I make a lot of fresh salsa (pico de gallo style) in the summer, but I don't usually think much about the type of tomatoes I'm usuing. Usually I just buy whatever looks best (fresh & ripe) at the farmer's market, so I've used everything from beefsteak and heirloom to cherry and grape. I've been quite happy with the results, but I'm still wondering: is there a "standard" tomato variety for salsa?

I've read this question and this question about homemade salsa, but neither of them really mention tomato varieties; the focus seems to be on other ingredients or preparation techniques.

3 Answers 3


A standard tomato implies that there is a standard salsa, which there isn't - but let's stick with your specific case of pico de gallo AKA salsa cruda.

The distinguishing characteristic of salsa cruda is that it uses raw tomatoes - the cruda literally means raw. Since you aren't going to be cooking them, and since water is going to be your primary binding agent, you'll want to use plump, juicy tomatoes that have potent flavour when raw, and that just so happens to be those bog-standard globe tomatoes you see in the supermarket aisles. Of course, if you can get garden-fresh tomatoes, so much the better.

Cherry tomatoes are also a great choice - they're very juicy and a little sweeter than globes - the only downside is that for a chopped salsa (as in pico de gallo), they tend to make preparation much more difficult and messy. If you've got the time and patience, give it a try; cherry tomato salsas taste much "fresher" than those made from globes.

The other common types of tomatoes, most notably roma and pear tomatoes, are really meant more for cooking. That's not to say you can't eat them raw, but they don't have a lot of juice or raw flavour, so they don't make a good base for cruda. Roasted roma or heirloom tomatoes (especially fire-roasted) make a great addition to salsa, but of course, it's not really "cruda" anymore if you cook any of the ingredients.

Do yourself a favour and don't use the plum tomatoes in a can; they're plenty juicy but have almost no seeds and no flavour.

So, all in all, for pico de gallo I believe that regular globe tomatoes are the most appropriate, but any tomatoes with strong flavour and plenty of juice will do.

  • I would add that for cooked sauce the traditional tomato is the San Marzano
    – nico
    Aug 15, 2011 at 14:57
  • @nico: If you can get them fresh, yes. For salsa, which is all about the tomatoes, I'd rather use the cheapest kind of fresh than anything in a can. I say this because, at least where I live, it's not that common to find fresh San Marzanos, you usually tend to see them canned.
    – Aaronut
    Aug 15, 2011 at 15:02
  • oh yeah, sure it was just out of curiosity ;) On the other hand, a fantastic variety to eat raw (but I think that it is pretty much impossible to find outside of Italy) is the pomodorino del Vesuvio
    – nico
    Aug 15, 2011 at 15:10
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    I disagree with this a bit. I prefer my salsa to be not too wet. When I pick it up on a chip, I don't want a lot of juice running everywhere, I want a lot of flavor packed into a reasonably non-runny bite. So I often use Roma's or something similar. Aug 15, 2011 at 16:45
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    @Michael: Sure, different strokes for different folks, but you can remove liquid without affecting the flavour, whereas adding water will dilute it. I enjoy the concoctions you're referring to as well, but technically they're closer to the definition of a salad than a salsa (sauce).
    – Aaronut
    Aug 15, 2011 at 17:06

If we go by the seed companies, the fresh salsa tomato is a variety of plum tomato.

And I agree with Michael -- I prefer plum tomatoes varieties for pico de gallo, in part because they have a lot more 'meat' to them than seeds & gel, and seem to hold up a bit better after they've been salted.


The tomato variety used (for centuries) in most parts of Mexico for making salsa is the one called "Jitomate" the Jitomate is a (red) tomato that has an oval form and a belly button, normally smaller than round tomato. Its flavor is more intense than the round tomato, it is ideal for pico de gallo, boiled and grilled sauces. In the us you can find it in most grocery stores.

  • Sounds like that's the roma tomato in English?
    – Cascabel
    Oct 1, 2014 at 16:56
  • @Jefromi : roma is an italian variety of plum tomato. It's entirely possible that Jitomate are old as 'roma' tomatoes in the US, but they're likely different varieties.
    – Joe
    Oct 1, 2014 at 16:59
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    @Joe Right, but he said "in the US you can find it in most grocery stores" and the only oval-shaped tomato I've seen in most grocery stores is the roma.
    – Cascabel
    Oct 1, 2014 at 17:01
  • @Jefromi : ah, okay. I admit I don't really pay attention to the names of tomatoes at grocery stores (in part because I get enough from my mom's garden, or my garden the years I plant, or farmer's market)
    – Joe
    Oct 1, 2014 at 17:07
  • Yes it is similar to Roma tomato, actually it is really hard to know what will be the exact equivalent. Tomatoes for cooking use were originated in ancient Mexico and brought to the rest of the world by spanish, but now they are produced world wide, the Roma ones (at least the name) may be related to italian tomatoes.
    – raspacorp
    Oct 1, 2014 at 17:11

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