Many recipes call for a tomato of a certain size. How do you know the difference between small, medium and large tomatoes?


USDA requirements for measurements used by the Fresh Market tomato industry

                **Size**           **Size**
                No Pass            Pass 
                inches             inches
                see note #1        see note #2

Small           2 1⁄8 inches       2 9⁄32 inches
Medium          2¼ inches          2 17⁄32 inches
Large           2½ inches          2 25⁄32 inches
Extra Large     2¾ inches   

note # 1. Will not pass through a round opening with this diameter when the tomato is held with its greatest diameter parallel to the plane of the opening.

note # 2. Will pass through a round opening of this size; the tomato may be held in any position for the test.


As SAJ14SAJ said, there's not really a true answer here. But insofar as there's anything at all official, it's probably the sizes the USDA uses for nutrition. They're still a bit arbitrary, but hey, everything will be.

  • large whole (3" dia): 182g
  • medium whole (2-3/5" dia): 123g
  • small whole (2-2/5" dia): 91g
  • plum tomato: 62g
  • cherry: 17g

Here's the full nutrition table on the USDA site. You can also get this kind of stuff just by googling "tomato nutrition" and looking in the knowledge panel on the right (there's a dropdown to pick serving sizes).

Obviously tomatoes do get plenty bigger than that, but I don't think most people write recipes expecting you to use a 5" beefsteak tomato.


It is going to be very context dependent. A small beefsteak tomato is probably larger than a very large Roma tomato.

That said, a recipe that is not precise about the type of tomato, nor the size of tomato is unlikely to be critically dependent on the exact quantity of tomato.

Still, one could estimate that a small tomato in the abstract is lime sized, a medium tomato lemon sized, and a large tomato orange to grapefruit sized. I realize this is no more concrete--there is no absolute standard.

  • 1
    I think limes and lemons are too close in size, suggest an apple to be a medium size tomato. – GdD Apr 16 '14 at 15:22
  • 1
    Apples are hugely variable too :-) – SAJ14SAJ Apr 16 '14 at 15:23
  • IMHO a medium sized tomato is somewhere between a large lime and a small apple. – Tor-Einar Jarnbjo Apr 16 '14 at 15:39
  • then you need to add a jumbo class for beefsteak tomatoes – GdD Apr 16 '14 at 15:52
  • Looking at it from the point of view of a recipe, your last paragraph is probably what's meant - they'll ask for a small tomato (without specifying a variety) and expect that you'll probably use a smaller variety (maybe a roma?) or half of a bigger one. – Cascabel Apr 16 '14 at 16:09

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