Substitutes for San Marzano Tomatoes

San Marzano tomatoes come from the Campania region in Italy. These distinctive, long cylindrical tomatoes are coveted in recipes by chefs and amateurs alike for their rich flavor.

You can buy them fresh or canned from grocery stores, markets, and even online. However, they do often come at a premium in terms of the price.

But what happens if you’re preparing a dish that calls explicitly for San Marzano tomato? What alternatives are there? If any?

Many other tomatoes enjoy the rich depths of the flavor as a substitute for the San Marzano variety. But, in general, you should do your best to stick to other canned plum tomato varieties. Most plum tomatoes will offer similar tastes and textures.

1. Roma Tomatoes

Our number one pick for a top replacement for San Marzano is the Roma. Roma tomatoes are also plum tomatoes with a rich meaty flavor. With few seeds, this tomato is perfect for use in sauces and other creamy dishes. You can purchase them in stores, and they are often best purchased canned.

2. Ropreco Paste

Don’t be fooled. We’re not suggesting that you use tomato paste as a substitute. However, Ropreco Paste is a plum tomato that makes another fantastic option to replace San Marzano. You can often buy these tomatoes fresh, and they do taste better fresh than Roma tomatoes, so these are our choice for a whole tomato replacement.

3. Amish Paste

It is too difficult to say whether this mighty tomato has anything to do with actual Amish people. That said? We can say that this tomato has been a rising star in the world of paste tomatoes over the last several years. If you can find these tomatoes either fresh or canned, then you shouldn’t hesitate to replace San Marzano with them.

4. Big Mama

Big Mama tomatoes make some of the most mouthwatering thick and creamy sauces for everything from a simple passata to a rich bolognese. In addition, these tomatoes make a perfect alternative to San Marzano, either canned or whole, because they peel so easily when par-boiled. You can see these in many premium store-bought plum tomatoes, but be sure to check the label.

5. Plum Tomatoes

The fact is that while it is nice to know some of the best varieties of tomato that you can substitute for San Marzano tomatoes, there are times where you just don’t have the option to pick these varieties.

A homemade marinara sauce made with canned plum tomatoes.

In those cases, check the cupboards or the pantry for plum tomatoes. You can check the label to see what kind of tomatoes they use, and you might be pleasantly surprised. However, if not, these can work as a substitute in any dish, and you’ll still have the same texture. 

The main difference between premium plum tomatoes and regular plum tomatoes is the sweetness and richness of the sauce. So you can always add a little sugar or salt as needed. As for the richness, you can combine non-premium plum tomatoes with a bit of tomato puree.