The 7 Best Substitutes for Stewed Tomatoes + When & How To Use Them

Stewed tomatoes are one of those ultra-convenient canned products that have countless uses. From casseroles to chilis, pasta sauces to soups, stewed tomatoes add flavor to any recipe.

However, if you find yourself mid-prep without a can of stewed tomatoes, skip the grocery run and try one of these 7 alternatives instead.

In most cases, using one of these swaps and adding your own seasonings and aromatics will lead to an even better recipe than the original.

Easy Swaps For Stewed Tomatoes

Diced Tomatoes

substitute for diced tomatoes

Using diced tomatoes in place of stewed tomatoes works well in any recipe. Diced tomatoes are plain raw tomatoes, so plan on spicing up your dish to compensate for the lack of added flavors that come with stewed tomatoes.

Simply dump a 14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes into a small saucepan and cook on medium heat for a few minutes. You can add veggies or seasonings to add flavor, and once they have all melded together, use this mixture in place of stewed tomatoes.

You can substitute diced tomatoes for stewed tomatoes at a 1:1 ratio in all of your recipes.

Crushed Tomatoes

Homemade Crushed Tomato on Frying Pan

Where stewed tomatoes are usually sliced tomato rounds with veggies, seasoning, and tomato liquid, crushed tomatoes are, well, crushed. That means smaller pieces canned in a thick tomato puree. 

You can substitute crushed tomatoes for stewed tomatoes at a 1:1 ratio in all of your recipes.

Remember, you’ll probably want to add some aromatics or seasonings to your dish to make up for the plain flavor of crushed tomatoes. 

Additionally, if your dish won’t cook for very long, heat the crushed tomatoes with some onions and bell pepper to mimic the missing flavor. 

Fresh Tomatoes

Red tomato cuttings

You can never go wrong with using fresh tomatoes in a recipe, especially when they are in season.

They’re bursting with flavor, and will always overshadow the canned versions which can lose flavor and become somewhat “flat” over time. 

Stewed tomatoes are typically peeled and sliced tomato rounds cooked down with onion, celery, and green bell pepper. This is super easy to replicate with fresh tomatoes. 

To replace a 14.5 oz can of stewed tomatoes, you’ll need 2 cups of fresh tomatoes.

You can peel them, slice them, and then cook them on medium heat until more juices release and they resemble the stewed tomatoes you’re after. Or, just toss them in as-is to any dish that will be slow-cooked.

Whole Peeled Tomatoes

blanched and peeled

Using canned whole peeled tomatoes in place of stewed tomatoes in your recipe is a simple swap. Both are conveniently canned tomato products that are already peeled. 

For any recipe that calls for stewed tomatoes, you can slice whole peeled tomatoes into rounds, and simmer them with aromatics. Then keep on cooking as normal.

After slicing the whole peeled tomatoes, you can swap them for stewed tomatoes at a 1:1 ratio.

Tomato Puree

Tomato Puree in a white bowl

Tomato puree is a great way to add body to a dish that normally calls for stewed tomatoes. The puree is blended until smooth and will add richness to your soup, stew, chili, or sauce without adding texture. 

Tomato purees vary from brand to brand. They can be thick or thin, plain or seasoned. Stewed tomatoes are right in the middle when it comes to texture. They have chunks of cooked tomatoes and veggies with the tomato liquid still intact. 

When substituting these two, you might need to add less puree or extend your cooking time if the formula is very liquidy. Or, you might need to incorporate stock to thin out the dish if your puree is super thick.

Start with slightly less tomato puree than the recipe calls for, then adjust based on how thick and flavorful the puree is. 

Tomato Paste

tomato paste and fresh tomatoes

Tomato paste is a highly concentrated tomato product and a little bit goes a long way. This is a great swap for stewed tomatoes in dishes that don’t rely on the chunks of tomatoes to add body. 

For example, chili already has veggies, meat, and beans incorporated. That means you can get away with using tomato paste to add the flavor of stewed tomatoes, and the meal won’t be missing substance. 

You can substitute 2 tablespoons of tomato paste for a 14.5 oz can of stewed tomatoes. 

Add the tomato paste directly into a liquid based recipe, or mix it into some water before adding it into your dish to evenly distribute its flavor. 

Pro-Tip: Incorporate the tomato paste into stock instead of water to add even more flavor to your dish. 

Tomato Sauce

Tomato Juice in a jug and glass

Tomato sauce is a simple swap for stewed tomatoes that many will already have sitting in their pantry.

Fortunately, many tomato sauces already have added seasonings similar to the ones found in stewed tomatoes. Of course, it’s up to your discretion whether or not you want to add additional aromatics like onions or peppers, but adding more flavor never hurts. 

Tomato sauce has much more liquid than stewed tomatoes, so use about half as much tomato sauce to replace stewed tomatoes.

Tips For Working With Stewed Tomato Alternatives

Stewed tomatoes typically incorporate onions and peppers, but sometimes you’ll also find garlic or celery. And since most stewed tomato alternatives are made with plain old tomatoes, you’ll want to add your own aromatics to your substitute of choice. 

For the equivalent of a single 14.5 oz can of stewed tomatoes, start with ¼ cup of onions and ¼ cup of bell peppers sauteéd until translucent. Then add whatever alternative you’re using, whether it’s diced, crushed, whole peeled tomatoes, or another option on this list. 

When making something from scratch, you have the option to make it even better than the convenient canned stuff.

You might start by cooking up some bacon bits and sauteé your aromatics in the rendered bacon fat. Or throw in some diced chiles if you like a little heat.

You can add butter, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, fish sauce, or even a splash of liquid smoke to deepen the flavor of your stewed tomato alternative. 

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I turn diced tomatoes into stewed tomatoes?

Simply add ¼ cup of onions and ¼ cup of bell pepper to your 14.5 oz of diced tomatoes. Then simmer the mixture on low heat until the onions and peppers are soft, and the flavors have melded together.  

What seasonings are in stewed tomatoes?

Stewed tomatoes are typically flavored with onions, peppers, celery, and sometimes garlic.

Can I substitute crushed tomatoes for stewed tomatoes?

You can substitute crushed tomatoes for stewed tomatoes by adding aromatics and cooking the mixture until all the flavors have combined.

About the author

Jasmine graduated top of her class from culinary school and has continued cooking and baking ever since. Alongside her passion for food, she is a total bookworm, writer, and editor. You can find her bookish ramblings on her website and bookstagram.