“Tomayto, Tomahto” – The Differences Between Canned Tomatoes and How to Use Them

The aisle of canned tomatoes can be tough to navigate, here are some tips and tricks that will help lead the way.

Canned tomatoes are a versatile and convenient ingredient that can elevate the flavors of countless dishes. From sauces and soups, to stews and pasta dishes, canned tomatoes offer a burst of rich tomato flavor even when fresh tomatoes are out of season. Let’s explore the different types of canned tomatoes available and the best ways to use them.

Whole Peeled Tomatoes

Whole peeled tomatoes are the closest canned product to a fresh tomato and are the least processed. They are the most versatile option because they can be chopped, crushed, or blended to become any other tomato form. If you have to choose only one type of canned tomato, this is a good one to start with. 

Best uses:

Whole peeled tomatoes are ideal for making homemade tomato sauces, marinara, and tomato-based soups. Their firm texture also makes them great for chunky sauces and stews.

Tips and tricks:

  1. Use kitchen shears or a knife to chop tomatoes directly in the can for less mess. 

  2. If a thicker sauce is desired, gently squeeze the tomatoes to remove excess juice before using.

  3. If using whole peeled tomatoes in chunky sauces, be sure to simmer them for longer to break down the tomatoes and enhance their flavors.

Diced Tomatoes

Diced tomatoes are chopped tomato pieces that provide a fresh and slightly chunky texture. They are processed in a way to preserve the pieces’ shape, so they are best used where visible tomato pieces are desired.

Best uses:

Diced tomatoes work well in chili, salsa, stews, and casseroles.

Tips and tricks:

  1. Diced tomatoes are not ideal for making sauces, unless they are blended first. 

  2. Drain the diced tomatoes slightly if a thicker sauce or salsa is desired.

  3. Increased cook time may be necessary to help break down diced tomatoes.

Crushed Tomatoes

Crushed tomatoes are made by coarsely crushing whole tomatoes and then packing them in tomato puree. They have small chunks of tomato with a texture between chunky and smooth.

Best uses:

Crushed tomatoes are excellent for tomato sauce, pizza sauce, and pasta dishes where the tomatoes are meant to break down.

Tips and tricks:

  1. For a smoother consistency, use a blender to further puree the crushed tomatoes. 

  2. Add crushed tomatoes early in the cooking process to allow the flavors to develop and intensify.

  3. For a chunkier sauce, add additional diced tomatoes or tomato paste to the crushed tomatoes.

Pureed Tomatoes

Pureed tomatoes, or tomato puree, is a smooth, thick sauce made from cooked and strained tomatoes. It is very similar to crushed tomatoes, only slightly thicker and without seeds.

Best uses:

Tomato puree is excellent as a base for creamy tomato soups or enchilada sauce.

Tips and tricks:

  1. Tomato puree can be used as a substitute for tomato sauce by diluting it with water or broth to achieve the desired consistency.

  2. Enhance the flavor of tomato puree by sautéing onions, garlic, and herbs before adding the puree to the dish.

Tomato Sauce

Tomato sauce is a smooth and thick sauce made from cooked and blended tomatoes with a texture between tomato puree and tomato paste.

Best uses:

Tomato sauce works well for pizza sauce, barbecue sauce, or in dishes like baked beans.

Tips and tricks:

  1. Tomato sauce is essentially an unseasoned pasta sauce. Sauté onions and garlic before adding the tomato sauce, along with herbs such as basil, oregano, or thyme to create a homemade pasta sauce.

  2. Simmer tomato sauce for a longer duration to allow the flavors to meld and intensify.

  3. Tomato sauce can be created by adding water to tomato paste.

Tomato Paste

Tomato paste is a concentrated form of tomatoes that has been cooked down to a thick, rich consistency. It has an intense tomato flavor and a deep red color.

Best uses:

Tomato paste is perfect for adding depth and richness to sauces, stews, and braises. It's also commonly used as a flavor base for soups and chili.

Tips and tricks:

  1. To intensify the flavor of tomato paste, sauté it in a bit of oil before adding other ingredients.

  2. If a recipe calls for a small amount of tomato paste, freeze the remaining paste in ice cube trays, and then store tomato paste cubes in a sealed bag for future use.

  3. Dilute tomato paste with water or broth to achieve a smoother consistency when needed.

Canned tomatoes come in various forms, each offering its own unique texture and flavor profile. Whether you're seeking a smooth sauce, a chunky salsa, or a tangy tomato base for your dishes, there is a canned tomato for every recipe. At Season, we opt for no-salt added canned tomatoes to best suit the needs of our members. By adding herbs, spices, chilies, and aromatics like garlic and onion, we can boost the flavor to let the flavor of the tomatoes shine bright. 

By understanding the different types of canned tomatoes and how to best utilize them, you can elevate your culinary creations and enjoy the rich taste of tomatoes year-round. So, stock your pantry with a variety of canned tomatoes and let your culinary imagination run wild!