Think Twice Before You Substitute Raw Tomatoes With Canned

Tomatoes are a warmth-loving crop that grows very poorly in the cold. So, depending on where you live, there are times of the year when finding fresh, high-quality tomatoes can be a challenge. Thanks to canning it's now possible for you to enjoy these tangy fruits year-round with only some minor compromises in texture, which is typically softer than fresh. Canned tomatoes are still excellent for making your favorite sauces, soups, and side dishes. However, canned tomatoes have their time and place. There are certain cases where fresh will be best.

The rule of thumb to follow is this: If it's a recipe where the texture of the tomato is crucial, then you're better off going for fresh. This applies to dishes like salads, sandwiches, and burgers. Thin slices of fresh tomato, thanks to their firm texture, are more enjoyable in these dishes compared to chunks of crushed tomatoes.

On the other hand, feel free to substitute fresh tomatoes with canned when you're making tomato soups, stews, casseroles, and so on. The texture of the tomatoes won't significantly impact the outcome of these recipes. Moreover, if you're preparing cooked sauces, canned tomatoes are actually the ideal choice. Some canned tomato varieties, like San Marzanos, are very fleshy, making them excellent for sauce making.

The best uses for different types of canned tomatoes

There are different types of canned tomatoes, each with its distinct characteristics and even culinary uses. The most basic kind that you'll find at the grocery store is whole tomatoes. These are whole, peeled tomatoes preserved in either their own juices or tomato puree. They're super versatile and can be used in a long list of recipes. Diced tomatoes, another popular variety, consist of tomato chunks packed in juice. Since you don't have to spend extra time chopping them, they can save you a ton of time and are perfect for recipes like chili and casseroles.

Crushed tomatoes combine diced tomatoes with tomato puree or paste, making them a middle-ground choice. These make a good fit for pasta sauces and stews. Stewed tomatoes, on the other hand, are pre-cooked before canning, often with additional seasonings and sugar. That's why they'll be a lot more flavorful than your average canned tomato, and they're great for dishes like shakshuka.

San Marzano tomatoes, a famous type of canned tomato grown near Naples, Italy, are celebrated for their intense and authentic flavor. If you're making Italian sauces, these are without a doubt the best choice around. And last but not least, there's tomato paste. Tomato paste is like tomato concentrate and can be used to enhance and deepen a dish's flavor.