12 Easy Recipes That Start With a Can of Tomatoes

Canned tomatoes A.I. art

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Canned tomatoes A.I. art
Cheapism / Microsoft Copilot

Canned Buy Me Love

Canned tomatoes are one of those foods that seem eternally stuck in the back of the pantry. Why can't anybody figure out a way to buy the correct amount?

If you're looking to clear out the pantry and create some tasty dishes on the foundation of canned tomatoes, it’s actually shockingly easy. Here are 12 simple, affordable recipes to help you use up that last can of tomatoes.

spaghetti Bolognese with minced beef and tomato sauce garnished with parmesan cheese and basil , Italian food

1. Pasta Sauce

Let’s start with the basics. Nothing lends itself to pasta sauce like a can of tomatoes. You can construct just about any tomato-based sauce with a can of the good stuff. Red wine, white wine, cream, ground beef, spicy red peppers, and just about anything else you’ve got sitting around can do the rest of the work for you.

Recipe: Spend With Pennies

Mexican chicken and rice casserole
Mexican chicken and rice casserole by Corey Seeman (CC BY-NC-SA)

2. Mexican Rice Casserole

Casseroles are wonderful. They're simple, filling, cheap, and usually impossible to screw up. Tomatoes and cumin are the backbone of the rice, and once you've got melty cheese over tomatoey rice, you've got umami. Add chicken, add pork, add shrimp, add a big flippin' cauliflower steak. There are no wrong ways to do this.

Recipe: Food Network

eyecrave productions/istockphoto

3. Soups and Chili

Soup and chili is another core arena for canned tomatoes. Their hearty, acidic richness are the perfect roots to start building flavors. 

I can personally advocate for this recipe from Emeril. For many years, I made this chili for Super Bowl parties, and every last person who tasted it said it was the best chili they’d ever had. All I did was follow the recipe, but I will be personally taking credit for that for the rest of my life.

Recipe: Emeril Lagasse

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Spicy Homemade Cheesey Queso Dip

4. Chile con Queso

Any Texas ex-pat will be sure to let you know if there's no good queso in your town. They're convinced the rest of us do it wrong. It's probably true.

One way to not do it wrong? Start with this recipe from the Homesick Texan, which calls for a can of tomatoes. Cheddar and Jack cheese will take the wheel from there.

Recipe: Homesick Texan

Related: From Bruschetta to Salsa, Here are 10 Ways to Preserve Tomatoes

Butter chicken in tomato sauce
Butter chicken in tomato sauce by Famartin (CC BY-SA)

5. Indian Tomato Chicken

Not quite tikka masala and not quite butter chicken, you can take a less complicated route with some classic tomato chicken. As long as you can lock down cumin and turmeric, you shouldn't have any trouble acquiring the rest of the necessary ingredients. And don't forget: Pre-marinating your chicken always works wonders.

Recipe: Dinner Then Dessert

Related: 12 Recipes That Call for a Hearty Can of Tomato Soup

Hungarian goulash
Hungarian goulash by Jerry Pank (CC BY)

6. Goulash

This Hungarian dish is famously humble and pretty easy to make. As long as you've got tomatoes, meat, and paprika, you should be in business. Potatoes and other veggies will only help layer flavor, and you can toss some noodles in there for stroganoff vibes.

Recipe: Kalyn’s Kitchen

Stuffed Peppers

7. Stuffed Peppers

You can stuff a pepper with just about anything. A cooked mixture of tomatoes and meat are a tried-and-true stuffed peppers component, so work those tomatoes in a pan with any other veggies you're looking to get rid of to build depth. Then all you gotta do is cover 'em with cheese — maybe some breadcrumbs, too — and let 'em rip.

Recipe: Cooking Classy

salsa de arbol
salsa de arbol by El Mono Español (CC BY-SA)

8. Salsa

So many different salsas can come from a can of crushed tomatoes. Making a classic house salsa is easy, but if you've got access to chile de arbol peppers, consider making some salsa de arbol. It's incredibly simple, but you can complicate it and create bigger flavors by using a mortar and pestle.

Recipe: Bon Appétit

anda egg curry
anda egg curry by OnlyBestRecipes (CC BY-SA)

9. Spicy Tomato Egg Curry

Think of this more like a curry with eggs in it than an egg-centric curry. Tomato egg curry is a South Indian specialty and tomatoes are the soul. If you can't find garam masala in a grocery store, it's easy to pick up on Amazon.

Recipe: Cooking Curries

Beans on toast
Beans on toast by Stewart Black (CC BY)

10. Beans on Toast

An English classic, beans on toast is the type of food you don't want to admit that you love as much as you do. If you can land some delicious bread and make those beans nice and savory (this recipe calls for sausage, tomatoes, and lots of garlic), you can crank this dish up several notches. 

Recipe: Epicurious

Woman preparing shakshuka with poached eggs

11. Shakshuka

Bust out the cast iron for this one. The beloved North African and Middle Eastern baked eggs dish would be impossible without its tomato base. Don't even thinking about lighting the stove unless you've got some crusty bread for dipping at the ready.

Recipe: Minimalist Baker

Related: 6 Things You Should Never Cook in Cast-Iron Skillet

Chicken Cacciatore

12. Instant Pot Chicken Cacciatore

I have fears that any Instant Pot I touch will explode, but if you're not a coward like me, consider this chicken cacciatore recipe. You can knock this whole thing out in an hour with an Instant Pot. If done right, you can build deep flavors in a pretty short time.

Recipe: Allrecipes