It's not an exaggeration to say that for much of the year, fresh tomatoes aren't even worth buying. Out of season, almost all fresh tomatoes are bland, mealy, and watery—which is why we recommend using canned tomatoes for our winter soups and stews. But come summer, it's a completely different story: You can find beautiful ripe, flavorful tomatoes at farmers markets everywhere you go. To make the most of this magical time of year, try a few simple recipes that really highlight the tangy-sweet flavor of a great tomato. Here are 24 to get you started—including a classic Caprese salad (no balsamic, please), a couple of gazpachos, and two different takes on the BLT. Want to be fully prepared for this year's tomato season? Check out our guides to shopping for, storing, and peeling tomatoes first.
One of the absolute best showcases for ripe summer tomatoes is a Caprese salad. All you need are the juiciest, sweetest tomatoes you can find; the best fresh mozzarella; fragrant fresh basil leaves; top-shelf olive oil (and plenty of it!); plus a little coarse salt and a few grinds of black pepper. No balsamic, no arugula—just the pristine flavors of high-quality ingredients at the peak of their season.
This easy, refreshing dish draws on the elements offers a fruity twist on the classic Caprese, adding juicy apricots and subbing briny feta for mozzarella and mint for basil. As with a Caprese, if you have the option, you'll get better results by using a variety of tomatoes for contrasting textures and flavors.
Unlike Caprese, the summery Tuscan bread salad panzanella is a dish that we love to experiment with. But here, we're playing it straight, using just tomatoes, basil, bread, and a simple vinaigrette. Although you'll often find instructions to use stale bread for panzanella, we find that the best texture comes from lightly toasted fresh bread. Salt the tomatoes to concentrate their flavor, then use the drained liquid to bulk up the vinaigrette.
A staple of steakhouses and other retro dining establishments, the iceberg wedge salad walks a fine line between light/cooling and hearty/satisfying. Here, tomatoes are a supporting player, joining onion, bacon, bread crumbs, and a blue cheese dressing over a big wedge of lettuce. We salt the tomatoes to draw out some of their moisture, and quick-pickle the onions to soften their raw bite.
Let's get this straight: Gazpacho is not a cold tomato soup—it's an uncooked bread soup that's often made with tomatoes. For our very best tomato gazpacho, we cryo-blanch ripe tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, and bell pepper, popping them in the freezer for 30 minutes to extract as much moisture as possible. Then we blend all that produce with bread and lots of good olive oil, for a soup that's silky-smooth, bright red-orange, and bursting with refreshing vegetal flavor.
If you don't have the time for our Andalusian gazpacho recipe, this one will get you results that are almost as good in significantly less time. We skip the freezer, but salt the tomatoes and vegetables and let them sit for half an hour before blending. You won't get quite as much flavor extraction, but you'll still want to down the whole batch in one sitting.
Honestly, you can make a pretty great tomato sauce with canned tomatoes—so, if you're going to the trouble of using your fresh tomatoes for the task, you should really make it taste fresh. At the same time, we love the rich depth of a slow-cooked sauce. We get the best of both worlds in this recipe by combining three different components: a rich homemade tomato paste, a classic cooked tomato sauce, and a just-barely-cooked tomato purée.
A coulis is basically a bare-bones sauce—a thick purée of tomatoes that can be spread on bread and drizzled with olive oil for a snack, or combined with olive oil and basil for a pasta sauce. Making ours is a simple process of blanching ripe tomatoes, removing the skins and seeds, salting the tomatoes, and blending them up. For a finer texture, pass the coulis through a fine-mesh strainer.
It's tough to find a simpler celebration of fresh summer tomatoes than this humble tapa, made with just five ingredients—thick slices of crusty bread drizzled with olive oil, toasted in the oven, rubbed with garlic, and topped with tomato pulp made by grating beefsteak tomatoes. Serve it with a salad for a light mid-summer dinner.
We think this cousin to a BLT is one of the best ways to start a summer day: sweet tomatoes, shatteringly crisp bacon, and rich mayonnaise, all cozied up on top of a toasted English muffin. This is definitely an occasion for homemade mayo if you're feeling creative—it only takes two minutes to make with an immersion blender and tastes significantly better than the store-bought stuff. Be sure to salt the tomatoes before frying the bacon so that their juices have time to soak into the muffin.
Regular Serious Eats readers may already know that we have recipes for smoky, crispy vegan mushroom "bacon" and creamy tofu-based vegan mayo. That makes these vegan BLTs a no-brainer. We add some avocado to the sandwich, too, because avocado makes everything better.
Inspired by the tomato and smoked-feta tart at Amanda Cohen's NYC restaurant Dirt Candy, this simple yet complexly flavored tart combines halved cherry tomatoes, feta cheese, mustard, and herbs atop a buttery pie crust. Our favorite technique for adding smoke to the feta ended up being the easiest: Just add a dash of liquid smoke to the feta brine, and let it infuse into the cheese.
Stuffed tomatoes are a fun, elegant recipe that's perfect for entertaining. These are inspired by tyrokafteri, a salty and spicy Greek dip made with roasted peppers and feta. Rather than puréeing the stuffing ingredients, we chop them up to preserve some textural contrast, then spoon them into hollowed-out tomatoes and bake.
All right—we have to admit that this one is no light, breezy, Mediterranean-style nibble. These are crisply deep-fried, melty-cheese-stuffed Caprese/mozzarella stick hybrids, and they're a bit crazy, but they sure are good. To make them, stuff hollowed-out small tomatoes with individual ciliegine fresh mozzarella balls, then bread and fry them. Serve with fresh basil leaves, a balsamic reduction, and the decision to just postpone elegance till tomorrow night.
This recipe combines two of our favorite summery tomato dishes: the Caprese salad and pan con tomate featured above. Toasted slices of sourdough are topped with grated, strained tomatoes and broiled to concentrate their sweet flavor. To finish, the toasts are dolloped with creamy burrata and an herbacious basil-arugula pesto with almonds.
Slowly roasting cherry tomatoes with a glaze of sugar, salt, and olive oil concentrates their flavor and gives them a sticky-sweet exterior. They're ideal in both savory and sweet dishes, bringing intense tomato flavor to every bite. Think of them as the raisins of the tomato world.
To make this savory spread, we roast plum tomatoes with garlic and thyme until they're jammy and broken down. Combined with salty capers and good quality olive oil, the sweet and salty spread is perfect on crusty bread, tossed into a bowl of pasta, or served with meats and vegetables.
Pesto alla trapanese has many of the same components as the Ligurian basil pesto most people are familiar with—basil, nuts, garlic, olive oil, and cheese. Just swap the pine nuts for almonds and introduce juicy tomatoes for tart-sweet depth of flavor.
One of the best things you can do with fresh summer tomatoes is can them, and then keep eating them until the season rolls back around. The trick is getting the acidity level right, then processing them at the right temperature for the right amount of time. This recipe will guide you through the process from start to finish.
Sometimes, the trick for getting the most out of cherry tomatoes is to keep things simple. Here, we let their flavor and texture shine by just charring the little tomatoes and layering them on toast with burrata and chive oil.
Instead of piling these nachos with rich, heavy ingredients, we opt for the light and colorful produce that pops up during summer. You'll be surprised by just how well corn chips pair with sweet corn, juicy tomatoes, pickled radishes, tender chicken, and nacho cheese.
These classic Italian tomato toasts should be made while tomatoes are at the peak of their season. Use a mix of heirloom tomatoes for a range of color and texture, and rub garlic on the toast to release its aromatic oils.
If you're taking most of your cooking outside this summer, these chicken and tomato skewers are as summery as it gets. The chicken spends just a few minutes marinating in a lemon-garlic mixture before heading to the grill.
It only takes four ingredients and about 10 minutes to turn fresh cherry tomatoes into a wonderfully rich and thick pasta sauce. That means by the time you finish cooking your pasta, dinner is ready.
Pan-seared steak and polenta make a fantastic match, but leave something to be desired in the sauce department. Our answer: throw some cherry tomatoes in the pan while the steak rests. Stirred up with a splash of olive oil, their juices turn into a smooth sauce that delivers brightness and acidity to this simple summer feast.
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