Substitute for Stewed Tomatoes: What Can You Use?

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Like many Americans, I grew up with Sunday meals that included stewed tomatoes (usually prepared by granny) as a staple at the lunch table. I am not much for slow cooking, so I have come to rely on canned stewed tomatoes, but this past Sunday, I ran out! 

Knowing my family wouldn’t be happy without their traditional stewed tomatoes (especially my mom, who was visiting), I had to find a great substitution for stewed tomatoes in a flash. Fortunately, I found several and was surprised by how well these substitutes worked.  

Stewed tomatoes can be substituted with tomato sauce, tomato paste, tomato puree, sun-dried tomatoes, crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, whole canned tomatoes, spaghetti sauce, and salsa. Which substitution you use depends on what you are serving with the stewed tomatoes and how much prep time you have. 

Tomatoes add that special touch to a meal, and stewed tomatoes have become a real traditional fix in most homes, so never be without your yum-fix with these great substitutes for stewed tomatoes. 

What Is a Stewed Tomato?

Stewed tomato is when tomatoes are slowly cooked, usually while still whole, retaining their shape, boosting the pungent flavor, and increasing the nutritional value. 

Served with meals, stewed tomatoes are a side dish that is made with chopped, slow-cooked tomatoes, diced garlic, onions, and green bell peppers. 

Usually, stewed tomatoes are preserved in glass jars, or if you know a cannery near you, you can have them canned to give your stewed tomatoes a longer shelf-life. 

Ultimately, stewed tomato is a pungent, flavor-filled complement to any meal. 

What Is Stewed Tomato Used For?

While you can go traditional and enjoy your stewed tomatoes with fresh bread and roasted meat, you can also use it in many delicious recipes from soups and sauces to stews and pasta sauce. 

The uses for stewed tomatoes are endless, and with a bit of tweaking, no two recipes will taste the same, allowing for excellent variety in your kitchen. 

6 Best Substitutes for Stewed Tomato 

So let’s stew right into it with the best substitutes for the classic stewed tomatoes. 

Tomato Sauce

If you like French fries or have kids, then you probably have tomato sauce in your fridge. 

Tomato sauce is a kitchen staple, and while it’s the quick-and-easy version of other tomato treats, it can also be used as a great substitute for stewed tomato and more. 

Tomato sauce has a smoother texture than stewed tomatoes, but it is also thicker, which makes it ideal for pasta, pizzas, and saucy dishes. 

Substitute tomato sauce for stewed tomatoes in a ratio of 1:¾. 

Sun-Dried Tomatoes 

For a flavor match, use sun-dried tomatoes instead of stewed tomatoes. Where sun-dried tomatoes can be less juicy, you can easily adjust this by adding in some olive oil or tomato puree to increase the liquid content. 

If no additional flavorings are added to the sun-dried tomatoes, you can dice the tomatoes and add in a sliced half cup of onions and bell peppers to better match the flavor profile. 

Substitute in a ratio of 1:½ as sun-dried tomatoes is much more flavorsome than stewed tomatoes. 

Canned Diced Tomatoes

Diced tomatoes in a can are tomatoes that are sliced up into small chunks with a firmer texture than stewed tomatoes. If you’re after a slightly more crisp texture that pops, then using diced tomatoes instead of stewed tomatoes is a winner. 

Substitute in a ratio of 1:¾, as diced tomatoes, will offer a more textured finish to your dish. 

Tomato Paste

Tomato paste is an Italian staple and ideal for pasta sauces, but it’s also an excellent substitute for stewed tomatoes if you add some water, sliced onions, bell peppers, and crushed garlic. 

The texture and bright color will add some oomph to any meal. 

Because of the rich taste of tomato paste, it’s recommended you substitute it in a ratio of 1:⅓ so you don’t overwhelm your dish. 

Tomato Puree

With a little tweaking, you can achieve a similar flavor profile as stewed tomatoes with tomato puree. 

Since tomato puree is also steamed, it’s a great match to stewed tomatoes in consistency and texture. 

However, only salt is added to tomato puree, so you’ll have to up the flavor by adding finely chopped onion, garlic, and bell peppers. 

Substitute in a ratio of 1:⅔ to match the flavor and consistency, keeping in mind you’ll have to add some extra flavoring. 

Pasta Sauce

If you’re all out of tomatoes, a bottle of pasta sauce can do in a pinch as it likely contains all the ingredients of stewed tomatoes anyway. Although the consistency of pasta sauce is more runny than stewed tomatoes, it has a similar flavor and coloring. 

Substitute at an equal ratio if used for sauces or stews. 

For other dishes that require stewed tomatoes, you can use them according to taste, using more chopped onions to add some chunkiness if needed.  

Can You Use Crushed Tomatoes in Place of Stewed Tomatoes?

Crushed tomatoes also make for a good substitute for stewed tomatoes. Crushed tomatoes are tomatoes that have been crushed and blended with a bit of tomato puree, giving them a dense and creamy consistency. 

Taste-wise, crushed tomatoes, and stewed tomatoes have similar flavor notes, though crushed tomatoes contain pips, which can add a bitter-sweet taste. 

Are Canned Diced Tomatoes the Same as Stewed Tomatoes?

Diced tomatoes have a less chunky texture than stewed tomatoes and a fresher taste too. Since diced tomatoes are made by slicing tomatoes and adding flavorings like onions, bell peppers, garlic, and more, the flavoring is somewhat different. 

However, you can use canned diced tomatoes instead of stewed tomatoes in many dishes like a Sunday casserole. 

My Last Foodie Thoughts 

I’ve since learned that running out of stewed tomatoes isn’t a train smash, and even my mom enjoyed my substitution of sun-dried tomato and a little tomato puree to add that side dish sensation with the Sunday roast. 

Remember to check the flavor profile before choosing a stewed tomato substitute and start with a “less is more” approach before simply chucking in a whole can or bottle of tomato-something. 

Happy stewing!

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