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Chunky stewed tomatoes, cooked with onions, garlic, peppers, and celery, are delicious as a side dish on their own but also make a great savory addition to stews, soups, and casseroles. What happens when you’ve got a recipe that calls for stewed tomatoes, and you’re all out? What are the best substitutes for stewed tomatoes?
The best substitutes for stewed tomatoes are fresh or canned tomatoes, such as tomato sauce; whole, diced, or crushed tomatoes; tomato puree or paste; or sundried tomatoes, although you will need to adjust flavor and texture. You can also use spaghetti sauce, salsa, or even roasted peppers.
Stewed tomatoes are tasty, whether you’ve made them yourself or prefer the bought, canned variety, with their array of seasonings. They’re a must-have for slow-cooked dishes where you need their bright flavor and soft, rich mushiness. What can you use instead of stewed tomatoes?
Best Substitute for Stewed Tomatoes: Tomato Sauce
- Best for: pasta sauce, stew, pizza
- Substitute ratio: 1 cup stewed tomatoes = ¾ cup tomato sauce
In terms of matching flavor and cooking time, tomato sauce is your best substitute for stewed tomatoes.
Tomato sauce ( not to be confused with spaghetti sauce or ketchup) is a canned sauce made from tomatoes that have been boiled, peeled, seeded, and pureed, then flavored with sugar, herbs, spices, onion, garlic, or even cheese or pesto, depending on the brand you’re buying.
You can choose a flavor that best matches the stewed tomatoes flavor you wanted, or use plain tomato sauce and season it yourself.
However, you will have a very different texture to your dish, as tomato sauce is much smoother and thicker than chunky stewed tomatoes.
Quickest Substitute for Stewed Tomatoes: Spaghetti Sauce
- Best for: pasta sauce, stew, pizza
- Substitute ratio: 1 cup stewed tomatoes = 1 cup spaghetti sauce
If you’re in a real hurry to get dinner on the table, grab a jar of ready-made spaghetti sauce as a replacement for stewed tomatoes.
Tomato-based spaghetti sauces (also called marinara sauce or Napolitana sauce) are usually slow-cooked. They contain many of the same ingredients as stewed tomatoes, such as herbs, garlic, onions, celery, and peppers. In terms of flavor, spaghetti sauce is a perfect substitute.
Spaghetti sauce is usually thinner than stewed tomatoes, so your consistency will be different. However, this isn’t an issue if you’re making a sauce or stew anyway.
Salad Substitute for Stewed Tomatoes: Fresh Tomatoes
- Best for: salad, pizza, salsa
- Substitute ratio: 1 cup stewed tomatoes = ½ cup fresh tomatoes
An easy and healthy substitute for stewed tomatoes is fresh, ripe Roma, plum, or beefsteak tomatoes, either from your garden or fridge.
If you’ve got the time, one option would be to make your own stewed tomatoes, cooking down the chopped tomatoes with herbs, garlic, onions, and celery.
However, you’re probably opening a can of stewed tomatoes to save time, so chop your fresh tomatoes and add them to the dish you’re making. You will have to cook the dish for longer.
You won’t lose out in terms of texture, as you can chop the tomatoes roughly, like stewed tomatoes, and they’ll cook down to succulent juiciness quite quickly, especially if they’re fresh from your garden. But you will lose out on the flavor of the stewed tomatoes’ slow cooking, so you’ll have to add seasoning.
Stew Substitute for Stewed Tomatoes: Whole Tomatoes
- Best for: stew, pasta sauce, soup, casserole
- Substitute ratio: 1 cup stewed tomatoes = 2/3 cup whole tomatoes
Canned whole tomatoes are the highest quality tinned tomatoes you will find. These are usually peeled whole plum tomatoes in their juice or tomato puree.
For texture, canned whole tomatoes are a great substitute, as you can crush or chop these tomatoes to mimic the roughness of stewed tomatoes and add the juice and puree for additional richness and bright tomato flavor. They will need to cook a little longer than the slow-cooked stewed tomatoes, though.
Flavorwise, you’ll have to do some work, though, adding seasoning, onion, celery, and bell peppers if you want a similar effect to stewed tomatoes.
Salsa Substitute for Stewed Tomatoes: Diced Tomatoes
- Best for: salsa, chili, pasta sauce, soup, stew
- Substitute ratio: 1 cup stewed tomatoes = ¾ cup diced tomatoes
If you’ve got no more stewed tomatoes in the pantry, you may well have a can of diced or chopped tomatoes that will make an excellent substitute.
Diced tomatoes are tomato chunks canned in tomato juice, so they have a similar texture to stewed tomatoes, although without the melting softness of slow-cooking.
Depending on the brand you find, diced tomatoes may be flavored, seasoned, or even roasted or smoked, which will add to the richness of your dish, especially if you’re willing to allow for a slightly longer cooking time.
One of the best brands of diced tomatoes as a substitute is Rotel, which makes spiced tomatoes cooked with chili peppers. If you were planning to use Mexican-style stewed tomatoes, this is your ideal substitute.
Pasta Substitute for Stewed Tomatoes: Crushed Tomatoes
- Best for: pasta sauce, soup, stew
- Substitute ratio: 1 cup stewed tomatoes = ¾ cup crushed tomatoes
Crushed tomatoes are another possible stewed tomato substitute. This kind of tomato is usually packaged in cartons, as they are so processed as to be pourable.
Crushed tomatoes consist of a combination of finely chopped tomatoes and tomato puree, so the texture is thicker and smoother than that of stewed tomatoes. They cook down quickly for a luscious, mushy texture.
The flavor of crushed tomatoes is bright and hearty but without the seasoning that stewed tomatoes have, so you’ll have to add something to get the same depth of flavor.
Soup Substitute for Stewed Tomatoes: Tomato Puree
- Best for: soup, pasta sauce, pizza
- Substitute ratio: 1 cup stewed tomatoes = 2/3 cup tomato puree
You can use tomato puree to substitute for stewed tomatoes if all you’re after is tomato flavor and a thicker consistency sauce.
Tomato puree is made from cooked down, pureed tomatoes without their skins or seeds and can range from reasonably smooth, sauce-like consistency, to a thicker liquid, more like tomato paste.
If you use tomato puree instead of stewed tomatoes in a sauce or stew, you will have to add both water and additional seasoning and vegetables. Otherwise, you will have a single-note tomato flavor.
Marinade Substitute for Stewed Tomatoes: Tomato Paste
- Best for: marinade, pasta sauce, soup, casserole, pizza
- Substitute ratio: 1 cup stewed tomatoes = 1/3 cup tomato paste
Of all the canned and processed tomato varieties, tomato paste is the least ideal substitute for stewed tomatoes because of both flavor and consistency.
Tomato paste is produced by slow-cooking and reducing tomatoes to a thick, almost solid paste, which is best used as a flavor enhancer when you want an underlying tomato flavor or enrich other tomatoes. You can buy it in tubes, small tins, or foil packets, as you usually only use it sparingly.
To substitute tomato paste for stewed tomatoes, you have two challenges. First, tomato paste is very intense and can make a dish taste less like fresh tomatoes. Second, the texture is thick and robust. Therefore, you will need to use only a little tomato paste and add water, other vegetables, and seasonings to create texture and varied flavor.
However, tomato paste does add bright color and a burst of flavor, so it is well worth considering.
Pizza Substitute for Stewed Tomatoes: Sundried Tomatoes
- Best for: pizza, salad, pasta sauce
- Substitute ratio: 1 cup stewed tomatoes = ½ cup sundried tomatoes
Sundried tomatoes are dehydrated, that is, all the liquid removed, leaving whole chunks of tomato.
You can buy sundried tomatoes packed in olive oil, which you can use immediately, as their texture is tender and succulent, like stewed tomatoes. These tomatoes are an excellent substitute for stewed tomatoes, as they are full of tart flavor. You may have to add a little tomato puree or water to get the same consistency.
Other sundried tomatoes need to be reconstituted in hot water before use. Like tomato paste, sundried tomatoes will add an intense and tart flavor to any dish. They also have a chewy texture even when cooked. If you use these tomatoes, you’ll need to adjust your seasonings and add some water if you’re making a sauce.
Chili Substitute for Stewed Tomatoes: Salsa
- Best for: chili
- Substitute ratio: 1 cup stewed tomatoes = 1 cup salsa
If you’ve got a jar of this Mexican dip in the cupboard, salsa can be an excellent substitute for stewed tomatoes in chili.
Because it contains many ingredients in stewed tomatoes, like garlic, chili peppers, and onions, salsa is a suitable flavor match. In terms of consistency, salsa doesn’t have the lusciousness of stewed tomatoes, but if you’re willing to cook it down for a while – and chili does need some cooking – you’ll come out with a tasty dish.
Easiest Substitute for Stewed Tomatoes: Ketchup
- Best for: stew, casserole
- Substitute ratio: 1 cup stewed tomatoes = ½ cup ketchup
When your fridge and pantry are bare, you’ll usually still have a bottle of ketchup hanging around – or perhaps those sachets you get with takeout.
This handy condiment can add a punch of tomato flavor and a delicious sweetness to any dish, and you can use it instead of tomato paste anytime. Ketchup will brighten up your dish but won’t give it much depth of flavor and interest.
Also, to use ketchup as a substitute for stewed tomatoes, you’ll have to add water and vegetables to achieve some bite.
Casserole Substitute for Stewed Tomatoes: Tomato Soup
- Best for: casserole, stew, soup
- Substitute ratio: 1 cup stewed tomatoes = ¾ cup tomato soup
Cans of tomato soup are a pantry staple for those grilled cheese and soup dinners. But they can also be handy when you want to add tomato flavor to a sauce but don’t have stewed tomatoes.
Tomato soup is generally well-seasoned and has a hearty flavor, so you can add it to a stew or casserole and let it cook up with the other ingredients. It’s best for long-cooked dishes; otherwise, you will taste the tomato soup immediately.
The consistency of tomato sauce is much thinner than stewed tomatoes, so you will miss the chunky richness. However, this won’t be so noticeable in a dish with other vegetables and meat.
Non-Tomato Substitute for Stewed Tomatoes: Roasted Peppers
- Best for: pasta sauce, pizza
- Substitute ratio: 1 cup stewed tomatoes = ¾ cup roasted peppers
For dishes where you’re looking for savory, sweet tenderness rather than tomato itself, consider opening a jar of roasted peppers. You can buy these gorgeous chunks of capsicum at most supermarkets and delis, usually in olive oil.
Roasted peppers will mimic the texture of stewed tomatoes and add a robust, smoky flavor to your dish. If you want the tomato flavor, add a squeeze of tomato paste and some water.
Homemade Substitute for Stewed Tomatoes
- Best for: a Thanksgiving side dish
- Substitute ratio: 1 cup stewed tomatoes = 1 cup homemade stewed tomatoes
Instead of buying stewed tomatoes, many people choose to make their own, avoiding the possible chemicals and preservatives in the canned variety. Making your own stewed tomatoes isn’t quick, but the preparation itself doesn’t take long, and you can then leave your tomatoes to stew by themselves.
There are endless recipes for stewed tomatoes – you probably have a family one. But here’s a simple one that works.
- 8-10 large, very ripe tomatoes (or use the best canned whole tomatoes you can find)
- 2 tablespoons of butter or olive oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- ½ teaspoon garlic pepper
- ¼ diced green bell pepper
- ¼ finely chopped onion
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley or basil
- Cut the tomatoes in half.
- Squeeze out the seeds and cut out the cores, leaving the halves intact.
- In a large, heavy saucepan, heat the butter or olive oil to medium heat.
- Add the tomatoes, sugar, and salt. (You would also add the onions and peppers at this stage.)
- Cover the tomatoes and gently simmer for 20-30 minutes, taking care not to cook away the juices.
- Check to season and add fresh herbs.
- Serve at once.
- You can freeze stewed tomatoes once they have cooled.
Stewed tomatoes are a beloved ingredient in soups, stews, casseroles, chili, pasta sauces, pizza, and even salads. The best substitutes are spaghetti or tomato sauce. However, with adjustments for flavor and consistency, you can substitute most other canned tomatoes, including sauce, diced, chopped, or whole tomatoes, or use puree, paste, or sundried tomatoes.