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Old-fashioned stewed tomatoes are a dish all on their own — they don’t need to be mixed with anything to taste amazing! They can be served with chicken, fish, steaks, or pork chops. Either that or heap them on pasta or rice. Almost any protein or starch pairs well with these rich, sweet, cooked tomatoes, made with a bit of bread to thicken them.

If you want to take this recipe to the next level, you can use the stewed tomatoes as an ingredient in soups, casseroles, pasta sauces, or stews. They also make a great base for shakshuka if you add some peppers. Just sub them in for canned tomatoes in your favorite recipes. You’ll be amazed by the difference homemade stewed tomatoes make: they will brighten and enhance any recipe you use them in by melding right into the dish.

Scooping Stewed Tomatoes in black bowl with spoon.

This is the best recipe to grab when you need to make something simple to use up all of those gorgeous tomatoes in your garden in late summer. They all always become ripe in a big rush of a glut! Or maybe you get bedazzled at the farmers market, as I do, and end up with quite a tomato haul. If you’re wondering what to do with too many tomatoes, you can’t do much better than this. And you can share them with your friends because you’re a nice person!

Stewed Tomatoes: Slow cooked so they become soft and sweet, these tomatoes – thickened with a bit of bread – can be used and served in so many different ways!

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Stewed Tomato Ingredients

Fresh tomatoes and onion with other ingredients for stewed tomatoes.
  • Tomatoes – Any large tomatoes will do; see tips below for more on picking the best tomatoes.
  • Butter – Unsalted is best.
  • Onions – In this recipe, you want to mince the onions very finely so they blend into the cooked tomatoes.
  • Sugar – The amount I suggest in the recipe is flexible. If you want a sweeter stewed tomato, go ahead and add more to taste.
  • Cloves — You’re just using a pinch to get that distinct aromatic clove smell without overpowering the flavor of the tomatoes!
  • White bread – Optional; see tip below.
  • Green bell pepper – This is totally optional, but some people love the addition of peppers in their stewed tomatoes. If I’m adding bell pepper I like to mince it and put it in the skillet right after the onions so that it cooks down a little and it’s not too much of a textural departure from the tomatoes.
Woman holding white plate with stewed tomatoes, fish filet, and sautéed greens.

Tips and Variations

  • Use tomatoes that are ripe but not mushy. Try any kind of big fat tomatoes, from heirlooms to regular garden varieties. I like red tomatoes for the color they add to the finished dish, but you can use whatever colors you like. Make sure they are ripe but not too soft.
  • In some stewed tomato recipes, you will see that a piece of torn white bread is added towards the end of the cooking time. This provides some thickness to the sauce, as the bread absorbs some of the excess tomato juice and binds it all together. Leftover bread, even bread that is a bit stale, is perfect. In this recipe, the bread is optional — if you prefer a looser stewed tomato mixture, leave it out. If you’d like it thicker, stir it in, and the bread will almost dissolve into the mixture. Leave it out if gluten is an issue.
  • If you’re looking for more flavor for your stewed tomatoes, you can add more herbs and/or spices! This recipe also tastes great with a pinch of ground nutmeg or some fresh herbs like oregano and marjoram. You can even stew the tomatoes with a lone bay leaf in the mixture to get more flavor.
Stewed Tomatoes in black bowl in a table setting with garlic bread and cooked greens.

How to Peel Tomatoes for Stewing

  • You don’t have to peel the tomatoes before cooking them in this dish (or other cooked tomato dishes), but it does make for a nicer eating experience. The skins are completely edible, but they will separate from the flesh of the tomatoes and interfere a bit with the silky texture of the dish. I recommend taking a few extra moments to peel tomatoes before stewing them.
  • Luckily, peeling tomatoes is actually quick and easy. All you have to do is dunk the tomatoes in a pot of boiling water for about a minute, then remove them, let them cool for a couple of minutes — a process known as blanching — and the skins peel off very easily.
Plate set with Stewed Tomatoes, greens, and fish.

How to Make Stewed Tomatoes 

  1. Blanch the tomatoes: Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. When the water is boiling, add the tomatoes, three at a time. Let cook in the hot water for 60 seconds, then remove the tomatoes with a slotted spoon. Repeat.
  2. Peel off the tomato skins: Once the blanched tomatoes are cool enough to touch, peel off the skin.
  3. Cut the tomatoes into eight wedges each.
  4. Sauté your onions: Meanwhile, sauté the onion until slightly tender and golden.
Wooden spatula stirring a skillet of diced onions.
  1. Stew the tomatoes: Add the tomatoes, sugar, salt, pepper, and cloves. Cover and simmer, lifting the lid and stirring occasionally, for about 15 to 20 minutes, until the tomatoes have reached the desired consistency.
Stirring a pan of stewing tomatoes in a cast-iron pan on the stovetop.
  1. Add the bread if using: If you want a thicker stewed tomato mixture, stir in little pieces of bread during the last five minutes of cooking.
Adding bread and simmering pan of stewed tomatoes.

Storage

Stewed tomatoes can be kept in a tightly sealed container in the fridge for up to 5 days. Rewarm the tomatoes in a pot over low heat on the stove, or in the microwave, stirring occasionally until just warmed through.

FAQs

What is stewing?

The definition of stewing is cooking something fairly slowly at low heat in liquid until everything is soft and tender. That is exactly what is happening with these tomatoes — except most of the liquid they are stewed in is made up of their own juices, with a bit of butter added. Unlike other “stewed” dishes, such as those made with meat, the stewing of tomatoes is a fairly speedy process, as the vegetable softens quickly in the pan.

What kind of tomatoes should I stew?

You can use any kind of large ripe tomatoes, from beefsteak to Roma or plum. I think stewed tomatoes look best with red tomatoes, but there is no reason you can’t use other colors. There is something about classic red stewed tomatoes that really has a lot of eye appeal, though, so I end up sticking to the single color most of the time.

What’s the difference between canned and stewed tomatoes?

Canned tomatoes are often canned on their own, with just the addition of a bit of sugar and some salt. Occasionally, other seasonings like basil are included, but that is usually noted on the can.

Stewed tomatoes usually have other seasonings involved, whether homemade or canned. They are usually slightly sweeter than canned tomatoes and may have other herbs, spices, and vegetables added. Also, don’t overcook them so they become sauce or mush; cook them just enough to caramelize a bit and soften the tomatoes. They should still have some texture to them.

How do you thicken stewed tomatoes?

Adding a piece of torn-up plain white bread provides some thickness to the sauce, as the bread absorbs some of the tomato juices and binds it all together. This is a great way to make use of leftover slightly stale bread. which absorbs a bit more of the liquid. Stir it in, and the bread will melt right into the mixture. Leave it out if gluten is an issue, or use a gluten-free bread.

What to Serve With Stewed Tomatoes

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Stewed Tomatoes with sautéed greens and fish fillet on a plate.

More Tomato Recipes

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Stewed Tomatoes

5 from 1 vote
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 20 minutes
Total: 35 minutes
Servings: 4 People
Slow cooked so they become soft and sweet, these stewed tomatoes can be used and served in so many different ways!

Ingredients 

  • 6 large tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons minced onions
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • Kosher salt and freshy ground pepper (to taste)
  • Pinch ground cloves
  • 1 slice white bread (crusts removed and torn into small pieces; optional)

Instructions 

  • Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. When the water is boiling, carefully add the tomatoes 3 at a time. Let cook in the hot water for 60 seconds, then remove the tomatoes with a slotted spoon. Add the remaining three tomatoes to the pot, and when the blanched tomatoes are cool enough to touch, peel off the skin. Repeat with the second batch of tomatoes.
  • Cut the tomatoes into eight wedges each. Melt the butter in a large deep skillet over medium heat. Then add the onion and sauté for 4 minutes, until slightly tender and golden. Add the tomatoes and the sugar, season with salt and pepper, and add the cloves. Cover and simmer, lifting the lid and stirring occasionally, for about 15 to 20 minutes, until the tomatoes have reached the desired consistency. If you want a thicker stewed tomato mixture, stir in the little pieces of bread during the last five minutes of cooking, which will thicken the sauce.

Notes

  • You don’t absolutely have to peel the tomatoes before cooking them in this dish (or other cooked tomato dishes), but it makes for a nicer eating experience. The skins are completely edible, but they will separate from the flesh of the tomatoes and interfere a bit with the silky texture of the dish. I recommend taking a few extra moments to peel tomatoes before stewing them.
  • Use tomatoes that are ripe but not mushy. Try any kind of big fat tomatoes, from heirlooms to regular garden varieties. I like red tomatoes, but you can use whatever colors you like.
  • In some stewed tomato recipes, you will see that a piece of torn white bread is added towards the end of the cooking time. This provides some thickness to the sauce, as the bread absorbs some of the excess tomato juice and binds it all together. Leftover bread, even bread that is a bit stale, is perfect. In this recipe, the bread is optional — if you prefer a looser stewed tomato mixture, leave it out. If you’d like it thicker, stir it in, and the bread will almost dissolve into the mixture.  
  • If you’re looking for more flavor for your stewed tomatoes, you can add more spices! This recipe also tastes great with a pinch of ground nutmeg or some fresh herbs like oregano and marjoram. You can even stew the tomatoes with a lone bay leaf in the mixture to get more flavor.

Nutrition

Calories: 106kcal, Carbohydrates: 12g, Protein: 2g, Fat: 6g, Saturated Fat: 4g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.5g, Monounsaturated Fat: 2g, Trans Fat: 0.2g, Cholesterol: 15mg, Sodium: 40mg, Potassium: 454mg, Fiber: 2g, Sugar: 6g, Vitamin A: 1712IU, Vitamin C: 26mg, Calcium: 34mg, Iron: 1mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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