between tart and sweet. The flavor of Nepal tomatoes is loud and full. While this looks like your average grocery-store tomato, it tastes unexpectedly intense old-fashioned.

“It has an aggressive, full flavour that will delight those who love intense tomatoes.”

Epic Tomatoes: How to Select & Grow the Best Varieties of All Time, by Craig LeHoullier

While not the firmest tomato, these still are meaty and juicy. If you want to swap out a bland store tomato with something that looks similar but tastes amazing – this is it! Nepal is an heirloom variety grown in the Himalayan Mountains in Nepal.

22. Red Snapper tomato

Red Snapper is a large-sized red tomato that looks like a supermarket tomato but tastes delicious! They are known for their deep-red skin, round shape, and ease of growing. These tomatoes are among the best-tasting modern hybrid tomatoes, as they’ve been bred for disease resistance and a delicious flavor!

Red Snapper tomatoes are a nice choice if you’re looking for a low-maintenance, productive plant that’s easier to grow than the heirlooms on this list, but still grows delicious tomatoes. The Red Snapper is also the only bush-shaped tomato on this list (the others are vine-indeterminate types), so it’s a good choice for a small-space garden.

23. Yellow Oxheart tomato

Yellow Oxheart is a medium-sized yellow tomato with a perfectly balanced flavor. The flavor is a succulent blend of sweetness and tartness. They have a perfectly balanced taste with juicy flesh. It is a heart-shaped variety with a golden yellow color. These tomatoes range in size, with most being medium-sized, but the odd one will reach one pound.

The Yellow Oxheart tomato was introduced by the Livingston Seed Company, likely in the 1920s. It was reintroduced by Southern Exposure Seed Exchange in Virginia, which received the seeds from seed saver Jeptha Yoder in Pennsylvania.

Early girl tomatoes

24. Early Girl tomato

Early Girl is a round red hybrid tomato with a good old-fashioned flavor that develops quickly enough to grow in colder climates with short growing seasons. The flavor is nicely balanced in terms of sweetness with a tangy acidity. This tomato has a much better flavor than most other tomatoes of this size, as it has been bred to develop quickly.

Early girl tomatoes tend to be medium-sized round tomatoes that start to be ready for harvest about two months after planting the seedlings outdoors. The Early Girl Tomato was bred in France and acquired by US agricultural seed company PetoSeed in the 1970s.

Taste test winning tomatoes
How to grow the yummiest tomato fruit

Tips for growing the best-tasting tomatoes

A lot of leaves can capture a lot of sunlight, so a plant with dense, healthy foliage can convert more sunlight into sugars and other flavorful components. Heirloom varieties have a greater percentage of leaf than do market-ready hybrids, which may partially explain their flavor. Do all you can to keep leaves healthy.

“Tomato fruit flavor evolves and changes as the season elapses. Some people find the first-picked tomatoes are the best tasting; most find that it is the main crop that tastes the best. Most seem to agree: tomatoes that come on late, after the weather cools (especially at night), just don’t have the flavor of the early or main-crop fruits.”

Epic Tomatoes: How to Select and Grow the Best Varieties of All Time, by Craig LeHoullier

Lastly, remember that the most delicious tomatoes seem to come right off the vine, eaten fresh in the garden. Soft, ripe, and fragrant…there is truly nothing like a homegrown tomato.

“What you have is the warmth of the sun. A cold tomato has far less taste. This smells of days of sunshine.” 

Monty Don, French Gardens: The Gourmet Garden (picking and smelling a ripe tomato in a french restaurant’s garden)

For more information on the cultivars described above and other tomato varieties, visit the Rutgers Database of Tomato Varieties.

Mary Jane Duford
Mary Jane Duford

Mary Jane Duford is a quintessential Canadian gardener. An engineer by trade, she tends to an ever-expanding collection of plants. In her world, laughter blooms as freely as her flowers, and every plant is raised with a dash of Canadian grit.

Mary Jane is a certified Master Gardener and also holds a Permaculture Design Certificate. She's also a proud mom of three, teaching her little sprouts the crucial difference between a garden friend and foe.

When she's not playing in the dirt, Mary Jane revels in her love for Taylor Swift, Gilmore Girls, ice hockey, and the surprisingly soothing sounds of bluegrass covers of classic hip-hop songs. She invites you to join her garden party, a place where you can share in the joy of growing and where every day is a new opportunity to find the perfect spot for yet another plant.

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