Recipe conversion: tomatoes to tomato puree
March 15, 2017 7:29 AM   Subscribe

I don't like tomatoes. It's a texture thing. Can I substitute 1:1 tomato puree in things like chili and stews?

This seems surprisingly hard to find using Google, because I guess most people trying to eliminate tomatoes from their diet can't eat them in any form. Me, I'm fine with the taste, and I like tomato-based sauces with a uniform consistency. Is there a conversion ratio here or am I missing a really good reason why this is a bad idea?

If you need an example recipe, here's a chili* recipe that I've made and I feel like it would be a billion times better if I could swap diced tomatoes out for tomato puree.

Extra special bonus question:
I also feel like a lot of stew and chili recipes would be better if they were thicker, i.e. if the tomatoes were more like tomato paste than tomato sauce. Can I sub 1:1 (or another ratio) tomato paste or is this an EXTREMELY stupid idea?

*As many of you are aware, real chili has no tomato products whatsoever (MeMail me for a killer recipe), so feel free to mentally substitute 'chili flavored stew' for 'chili' in the above.
posted by capricorn to Food & Drink (21 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I would try it with crushed tomatoes before puree - maybe drain them slightly to get a less liquidy outcome (or cook uncovered longer to let the stew evaporate, which will result in thicker stew.
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 7:32 AM on March 15 [1 favorite]

Passata is what you're looking for - you can use that 1:1 for tinned tomatoes. Tomato puree is concentrated - you'd need a lot less of that (and would need extra liquid to compensate for the liquid not added from the tin of tomatoes)
posted by EndsOfInvention at 7:39 AM on March 15 [14 favorites]

I'm not sure I would do a 1:1 ratio, but maybe 1: 1/2, at least at first, and then adjust to taste. Reason being that puree and paste end up tasting much sweeter, due to concentration of the juices and pulp. Whatever you do, read your labels carefully and don't get a product that has added sugar.

I agree that paste will likely yield that thicker, richer flavor that you like.
posted by vignettist at 7:39 AM on March 15 [2 favorites]

1 : 1 diced tomatoes with tomato paste (which is not the same as tomato puree) would not work. Not at all. You could eliminate the diced tomatoes and add some paste for the flavor but you'd be missing volume and some liquid.

You might try running the diced tomatoes through a food mill and reserving some of the liquid. Otherwise, try the crushed tomato suggestion (crushed would be more like a puree than tomato paste), adding a little of the liquid at the time.
posted by crush-onastick at 7:39 AM on March 15 [1 favorite]

Oh hell yeah. Substitute away. I use tomato powder from the Spice House sometimes. Just be aware that you're losing some liquid you may have to replace.
posted by BibiRose at 7:39 AM on March 15

Speaking very generally, of course you can. In fact, sometimes when I'm cooking I'll take the recommended number of tomatoes (i.e. a recipe that calls for "two tomatoes") and puree them in the blender before adding them to the cooking vessel.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 7:39 AM on March 15

I hate the texture of tomatoes too. I make that substitution all the time -- crushed or pureed tomatoes instead of diced. You could also use an immersion blender to puree the diced tomatoes before adding them (I do this to Rotel-type canned tomato and chiles to make chicken tacos; it's awesome) . It'll be totally fine. Your chilis and stews might be a little soupier but that's it.
posted by Janta at 7:40 AM on March 15

Whoops - having read that passata page, this seems relevant:
Tomato Purée
In the U.S. this refers to a basic processed tomato sauce. In Europe, tomato purée is a concentrated paste which is known as tomato paste in the States.
So what I (in the UK) said about puree being concentrated is probably not correct.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 7:41 AM on March 15 [7 favorites]

To your bonus q: Tomato paste is not just thicker, it is an extraordinarily concentrated tomato flavor. So in that chili recipe, if you subbed a 16-oz can of diced tomatoes for 16 oz of tomato paste, it would be very thick (think of all the water in a can of diced tomatoes) and the intense tomato flavor would overpower everything.

I'd use a combo of puree and paste-- why not do a test run? Chili can stand up to eyeballed measurements.
posted by kapers at 7:41 AM on March 15

My dad's chili recipe, which is still my go to recipe, uses tomato juice (like the kind you drink) instead of tomatoes. I only recently learned from my mom that this is because my sister and I threw a fit when we were kids about eating chunks of tomato. Try tomato juice.
posted by something something at 7:47 AM on March 15

Blend the diced tomatoes in a blender! I only ever buy diced tomatoes and blend as necessary.
posted by Frowner at 8:02 AM on March 15 [1 favorite]

I use pureed tomaters for pasketti sauce all the time. biscotti agrees that the end product is good.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:12 AM on March 15

This kind of tomato puree yes, should be fine 1:1. I myself use crushed for sauces and chili because I like a little texture but very few identifiable chunks (while my husband, Official Chili Maker, wants the chunks) but would be happy using that kind of puree if I had it on hand, I just rarely do.

You can put a stick blender to a can of other-format tomatoes, but the upside of the commercial puree is that it is strained before canning so you do not get the slightly different flavor of seed and skin. It's brighter, a little bit, without them.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:24 AM on March 15

Yes, you can substitute tomato puree 1:1. I did this for years due to the same texture issues. I find crushed tomatoes are also just fine with me now. I don't like diced tomatoes. (Tomato paste in the US is the super concentrated stuff, not tomato puree, as noted above.)

Bonus tip: fire roasted kinds are the best! So tasty!
posted by purple_bird at 8:50 AM on March 15 [4 favorites]

If you use tomato paste, add it at the end of sauteeing aromatics or other veggies and let it cook off for a minute to really enhance the taste.
posted by Room 641-A at 8:52 AM on March 15 [2 favorites]

Puree, yes, totally. For paste, I'd do 1:1 units rather than by volume, so one of the small cans that tomato paste comes in for one of the larger cans of diced tomatoes.
posted by Ragged Richard at 9:17 AM on March 15

All my tomato-based recipes use both chunks AND paste, so you're missing out if you're not using paste alongside either canned or puree. It's a different beast, and provides the bass note to the treble of the unconcentrated tomatoes.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:28 AM on March 15 [1 favorite]

I have a bottle of passata in my fridge always, and I use it sparingly. IMO, a lot of recipes for stews and chili have too much tomato in them - it's like they fit the amount to the size of the can rather than to the final taste. When the puree is in a bottle rather than a can, I can put back on the lid and store it till next time. So my answer is both yes, you can substitute, and also, try to cut down on the tomato. I have the sense you will like it.
posted by mumimor at 9:47 AM on March 15

Buy an immersion blender to turn stewed/diced tomato into a consistency of your liking?
posted by kuanes at 9:51 AM on March 15 [2 favorites]

If you're going to break down canned tomatoes from a larger form you should start with whole tomatoes. Diced tomatoes are treated with something to help hold their shape, which affects the texture. (BTW, canned San Marazano tomatoes are very good.)
posted by Room 641-A at 12:09 PM on March 15

My kids don't like chunky tomato bits so we only ever use passata in pasta sauce / chilli etc. It's fine.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 5:41 PM on March 15

« Older Could I have a vision problem that requires...   |   Informal reception for 30-40 people in Boston Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments