Stewed tomatoes are a hearty dish that can make any meal so much better and comforting. But they don’t always turn out of the consistency we want them to.
How to thicken stewed tomatoes? There are multiple methods you can use to improve the consistency of your stewed tomatoes. Use the reduction method to cook off the excess liquid or add some flour or cornstarch to the stew. You can also add breadcrumbs and other ingredients to thicken up a watery stew.
This article is a complete guide to thickening tomato stew using different methods. We have also included step-by-step instructions for making stewed tomatoes from scratch.
What Are Stewed Tomatoes?
Stewed tomatoes are a popular dish in the US. This dish involves stewing tomatoes along with a few other ingredients.
To make stewed tomatoes, you will need not only tomatoes but also a combination of various vegetables, including onions, garlic, bell peppers, and celery stalks.
Butter, sugar, various herbs, and spices are always a part of this dish too.
The old way of making stewed tomatoes implies cooking tomatoes until they are soft, adding butter, sugar, and salt, and eating with plain bread.
Nowadays, there are many variations of stewed tomatoes. Each family may have its own recipe for this dish.
The good thing about stewed tomatoes is that you can make them in a large batch and freeze some for later use.
Stewed tomatoes stored in the fridge will keep well for 3-5 days. The freezer, however, will extend the stew’s shelf life to up to a year.
You can reheat frozen stewed tomatoes and incorporate them into various dishes or serve as a side dish. Tomato stew is also an excellent flavorful liquid to cook meat in.
How To Serve Stewed Tomatoes
Stewed tomatoes can be served as a standalone dish with some croutons or fresh bread. But this meatless stew can make too light of a meal for some people.
This is why stewed tomatoes are most often served as a side dish. They go exceptionally well with pasta dishes, potatoes, and rice.
Stewed tomatoes can be a great base for various other stews, sauces, and soups. The flavor of this dish is richer than the taste of plain crushed tomatoes. As a result, the flavor of the final dish turns out a lot deeper.
What Is The Difference Between Stewed Tomatoes And Diced Tomatoes
If you are using canned tomatoes, you may be overwhelmed by the many forms canned tomatoes come in. Crushed, pureed, whole, diced—you can buy canned tomatoes of any consistency! You can also buy canned stewed tomatoes too.
Despite the many types of canned tomatoes found in supermarkets, stewed and diced tomatoes are the two types that look alike the most. This leads some people to think that diced and stewed tomatoes are interchangeable.
But there are a few differences between diced and stewed tomatoes.
First, while the consistency of diced tomatoes is the closest to the consistency of stewed tomatoes, diced tomatoes are, well, diced. Stewed tomatoes often contain tomato slices.
Second, diced tomatoes are simply cut up and canned. Stewed tomatoes, on the other hand, undergo a cooking process.
Lastly, in the majority of the cases, canned tomato stew contains salt and other seasonings. It may contain added vegetables too.
So, if you want to serve stewed tomatoes as a side dish or need it to prepare another stew or soup, buying canned stewed tomatoes is a great way to save time. You will only need to heat the tomato mixture.
Diced tomatoes, on the other hand, will need to be cooked and flavored with spices.
How Do You Make Stewed Tomatoes?
As mentioned earlier, you can make stewed tomatoes using either fresh or canned tomatoes. In both cases, making this dish is quite easy.
The only thing is, using canned tomatoes eliminates all the prep work you have to do with fresh tomatoes. With this said, the flavor of fresh tomatoes is certainly more preferable for most people.
Here is how to make the simplest stewed tomatoes from scratch.
- Prep the tomatoes. First, you need to wash and peel them. To easily peel the tomatoes, cut a shallow X on each of them and submerge in boiled water for a few minutes. Then, remove the tomatoes from the hot water and submerge them into a bowl filled with cold water. Once the skin on the tomatoes wrinkles, it will peel right off.
- Cut the tomatoes into big chunks.
- Place the tomatoes into a pan or saucepan and cook them over low to medium heat for around 15-20 minutes. Stir the tomatoes from time to time to prevent them from scorching.
- When the stew has reached your desired consistency, add salt, sugar, and black pepper to taste. Add some butter to make the flavor of the stew richer.
- Serve with croutons, your favorite side dish, or use this simple tomato stew as a base for another dish.
If you don’t have fresh tomatoes, you can easily substitute them with canned tomatoes. Just make sure to dice them if they are whole.
Ways To Thicken Stewed Tomatoes
Whether you are making stewed tomatoes from scratch or heating up a can of pre-made stewed tomatoes, a thin and watery stew can be rather underwhelming.
Luckily, there are a few methods to thicken stewed tomatoes. Choose a method to thicken the stew considering how much time you have and the products you have at hand.
One of the easiest methods to thicken tomato stew without the use of other ingredients is to simply let it simmer. Here’s how.
- Remove the lid from the pan.
- Let the stew simmer on low heat.
- Stir from time to time to prevent scorching.
- Turn off the heat when the excess liquid has evaporated and the stew has reached your desired consistency.
Aside from helping you reach a thick consistency for the stew, the reduction method also makes the flavor of the sauce more complex.
The only downside of the reduction method is that it may take a long time if there is too much excess liquid in the stew.
Flour is a pantry staple. In case your stew has turned out thinner than you wanted it to be, just add a little flour to it. But make sure you don’t overdo it to avoid the off-putting flavor of flour in your stew.
Here’s the basic method of thickening tomato stew, or any stew, using flour.
- Mix equal parts of flour and cold water.
- Pour the mixture into the simmering stew and mix.
- Bring the stew to a boil and cook for around 5 minutes. Make sure to cook the stew long enough to get rid of the raw flour flavor.
Remember to use only 1.5 teaspoons of flour per cup of liquid.
Cornstarch is a great option if you need a gluten-free substitute for flour. A small amount of cornstarch added to the stew provides great results without adding any flavor to it.
The only thing is, you should know the proper technique of adding cornstarch to stews and soups so that it doesn’t make them lumpy.
It is also important to know how much cornstarch to use. Adding too much of it to the stew or soup can result in a slimy consistency.
Here’s how to thicken tomato stew with cornstarch.
- Mix equal amounts of cornstarch with cold liquid to create a slurry.
- Bring the stew to a simmer and add in the slurry.
- Boil the stew for 1 minute.
You need a teaspoon of cornstarch per cup of liquid. If you are not sure how much cornstarch you should use, start small. Use half a teaspoon or a teaspoon of cornstarch to see how it goes.
Add More Ingredients
Another way to thicken your tomato stew is to add more ingredients to it. You can chop up some carrots and put them into the stew. As the stew simmers and the carrots cook, the water content of the stew will decrease.
Adding diced potatoes into the thin tomato stew is a great option too as the starch in the potatoes will act as an additional thickener too.
If you want to experiment, try adding caramelized onions into the stew. Doing this will create a thicker and richer consistency.
If it is not only the consistency but also the flavor of your tomato stew you are unhappy with, add some tomato paste to it. A small amount of this intense tomato-flavored ingredient will greatly improve your stew.
If you don’t have any flour or cornstarch to thicken your stew and don’t have a lot of time to use the reduction month, you can try adding breadcrumbs to the stew.
Mix in some breadcrumbs into the hot stew. The breadcrumbs will soak up the excess liquid, greatly improving the consistency of a thin tomato stew.
You can use both store-bought or homemade breadcrumbs.
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