What Are Cherry Tomatoes?

Cherry tomatoes got their name from being a similar shape of to a cherry, and also because they are considerably sweet (remember, tomatoes are indeed a fruit!). They come in sizes anywhere from the size of a golf ball to the size of your thumbnail.

Fresh cherry tomatoes on the vine in a white dish

Cherry tomatoes are perfect for snacking or roasting with veggies. Adding cherry tomatoes to a vegetable platter always adds nice color and vibrancy. Cherry tomatoes are traditionally from South America, in the Peru/Ecuador area. These little tomatoes were not a cultivated creation as many assume.  They can actually be traced back thousands of years. 

What Do Cherry Tomatoes Look Like?

Cherry tomatoes can vary widely in shape, color, or size. The color will typically range from red to green, but you can also find orange, yellow, deep purple, even black, as well as tomatoes with striated coloring.  The black tomatoes look the most similar to real cherries. The shape of cherry tomatoes is typically close to spherical, but oblong or pear-shaped cherry tomatoes are also common.

Substituting for Cherry Tomatoes

The best substitute for cherry tomatoes is typically grape tomatoes. Grape tomatoes look very similar to cherry tomatoes, shaped more like grapes than cherries (unsurprisingly).  Grape tomatoes tend to be crunchier but a little less sweet.

Fresh cherry tomatoes on the vine

In some instances, diced larger tomatoes are a better alternative, especially when you are looking for that level of juicy sweetness, in salads, for instance.  

If you are cooking the tomatoes, you might also consider canned tomatoes.  You can even find canned cherry tomatoes, usually from Italy, in upscale markets.  These aren’t a good solution for uncooked dishes, but they are useful in cooked dishes, like pasta sauces, casseroles, and so on.  

Where Do You Find Cherry Tomatoes?

Cherry tomatoes will be found in almost every grocery store in the produce section.  They might be in the refrigerated section, though often they are just stacked on displays at room temperature.  Cherry tomatoes will also be found at most farmers markets when they are in season, which depends on where you live, but they are abundant in the warm weather months.  Buy a lot, and use them in all kinds of ways (see below for recipe ideas!).

Cherry Tomato Antipasti Salad in white bowl

And home gardeners often start with cherry tomato plants, which are easy to find, plant, and tend.  They are some of the easiest plants to grow, especially for a rookie gardener.

How to Pick Cherry Tomatoes

In a store, you want to look for the brightest-colored cherry tomatoes that are firm. Typically you cannot touch them since they are encased in packaging but you can usually tell the firmness by how taut the skin is. Ideally, the skin will be firm and a bright color. Avoid packages where any of the cherry tomatoes have burst or have wilted or wrinkled at all.

White bowl filled with fresh cherry tomatoes on the vine.

When picking cherry tomatoes right off of the plant, you will want to wait until the tomatoes are bright in color and have a firm texture.  This will usually mean the cherry tomatoes are about 1 to 2 inches long. The tomatoes that are ready to be picked will usually fall right off of the vine when you attempt to pick them.

How to Store Cherry Tomatoes

Cherry tomatoes can be left at room temperature outside of direct sunlight to keep them from wilting. Moving cherry tomatoes into the fridge will slow down the ripening process.

Woman slicing cherry tomatoes with a knife on a wood cutting board.

How to Quickly Ripen Cherry Tomatoes

To speed up the ripening process, cherry tomatoes need to be trapped with ethene gas. To hasten your tomatoes’ ripening, you can put them in a dark, room-temperature place, like a paper lunch bag or box.  If you want to speed up the process even further, you can add one of the fruits known to emit a lot of ethene gas.  Add an apple or a banana to the tomatoes for maximum speed-ripening results.

How to Cook Cherry Tomatoes: Everything you need to know about choosing, storing, preparing and cooking cherry tomatoes – plus recipes!

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Cooking with Cherry Tomatoes

Cherry tomatoes are commonly eaten raw, but cooking with them intensifies their flavor.  This is handy if your tomatoes aren’t at full ripeness since the cooking process will accentuate the tomato flavor.  

Cherry tomatoes are often roasted or sautéed.  They are less likely to be used in a sauce as there is a lot of skin in relation to the meaty flesh inside. Unless you are putting the sauce through a food mill, you will end up with a bunch of skins in the sauce, which can be a little unpleasant in terms of texture and even taste.  Learn more about How to Roast Cherry Tomatoes.

Roasted cherry tomatoes on baking tray covered with parchment paper.

How to Freeze Cherry Tomatoes

Freezing cherry tomatoes is the easiest way to preserve cherry tomatoes.  Once defrosted, these tomatoes are best used in cooked, and not that great to use simply defrosted and raw in salads and other uncooked dishes.

  • Pick through your cherry tomatoes and freeze only the ones that are firm and unblemished.
  • Wash and dry the tomatoes.
  • Place the tomatoes in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet, so that they are not touching, and place in the freezer.  Freeze for at least 2 hours until frozen.
  • Transfer the cherry tomatoes to an airtight freezer bag or container, leaving as little air in the container as possible.  Label and freeze for up to 6 months.  Defrost at room temperature.

Recipes with Cherry Tomatoes

Cherry Tomato Salad

Cherry Tomato Salad

Cherry or grape tomatoes are just plain cheery and delicious, and here they are the star of their own little show in a gorgeous salad perfect for any time of year.

Roasted Cherry Tomatoes with Burrata and Basil Oil / Sarah Crowder / Katie Workman / themom100.com

Roasted Cherry Tomatoes with Burrata and Basil Oil

If you and a friend want to demolish this for lunch, as I did, then ignore the serving size.

Cherry Tomato Antipasti Salad

Cherry Tomato Antipasti Salad

Inspired by Italian restaurant antipasti platters, this gorgeous salad relies on easily available cherry tomatoes and a bunch of pantry items.

Pasta Salad with Tomatoes, Feta and Herbed Mayonnaise

Pasta Salad with Tomatoes, Feta and Herbed Mayonnaise

A quick summery meal that can be made ahead. Skip the bacon and it’s vegetarian!

Tomato Mozzarella and Basil Salad

Tomato, Mozzarella and Basil Salad

Simple, gorgeous, summer in a bowl.

Cavatappi with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes and Pesto / Katie Workman / themom100.com / Photo by Cheyenne Cohen

Cavatappi with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes and Pesto

It's hard to make a summer produce pasta that not a stunner; this one is bursting with basil and roasted tomatoes.

Pancetta Pasta with Tomatoes

Pancetta Pasta with Tomatoes

This pasta has so much going on in terms of flavor, color, texture, and just plain deliciousness.

Tomato Panzanella

Tomato Panzanella

This dish feels like an ode to summer.  A Tuscan salad, created to use up stale bread,  dressed with  vinaigrette, and mixed with juicy tomatoes, onions, cucumbers and basil.

How to Make Perfect Roasted Tomatoes / Photo by Kerri Brewer / Katie Workman / themom100.com

How to Make Perfect Roasted Tomatoes

Roasting tomatoes is super easy, and really brings out a deep, concentrated, sweet flavor.

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