In this article, you will be able to pick the best substitute for sun-dried tomatoes to help you recreate any recipe.
Sun-dried tomatoes are delicious, chewy tomato chunks that liven up any recipe. What do you reach for when you’re in the middle of creating a summery salad and can’t find your sun-dried tomatoes?
Sun-dried tomatoes are known for offering a chewy texture and tangy flavor. They’re easy to find at grocery stores, though more varieties are typically present at farmers’ markets. You can spot these morsels by their varying shades of red and brown. Chop the tomatoes into bite-sized pieces for a salad topping or soak them before use to allow for a more pliable, easy-to-chew consistency.
These tomatoes are created by ripening tomatoes on a vine, then dehydrating them under the sun for about a week. The longer the tomatoes dehydrate, the bolder the flavor they produce. Most commonly, San Marzano, Roma tomatoes, grape tomatoes, or cherry tomatoes create this food product.
The origin of sun-dried tomatoes is the Mediterranean, specifically Italy. In the 1500s, tomatoes were brought to the area by Spaniards. The creation of a sun-drying process allowed the tomatoes to stay preserved for longer. Popularity for this ingredient did not rise in the US until the 1980s, during the start of the Mediterranean Diet.
In the 1990s, American companies made a new version of sun-dried tomatoes in which dehydrators were used instead of the old-fashioned drying method. This new process allowed overhead to be kept to a minimum, making sun-dried tomatoes even more accessible.
There are three main types of sun-dried tomatoes available for purchase. The first two are dry-packed sun-dried tomatoes and sun-dried tomatoes in oil. Dry-packed sun-dried tomatoes typically only use salt and some preservatives.
Sun-dried tomatoes in oil are sold in jars with different types of oil and varying seasonings. Both are dried in the same manner. However, oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes are immersed in oil and flavoring before the packing process. This packing difference causes a change in flavor and texture, with the oil-packed tomatoes being more supple.
The final variety of sun-dried tomatoes is semi-dried tomatoes. These have a milder taste due to a shorter drying time.
Fresh tomatoes work well as a sun dried tomatoes substitute. They offer a fresher flavor and mild sweetness, though the tomato taste is still present. Use fresh tomatoes in salads, vegetable sushi, and even soups.
The level of sweetness present in fresh tomatoes is less than that of sun-dried tomatoes. They are also generally less tangy. However, they brighten up recipes with a red color and a mild flavor. If you are still craving tanginess, you can alter the flavor by adding citrus. Try a splash of fresh-squeezed orange juice in salads for a sweeter taste.
Tomatoes are part of the nightshade family and are very flavorful to eat. Although my Italian recipes incorporate tomatoes, they originate in South America. Specifically Ecuador and Peru. The name tomato comes from the Náhuatl word tomatl. As noted above, tomatoes were introduced into Europe in the 1500s, then the US and the rest of the world.
Tomatoes are easy to find in stores, personal gardens, and farmers’ markets. There are quite a few varieties of tomatoes available, making it easier to pair tomatoes with different recipes. Using fresh tomatoes offers a similarly sweet tomato taste.
The flavor is more subtle than sun-dried tomatoes and lacks the punch of tanginess. Fresh tomatoes are not ideal for all recipes.
Use in a 1:1 ratio as a replacement for sun-dried tomatoes.
Canned tomatoes offer a more similar flavor to sun-dried tomatoes than fresh tomatoes. In both cases, harvesters use tomatoes at their peak ripeness. This process causes canned tomatoes to offer a similar sweetness and acidic taste in recipes. Canned tomatoes provide a more subtle flavor than sun-dried tomatoes.
This sub for sun-dried tomatoes is best in sauces and liquid-based recipes like soups and stews. Because it has a mild flavor, you will need to use a larger quantity of canned tomatoes to mimic the taste of sun-dried tomatoes.
The standard tomato variety used for canned tomatoes is plum tomatoes and garden vine tomatoes. Canning tomatoes began during the Civil War as a way to preserve food for the army. Once it was noticed that tomatoes could be grown quickly and lasted a long time in canned form, it became popular for people in the US to consume this food item.
Canned tomatoes offer a similar flavor to sun-dried tomatoes in terms of sweetness and acidity. They work well in sauces and stews.
Canned tomatoes do not work well in recipes without sauce, marinade, or other liquid. This factor limits the use of canned tomatoes as a replacement. In addition, the flavor is milder, causing you to use a larger quantity.
Use 3x the amount required by the recipe.
Tomato puree is a concentrated form of tomatoes with its consistency between tomato paste and tomato sauce. This version of tomatoes is created by cooking tomatoes and removing any skins, seeds, or pieces from the puree.
This puree is often made with tomatoes and water, though some versions include additional seasoning. Opt for tomato puree that is either purely made from tomatoes or tomatoes and water to avoid flavors that do not mesh well together.
Use tomato puree in the same type of recipes you would incorporate canned tomatoes in, such as soups, sauces, and marinades. This puree offers a similar taste to sun-dried tomatoes, though like other canned options, it is more subtle in flavor.
Tomato puree provides a strong tomato taste along with some sweetness, like sun-dried tomatoes. It’s an easily accessible tomato product at your nearby grocery store in the canned aisle or near the pasta ingredients. Use this swap for liquid-based recipes.
This substitution is not ideal for all recipes due to its liquid form. It also is not a perfect flavor match, and those with a sensitive palate may notice a difference in flavor.
Use one tablespoon of tomato puree for every three sun-dried tomatoes.
Roasted bell peppers are a great replacement for sun-dried tomatoes. When roasted, these vegetables present a sweetness that mimics sun-dried tomato. They also offer a smoky taste which bodes well with Italian recipes. Choose red, yellow, and orange bell peppers over green bell peppers when using this swap as they provide a sweeter flavor.
These bell peppers are versatile; you can use them in nearly all recipes that require sun-dried tomatoes. Use roasted bell peppers as salad toppers, mix them with pasta and rice, add them into soups or stews, and chop them finely for a replacement in bruschetta.
Bell peppers are part of the capsicum annuum family. All other peppers in this family contain varying degrees of heat, except for bell peppers. While spicy peppers have been grown and used for around 6,500 years, bell peppers were not an available variety until about 100 years ago. Now, sweet bell peppers are common to see in grocery stores.
Most stores carry roasted bell peppers in the prepared foods section. Otherwise, it is easy to create a homemade version with store-bought sweet peppers. These peppers add a similar sweetness to recipes and can replace sun-dried tomatoes in nearly all recipes.
There will be a noticeable flavor difference in dishes that include bell peppers, primarily due to the smoky taste offered.
Use a 1:1 ratio when replacing sun-dried tomatoes with sweet bell peppers.
If you can’t find sun-dried tomatoes in the store, you can create a homemade version easily using a dehydrator or an oven. Purchase tomatoes from the store or pull some from your garden, then keep them at low heat for a few hours.
Once you have made sun-dried tomatoes, they will offer nearly an identical taste to those you can purchase from the store.
Depending on which variety of tomatoes you choose, along with how ripe each tomato is, it will slightly affect the flavor of your homemade version. However, they will still offer the tangy sweetness you’re seeking in recipes. Use this option for any recipes that call for sun-dried tomatoes.
The flavor provided by homemade sun-dried tomatoes is nearly identical to that of store-bought sun-dried tomatoes. As you make this option from scratch, you can choose the flavors and amount of salt you’re adding to this ingredient. This version works as a stand-in for all sun-dried tomato recipes.
This version is a more time-consuming process than purchasing sun-dried tomatoes from your local store. The cooking process includes cleaning, chopping, arranging, and checking in occasionally on the homemade sun-dried tomatoes.
Use in a 1:1 ratio as a replacement for the store-bought version.
Tamarind paste works as a substitution for sun-dried tomatoes in a pinch. This paste offers a sour flavor that provides a tangy taste like that of sun-dried tomatoes when combined with sugar. You will find the tomato taste missing from this swap as it is made from tamarind instead of tomatoes.
This paste works well in Asian-inspired recipes, Indian-inspired dishes, and marinades for meat. It is not a good alternative in uncooked recipes, as the flavor is too sour.
The tamarind tree is native to Africa, though it grows in places like Mexico and the Caribbean. Tamarind paste occurs when the pulp inside the pods loses most of its moisture, creating the commonly used paste.
Sweetened tamarind paste provides a similar tangy flavor to dishes. It’s available at most large chain grocery stores in the international aisle. This past is an excellent addition to spicy dishes, soups, sauces, and Asian and Indian recipes.
The flavor will be different when using tamarind paste. The sour taste that this paste offers may be overwhelming for some people. If this is the case, avoid this swap and choose an alternative.
Use ½ teaspoon of tamarind paste in combination with a sprinkle of sugar to replace three sun-dried tomatoes. Add more if needed.
The closest tasting alternative to sun-dried tomatoes is roasted bell peppers. Tomato paste is another similar tasting alternative.
Yes, you can use regular tomatoes instead of sun-dried in specific recipes like salads. You will not find a tangy taste like what the sun-dried version offers. However, the tomato taste is present in fresh tomatoes, making them a good substitute for sun-dried tomatoes.
Sun-dried tomatoes are dried as a preservation method, whereas regular tomatoes are purchased fresh from a store or grown in your garden. These two variations of tomatoes each provide a different taste. Sun-dried tomatoes are chewier and sweeter than standard tomatoes.
No, sun-dried tomato paste is not the same as tomato puree. Sun-dried tomato paste is created by drying tomatoes and then pulverizing it into a paste. Tomato puree is made from fresh tomatoes, which are cooked and blended, offering a smooth consistency.
It depends on which type of sun-dried tomatoes are purchased. Sun-dried tomatoes that are packed in a container can stay on your counter or in your cupboard if they are in a dry environment. Sun-dried tomatoes in oil need to be kept in the fridge once you open the container.
Next time you’re searching through every drawer and cupboard in your kitchen for sundried tomatoes, give one of the above a try instead. Try tomato puree for the most similar taste or sweet bell peppers as the most versatile option.
If none of the above choices are present in your kitchen, additional alternatives include tomato powder, semi-dried tomatoes, and tomato paste.