Food & Drink

Southern Classic: Tomato Pudding

An old-fashioned favorite

Photo: Peter Frank Edwards

It is an incredibly simple dish, even for the down-to-earth likes of Robert Stehling.

At the Hominy Grill in Charleston, South Carolina, the chef has long served the sort of fare that weighs down many a family table below the Mason-Dixon line: shrimp and grits, lima beans, macaroni and cheese. And perhaps the humblest dish on the menu is also one of the most popular. Customers adore the old-fashioned tomato pudding.

Stehling had seen the pudding in vintage cookbooks for years before he decided to add it to his list of side dishes. It wasn’t his creation, but it has become one of his signatures.

“People go crazy for it, and they ask for the recipe,” he says. “I give it to them, but with the disclaimer that this is not the product of the mind of a genius chef. It is the product of having enough confidence to put butter and white bread and tomatoes on a menu and stand by it.”

Cooked down, the trio of summertime ingredients is an acidic, slightly sweet complement to grilled meats and fried chicken.

Pay close attention to the order of the ingredients. Adding the butter to the bread before mixing the pudding helps give it that golden-brown, toasty flavor. Resist the temptation to add fresh herbs or tomatoes.



    • 28 oz. canned whole tomatoes

    • 3/4 cup sugar

    • 1/4 cup butter, melted

    • 3-4 slices white bread, cut into cubes

    • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

  2. Pour the canned tomatoes into a medium mixing bowl and break them up with a large spoon. You don’t need to crush them, but you should break them open. Pour the sugar on top of the tomatoes, followed by the bread. Douse the mixture in melted butter and season with salt and black pepper. Do not stir the ingredients. Pour them directly into a buttered casserole dish and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until bubbly and golden brown.

From chef Robert Stehling of Hominy Grill in Charleston, South Carolina