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Substitute For Tomato


What works well as a substitute for tomato in recipes? It may seem like a big deal when fresh tomatoes are unavailable for Italian or Indian recipes; no need to worry; we have compiled a tomato substitute list with various options for all recipes that call for tomatoes.

tabletop with several bright red tomatoes, one tomato sliced in half

What is Tomato?

Despite the debate, tomatoes are fruits due to their inclusion of seeds inside. This fruit comes from the tomato plant and can be purchased in various colors ranging from bright red to yellow and brown. They’re part of the nightshade family, though they are safe to consume.

Tomatoes are used for various recipes, including salads, tomato sauces (like marinara sauce), pizza sauce, and Indian chutneys. These fruits provide a tangy flavor generally, with some types offering a sweeter or more sour taste.

Tomato Varieties

There are many varieties of tomatoes available, and they range in size from small grape-sized tomatoes up to tomatoes as big as a grapefruit. The most commonly used tomato varieties include grape, cherry, Roma, beefsteak, and San Marzano.

Additional types include “sun gold”, “early girl”, and “sweet 100” though these varieties are not typically found in grocery stores. Instead, these tomato types are grown in home gardens or offered at farmers markets or local produce stands.

Tomato Substitutes and Alternatives

Canned Tomatoes

Canned tomatoes offer one of the best tomato substitutes you can use in many recipes. They provide a similar taste, and they’re already cut up, offering a quicker meal prep time.

Keep in mind this substitute comes with tomato juice surrounding them, so they are best in recipes that have a liquid base like soups, stews, and sauces. This option is not a good swap for raw dishes like salad.

Pros

This alternative is easy to find at grocery stores.

Cons

The consistency of this tomato sub is much softer.

Cooking Tip:

Start with a 1:1 ratio and add more if needed.

Tomato Paste

Tomato paste is one of the other excellent substitutes for tomatoes you can use. This option provides a tomato flavor to soups, stews, and sauces. For salads, this replacement would not make an ideal swap. Though, you can use it for stir-fries as a flavoring agent.

Pros

This option is another easily accessible replacement as most already have tomato paste in their pantry. Otherwise, it can be found at local grocery stores and is budget-friendly.

Cons

It can be easy to overpower other flavors in the recipe if you use too much tomato paste as it has a concentrated taste. You will need to alter the consistency of this swap with liquid as it is very thick.

Cooking Tip:

Start with ½ tablespoon for every medium tomato. Add more for a more robust tomato flavor.

Tomato Sauce

Tomato sauce is a great way to add tomato flavoring into recipes. However, it is made using ingredients like tomato puree, extra virgin olive oil, vegetable broth, and seasonings like garlic, oregano, basil, black pepper, bay leaf, and salt. Because of this, tomato sauce will provide a much different flavor than regular tomatoes.

Pros

Use tomato sauce for recipes that require a liquid base. In particular, this alternative is an excellent choice when creating soups, stews, and sauces. Tomato sauce is easily found in grocery stores, though many people already have a jar in their homes.

Cons

As this option is a sauce and not a vegetable, the other liquids in the recipe will need to be adjusted.

Cooking Tip:

Start with ½ the required amount and add more as needed.

Passata Sauce

Passata sauce is one of the top tomato alternatives in Italian recipes. This sauce is created from strained pureed tomatoes, offering a strong tomato taste. Unlike tomato sauce, passata does not typically include additional flavoring beyond salt on some occasions.

Pros

This swap is an excellent base for Italian soups, sauces, and other dishes requiring more liquid consistency. It’s also a vegetarian-friendly alternative to tomato sauce.

Cons

The amount of salt in recipes will need to be adjusted to account for the salt in the passata. Otherwise, it could create an unappealing flavor. This option is not available in all grocery stores. Likely, you will need to order it online unless you have a local Italian market nearby.

Cooking Tip:

Start with ½ the amount called for by the recipe and add more as needed.

Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Sun-dried tomatoes work well in many recipes like salads, sandwiches, and pizza toppings. They provide a different consistency and texture than fresh tomatoes as they are chewy. Including this substitute is an excellent way to bring a tomato taste to many dishes. They also offer a similar tangy taste.

Pros

There are multiple varieties available for purchase, including plain sun-dried tomatoes and tomatoes in oil. This swap allows you to choose the type that works best with your dish.

Cons

This replacement can be challenging to find at the grocery store. Though, you can make sun-dried tomatoes at home in the oven. This homemade option provides a tasty alternative, though it is time-consuming.

Cooking Tip:

Use a 1:1 ratio and add more as needed.

Tamarind Paste

Tamarind paste is a sticky, sweet, a bit sour paste that you can use to replace tomatoes in Indian dishes like chutneys. Mexican and Asian recipes also bode well with the flavors of tamarind.

Pros

You will not need to add additional ingredients to replicate the acidity of tomatoes when using tamarind paste.

Cons

This alternative is pricier than the other options and can be more challenging to find in local grocery stores. You’ll need to source this option online or find it at an Indian market if one is nearby.

Because this substitute is a thick paste and has a much different consistency than tomatoes, you will need to combine it with water or stock before using it.

Cooking Tip:

Start with ½ the required amount and adjust as needed.

Red Bell Peppers

Red peppers make a perfect substitute for tomatoes. They provide a similar bright red color to tomatoes in recipes. Raw, they add a delicious crunch to salads. When cooked, they mimic the texture of tomatoes as they soften.

Pros

Use red bell peppers in many recipe calls for tomatoes. You can also use green pepper if that’s what you have on hand, though they will be more bitter and have a more significant taste difference in dishes.

Cons

To better mimic the flavor of tomatoes, you’ll need to add an acidic element which can include lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, or Worcestershire sauce. It’s easy to go overboard on the acidity and create a dish that is not pleasant to eat.

Cooking Tip:

Use this alternative in a 1:1 ratio to replace tomatoes.

Green Tomatoes

Green tomatoes are a fantastic alternative to standard tomatoes. They provide a similar flavor with tangy notes and acidity in dishes. Though, they will create a different appearance since green tomatoes come with green flash as well.

These tomatoes, aka tomatillos, are great replacements in Mexican dishes like salsa. However, you can also use them in side dishes, salads, soups, and chutneys.

Pros

If you’re not a fan of how soft ripe tomatoes are, green tomatoes provide a firmer texture even when ripe.

Cons

This option is not as easy to find as standard tomatoes in grocery stores, especially when not in season. Though if you have a farmers market nearby, they will likely have this option available.

Cooking Tip:

Use a 1:1 ratio to replace standard tomatoes with tomatillos.

Zucchini

Zucchini is an excellent alternative to replace tomato in cooked recipes like soups (including chili), stews, and stir-fries. This option provides a similar texture to tomatoes when cooked. Avoid using raw zucchini in dishes as the consistency will be too different.

Pros

When using zucchini, there will be a similar sourness as in tomatoes. This vegetable is easily found in grocery stores, making it a great swap.

Cons

This vegetable lacks the acidity present in tomatoes. If you want to replicate this taste, you’ll need to include something like lime juice or vinegar to create a similar taste. This swap will provide a difference in appearance in recipes.

Cooking Tip:

Use a 1:1 ratio to replace zucchini with tomatoes.

Umeboshi Paste

In Asian-inspired recipes, umeboshi paste is a great substitute for tomatoes or tomato paste. This ingredient offers a very acidic, sweet, sour, and salty flavor.

When using this paste, it’s easy to overpower the flavors of the other ingredients as it has a more pungent taste than tomatoes. It will be necessary to adjust any additional salt that the recipe requires.

Pros

Use umeboshi paste for liquid-based recipes like sauces, soups, and curries. The paste shares a similar color as tomato paste, creating a similar appearance in dishes.

Cons

This swap is another challenging option to find in stores unless you live near an Asian marketplace. You will need to order this option before creating a recipe or have it already on hand to use as a swap.

If you’ve run out of tomatoes mid-recipe, opt for a swap like zucchinis or canned tomatoes that are more readily available.

Cooking Tip:

Use ½ the required amount and add more if needed.

Pumpkin Puree

Pumpkin puree is a surprising substitute for tomato for those who want a tasty chili without using ripe tomatoes. It will provide a much sweeter taste, so additional hot sauce or chili powder will help to balance out the sweetness.

Pros

Using pumpkin puree is a great way to create a thick, hearty soup that offers an autumn flavor. This alternative works well in other soups and sauces as well.

Cons

Depending on how thick you want your dish, you’ll likely need to alter the consistency with stock or water. This option adds another step to dishes.

Cooking Tip:

Start with ½ the amount required and adjust as needed.

Bilimbi

Those looking to recreate the sour taste in dishes can use bilimbi. It does not offer the sweetness found in tomatoes, though the sour taste can mimic the acidity. This fruit is either green or yellow, creating a difference in appearance in dishes.

Pros

This fruit works well in Indian-inspired recipes and fish-based dishes. Use bilimbi for a nice crunchy texture in salads.

Cons

This fruit is challenging to find. It’s another replacement that you will need to order online before including it in a recipe.

Cooking Tip:

Use ½ the required amount and add more if needed.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is a Good Substitute for Tomatoes?

The substitute you’ll want to use for tomatoes will depend on the recipe. Pumpkin puree is ideal for replacing tomatoes in chili. In general, sun-dried tomatoes, canned tomatoes, or tomato paste will be the best tomato substitutes due to their flavor.

What Is a Tomato Substitute in Soup?

Canned tomatoes work excellently in soups, stews, and sauces. However, zucchini and carrots are also excellent swaps as they help create flavor and add more vegetable bulk in soups.

What Is a Tomato Substitute for Italian Recipes?

Canned tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, and tomato paste or passata are the best replacements for Italian recipes. Red bell peppers are another excellent swap as they’ll add a similar red hue to dishes.

What Vegetables Are Similar to Tomatoes?

While no vegetable can perfectly replicate the flavor and consistency of tomatoes, zucchinis are excellent in cooked recipes as they will create a similar soft texture. Otherwise, red bell pepper adds a similar look and texture (when cooked) to dishes.

What Can I Substitute for Cherry Tomatoes?

If you’re looking to swap cherry tomatoes with another variety of tomatoes, grape tomatoes are an excellent swap. If you don’t have any tomatoes available, red seedless grapes can also work in specific recipes as they are of similar shape and size; expect a much sweeter taste when using grapes.

Summary

Now when you’re recreating a dish with tomatoes, you’ll have plenty of tomato substitutes to turn to. Reach for canned tomatoes or tomato paste if you’re creating a soup, sauce, or stew.

Otherwise, green tomatoes, zucchinis, and red bell peppers are great for cooked and raw dishes. Plus, zucchini and bell pepper are easily found in grocery stores.

More ingredient substitutes

Natalia | Flavorful home
Natalia is a recipe developer, food photographer, and home cook. She started Flavorful Home to document her recipes and share home cooking tips. She loves creating flavorful and nutritious meals while keeping the cooking process simple and joyful!

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