What are Stewed Tomatoes?

Malcolm Tatum

Stewed tomatoes are tomatoes that have been peeled and cooked just long enough to soften their flesh and release their flavors. The fruits keep their shape throughout this process, but become aromatic and are often added to pasta sauces or other dishes requiring tomatoes. Many cooks stew excess tomatoes as a way to preserve them for later use.

Stewed tomatoes are an essential ingredient in chicken cacciatore.
Stewed tomatoes are an essential ingredient in chicken cacciatore.

Reasons for Stewing

Tomatoes grow abundantly during the summer months, but are often harder to find in other seasons. The rise of hothouse gardening and improved import and export agreements means that tomatoes are available in many commercial markets year-round, but there is nevertheless something about the flavor of a summer tomato that is hard to replicate. Stewing is one way for cooks to preserve some of the season’s crop.

Yellow tomatoes.
Yellow tomatoes.

Home gardeners who have large tomato yields often look to stewing as a means of saving excess fruits from going to waste. A number of different recipes call for stewed tomatoes, as well. Preparing the fruits at home gives cooks control over the ultimate consistency, texture, and any added flavoring.

Remove tomato skins by blanching the tomatoes briefly.
Remove tomato skins by blanching the tomatoes briefly.

Preparing the Tomatoes for Stewing

The process for creating stewed tomatoes is generally very simple. First, cooks must remove the tomatoes’ skin. The skin is usually somewhat tough, and will not preserve or break down very well. Peeling is often the hardest part of the process, though it can be simplified by briefly blanching the tomatoes — that is, dropping them in boiling water for a few seconds, then transferring them to an ice bath.

Herbs like basil are a common addition to stewed tomatoes.
Herbs like basil are a common addition to stewed tomatoes.

Tomatoes can be stewed whole without issue. In the event that they are going to be sliced or diced, it is usually a good idea to remove the core.

Basic Cooking Instructions

Once the tomatoes have been prepared, cooks should warm a small amount of butter or margarine in the bottom of a large saucepan. The tomatoes are then added in, along with a splash of water and a bit of sugar, salt, pepper, and any other desired spices. The pan should be covered and allowed to simmer for about 20 minutes, just until the tomatoes become tender.

Additions and Variations

It is perfectly acceptable to stew tomatoes all on their own, though a number of cooks add in various other ingredients. Bell peppers, garlic, and herbs like basil and oregano are common additions. Some may add a splash of wine instead of water, as well. Simmering these ingredients together allows their flavors to blend, and seasons the resulting tomatoes.

Culinary Uses

Stewed tomatoes are commonly used in casseroles and pasta dishes, as well as a wide variety of soups. They give dishes a distinctive tomato flavor without the crisp, sometimes mealy texture of the fresh fruit. Raw tomatoes are often hard to use in baked or simmered recipes. Stewed versions lend the same flavor with a more consistent texture.

Long-Term Storage

Cooks often make large quantities of stewed tomatoes at once to save for future use. Freezing is often the most common storage method. Finished tomatoes can be stored either in freezer-safe containers or in sealable plastic bags, and will usually last for a number of months.

Canning provides even more longevity. Most tomato products must be canned under pressure in order to ensure that all of the acids and natural sugars remain balanced. Once sealed, jars of pressurized tomatoes will last almost indefinitely.

Commercial Options

In many places it is also possible to purchase commercially produced stewed tomatoes. Most pre-processed versions contain a number of preservatives to help keep them fresh and improve their shelf life, which many believes detracts from their nutritive value. In nearly all other respects, though, store bought versions provide the same results that could be gotten at home, and require a lot less time to prepare.

Oregano is commonly used to season stewed tomatoes.
Oregano is commonly used to season stewed tomatoes.

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Discussion Comments


how do you make stewed tomatoes to put over mashed potatoes or other stuff? i know you use flour to thicken it but that's all i know.


I also make a batch of stewed tomatoes and freeze them. It is nice to have ready to go food especially for the times when you are in a hurry.


Occasionally, when the crop of tomatoes in my garden is well above my consumption level, and all my friends and neighbors received their share, I make stewed tomatoes with the rest of the crop. I like to add bell peppers and plenty of garlic. A little bit of bacon does not hurt either.

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