In general, you can use whatever type of canned or fresh tomatoes or any other tomato products that you have in the house as some of the best substitutes for diced tomatoes.
Why can you use tomatoes in all their forms as diced tomatoes substitutes?
Simply because diced tomatoes are tomato chunks packed in tomato juice.
Therefore, the only difference between canned plum tomatoes and canned diced tomatoes is that one can contains whole plum tomatoes in juice, while the other contains cubes of tomatoes in juice. That’s why these two canned tomato types can be used interchangeably with identical results.
Manufacturers also add calcium chloride and citric acid to help the canned diced tomatoes maintain their shape. That makes them firmer than whole or crushed tomatoes. You might expect the chunks to break down quicker in cooking but the opposite actually happens.
In this respect, we could say that the cooking time for canned diced tomatoes comes close to the cooking time of chopped fresh tomatoes. If you cook with fresh tomatoes, you need to peel their skin before chopping them. Once the tomatoes are peeled, they’re perfect for cooking whatever recipe you want.
We can also get crushed tomatoes to use as a substitute. Canned crushed tomatoes are just a mixture of diced tomatoes and tomato puree or paste.
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My Favorite Substitutes for Diced Tomatoes
1. Canned whole tomatoes: Cento San Marzano Peeled Tomatoes
The easiest-to-use substitute for diced tomatoes are whatever canned whole tomatoes you can find in the stores near you. If you’re making a dish that relies heavily on tomato flavor, I recommend buying some high-quality canned tomatoes, maybe even some canned San Marzano tomatoes.
2. Crushed tomatoes: Colavita Crushed Tomatoes
Crushed tomatoes are already almost turned into puree. They’re a perfect substitute if you don’t care about having chunky pieces of tomatoes in your dishes. It means that crushed tomatoes work in a lot of dishes perfectly.
3. Diced tomatoes: RO-TEL Diced Tomatoes & Green Chilies
Since we’re talking about substitutes for diced tomatoes, I thought it would be good to recommend some actually diced tomatoes, too. These are some of the best but you can buy whatever you find where you live, especially if you don’t care for heat in your diced tomatoes. These contain green chilies and I love them.
10 Best Substitutes for Diced Tomatoes
The best substitutes for diced tomatoes are:
- peeled and chopped fresh tomatoes – whatever tomato variety you have
- canned tomatoes – San Marzano are some of the best canned tomatoes but Roma tomatoes are cheaper and can be absolutely delicious; you can also try canned cherry tomatoes
- crushed tomatoes
- tomato paste
- tomato puree
- tomato sauce
- tomato juice
- stewed tomatoes
- sun-dried tomatoes
When you decide how to use substitutes for diced tomatoes, you must keep one thing in mind:
- 14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes = 5-6 whole tomatoes (approx. 1 pound)
- 28 oz can of diced tomatoes = 10-12 whole tomatoes (approx. 2 pounds)
1. Fresh tomatoes
When it’s tomato season, it’s actually a shame to use canned tomatoes. If you grow your own, you definitely know what I’m talking about.
All you have to do is peel the tomatoes, dice them and they’re good to go into your dish. The cooking time should be about the same, diced fresh tomatoes don’t take that much time to cook.
Even if you don’t grow your own, you can buy a whole lot when you find them at a decent price. If you can buy them cheap, you can buy a whole lot and do a bunch of stuff with them.
You can make your own canned diced tomatoes at home. I’ll talk about how that is done in a moment, after covering all these substitutes.
Or you can make your own tomato puree, passata, tomato sauce, tomato juice, stewed tomatoes, and even sun-dried tomatoes, if you have the patience and time for it. If you want to skip all the preparations for these various products, just freeze a bunch of tomatoes. Even that will be a good thing to have during the winter.
I’m definitely not going to pick fresh tomatoes as the best substitutes for diced tomatoes when these fruits are out of season.
In the first place, they’re too expensive so you end up spending a lot more than buying a good quality can of whole or diced tomatoes. The second reason is that they don’t have much taste when they’re out of season and their texture isn’t that great either.
If you want to use fresh tomatoes as a substitute, remember what I said: 5-6 whole tomatoes replace a 14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes.
2. Canned tomatoes
If you’re using whatever type of canned whole tomatoes you can find in the stores near you as the best substitutes for diced tomatoes, then you can make a 1:1 substitution.
Replace 1 can of whole tomatoes for 1 can of diced tomatoes and the taste should be pretty much the same.
When you’re buying whole peeled tomatoes there are two main types to choose from: Roma or San Marzano tomatoes.
I only use canned San Marzano tomatoes in the recipes where the whole focus is on the tomato taste.
Thus, if I’m making pasta or a pizza sauce or a tomato soup, I might prefer using canned San Marzano.
However, if you get high quality canned Roma tomatoes, these can be just as delicious and fantastic for whatever recipe you’re making.
What we want to avoid is canned tomatoes that taste too sour, that don’t have that wonderful tomato flavor, even if it’s a bit muted compared to the fresh ones.
3. Crushed tomatoes
Canned crushed tomatoes are just a mixture of diced tomatoes and tomato puree or paste.
They’re certainly a perfect replacement. I would definitely say that they’re one of the best substitutes for diced tomatoes, especially if you can find them for a good price.
4. Tomato puree
I also recommend using tomato paste and puree only when you’re concerned about having tomato taste added to a recipe but you don’t actually care about having the pulp, too.
Because the paste and the puree are going to add the taste and the color but they’re not going to contribute much to the consistency of your recipe. They don’t even increase the overall quantity of a dish by much.
5. Tomato paste
On its own, tomato paste has a very thick and concentrated flavor. You can add it just like that directly to soups, stews, casseroles, etc.
You can also make a very quick pizza sauce from tomato paste, water, a bit of sugar, salt, and freshly ground black pepper. Taste until it tastes really good.
Add the paste and water in equal amounts and then add the rest of the ingredients and mix them all in a bowl. You can heat the mixture for a few seconds in the microwave, I find that it revives the flavors a bit. A few seconds are enough.
Another way to make a pizza sauce from tomato paste is in a pan with olive oil. You can cook the tomato paste with water, salt and sugar for a few minutes.
If you add some finely chopped garlic to the olive oil and fry the garlic for a minute or less and then add the tomato paste with the water and salt and sugar, then you can use this one as a pasta sauce.
As you can see, tomato paste can be quite versatile as long as you know how to make it taste delicious.
Passata also works in a 1:1 substitution.
This is uncooked tomato puree that has been strained of seeds and skins. Thus, it’s a kind of tomato puree.
I love cooking with it, especially if I’m making marinara sauce.
You can also use it as a pizza sauce just as it is. Maybe add a bit of salt and sugar to intensify the aroma.
7. Tomato juice
I guess you could also use tomato juice but that’s a lot more liquid so I wouldn’t use tomato juice as a substitute for diced tomatoes in that many recipes.
If you’re using tomato juice in a recipe, chances are that it will replace water/stock in the recipe. But how much water it replaces in a recipe also depends on what you’re making so you’ll have to monitor that aspect.
8. Tomato sauce
This is another great substitute for diced tomatoes. You can use it straight from the box as it is and use it in a 1:1 substitution.
However, keep in mind that tomato sauce is not pure tomato. Other ingredients have been added.
The classic recipe involves tomatoes sautéed in olive oil and simmered until they lose their raw flavor. Salt, herb or spices can also be added. It has a delicious taste.
9. Stewed tomatoes
The major thing that stewed tomatoes and diced tomatoes have in common is that stewed tomatoes are made with diced tomatoes.
They can be used as substitutes but you must keep in mind those extra flavors. And the fact that they’re sweeter than simple whole or diced tomatoes.
In this case, it really depends on the recipe you’re making and that’s for you to know best.
10. Sun-dried tomatoes
I am certainly not the biggest fan of sun-dried tomatoes. The really good ones, those packed in oil, are quite expensive.
I’m also not that comfortable cooking with them because I don’t use them often.
If you’re like me, you’re not going to jump on this substitute.
However, if you love cooking with sun-dried, you’re going to be thrilled to use them as the best substitutes for diced tomatoes.
When you cook with them, you should keep in mind that sun-dried tomatoes have a more intense flavor than the fresh ones.
I think a combination of sun-dried with a bit of tomato paste would be quite good as a substitute.
Making diced tomatoes at home: can them or freeze them
If you have a bunch of fresh tomatoes lying around, you can make your own diced tomatoes at home.
1. Peel fresh tomatoes
First of all, peel the fresh tomatoes, which is very easy and fast.
Wash them, cut a shallow x at the bottom of each tomato and boil them until you see the skin where you made the x start to expand alongside the body of the tomato.
Once you see the x that you cut at the bottom expand, you must turn off the stove because if you boil the tomatoes too long they will get soft and won’t be as easy to handle.
Once you’ve taken them off the stove, dunk them in ice water or take your pan, put it in the skin, and let cold water run for a couple of minutes until the tomatoes are all cooled off.
After that, the peels will come off right away.
2. Chop the peeled tomatoes
In order to make diced tomatoes, you’ll have to chop them prior to canning.
3. Add them to a jar + salt + lemon juice
Add your chopped tomatoes to a jar until it’s full to the base of the neck.
Next, add salt (½ tsp per pint or 1 tsp per quart).
And lemon juice (2 tbsp per quart or 1 tbsp per pint). You can use bottled lemon juice. Or you can use citric acid, depending on what you can easily and more cheaply find.
If you’re using citric acid, you only need to add ½ tsp citric acid crystals per quart. Half that quantity per pint.
You don’t necessarily have to add salt but it helps to enhance their flavor.
That’s all you have to add to your diced tomatoes if you want to preserve them at home.
4. Wipe the rim of each jar
If the rim of the jar has any residues on it, the jar might not seal properly.
5. Place the jars in a canner
You can also use a very big pot, as long as the jars fit in.
Once the jars are in the canner, cover them with hot water, enough to cover the jars by 1 to 2 inches.
Bring it to a boil.
Once the water starts to boil, reduce the heat slightly and boil the jars for 45 minutes. The water should be boiling gently and steadily the whole time.
If canning is not your thing, you can also choose to freeze freshly diced tomatoes. That’s another way to preserve them at home.
If you freeze diced tomatoes, you don’t need to use anything else and the process is very fast once you’ve chopped your peeled fresh tomatoes.
I prefer using a vacuum sealer whenever I freeze vegetables or fruits.
Popular recipes with diced tomatoes
In order to see how we should use these best substitutes for diced tomatoes, we should talk about recipes that call for this ingredient.
We can’t talk about recipes with diced tomatoes without mentioning pasta recipes. You can use any of the above substitutes to make your favorite pasta recipes.
The only one I wouldn’t use is tomato juice. It would have to be boiled for too long until the water evaporates and it gets a more concentrated flavor and texture. If you have the patience, go for it.
Stewed tomatoes can also work nicely for pasta recipes. Add a bit of tomato paste or tomato puree or passata or tomato sauce if you want an even more intense tomatoey taste. 1-2 tablespoons should be enough.
All these best substitutes for diced tomatoes work if you’re making bolognese, puttanesca, spaghetti milanese, marinara sauce, lasagna, manicotti, eggplant parmigiana, penne alla vodka,. And, generally, a whole bunch of many other Italian recipes.
Just as it was the case with pasta, the same diced tomato substitutes work for salsa, too.
In the case of shakshuka, as substitutes for diced tomatoes, I would use either diced fresh tomatoes, canned whole tomatoes or stewed tomatoes.
If the recipe calls for 1 can, you can use 1 can of either of these three substitutes. Add 1 tablespoon tomato paste if you want a deeper flavor.
You can use whatever diced tomato substitute you want in soups.
You can even use tomato juice but add some tomato paste or puree because the taste might not be as tomatoey as you’d like.
Once again, we can also use all of the above best substitutes for diced tomatoes without changing the overall taste of the stew and you can always add 1 tablespoon of tomato paste if you find that the flavor is too light.