This is another of my Aunt Katy’s fantastic recipes passed down from generations before her. She’s been making Southern stewed tomatoes longer than I’ve been alive and we had the privilege of enjoying this treat over Labor Day. Now you can too!
The great thing about this tomato dish (besides the wonderful taste) is the convenience. Stewed tomatoes can cook for as little as 15 minutes or as long as several hours making them easy to bring hot to the table at the same time as the rest of your dishes.
When I was a child, my grandfather would make this recipe for stewed tomatoes with bread. He used fresh produce from his garden when tomatoes were in season to create the most authentic taste possible but if you don’t have access to garden tomatoes right now, you can absolutely use canned tomatoes instead.
My grandfather would make stewed tomatoes year-round with tomatoes he had canned from the garden but petite-diced from the grocery store will do just fine. In the recipe below I’m going to calls for canned just for convenience and availability. Let’s learn how to make stewed tomatoes the Southern way!
- While you can use either butter or oil, I recommend straight-up butter rather than margarine or oil. It’s just the Southern way!
- Either cook bacon slices to well done and crumble them or just use a package of Real Bacon bacon bits. Microwave the bacon bits on a plate for 30 seconds or so to make them extra crispy. I love this shortcut but make sure you’re using Real Bacon Bits and not the dehydrated, artificial ones you often find on salad bars.
- You will need petite diced tomatoes for this recipe. If you’re using fresh tomatoes or ones that you canned whole from your garden you’ll need to dice them by hand. If your tomatoes are coming from the grocery store just make sure to buy ones labeled “petite diced” and you’re good to go.
Cooking The Tomatoes
Like most Southern recipes, stewed tomatoes are simple and cheap to make. There’s no need to complicate or overthink this recipe. However, here are a few recommendations if you want them to taste “like mama used to make.”
To get that traditional, Southern flavor just right be sure to cook stewed tomatoes in a cast-iron, well-seasoned Dutch oven. Stewing the tomatoes in a Crueset isn’t going to ruin them but they’ll taste best in good old-fashioned dutch oven like this one from Lodge.
Having well-seasoned cast iron is key here since you’ll be simmering acidic food. You don’t want a metallic taste to leech into your recipe. Seasoning your cast-iron cookware prevents this. Plus, as an added bonus, cooking with cast iron (especially acidic foods like tomatoes) is an easy way to add iron to your diet!
If you purchase a pre-seasoned iron skillet, some of the work will be done for you but you’ll still need to season it on your own before using it. A pre-seasoned skillet just gives you a bit of a jump start. If you’ve ever cooked with heirloom cast iron you know that there’s nothing like cooking with a pan that’s been used and seasoned consistently over the course of years, decades, or even centuries. I have a 100-year-old cast-iron skillet that’s been passed down in my family and nothing will stick to that thing! It’s amazing.
Whether you’re making stewed tomatoes with garden-fresh produce in cast iron that’s been seasoned for decades or an enameled pot from Williams Sonoma with store-bought tomatoes you will love this Southern Stewed Tomatoes Recipe!
Southern Stewed Tomatoes
- 1 large onion
- 1 T butter or oil for sauteing
- 4 bacon slices cooked and crumbled (or a package of Real Bacon bacon bits)
- 3 14.5 oz cans petite diced tomatoes
- 4 slices of bread toasted, cut into bite-size pieces
- salt and pepper to taste
- Saute onions in a dutch oven.
- Add bacon (or Real Bacon bacon bits) and continue sauteing until onions are translucent.
- Add tomatoes, salt, and pepper.
- Cover and cook over low heat for at least 15 minutes.
- Just before serving, add toasted bread pieces to absorb the juice and make a thickened tomato stew.