A lot of us end up looking for substitutes for San Marzano tomatoes simply because this variety is often called for in numerous recipes.
Once you taste San Marzano tomatoes or cook with canned San Marzano, it’s easy to see why this tomato variety is so incredibly popular.
However, at the same time, fresh San Marzano tomatoes might not be available where you live. The same goes for the canned ones. And even if you find them, either fresh or canned, they might be above what you’re willing to spend.
That’s where this article on San Marzano substitutes comes in. Before presenting you with the best replacements, let’s first understand why this variety is so loved. That way, you can know for sure which substitutes would work best for your recipes.
You can also check out my recommendations for the best juicers for tomatoes if you want to make juices with tomatoes and other fruits and veggies or if you want to can your own tomato products from San Marzano tomatoes or other varieties.
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How I Use Substitutes for San Marzano Tomatoes
Before that, I also want to tell you about how I use my substitutes for San Marzano tomatoes.
My philosophy is simple: if I’m making a recipe where the tomatoes are the main ingredient, the one that absolutely shines, then I use San Marzano as frequently as I can.
However, if the tomatoes are not center-stage, then I use cheaper canned or fresh tomatoes as substitutes for San Marzano.
Thus, if I’m making a pizza sauce, definitely San Marzano.
The same goes for pasta most of the times.
For a classic marinara sauce, I try to use canned San Marzano. Or at least canned cherry tomatoes. Those are a favorite substitute of mine, although they’re quite pricey.
Tomato basil soup is another recipe where I try to use San Marzano or other plum tomatoes varieties.
On the other hand, if I’m making soups, stews, chili, Roman-style chicken, goulash, etc. then I’m using canned Roma tomatoes (canned whole peeled tomatoes). You can buy whatever type the stores near you sell. Still, make sure to buy some that have a decent taste. Some can be incredibly sour, bitter or flat-tasting.
If I’m making large quantities of stewed tomatoes for canning or freezing, then I’ll most likely use beefsteak or Roma tomatoes from my garden.
What Is so Special about San Marzano Tomatoes?
Simply put, this variety has the perfect balance of sweetness, intense tomatoey taste, and delicate acidity. That’s what makes them so desirable, whether we’re eating them fresh or using them canned in recipes.
San Marzano is one of the most popular varieties around the world and the many recipes that require it are a testament to that.
In my opinion, these are also some of the most delicious tomatoes on the planet, particularly when they’re in season, grown properly, and harvested when they’re perfectly ripe.
Nevertheless, depending where you live, the price for San Marzano might be a little too much for you. Even if they’re in season, they tend to be more expensive than the other varieties. If you want cheaper alternatives, you’ll find them here.
I’ll be honest: we won’t find the perfect substitutes for San Marzano tomatoes if your recipe is based on raw ingredients.
In that case, it’s just best to go with cherry tomatoes that look ripe, delicious, and have a fragrant smell. That’s the perfect substitute and it will be absolutely delicious.
Roma vs San Marzano tomatoes
In terms of replacing fresh San Marzano, the other tomato variety that comes very close is the Roma tomato variety.
That’s because both San Marzano and Roma are both plum tomato varieties. Other plum tomatoes are Amish Paste and Big Mama.
Their shapes are also quite similar. The difference is that San Marzano are a bit thinner and more pointed.
In terms of taste, San Marzano is a bit sweeter than Roma, with fewer seeds and less acidic.
Even so, I think that Roma can serve as a delicious substitute if we’re eating them fresh. The same goes for Amish Paste and Big Mama.
You can also use plum tomato varieties to make stewed tomatoes. Although, stewed tomatoes can be made with all kinds of big tomato varieties. Canned tomatoes work very nicely, too.
Substitutes for San Marzano Tomatoes: Best Canned Tomatoes
If the tomatoes need to be cooked, things are going to be much simpler. I’m pretty sure you already suspect which are the perfect substitutes for San Marzano tomatoes for recipes where we cook them. Let’s talk about some of the best and easiest to find anyway.
Let’s talk about some of the best canned tomatoes as the best substitutes for San Marzano tomatoes. These replacements are the easiest to find. And they’re perfect for cooking on a budget for larger families.
Of course, you can make your own canned vegetables when they’re in season. If you’re looking for spicy options, you can make canned diced tomatoes and green chilies. Or you can buy them.
As I’ve said, things are a bit more difficult when it comes to replacing fresh San Marzano tomatoes because they have a sweetness and a richness of taste that are hard to replace perfectly. Also, they’re not too acidic, which some people might appreciate.
However, canned tomatoes are a very accessible replacement both in terms of price and the fact that we can find them in any store, small or large.
1. Contadina Petite Cut Canned Diced Roma Style Tomatoes
If you’re looking for affordable canned tomatoes with a rich taste and all natural ingredients, the Contadina is quite the awesome choice as one of the best substitutes for San Marzano tomatoes.
Roma tomatoes have a very similar taste so that’s the first plus for them.
In terms of ingredients, we have: tomatoes, tomato juice, sea salt, citric acid, and calcium chloride.
Calcium chloride is added as a firming agent, preventing the ingredients from breaking down during cooking. The diced tomatoes will retain their bite and shape.
Indeed, only natural ingredients are used. Although they’re not organic, their affordable price makes them very desirable and a good purchase.
2. Bianco DiNapoli Organic Whole Peeled Tomatoes
If you get the chance to talk to some people who are really passionate about cooking with high quality canned tomatoes, there’s a high chance that they’ll mention Bianco DiNapoli.
These are organic so they’ll also satisfy those who are looking specifically for organic products.
However, their price is quite expensive. These might be some of the most expensive substitutes for San Marzano tomatoes, more expensive than the product that you’re actually trying to replace.
Are they worth it?
They’re very good and delicious but they’re just too expensive for my tastes. I much prefer the first option or some canned whole peeled tomatoes that are a lot cheaper, even if they’re not organic or from a famous manufacturer.
The ingredients for the Bianco DiNapoli are: organic tomatoes, sea salt, and organic basil.
3. Mutti Cherry Tomatoes
If you want to try something different, try canned cherry tomatoes. On monini.com you’ll even find a Mutti cherry tomato bruschetta recipe.
But you can also use them for all sorts of recipes, just like you would use all the other canned tomatoes.
However, I must confess that I have one big problem when it comes to these Mutti Cherry Tomatoes: they’re not peeled. I have tried other brands, too and those weren’t peeled either so it’s not something that only Mutti does.
Others might not have a problem with canned tomatoes that are not peeled. I just choose to peel them by hand if I cook with them whole.
When I thrown them into the blender when I want to make a marinara sauce or a pizza sauce, things are much simpler because the peels disintegrate.
I definitely believe that the sweet taste is worth it.
4. Cento San Marzano Organic Peeled Tomatoes
If you have a bigger budget and you’re itching to try a can of San Marzano tomatoes, I definitely recommend this one.
According to their website, these are grown and processed in Italy without the use of any pesticides or food additives.
Moreover, they’re hand-picked only when ripe to keep their sweet taste. They sound like a dream.
Considering all that, I don’t think that a can of these is too expensive at all.
Maybe you can buy it once to see if there is really any difference in how your recipes end up tasting. Then you’ll know for sure if the above substitutes for San Marzano tomatoes work just as well for your favorite dishes.
Another very popular option is the Alessi Pomodoro San Marzano.
Recipes with San Marzano Tomatoes
In order to better understand how substitutes for San Marzano tomatoes could work, whether they’re canned or fresh tomatoes, let’s see which are the most popular recipes with this delicious plum variety:
- marinara sauce
- pizza sauce
- tomato basil soup
- vodka sauce
- tomato risotto
- antipasti platter
- tomato antipasti salad
- cucumber tomato salad
- turkey sausage pasta
- gnocchi with pomodoro sauce
- pasta puttanesca
- salted cod with tomatoes capers and olives
- roasted pepper soup (you can use sun dried tomatoes as a substitute for San Marzano)
- pasta amatriciana
- seafood soups
- San Marzano Bloody Mary
- marinara with tuna
- taco soup
- San Marzano bbq sauce
- San Marzano homemade ketchup
Are sun-dried tomatoes a good substitute for San Marzano tomatoes?
If we’re talking about price, the above canned tomatoes that I reviewed are a much better option.
They’re also easier to find, you can buy them in bulk and store them in the pantry for a few years. Also, they’re very easy to cook with.
When using sun-dried we must remember a few things: their taste is more intense than fresh tomatoes and they have a chewier texture that doesn’t appeal to everyone.
Another thing to keep in mind: if you’re not buying sun-dried tomatoes kept in oil, then you’ll absolutely need to rehydrate them.
Rehydrating sun-dried will take about 10 minutes in total. You can use warm water, vegetable/chicken broth and even wine. It depends which flavor you’re trying to achieve.
All in all, sun-dried tomatoes are not the easiest to cook with, they’re maybe not as easy to find for everyone, and the price can be quite expensive.
It turns out that the above canned tomatoes remain the most desirable substitutes for San Marzano tomatoes, whatever your budget might be or wherever you may live.