Tomatoes are one of the healthiest fruits and kitchen ingredients that we should have in our diet. Also hailed as a superfood, no wonder it’s highly regarded as such since it’s packed with nutrients and minerals that our bodies need. It’s a perfect addition for any dish whether eaten cooked or raw. It’s just perfectly the best.
But if you’re out of tomatoes, what to do? You need to achieve that “umami” taste in the food right? Fret no more, because you can substitute tomatoes surprisingly with cheese. Yes, that’s right. Other surprising substitutes are red bell peppers and olives.
Best Tomato Substitutes
Here’s how you can use these substitutes over tomatoes easily.
Our all-time favorite stretchy, creamy, rich, and umami tasting cheese is the perfect substitute for tomatoes. It offers the same flavor of that umami-rich goodness, except that tomatoes have a more refreshing effect compared to cheese.
Still, the taste is definitely worth giving a go without compromising the quality. I know cheese can be a surprising substitute and you might probably think that another veggie or fruit should make it on this list. But, we shouldn’t judge too early because cheese can do the work especially on most of our favorite tomato-based dishes.
How to Use
The most common dish that you can substitute with cheese is pizza. Pizza will still taste the same even with no tomatoes or any tomato-based sauce. Just add cheese, olive oil, and basil then you’re good to go.
You can also make umami tasting pasta without it, just a cheesy pasta can make a cut. Notice as well that when adding cheese in salads, the flavors are really good even without the freshness of the tomatoes. Try it using cheese and experiment with many dishes.
2. Red Bell Pepper
Red bell peppers also made it in the list. Red bell peppers have the same color as tomatoes, that’s the first check. It also has a sweet taste just like tomatoes, second check. Look no further because you don’t need to rush to the grocery store to buy tomatoes.
You can take advantage of your red bell peppers and use them with other dishes that call for tomatoes. Red bell peppers are also easy to find in any farmer’s market and grocery store. It won’t look like you’re missing out on tomatoes because the red bell pepper is almost like a doppelganger with it.
How To Use
When substituting tomatoes with red bell peppers, it’s best used for savory and spicy dishes. I would recommend using red bell peppers for curries, chilis, salsas, and other red stew based dishes. It also adds a hint of smokiness or spice to the dish that tomatoes can’t offer. Roast a bit of bell peppers in the oven, take off the skin, and mash it.
It’s a perfect ingredient for copying the tomato’s texture with a smoky twist to it. You can also use this for pasta and pizzas if you run out of tomato topping. It complements other ingredients in the dish which makes it easier to substitute for wider dishes.
Olives are another surprising entry on this list. It might be a little too different in color and texture but it definitely got the umami taste! This is also a fruit the same as tomatoes. This tiny fruit is packed with nutritional value that you can add to your healthy diet.
Also, it’s perfect for people who are vegetarian or vegan. It takes less preparation since you can eat it as it is. No more chopping, mashing, or anything. Just less fuss. It’s also readily available in most grocery stores that come in different variants such as black and green olives.
How to Use
Unlike other dishes, substituting with olives is quite limited but it still counts. The best dish to substitute with tomatoes over olives is in salads. Olives give that umami taste for the salad that you don’t even need to season it with anything.
All you need is a handful of it, mix it with the rest of your veggies and drizzle with a bit of olive oil. It’s easy to prepare and doesn’t need to be cooked for most dishes. Making this big switch is worth it once you try different dishes.
What else can I use for curries instead of tomatoes? Another great option you could try out is tamarinds. You can purchase tamarind pastes in most grocery stores or even online. It’s easy as well since the taste of the tamarind quite resembles the tomatoes.
You just need its tanginess, acidity, and fresh goodness. Just make sure you don’t add too much since it could get too sour and powerful for the dish. If you have time to make it from scratch, I suggest that you try to do so.
Just Skip It Entirely
It wouldn’t hurt to skip tomatoes completely. As long as the rest of your ingredients are there, then you should be good. The only thing is that you might sacrifice a little bit of the taste and the texture of the dish. But in some dishes that only need a few tomatoes, you can easily just skip the tomatoes and go on with your dish.
Can I use canned tomatoes instead?
Yes, definitely you can. Just keep in mind that it wouldn’t be as fresh as opposed to using the freshly cut tomatoes. Also, if the recipe calls for less moisture or liquid, canned tomatoes might not be a good fit.
The canned ones can be too liquidy when added to other dishes. If you’re adding this on a salad, for example, it’s a big no. but for pizzas, pasta, and stews, you can definitely replace it with canned tomatoes.
Can I use tomato paste as a substitute?
Yes, but then again only for limited dishes. Tomato paste does not offer the same texture as the whole tomato does. For instance, you can use tomato paste for soups and stews.
Basically for most liquid or clean dishes that don’t call for chunky tomatoes. You can also use this for making sauces or glaze instead of making from scratch and chop tons of tomatoes.
Personally, it could be hard to substitute tomatoes especially if you like observing authenticity in your dishes. You might need to sacrifice the quality but not entirely since you can still find other alternatives that can work equally as tomatoes in other dishes. It’s totally up to you if you’re willing to explore and discover more in this culinary journey.
I advise that you always keep canned crushed tomatoes or a tomato plant at home so you have easy access if you don’t have a store nearby. This will come in handy especially if you’ve already started cooking the dish. You just can’t leave the dish and buy at the store, right?
But, whatever you ended up picking as a substitute, just make sure that it works well for that certain dish. Rest assured that all the substitutes mentioned above can replace the lack of tomatoes. Just be more open-minded, learn to experiment, and don’t be afraid to explore better substitutes.