Sometimes a tomato sauce recipe will call for fresh tomatoes, sometimes it will call for canned, and sometimes it will call for both. So you’ll probably find yourself asking, what’s the difference, anyways? While it’s probably no surprise, there are some pretty crucial differences between canned and fresh tomatoes, so here we help to outline the most basic deciding factors for you to consider when choosing between canned and fresh tomatoes.
The End Result
What you’ll be using the tomatoes for is a huge factor when deciding whether to go with fresh or canned tomatoes. If you’re planning to make a salad or are looking for a burst of freshness in a dish, it’s best to go with fresh tomatoes. When cooking with tomatoes, whether it be for sauces or stews, canned tomatoes are a better choice because they are densely packed and have a higher concentration of flavor that will stand up to heat.
Just as Ali Walter of La Scuola at New York City's Eataly explains in her interview with The Daily Meal, seasonality plays a huge role in deciding whether to use canned or fresh tomatoes. If tomatoes are at the peak of their season and it works with the recipe you’re using, use fresh, but you’re better off with canned tomatoes any other time of the year because those tomatoes were packaged when they were at their best quality.
It’s All in the Name
For those materialistic and label-greedy people out there (you know who you are), sometimes it’s better to go canned. But seriously, if you’re looking for a specific type of tomato, such as San Marzano, the best chance of finding it would be packaged in aluminum with a bright and shiny label wrapper around it.
Unfortunately, with great taste, some nutrition is lost. While canned tomatoes are praised for having a deep, strong flavor, they often lose some of the health benefits tomatoes are known for. Because some canned tomatoes contain additives such as salt and sugars, they often have more calories, carbohydrates, and sodium in them. Also, canned tomatoes contain less of the popular antioxidant found in tomatoes called lycopene, which is mainly found in the skin of tomatoes, because canned tomatoes are often skinless.
Want more on tomatoes? Click here to read Everything You Need to Know About Tomatoes
Anne Dolce is the Cook Editor at The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @anniecdolce