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The 7 Most Suitable Substitutes for Mexican Stewed Tomatoes

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The most suitable substitutes for Mexican stewed tomatoes include crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, diced tomatoes (including Rotel tomatoes), tomato (pizza) sauce, fresh tomatoes, and tomato ketchup.

For most recipes, this type crushed tomatoes will substitute nicely for stewed tomatoes. If all else fails, ketchup can usually be used if you have no other alternatives on the list.

This article will explore some ways to make your favorite recipes even if you’ve run out of Mexican stewed tomatoes in your kitchen pantry. One of the best things about cooking is that there are usually substitutes you can use, so keep reading to learn more about the options available to you!

Stewed tomatoes and peppers in a bowl

1. Crushed Tomatoes

Crushed tomatoes are the closest substitute for Mexican stewed tomatoes on the market. They’re basically diced tomatoes in a tomato paste (or tomato puree). For the best option, look for crushed tomatoes with more diced tomatoes than tomato paste.

To substitute crushed tomatoes for Mexican stewed tomatoes, cook them with peppers (especially bell peppers) and any other vegetables you enjoy in your stewed tomatoes. The thick texture of the crushed tomatoes (even after being cooked with other vegetables) will make them an easy substitute in recipes that call for stewed tomatoes.

2. Diced Tomatoes

Diced tomatoes are essentially tomatoes that have been finely cut into small, diced-shaped cubes (hence the name). Like crushed tomatoes, these can be purchased canned, or you can make your own using fresh tomatoes.

Diced tomatoes on a plate

These tomatoes are drier than stewed or crushed ones, so you’ll first need to cook them until they are soft. Then, cook them with spices to get the kick that comes with Mexican stewed tomatoes, and add any other vegetables you like. Once you’re satisfied with the flavor, add them to your recipe.

I use diced tomatoes to make my “famous” tomato gravy:

Can I Substitute Rotel for Stewed Tomatoes?

One of the most popular brands of diced tomatoes on the market today is Rotel. However, unlike most canned diced tomatoes, Rotel’s diced tomatoes are a combination of tomatoes and diced green chilis, ensuring the ingredient has a spicy kick that’s perfect for Mexican food right out of the can.

You can substitute Rotel for stewed tomatoes. Unlike regular diced tomatoes, you will not have to add any spices because the green chilis will do the job. However, you will have to cook your Rotel tomatoes until they’re soft enough to have the right texture.

3. Tomato (Pizza) Sauce

Tomato sauce (also known as pizza sauce) is a sweeter, thicker alternative to Mexican stewed tomatoes. The sweetness of tomato sauce means that you should either use a spicy tomato sauce or cook it in chilies before using it in your recipe.

Another consideration to keep in mind is that tomato sauce usually has a richer, more tomato-like flavor than Mexican stewed tomatoes. This means that, even after you cook the sauce with peppers, you should still use about half as much tomato sauce as the recipe requires you to use Mexican stewed tomatoes.

4. Spaghetti Sauce

Spaghetti sauce is relatively similar to tomato sauce and, as an added benefit, probably something you have plenty of in your pantry. Like tomato sauce, it’s a rich and flavorful alternative that will need to be combined with peppers and any other vegetables you want before substituting it in your recipe.

Additionally, like tomato sauce, you should use about half as much spaghetti sauce as your recipe calls for Mexican stewed tomatoes.

5. Tomato Paste

Also known as tomato puree, tomato paste is made by simmering tomatoes until they reduce to a thick, flavorful paste. The long cooking time deepens the flavors of the tomatoes, so tomato paste produces much more of a kick of flavor than any of the other options on this list.

Because tomato paste is made with pure tomatoes, you’ll need to add chilis and peppers to get the perfect spicy Mexican flavor. The biggest advantage to using tomato paste is that it’s the healthiest substitute for Mexican stewed tomatoes available. There is no added sweetness and, if you make it at home, no additional ingredients and calories beyond the tomatoes themselves.

However, the richness of flavor also means you shouldn’t use much of this ingredient in your dish. Ideally, you should only use as much tomato paste as a third of what your recipe calls for in terms of Mexican stewed tomatoes.

6. Fresh Tomatoes

Fresh tomatoes are perhaps the most flexible option on this list. If you’ve got fresh produce in your pantry but lack any of the other pre-packaged alternatives mentioned here, you’re in luck–most of them can be made easily at home.

For diced tomatoes, all you need to do is dice your fresh tomatoes finely. You can learn how to do this in this interesting video:

You can also make tomato paste, though doing so is a bit more of a time-consuming process. You can learn how to make tomato paste via this YouTube video:

Alternatively, you can simply use the fresh tomatoes to make your own homemade Mexican stewed tomatoes using your favorite recipe! The flexibility of fresh tomatoes means that most substitution options are available to you–it’s just a question of which you prefer.

7. Tomato Ketchup

Tomato ketchup isn’t an ideal substitute, but it’s generally available in most pantries, making it a good option in a pinch. That said, the sweetness of ketchup means that it should definitely be your last option.

You can balance out the sweetness by adding vinegar or lemon juice and then adding the peppers and spices of your choice. However, the inherent sweetness will still be more than is found in Mexican stewed tomatoes, which is why you should use about ¾ parts of ketchup for every 1 part of stewed tomatoes.

What Is in Mexican Style Stewed Tomatoes?

The ingredients in Mexican-style stewed tomatoes will differ depending on your recipe. However, they generally contain tomatoes, jalapeños (or other chiles/peppers of your choice), onions, and garlic. 

That said, this recipe can be highly personalized depending on taste preferences. Two common ingredients found in many Mexican stewed tomato recipes are parsley and bell peppers. Additionally, people add different spices depending on their preferences, and garnishes like parsley are common. Others may choose to balance out the spice of the chiles by adding some sugar to the recipe.

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For more, don’t miss 18 Versatile Substitutes for Tomatoes in a Recipe.

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