Canned tomato products make cooking more convenient for busy cooks by reducing preparation time. Because canned products have an extended shelf life, you can have zesty, succulent tomatoes on hand without the fear of fresh fruit going bad. There are a lot of options out there — like canned diced tomatoes and canned stewed tomatoes — they're similar but have a few key differences that affect your dish.
Canned Diced Tomatoes
Because they are usually picked and processed at the peak of ripeness, canned tomatoes can rival or surpass the flavor of their fresh counterparts. Diced tomatoes are peeled and mechanically cut into small, square bits before being added to a tomato juice bath and sealed in a can. The juice is often treated with chemicals and mixed with seasonings, such as salt and citric acid, during the canning process. Some manufacturers lightly cook diced tomatoes before canning, but they are not simmered like stewed tomatoes.
Canned Diced Tomato Uses
When your recipe calls for chopped or diced tomatoes, canned diced tomatoes can be a great time-saving option. Use them in soups, stews, pasta and other recipes where you need chunks of tomatoes. When fresh tomatoes are in short supply, combine canned diced tomatoes with diced jalapeno peppers and Mexican spices for an instant salsa.
Canned Stewed Tomatoes
Stewed tomatoes have been cooked, sliced and canned. While still made from ripe tomatoes and peeled before canning like diced tomatoes, the stewed variety are sliced into rings rather than diced into cubes. They are often mixed with seasonings such as onions, celery and peppers. They are canned in their own juices along with chemical preservatives.
Stewed Tomato Uses
Stewed tomatoes are best used in dishes that require either larger chunks of cooked tomato, such as pot roast, or foods that require longer cooking times, such as stew and chili. As stewed tomatoes cook, their cell walls break down, making them mushier and less firm than diced tomatoes. When used in dishes that require further cooking, the flavor of the stewed tomato infuses into the dish as the flesh continues to break apart.
Size, Texture and Tips
The main differences between the two types of canned tomatoes are size and texture. The diced are smaller, firmer chunks while the stewed are larger, softer pieces. If you cook them longer, you can generally use diced in place of stewed in most recipes. However stewed tomatoes don't work as well in dishes calling for diced, because they are larger and mushier.