Here's what you need to know.

You'll encounter a whole world of canned tomatoes in your average grocery store: Whole, stewed, fire-roasted, pureed, and paste are all popular styles of canned tomato products, but diced and crushed are two of the most versatile varieties. Stocking both these staples in your pantry is a great idea, but it's good to know what the difference between them is, and when you can substitute one for the other.

What Are Diced Tomatoes?

Diced tomatoes are chunks of tomato in tomato juice, and usually contain citric acid and calcium chloride (which helps the tomato chunks retain their shape). Because diced tomatoes stay firmer even when cooking, they are great for long-simmering dishes in which you want some chunks of tomato, like in gumbo, italian sausage soup, picadillo, or this slow cooker creamy chicken taco soup. Diced tomatoes are especially good in chili, a dish that is typically cooked for a long time for all the flavors to combine.

What Are Crushed Tomatoes?

Crushed tomatoes are a mixture of more finely diced tomatoes in a tomato puree. They have a much smoother texture and add thickness that's ideal for pasta sauce, lasagna, and Murgh Kari (a type of chicken curry).

Can You Substitute One For the Other?

There are a few times in which crushed and diced tomatoes could be used interchangeably. Diced tomatoes can be used in place of crushed tomatoes, but you'll need to increase the cooking time substantially to try to break down the chunks of tomato. You could also run your diced tomatoes through a food processor and add a bit of tomato paste to them to achieve a result closer to crushed tomatoes. In both scenarios, they may not become as smooth as crushed tomatoes, but working with what you have can be important when cooking from your pantry.

How Long Do Canned Tomatoes Last?

Canned tomatoes are an affordable and convenient staple for making cooked sauces, soups, stews, and much more, and they're especially reliable when out-of-season tomatoes can be flavorless and grainy. Cans last between twelve and eighteen months in your pantry. Plus, you don't have to worry about quality: The tomatoes are picked at peak ripeness and often processed and canned within hours of being harvested.