The other day I began making one of my favorite stuffed pepper recipes, when I discovered that I had purchased grape tomatoes instead of cherry tomatoes on my grocery shopping run. Minor panic set in. There is probably a reason, I thought, I’ve always roasted cherry instead of grape tomatoes. Would I have to go back to the store to get the right ingredient?
The easy answer is no, my recipe would turn out delicious as usual, even with the grape tomato substitute. However, it did get me wondering what the differences really are, and if at some point, they aren’t interchangeable.
Cherry tomatoes are named because their small size and round shape closely resemble that of cherries. They are juicy and sweet with thin skins. They are prized in the culinary world because they squirt juice when you bite into them. The delicate tomatoes are commonly used raw or lightly cooked in fresh sauces or accompaniments to fish or chicken. They also come in shades of red, orange and yellow which is great for adding color to your cooking, whereas grape tomatoes only grow in shades of red.
Grape tomatoes are about half the size of cherry tomatoes, and they’re usually oblong in shape. They are not as sweet or watery at cherry tomatoes, but they have a meatier flesh which some people prefer. Grape tomatoes have thicker skins which make them more popular with grocery stores since they are less fragile to transport. Their thick skin also makes them a better choice for sauces or garnishes.
Are they interchangeable?
For the most part, grape and cherry tomatoes can fill in for each other when the other isn’t available — or if you have a preference. You may have to cut cherry tomatoes in halves or quarters in some recipes since they’re larger than grape tomatoes.
The only time you really need to stick with one over the other is when stuffing them. Cherry tomatoes are much better for hollowing. Or, if you need your tomatoes to last longer on the counter, you should choose grape tomatoes.
In the end, it doesn’t really matter — each batch of tomatoes has its own flavor anyway. But if cherry tomatoes are in season, pick some up and enjoy. Come winter, you’re local grocery may only carry grape tomatoes, so snack on cherry tomatoes — that sweet taste of summer — while you can.
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