Cherry vs. Grape Tomatoes: What’s the Difference?

Cherry tomatoes and grape tomatoes share many similarities, but there are a few characteristics that make them unique from one another.

Graphic of cherry tomatoes and grape tomatoes on a grid
Serious Eats / Getty Images

Sweet, acidic, and bursting with flavor, there’s perhaps no other type of produce more emblematic of summer—at least for me—than the tomato. When the last frost date finally passes, I look forward to digging my hands into the dormant raised garden beds in my yard and breaking up the hardened soil that’s weathered the long and hostile Midwestern winter. After preparing every bed and convincing myself each is ready to grow a healthy summer crop again, the first plants in the ground are, without question, tomatoes.

I’ve always planted classic beefsteak tomatoes in my garden, but for the past few years, I’ve convinced my family to grow an abundance of cherry tomatoes as well, including Sungold, Sugar Rush, and chocolate cherry tomatoes. I’ve always noticed the little tomatoes I get from the grocery store, though, are labeled as “grape” tomatoes, and I wondered: Was there any difference between grape tomatoes and the cherry tomatoes I was more familiar with?

To learn more about the differences between cherry and grape tomatoes and to dive into the best uses for each, I reached out to tomato expert and gardening author Craig LeHoullier, whose book Epic Tomatoes is now in its seventh printing with more than 80,000 copies in print.

How Cherry Tomatoes and Grape Tomatoes Are Different

To understand the key differences between cherry and grape tomatoes, we first need to understand more about tomatoes in general. Botanically speaking, tomatoes are considered fruits, which are defined as the fleshy part of a flowering plant that envelops one or multiple seeds. For this reason, botanists consider tomatoes a type of berry that belongs to the genus Solanum, which is the largest genus within the plant family Solanaceae. These plants are commonly referred to as nightshades, and the larger plant family includes tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, and potatoes. 

Photo of cherry tomatoes
Cherry tomatoes.Getty Images / Rosa MarÃa Fernández

LeHoullier explained to me that tomatoes, which are native to South America—most likely present day Peru and Ecuador—are thousands of years old and, like many crops we enjoy today, grew wild before earlier civilizations cultivated them for consumption. Ancient peoples domesticated and selectively bred ancient tomatoes for the best flavor. Ancient wild tomatoes resembled today’s cherry tomatoes in size, shape, and colors, appearing in red, yellow, orange, and possibly other hues as well. There are still wild tomatoes that grow in the Andes mountains today, though due to their slightly smaller size and muted flavor, they aren’t a popular ingredient. 

Compared to cherry tomatoes, grape tomatoes are extremely recent on the culinary scene in the US. “Grape tomatoes really didn't appear until the 1990s,” says LeHoullier. They made their global appearance first in mainland China and before hitting the American market shortly afterwards. It was only after Andrew Chu, owner of the self-named Chu Farms in Wimauma, Florida, received a seed packet from his friend, a Taiwanese plant breeder, that America learned of the grape tomato. Chu’s friend challenged him to grow the grape tomato on his Florida farm, which Chu did to an astounding success. The grape tomato variety Chu first planted was the Santa. According to LeHoullier, there have been two varieties of grape tomatoes from around the world that both originated from this initial class of grape tomatoes and have had the biggest hold on the grape tomato market ever since: Santa and Juliet grape tomatoes.

LeHoullier attributes the grape tomato's popularity in the US at least in part to its sweetness and robust flavor, especially when compared to globe tomatoes—the standard, baseball-sized tomatoes most people find at the grocery store. “People who are sick of tasting bland, tasteless tomatoes will buy a pack of grape tomatoes, take them home, and think, ‘Wow, it’s pretty sweet. They're pretty good,’" says LeHouillier.

Photo of grape tomatoes
Grape tomatoes.Getty Images / duckycards

Cherry tomatoes and grape tomatoes share several key similarities, but are distinct in important ways. Here’s a breakdown of how they compare side-by-side.

Appearance: The classic red cherry tomato is petite and round, similar to its namesake cherry. Grape tomatoes, on the other hand, are oblong and oval. Since cherry tomatoes are thousands of years older than their younger grape tomato cousins, there are more varieties that sport an array of tomato skin colors, including red, yellow, orange, purple, striped, and more. Although grape tomatoes these days can sometimes be found in yellow and orange, too, red is still the most common. 

Flavor: Both cherry and grape tomatoes are beloved for their sweet, acidic flavor. Grape tomatoes, however, typically have a higher sugar content and are therefore sweeter than many cherry tomatoes. That said, since cherry tomatoes have been around much longer and have been selectively bred for different characteristics, there are some incredibly sweet cherry tomatoes. For example, the Sungold is a favorite among chefs, home cooks, and gardeners, including LeHoullier, because of its intense sweetness and deep, rich flavor.

Texture: Cherry tomatoes are rounder, plumper, and a little juicier than grape tomatoes. This is due to several factors. One consideration is how much locular gel—the jelly-like substance that contains the seeds—there is relative to the amount of internal flesh of the tomato. Another is the volumetric capacity of cherry tomatoes, which are spheres, compared to grape tomatoes, which are ellipses; the elongated shape of grape tomatoes reduces the overall internal space for locular gel, which is the single juiciest element of a tomato besides juices stored within the flesh itself. Grape tomatoes also have a thicker skin than cherry tomatoes, which contributes to their longer shelf life. 

Cultivation: As far as cultivation is concerned, both tomatoes are typically straightforward and fruitful endeavors for home gardeners. “One of the best things about cherry and grape tomatoes is they open the flexibility of a gardener up to less than perfect growing conditions, and they do well in containers,” says LeHoullier. “Let's say you've got a deck and you only get three hours of sun. Grow it in a five gallon pot, keep it fed and watered, and you'll have nice, delicious, fresh-tasting tomatoes right out your back door.”

Does It Matter Which Tomato You Use?

Despite how much more recent of a development grape tomatoes are than cherry tomatoes, the two varieties are largely interchangeable.

“I would say the use of cherry tomatoes and grape tomatoes can probably be similar,” says LeHoullier. “If people either eat them off the vine or in the garden, or they blister them, or sauté them in olive oil until the skin chars a little bit and then put them in pasta, the flavor just pops out.” Cooks spoiled with an abundance of cherry or grape tomatoes can also make a quick pasta sauce, or preserve them as tomato jam to savor their flavor during the cold months. 

“I would overall say I have preferred more cherry tomatoes I've met in my life than grape (generalizing very broadly here given the number of different varieties), but from a practical standpoint, I consider them more or less interchangeable,” says Serious Eats editorial director Daniel Gritzer. “Given that cherry tomatoes tend towards being seedier and juicier, I think they're a better bet if you want to do something like a burst-tomato pasta sauce, since they'll break down more quickly and release more juices than most grape tomatoes.”  

Culinary editor Genevieve Yam echoes Daniel’s sentiments, noting her favorite variety of cherry tomatoes are Sungolds. “They’re sweet and tangy, making them a versatile tomato for enjoying raw or cooked.” 

Both cherry and grape tomatoes are sweeter than classic globe tomatoes, and also higher in pectin, so swapping either of the small tomatoes in for globe tomatoes will yield a sweeter and thicker final product. Between the two smaller tomatoes themselves, grape tomatoes will produce the sweetest and thickest result, as grape tomatoes are typically even sweeter than cherry tomatoes and contain less liquid. To maximize yield in sauces, cherry tomatoes may be better suited. Grape tomatoes, on the other hand, will hold their shape better and release fewer juices when roasted, which is ideal for keeping oven dishes flavorful without having too much liquid accumulate in the pan.

Perhaps the most noticeable difference between the two types of tomatoes in the kitchen would be when slicing them. Since grape tomatoes are firmer and slightly less juicy than cherry tomatoes, they tend to hold up better under the average knife. Cherry tomatoes, on the other hand, are more susceptible to losing their shape or bursting under the pressure, especially if the knife is dull. However, cherry tomatoes offer more options for a diversity of flavors, like juicy, tangy Sungolds and smoky, earthy chocolate cherry tomatoes—and they offer more colorful choices in terms of presentation, including green, purple, pink, gold, black, and striped variations.

The Takeaway

Both cherry and grape tomatoes are delicious and easy to cultivate in a home garden, or even an apartment fire escape. However, cherry tomatoes provide more options, both in terms of appearance and flavor, than grape tomatoes. The latter, on the other hand, is a little sturdier and typically sweeter than many cherry tomatoes, especially the ones you'll find at a grocery store. Either can be easily swapped for the other, so it ultimately comes down to what you want your summer to taste like.

Black Raspberries vs. Blackberries: The Difference Between These Summer Fruits

Black raspberries and blackberries may seem similar, but there are key differences in their appearance, taste, texture, and cost. We examined the differences between the two and how to use each of them.

Graphic of blackberries and black raspberries
Serious Eats / Getty Images

One of the many joys of summer is the abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables. As a native of Michigan, which is rich in berries, I especially look forward to blackberry season. Every bite tastes like a burst of summer after a harsh Midwestern winter, and to this day, my mom still makes my great grandmother’s freezer jam recipe with fresh blackberries to remember the hot summer once the cold returns. A few years back when my family owned a bakery, though, my mom came back from the farmers market with a few cartons of black raspberries.

I’d never heard of these dark little berries before, but they were absolutely delicious out of hand. Similar in shape but slightly smaller, crunchier, and considerably sweeter than the more familiar blackberries, these new-to-me berries became fast favorites. We used them to make an icing to decorate lemon cupcakes, and within an hour, every last cupcake with black raspberry icing was gone. In the following days, our regular customers raved to us about the fruit—they were especially keen to know where we had gotten them, and when we would be getting more. To our dismay, they never reappeared.

These mysterious little berries left me with more questions than answers. After all this time, I decided it was time to get to the bottom of this mystery and learn more about black raspberries, where they grow, how they differ from blackberries, and why they’ve never again crossed my path.

How Blackberries and Black Raspberries Differ

Photo of black raspberries
Black raspberriesGetty / Alexander Matvienko / 500px

Both blackberries and black raspberries belong to the plant family Rosaceae. More specifically, both belong to the genus Rubus, which also includes several other berries, including boysenberries, dewberries, and red raspberries. Most people are familiar with the more common red raspberry than the black raspberry, and while they are similar, they do have slight differences. For one, red raspberries are slightly tart. Black raspberries, on the other hand, are entirely sweet. Since both are raspberries, though, they do have similar flavors. 

Blackberries have been readily available on the national produce market since the mid 19th century. Their long history of availability, coupled with producers’ desires to increase yields—and therefore profits—has resulted in the development of new varieties of blackberries. Common blackberry cultivars that are often found at grocery stores and farmers markets include the award-winning Ouachita, which is prized for its flavor and large fruit, and the Triple Crown blackberry, which is regarded as one of the best varieties because of the integrity of the fruit’s post-harvest quality. Both were cultivated at the University of Alabama. Black raspberries, on the other hand, have remained a singular variety due to their lack of commercial availability.

Hybridizing blackberries refers to the cross-pollinating of one type of blackberry with another plant species to produce new characteristics in the resulting fruit. For more than a century, commercial producers have hybridized blackberries for a slew of new characteristics, including disease resistance, tolerance to both cold and warm weather, and more.

“You'll find blackberries growing pretty far north, but also all the way down into the middle of Mexico, where it's warm all the time,” says Marvin Pritts, Horticulture Professor and Chair in the School of Integrated Plant Science at Cornell University. “Most of these plants require a cold period to go dormant and make flower buds, and then the next year they flower and fruit. Some of the blackberries they develop now, they don't really need to get that cold period. So you can grow them in warm climates and produce blackberries almost year round.”

Black raspberries, though, have remained in small-scale production due to their lack of familiarity. This is largely due to their smaller native growing area, which consists of the eastern United States from approximately Missouri to North Carolina and northward. Even if black raspberries appeared at a market outside their typical growing area, Pritts explains that berry producers believe it’s unlikely shoppers would recognize and take a chance on them. “If you're a commercial operation and you're supplying the whole country with fruit, you’ll want to produce things that everybody's familiar with,” says Pritts. “The black raspberry market would be focused on just the Northeast.”

Photo of blackberries
BlackberriesGetty Images / RedHelga

Aside from blackberries having a larger range of availability than black raspberries, here are some other ways the two berries differ, plus some similarities.

Season: Both berries differ in seasonal availability; black raspberries normally peak in June and July, while blackberry season typically occurs later in the summer than black raspberry season, with yields peaking in July and August and some going into September, depending on the year. As numerous new varieties of hybridized blackberries continue to enter the market, however, the blackberry’s natural growing season can begin earlier so commercial producers can have higher yields, sell more berries, and generate more profits. For example, the Arapaho, Kiowa, and Prime Ark Freedom blackberry varieties are known for their earlier ripening periods, which begin in June.

Appearance: Although slightly similar in appearance at first glance, blackberries and black raspberries have aesthetic differences upon closer inspection. Black raspberries have a hollow center once they’re picked, while blackberries remain solid. Additionally, blackberries are significantly larger than black raspberries, with some blackberry varieties bred and prized for their large size. 

Taste and texture: Both berries taste sweet, but the black raspberry is significantly sweeter. Blackberries are more tart, even throughout their hundreds of varieties, compared to black raspberries, but blackberries tend to be juicier than black raspberries. Finally black raspberries are crunchier than blackberries due to their numerous seeds .

Cost: Blackberries are almost always cheaper than black raspberries due to their large-scale cultivation, which spreads producers’ costs over a greater number of potential sales, especially in areas where black raspberries are imported as a specialty.

Does It Really Matter Which You Use?

Though similar, blackberries and black raspberries are each suited for different uses. Blackberries have a long and delicious history of being turned into jams and jellies, simmered into sticky-sweet compotes, and baked into cobblers. Black raspberries, on the other hand, boast a bold and sweet flavor without the need for sugar. People fortunate enough to live where black raspberries grow wild often pick them and enjoy them immediately out of hand, savoring their unadulterated flavor.

How to Substitute Blackberries for Black Raspberries and Vice Versa

Both berries can be swapped out for any purpose—Pritts says that while they differ, it ultimately comes down to personal preference. However, when substituting black raspberries for blackberries, cooks may need to make several adjustments to their recipes. Since black raspberries are smaller, they contain less juice than blackberries. This means a larger quantity of black raspberries may be required to create the same yield in a recipe even if measured by weight, since more of a black raspberry’s weight will be due to solid plant matter, like skin, stems, and seeds, than a juicier blackberry. A greater number of individual berries means a greater number of seeds in the final product, but this can be avoided if you strain the seeds from the berry juices. Additionally, since black raspberries are significantly sweeter, the amount of sugar may need to be reduced in order to remain palatable, but it’s important to note that changing the amount of sugar in jams, jellies, and fillings has the potential to alter the consistency of the final product.

“I work with all these fruits, but I'll take black raspberries any day,” says Pritts. “Eating them fresh is no problem. But if I make a pie, I'll oftentimes strain the seeds out just so it won't be such a seedy pie.”

The Takeaway

Both blackberries and black raspberries are excellent for snacking on raw and using in the kitchen. Similar in appearance but different in size, growing area, availability, and flavor, both berries can be used in similar ways. Black raspberries, though, are wholly distinct and unlike any other berry out there, and worth trying at least once—if you’re lucky enough to find them.

A Guide to Banana Varieties Around the World

In the U.S., most people only have access to the Cavendish, a slender, slightly curved banana with a cheerful shade of yellow. Around the world, however, there are thousands of varieties to know and love—here are a few.

Collage of different banana types
Getty Images

The more you think about bananas, the stranger a concept they seem: Almost all bananas are grown in tropical climates, yet they feel as much a staple in North American grocery stores as our native apples. But unlike apples, there’s only one variety of banana available to most people in the United States: the Cavendish, a slender, slightly curved banana with a cheerful shade of yellow.

Around the world, however, there are thousands of other banana varieties—they just aren’t readily available outside of their native growing areas. Below, we’ll take a look at some of those cultivars, including ones that you can find in the U.S. (if you know where to look!) and others that you should add to your list if you ever find yourself somewhere tropical. Trust me, they’re worth seeking out.

What Exactly Are Bananas, Anyway?

Botanically speaking, bananas are berries. A single banana develops from one pollinated flower containing one ovary, and the mature fruit contains three distinct parts: an outer skin, a fleshy middle, and an innermost layer containing several seeds. Banana plants belong to the biological genus Musa, which contains 83 flowering plants, including bananas and plantains. Banana “trees” are technically not trees; rather, they’re herbaceous plants that can grow up to 40 feet tall. Instead of a tree’s signature trunk or woody stem, banana plants’ stems are composed of multiple individual leaf stalks.

Bananas are indigenous to tropical portions of India, Southeast Asia, and northern Australia, though this range specifically speaks to Musa acuminata—the Dwarf Cavendish—which is the modern banana’s wild ancestor. Scientists concur that the domesticated bananas we are familiar with today first originated in Papua New Guinea approximately 7,000 years ago. People brought bananas with them on their travels, and, over the course of several centuries, spread the fruit across the globe. Sailors introduced bananas to Africa for trade, and in turn European colonizers imported the fruit to the Americas. Today, bananas grow in Central and South America, Africa, and their native Indomalaya and Australia.

A Brief History of Banana Consumption in the U.S.

Americans have been importing bananas since 1870, when the American businessman Lorenzo Dow Baker loaded 160 bunches of bananas from Jamaica onto his ship. After cashing in the fruit in Boston for $6,400—which, adjusted for inflation, is more than $150,000 today—Baker quickly formed the Boston Fruit Company. Recognizing that bananas could be picked while firm, stored in a cool and dry cargo hold during transit, and be perfectly ripe by the time they arrived at American ports, Boston Fruit Company created the banana trade’s business model that is still in use today. This, combined with consumers’ willingness to pay $2 (approximately $50 today) per bunch of bananas, proved that bananas meant big business. 

To establish a national presence, northeast-based Boston Fruit Company merged with southeast-dominant Tropical Trading and Transport Company in 1899, forming United Fruit Company. United Fruit Company further entrenched Boston Fruit Company’s vertically-integrated business model, and coupled it with the robust Central American rail network built by and inherited from Tropical Trading and Transport Company based in New Orleans. Doing so firmly established the lasting infrastructure necessary to grow, pick, transport, market, and sell the banana as an everyday commodity in the United States.

Through aggressive marketing and campaigning stateside, fruit companies were able to cement the banana as an affordable American staple, and the fruit has since become a go-to snack and common baking ingredient in many households. Today, bananas are deeply ingrained in our everyday lives, so much so that bananas are consistently the most popular fresh fruit purchased in the United States.

Editor’s Note: While a deep-dive on the often fraught industry of bananas is beyond the scope of this article, we recommend reading Dan Koeppel’s excellent book Bananas: The Fate of the Fruit That Changed the World for an in-depth look at the often insidious role of colonization and globalization in popularizing the fruit.)

How the Banana Industry Led Us to a Singular Banana Variety

As more and more Americans expected consistency and convenience at their fingertips, the fruit industry realized it would need to standardize the bananas available for purchase. Sweet, creamy, and slightly floral, the Gros Michel banana—the precursor to the Cavendish—was the perfect cultivar. Beyond its exceptional flavor, the Gros Michel’s ability to withstand long ocean voyages without being easily bruised or damaged also made it an excellent candidate for international commerce. 

Because the Gros Michel is a sterile variety of banana that virtually lacks seeds, cultivating the banana requires cloning it through asexual propagation. While this creates a perfectly consistent product, it also produces genetically identical fruit. In short: a threat to one Gros Michel banana tree is a threat to every Gros Michel banana tree, which, in this case, would endanger the entire banana industry. Danger quickly presented itself in the form of Fusarium wilt, or “Panama Disease,” a soil-borne fungus.

In the 1890s, Panama Disease evolved to attack the Gros Michel in Panama, and quickly posed a threat to the rest of the crop. Once infected, a banana plant’s leaves begin to yellow, wilt, and crumple—beginning with mature leaves and eventually affecting newer growth—until the whole plant dies. A series of epidemics decimated the commercial Gros Michel plantations across Central and South America, and by the 1950s, it was impossible to grow the variety at the same scale. Panama Disease would have ended the sale of convenient, tasty, affordable bananas Americans had grown accustomed to had United Fruit Company not quickly pivoted.

Instead of fixing the issue at hand by changing their farming practices, United Fruit Company simply picked a similar banana—the Cavendish—to quietly replace the Gros Michel. Today, the Cavendish is asexually cloned in the exact same manner the Gros Michel was. Just like its predecessor, the Cavendish’s lack of genetic diversity puts it at risk of, once again, disappearing from the mass market at the hands of Panama Disease

In our pursuit for the one perfect banana, we have severely limited our understanding of this flavorful, diverse, and abundant fruit—and have deprived ourselves of something fundamental to the joy of cooking: variety. Just as different potatoes are better suited to different applications—waxy for potato salad, starchy for mashed spuds—there are banana cultivars that are better suited for specific uses. Read on for a look at just a few varieties. If you want to try these but aren’t in their growing area, many of them can be purchased online at Miami Fruit, Melissa’s, and Fruit Hunters.

Banana Varieties Today

Gros Michel Banana

Color: Yellow peel, creamy flesh
Flavor: Sweet, strongly floral
Texture: Densely creamy
Best Uses: Banana pudding, bananas Foster, eaten raw

Ripe Gros Michel Banan
Getty Images / Thicha studio

The first banana America fell in love with, the Gros Michel is sometimes referred to as “Big Mike,” which is the English translation for this variety’s French name. As its name suggests, the Gros Michel banana can grow to be quite large and thick. With their firmer texture and slightly sweeter and floral taste, Gros Michel bananas are an ideal dessert banana that really shines in both dishes that need a banana punch with the intensity of banana Runts candy or that require the banana be cooked. Although gone from the mass market, Gros Michel bananas can still be purchased from online retailers who grow them on a much smaller scale.

Gros Michel bananas can be ordered online at Miami Fruit.

Cavendish Banana

Color: Yellow peel, white flesh
Flavor: Slightly sweet
Texture: Lightly creamy
Best Uses: Eaten raw, banana splits, banana pudding, or banana bread

Bunch of cavendish bananas
Getty Images / sutthichai somthong

The Cavendish, which is the banana most people are familiar with in the United States, accounts for 47% of all global production—significantly more than any other variety—and functions as the backbone of the banana business today. It’s no surprise why: Its sweet, well-rounded, and mildly fruity flavor make it an easy snack and versatile ingredient. Since it isn’t the densest banana out there, the Cavendish is a great choice for eating raw or incorporating into desserts like banana bread.

Nam Wah Banana

Color: Blackened, yellow peel, creamy flesh
Flavor: Sweet vanilla
Texture: Dense and creamy, almost silky
Best Uses: Eaten raw, smoothies, raw banana desserts

Nam Wah Banana
Getty Images / sasimoto

Unlike other banana varieties, Nam Wah bananas are ripe only once their peels have almost blackened entirely. Their flesh, however, will remain a light, creamy color. Nam Wah bananas are beloved for their exceptionally sweet flavor that’s reminiscent of vanilla. Combined with their silky smooth texture, these bananas are a delicious treat eaten on their own, but would also make an excellent choice for desserts like banana pudding or banana splits. 

Nam Wah bananas can be ordered online at Fruit Hunters.

Mysore Banana

Color: Golden yellow peel, creamy flesh
Flavor: Very sweet
Texture: Very creamy
Best Uses: Eaten raw, smoothies, frozen and dipped in chocolate

Also known as Pisang Keling bananas, Mysore bananas are characterized by their thin skins that appear almost golden when ripe, as well as their small stature. Due to their candy-like sweetness, Mysore bananas are a favorite among those who’ve tried them. Given their size and flavor, these bananas would be excellent for dipping in chocolate and freezing as a sweet snack. 

When they’re in season, Mysore bananas can be ordered from Miami Fruit.

Pisang Raja Banana

Color: Yellow-orange peel, yellow flesh
Flavor: Sweet and slightly citrusy
Texture: Incredibly smooth
Best Uses: Eaten raw, banana splits

The Pisang Raja banana is known for its nearly starch-free texture once it ripens. This characteristic makes its flesh one of the creamiest bananas people can buy. Pisang Raja bananas’ slight citrusy note would make it an excellent addition to fruit salads, or even sliced and added as a pancake topping for a creamy, complex note.

The Pisang Raja banana can be ordered online from Miami Fruit.

Lady Finger Banana

Color: Light yellow peel, pale flesh
Flavor: Sweet, honey-like taste
Texture: Creamy
Best Uses: Left raw and used in desserts like banana splits or banana pudding

Bunch of lady finger bananas
Getty Images / sirichai_asawalapsakul

Also known as sugar bananas, Lady Finger bananas are smaller and slightly sweeter than the familiar Cavendish. They are native to Southeast Asia and are commonly found in grocery stores within the Asia-Pacific region. Interestingly, Lady Finger bananas are resistant to browning once cut. Lady Finger bananas’ ability to stay visually appealing, along with their honey-like flavor, makes them a great choice for uncooked banana desserts and fruit salads.

Señorita Banana

Color: Light yellow peel, pale flesh
Flavor: Super sweet
Texture: Incredibly soft
Best Uses: Eaten raw or mashed and used in banana bread or banana cream pie

The Señorita banana, also referred to as the Monkoy or Arnibal banana, is native to the Philippines. They are renowned for their super sweet flavor and incredibly creamy texture. Although prized and delicious, Señorita bananas are typically too fragile to transport and are also vulnerable to a number of pathogens, which prevents their large-scale cultivation. They are typically found sparsely in rural areas, though some smaller retailers do harvest and offer them for sale in the Philippines

Their absence on the mass market certainly doesn’t stop Filipinos and tourists from enjoying them, though. Due to their fragility and scarcity, they’re often eaten raw but would certainly make a welcome addition to sweet banana desserts that fully integrate the fruit, like banana bread or banana cream pie. Better yet, switching out the traditional Saba banana and accounting for the Señorita banana’s delicate texture could yield a particularly creamy adaptation of turon, a fried banana roll dessert native to the Philippines.

Red Bananas

Color: Red peel, pale to pinkish flesh
Flavor: Sweet
Texture: Creamy
Best Uses: Eaten raw, cooked and added to savory dishes

Side view of red bananas
Getty Images / bhofack2

Red bananas are no stranger to the United States and are sometimes available at major supermarkets like Kroger and Walmart, and often found for sale through specialty online fruit suppliers, but they certainly deserve some more love and attention. In addition to being slightly sweeter than the already familiar Cavendish, red bananas are also denser and have firmer flesh, which makes them a good candidate for cooked dishes. In Thailand, for example, cooks frequently incorporate red bananas into curries to add sweetness and balance other flavors in the dish. Being sweeter and slightly creamier than the Cavendish, red bananas are also a good candidate for bananas Foster, a dish of flambéed bananas and vanilla ice cream.

Blue Java Banana

Color: Light yellow peel, pale flesh
Flavor: Slightly tart
Texture: Soft serve ice cream
Best Uses: Smoothies, mashed and used in banana bread

Blue Java bananas are sometimes referred to as “ice cream bananas,” but are neither blue nor taste like ice cream. While these bananas do have a blue tint to their skin when underripe, they brighten up to a pale yellow when fully ripened. The ice cream misnomer is likely due to their incredibly smooth, custard-like texture. While internet lore also claims these misunderstood bananas taste like vanilla, according to rare fruit seller Miami Fruit, this variety actually tastes slightly tart. Blue Java bananas, which are native to Southeast Asia, would be a welcome addition to smoothies or just enjoyed on their own.

Blue Java bananas can be ordered online from Miami Fruit.

Manzano Banana

Color: Dark yellow peel, pale flesh
Flavor: Sweet with a slight fruity flavor
Texture: Creamy
Best Uses: Smoothies, custards, desserts

Bunch of Manzano Bananas
Getty Images / Yoyochow23

The Manzano banana is native to Central and South America, and reputed for its sweet, fruity flavor. With notes of apple and strawberry, it's often referred to as the apple banana. The riper it gets, the more intense its unique aroma becomes. Some swear that the Manzano is best enjoyed when its peel is speckled with dark spots or has turned completely black. In any case, a banana with a more noticeably complex flavor would make an excellent ingredient in smoothies, custards, or banana pudding.


Color: Green, yellow, or black
Flavor: Mild to sweet
Texture: Firm to creamy
Best Uses: Savory dishes of all kinds

Plantains on white
Getty Images / Picture Partners

Although not often thought of as typical bananas, plantains are part of the banana family—the biological genus Musa—and are certainly delicious in different ways than their dessert-oriented cousins. Better yet, they’re typically not too hard to find in the United States. Plantains’ higher starch content and lack of sweetness make them an excellent ingredient in savory dishes. Plantains are also an interesting ingredient because cultures around the world have ingeniously figured out how to prepare them at every stage of their ripeness. Just to give two examples, while underripe and green, plantains are destined to be sliced, smashed, and fried into tostones, which is a dish native to Latin America and the Caribbean, but when when fully ripened and black, plantains in the form of maduros are an excellent snack.