Mastering the Art of Thickening Stewed Tomatoes

How to thicken stewed tomatoes

Stewed tomatoes are a popular dish that adds richness and flavor to any meal. However, achieving the desired consistency can sometimes be a challenge. Fortunately, there are several methods you can use to thicken stewed tomatoes, whether you’re making them from scratch or using canned tomatoes. In this article, we will explore these methods and provide step-by-step instructions for making stewed tomatoes.

What are braised tomatoes?

Stewed tomatoes are a classic dish in the United States, made by cooking tomatoes with various vegetables and spices. In addition to tomatoes, stewed tomatoes typically include ingredients such as onions, garlic, bell peppers, and celery sticks. Butter, sugar, and a mixture of herbs and spices are also added to enhance the flavor of the dish.
Traditionally, stewed tomatoes were prepared by boiling tomatoes until soft and then adding butter, sugar, and salt. Today, there are many variations of stewed tomatoes, with each family having its own recipe. One of the advantages of stewed tomatoes is that they can be made in large batches and stored for later use. When stored in the refrigerator, stewed tomatoes keep well for 3-5 days, while freezing them can extend their shelf life for up to a year.

How to Serve Stewed Tomatoes

Stewed tomatoes can be enjoyed as a stand-alone dish, served with croutons or fresh bread. However, they are most often used as a side dish. They go well with pasta dishes, potatoes and rice. Stewed tomatoes also make an excellent base for a variety of stews, sauces, and soups. The rich flavor of stewed tomatoes enhances the taste of the final dish, making it more flavorful and satisfying.

What is the difference between stewed tomatoes and diced tomatoes?

Canned tomatoes come in a variety of forms, including crushed, pureed, whole, diced, and stewed. While diced and stewed tomatoes may look similar, there are some important differences between them. Diced tomatoes are simply cut and canned, while stewed tomatoes undergo a cooking process. Stewed tomatoes often contain sliced tomatoes, while diced tomatoes are finely chopped. In addition, canned stewed tomatoes usually contain salt, spices, and sometimes added vegetables. Diced tomatoes, on the other hand, must be cooked and seasoned before use. If you prefer the convenience of ready-to-eat tomatoes, canned stewed tomatoes can be a time-saving option that only requires reheating before serving.

How to Make Stewed Tomatoes

Stewed tomatoes can be made with either fresh or canned tomatoes. While using fresh tomatoes requires some preparation, they offer a superior flavor. Here is an easy way to make stewed tomatoes from scratch:

  1. Prepare the tomatoes: Wash and peel the tomatoes. To peel the tomatoes easily, make a shallow X-shaped cut in the bottom of each tomato and submerge them in boiling water for a few minutes. Then transfer the tomatoes to a bowl of cold water. When the skin on the tomatoes wrinkles, it can be peeled off easily. Cut the tomatoes into large pieces.
  2. Cook the tomatoes: Place the tomatoes in a skillet or saucepan and cook over low to medium heat for about 15-20 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent scorching.
  3. Season the stew: When the stew has reached the desired consistency, add salt, sugar, and black pepper to taste. Consider adding some butter to enhance the flavor of the stew.
  4. Serve or use as a base: Stewed tomatoes can be served with croutons or used as a base for other dishes. They can be incorporated into various recipes or used as a flavorful cooking liquid for meats.

If fresh tomatoes are not available, canned tomatoes can be used as a substitute. If using whole canned tomatoes, be sure to dice them before adding them to the stew.

Methods for Thickening Stewed Tomatoes

Sometimes stewed tomatoes can turn out thin and watery, which can be disappointing. However, there are several methods you can use to thicken them. Here are a few effective techniques:

1. Reduce

One of the easiest ways to thicken stewed tomatoes is to simmer and reduce. Follow these steps:

  • Remove the lid from the pan to allow the excess liquid to evaporate.
  • Simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching.
  • Turn off the heat when the excess liquid has evaporated and the stew has reached the desired thickness.

Reducing the stew not only thickens it, but also enhances the flavor by concentrating the flavors.

2. Use flour

Flour is a common pantry staple that can be used to thicken stewed tomatoes. Here’s how:

  • Mix equal parts flour and cold water to make a paste. The amount of flour depends on the desired thickness of the stew.
  • Gradually add the slurry to the simmering stew, stirring constantly.
  • Allow the stew to cook for a few minutes to cook out the raw flavor of the flour and thicken.

Be sure to whisk the slurry well to avoid lumps in the stew. Keep in mind that using flour can change the flavor and texture of the stewed tomatoes.

3. Cornstarch

Cornstarch is another thickening agent that can be used in stewed tomatoes. Here’s how to use it:

  • In a separate bowl, mix cornstarch with cold water to make a paste. The ratio of cornstarch to water can vary depending on the desired thickness.
  • Gradually add the cornstarch slurry to the simmering stew, stirring constantly.
  • Continue to cook the stew for a few minutes to allow the cornstarch to thicken the liquid.

Cornstarch is a popular thickening agent because it gives the stew a glossy, smooth texture. However, too much cornstarch can make the stew gelatinous, so it’s important to use it in moderation.

4. Breadcrumbs

Breadcrumbs can be used to thicken stewed tomatoes while adding a subtle texture. Here’s how:

  • Gradually add the breadcrumbs to the simmering stew, stirring constantly.
  • Continue to cook the stew for a few minutes to allow the breadcrumbs to absorb the excess liquid and thicken the stew.

In addition to thickening the stew, breadcrumbs add flavor and body to the dish. They are especially useful when you prefer a slightly thicker consistency without significantly altering the flavor.

5. Other Ingredients

In addition to flour, cornstarch, and breadcrumbs, several other ingredients can help thicken stewed tomatoes. Consider adding some of the following:

  • Tomato paste: Adding a tablespoon or two of tomato paste can increase the thickness and flavor of stewed tomatoes.
  • Potatoes: Cooked and mashed potatoes can be added to the stew to thicken it and add a creamy texture.
  • Beans: Canned beans, such as kidney or white beans, can be added to the stew to add thickness and extra protein.

Experiment with these ingredients to find the combination that suits your taste preferences and desired consistency.


Thickening stewed tomatoes is a simple process that can be accomplished in a number of ways. Whether you choose to reduce the liquid, use flour, cornstarch, breadcrumbs, or other ingredients, each technique offers a unique texture and flavor profile. By following the step-by-step instructions and incorporating these thickening methods, you can ensure that your stewed tomatoes have the desired consistency and are a delicious addition to your meals. Enjoy the rich flavors and versatility of this classic dish!


Why are my stewed tomatoes too watery?

Stewed tomatoes can be watery if there is too much liquid in the dish. This can be due to the high water content of the tomatoes or insufficient cooking time. However, there are methods such as reducing the amount of stew, using thickeners such as flour or cornstarch, or adding breadcrumbs that can help thicken the stewed tomatoes to your desired consistency.

Can I use canned tomatoes to make stewed tomatoes?

Yes, you can use canned tomatoes to make stewed tomatoes. Canned whole tomatoes can be diced and added to the stew, or you can use canned stewed tomatoes directly. Keep in mind that canned stewed tomatoes may already contain some thickeners and seasonings, so adjust your recipe accordingly.

Will using flour or cornstarch change the flavor of stewed tomatoes?

Yes, using flour or cornstarch as a thickening agent may slightly affect the taste and texture of the stewed tomatoes. It is recommended to use these ingredients in moderation and taste the stew as you add them to achieve the desired consistency without overpowering the flavor.

Can I freeze stewed tomatoes?

Yes, stewed tomatoes can be frozen for later use. Allow the stewed tomatoes to cool completely before transferring to airtight containers or freezer bags. Frozen stewed tomatoes will keep for up to one year. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight before using or reheating.

How long can I keep stewed tomatoes in the refrigerator?

Stewed tomatoes will keep in the refrigerator for 3-5 days. Be sure to keep them in a sealed container to maintain their freshness. If you are unsure of the quality of the stewed tomatoes, always use your judgment and discard them if they show signs of spoilage, such as an off odor or mold.

Can I use other ingredients to thicken stewed tomatoes?

Yes, there are other ingredients besides flour and cornstarch that you can use to thicken stewed tomatoes. Tomato paste, boiled and mashed potatoes, or canned beans (such as kidney or white beans) can all add thickness and texture to the stew. Feel free to experiment with these ingredients to achieve the desired consistency and flavor in your stewed tomatoes.