Certain recipes can call for stewed tomatoes but you may not have any at the ready, and may not have the hour or two it takes to prepare them.
So, today I will provide some substitutes for stewed tomatoes.
There are some major differences between the types of tomato derivatives such as tomato paste, sun-dried tomatoes, stewed tomatoes, tomato puree, and tomato sauce.
So, in this article, I will explain how they differ and which ones make the best substitutes for each other.
That way you can make the best choice when choosing which one to use or substitute for another.
Sun-Dried Tomato vs Tomato Paste
Sun-drying tomatoes preserve them so that they last longer than fresh tomatoes, and together with olive oil they taste fantastic.
Tomato paste and stewed tomatoes are other great ways to preserve tomatoes.
Here’s the major difference between sun-dried tomatoes and tomato paste.
Tomato paste is very similar to tomato sauce, stewed tomatoes, and tomato puree.
Whereas, sun-dried tomatoes are quite different.
They are more similar to wedges or slices of raw tomato that you would put in a salad.
The main difference is that sun-dried tomatoes are dehydrated to the point where they become a lot tougher to chew, and are a darker color.
Because they are firm and have a tougher texture they don’t mix well into a dish like a lasagna or pasta.
The tomato flavor doesn’t spread evenly throughout the entire dish as it mixes.
On the other hand, tomato paste, tomato sauce, tomato puree, and strained tomatoes have the consistency of a liquid.
As a result, they will spread very evenly and go throughout a whole dish.
Here’s a table that summarises this info:
|Type of tomato derivative||Consistency||Good for|
|Chopped tomatoes (cooked, or raw)||Soft-medium, chunky||Salads, eaten on their own, are very versatile.|
|Sun-dried tomatoes||Firm, leathery||Sandwiches, salads, and eaten on their own.|
|Canned tomatoes, same as stewed tomatoes||Soft and mushy, almost liquid||Pasta sauces, stews, soup, other sauces, also very versatile.|
|Strained tomatoes, also called tomato puree||Fully liquid||Pasta sauces, stews, soup, and other sauces.|
|Tomato sauce||Fully liquid, thicker than stewed tomatoes||Has additional ingredients in it than stewed tomatoes and tomato paste. Unique flavor.|
|Tomato paste||Very thick and concentrated||Adding water to it to turn it into strained tomatoes, adding to any dish to give it a tomato flavor.|
Tomato sauce is unique to tomato puree/strained tomatoes and tomato paste.
The reason is that tomato sauce is made with additional ingredients.
It’s made with at least onion, but typically also carrots, celery, and added sugar, and salt.
By contrast, tomato puree/strained tomatoes and tomato paste are made from only tomatoes and nothing else.
Sometimes, a mild acid is added to preserve the tomato puree for longer but not always.
I recently explained exactly how strained tomatoes are made, and what substitutes you can use for them in this article about the difference between strained tomatoes and tomato puree.
Stewed tomatoes are simply tomatoes that have been lightly boiled to cook them.
Canned tomatoes are also cooked first prior to being canned so they are virtually identical to stewed tomatoes.
The reason canned tomatoes are cooked is to kill any tiny bacteria that can begin to grow after the tomatoes have been canned.
Once, tomatoes are canned they are sealed airtight, so no new bacteria or fungi can settle on the tomatoes and begin to grow.
Because they are completely sealed they last for an incredibly long time.
I did some research into how long canned tomatoes last and summarised it in this article about how long canned tomatoes last.
Fresh tomatoes that you keep in the pantry, or fridge will last 1 to 2 weeks.
In the fridge, they tend to last a bit longer and can stay edible for up to 1 month.
Can You Use Regular Tomatoes Instead of Sun-Dried Tomatoes?
Sun-dried tomatoes are sometimes hard to come by.
You also might not have time to go to the store to get some or make them yourself.
So, can you use regular tomatoes instead of sun-dried tomatoes?
However, regular tomatoes and sun-dried tomatoes have the same characteristic tomato flavor and you’ll enjoy the taste of both equally.
Sun-dried tomatoes, though, definitely taste very different.
Also, there are lots of different varieties of tomatoes.
There are plum tomatoes such as Roma tomatoes, and large tomatoes that typically have lots of folds on the skin, known as heirloom tomatoes.
Plum tomatoes have a slightly different taste from other tomatoes.
And plum tomatoes usually make the best sun-dried tomatoes.
The reason is that plum tomatoes have thicker walls with much more flesh than other types of tomatoes.
This additional flesh makes them produce a large and more moist sun-dried tomato.
It’s also possible to make sun-dried tomatoes yourself in the oven, which is really helpful especially in winter.
It still takes quite some time and takes about 7 hours to make them.
Here’s a really good video that show how to make sundried tomatoes:
Sun Dried Tomatoes Substitute
Sun-dried tomatoes have a stronger tomato flavor than raw or cooked tomatoes.
The reason is the flavor is concentrated and enhanced by the drying process.
You might not always have some sundried tomatoes on hand, so here are some substitutes for sundried tomatoes.
Sun-dried tomatoes are also often soaked in oil to preserve them.
A dash of olive oil is typically used on top, with some salt and pepper.
Baking tomatoes also concentrates the flavor and makes them a lot more similar to sun-dried tomatoes.
If all you have are regular tomatoes the best options to make them as similar to sun-dried tomatoes is to:
- Bake them
- Add a small amount of vinegar (balsamic is best) to taste
- Also, use tomato paste, or tomato puree with a bit of vinegar to taste
Tomato puree is very dry to the touch, this is because the liquids are boiled off.
Before boiling them, the tomatoes are blended to give them a homogenous liquid texture.
As this mixture is boiled the liquid separates from the tomatoes.
And can be removed by carefully pouring off the liquid, or by removing it bit by bit with a ladle or spoon.
Because of that the tomato flavor is MUCH more concentrated and has a similar strong taste to sun-dried tomatoes.
However, sun-dried tomatoes are generally much sourer and much more flavorful than tomato paste.