Skip to Content

13 Perfect Tomato Substitutes To Make A Tangy Addition To Your Recipes

Tomatoes are a must-have in many kitchens; they work as a staple of most foods and are undoubtedly the most widely used vegetables in the world. They are just the right touch and what many recipes need to be perfect. 

Still, sometimes using tomatoes in recipes is just not an option, and it’s essential to actively look for a tomato substitute. Some of the reasons include allergies or dietary restrictions.

So, what happens when you can’t use tomatoes? That’s where the substitutes come in!

When substituting tomatoes for other ingredients or vegetables, it’s important to remember that the taste will not be the same as using canned or fresh tomatoes.

However, the substitutes will give a unique taste to the dish and offer a different flavor from the usual tomato flavor making it the perfect touch for your dish.

Let’s look at how you can substitute tomatoes.

Nutritional Value Table

SubstituteCalories (Per 100 gm)
Eggplant25
Zucchini17
Olives115
Beets43
Umeboshi Paste33
Tamarind239
Unripened Mangoes 49
Bell Peppers20
Carrots41
Grapes67
Pumpkin Puree26
Stock And Vinegar18
Cheese402

Substitutes For Tomato

1. Eggplant

Eggplant

Eggplants are some of the most promising tomato substitutes available in the market. Purple in color, eggplants can be enjoyed grilled, roasted, or even fried. With the right toppings, they work as great side dishes.

An eggplant has a unique flavor – it tastes more like squash or zucchini and is very tender and sweet with the occasional vegetable sourness.

Eggplants are great when cooked as they often absorb the flavor of the entire meal. They are spongy when raw and a bit firm when just matured. 

How To Substitute

When substituting Eggplant for tomatoes, it’s vital to use the same amount you usually would when cooking with tomatoes. However, it’s important to note that eggplants absorb a lot more oil than tomatoes, and it is important to use less oil. When frying, use super-hot oil to ensure that when it cooks, it does not suck in the oil, as it will make a seal quicker before frying till ready.

2. Zucchini 

Zucchini

Zucchini is another tomato substitute you want to use in your recipe. It works the same as an eggplant, as you can roast, grill, or fry it.  Zucchini has a mild flavor and leans more on the sweet side with a pinch of bitterness to it.

However, when cooked, the sweetness of the zucchini jumps out. It also still holds its shape and does not fall apart. Although it can be enjoyed raw in some salads, it’s best eaten cooked.

How To Substitute

When substituting zucchini for tomatoes, note that it’s necessary to let it cook a little bit more if it’s cut in thick slices. Unlike tomatoes, the thinner, the less time it will need to cook. The substitute, in this case, will also need a little bit of citrus zest to give off the same effect as tomatoes. Adding sufficient salt is also important as zucchini itself is rather bland.

3. Olives 

Olives as tomato substitute

When looking for something to replace tomatoes, olives are a great option to consider.

When picking olives, you may want to consider their color and smell to tell if it’s ripe and ready to eat or cook (raw olives are incredibly bitter and can dull your light). 

When harvested raw and meant to be used in cooking, they are often cured by preserving them in brine or salt and give off a salty taste.

On the other hand, ripe olives are a delight to use in cooking and are aromatic, bringing a mild to sweet taste.

How To Substitute

There are many ways to substitute tomatoes for olives. One way is by incorporating it into a salad. A bit of vinegar or citrus topping brings out the flavor. They also are perfect when cooking simple vegetable meals. The secret to picking the best olives is to pick darker ones and blanch them for a minute in boiling water before tomato substituting them.

4. Beets

Beets as tomato substitute

In the list of tomato substitutes, the biggest surprise is undoubtedly beets.

Beets, better known as beetroots, are red vegetable roots known for their blood-boosting ability and their ability to stain everything they come in contact with.

Beets, however, have an almost floral and very sweet flavor. Their taste varies depending on how they are cooked.

How To Substitute

The only way to substitute tomatoes with beets is by cooking them using a pressure cooker to make a puree. The texture will consistently mimic tomato paste, and with a little bit of vinegar and citrus, it is the closest it gets to a tomato. When substituting for salads, grate them or thinly slice them until they are paper thin before mixing them in the salad. Anything bigger will make it hard to chew into.

5. Umeboshi Paste

Umeboshi Paste

Umeboshi paste has had its run in the world for as long as tomatoes and have been used in most Asian countries for hundreds of years.

Umeboshi paste is a great tomato substitute and a close match as it has a similar taste to tomatoes.  

Overall, it tastes sweet with a little bit of tanginess and saltiness. However, it goes through a pickling and dating process that is considered strenuous to reach this height. 

How To Substitute

When substituting tomatoes for umeboshi, the process is straightforward as it behaves just like tomatoes. Put the paste in after the onions turn golden brown in oil. Before adding your chicken, meat, or veggies, make sure the paste breaks, blends in with other ingredients and has an aromatic scent.

6. Tamarind

Tamarind as tomato substitute

If you have some funds to spare and are looking for a perfect tomato substitute to try, nothing gets closer like Tamarind. Tamarind paste is found naturally in nature and comes from the tamarind tree.

When fermented, it makes the paste which is particularly useful as it can be stored in the fridge and has a long shelf life. The paste’s flavor highly depends on how ripe the fruit is; the riper, the sweeter the taste.

Tamarind is a paste that is both sweet and sour and has a similar color to tomatoes making it the right tomato substitute.

However, it is spicy and is often used to make Mexican and Indian dishes. It can also be used as a meat tenderizer in most Asian homes as it is highly acidic and cuts into the toughest meats.

How To Substitute

Unlike the umeboshi paste, Tamarind is often used first or last. In most meats, it will be used first as it helps the breaking down process. In soups, it is often used last to give the soups a unique flavor while still thickening them.

7. Unripe Mangoes

Unripe mangoes

An underrated tomato substitute is unripe mangoes. The tropical fruits are a refreshing choice as they are low-fat but full of fiber.

They can be used in smoothies when left to ripen fully but make some of the best dipping sauces when mixed with other ingredients when unripe.

The taste and flavor the mangoes produce are similar to tomatoes and are perfect when diced and added to salads and salsas.

You can also use unripe mangoes in stuffing chicken…the meat comes out tender, sweet, and overall tasty in a few minutes.

How To Substitute

Substituting tomatoes with mangoes can be done in several things, from salads to salsa. However, it’s best substituted in its raw form. The substitution ratio is 1:1, and the result is a pure refreshing taste.

8. Bell Peppers

Bell peppers as tomato substitute

Fresh red bell peppers can be found in every grocery store or the farmer’s market at an affordable price.

Bell peppers, particularly red bell peppers, are considered one of the best substitutes for tomatoes as they mimic color and acidity levels.

Just like tomatoes, bell peppers can be used to make soups, stews, salads, sauces, and stir-fries.

How To Substitute

The color of the bell peppers determines how to substitute them for tomatoes. When stir-frying or roasting, use any color from yellow, red, or green, as it will give a pleasant sweet and sour taste. In salads, use red or yellow bell peppers as they are sweeter, and forgo the green ones as they may be a little too bitter. When used in cooking, try using the ripe ones (not overripe). Roast the bell papers when using in cooking for a few minutes until slightly charred for that sweet, smoky flavor.

9. Carrots

Carrots

Carrot roots are colorful, tasty, and an excellent substitute for tomatoes. Just like tomatoes, they can be eaten raw, fried, steamed, or boiled, each tasting diversely different from the others depending on the method used.

Carrots are versatile in that they can be used in puddings, cakes, and preserves.

Depending on the age and conditions grown, carrots can have a woody, earthy, sweet taste with a noticeable but negligent harshness to them.

How To Substitute

When using them as a tomato replacement, add a splash of vinegar to give them that tangy flavor. When used in cooking, use the same amount as tomatoes as they often soften at about the same time tomatoes do.

10. Grapes

Grapes

There are typically two types of grapes, red and green grapes. However, many grape varieties are available in the market, with the crimson grapes being the most popular due to their seedless form.

When harvested and left on its vine and in the sun, grapes continue to ripen and turn from sour to sweet.

There is no harm in using the ripe harvested ones as ripe grapes, even when left to ripen, still have a mouth-puckeringly sour taste.

How To Substitute

Grapes are worthy tomato substitutes in that they have that tart flavor that is familiar to tomatoes and are perfect for salads. However, they also work as great accompaniments for casseroles with cheese as they give a sweet and savory combination.

11. Pumpkin Puree

Pumpkin Puree as tomato substitute

Pumpkins, particularly pumpkin puree, are a good replacement for tomatoes in recipes calling for tomato paste. Pumpkin puree has a thick, smooth texture making it great for simmering or for soups.

How To Substitute

When substituting tomatoes for pumpkin, have the dish boiled before being blended onto a thick paste. When cooking, ensure to add all amounts of vinegar to have that tomato acidity taste mimicked perfectly. It is often used in curries after an assortment of spices is added to it. Use it in soups and sauces for a unique fall-inspired taste.

12. Stock And Vinegar

Stock and viegar

The most labor-intensive method of substituting tomatoes is using stock and vinegar.

The vinegar, or sometimes white wine, is important to break down the cartilage in the bones of the chicken or beef, speeding up the formation of gelatin.

When making the stock, base it on chicken or beef and make the meat boil on it for 7-9 hours at a time. Add numerous spices and herbs to give it an aromatic flavor.

The result should be a thick brown stock that is rich in nutrients

How To Substitute

The substitute for tomatoes works in soups and sauces to give the dish a meaty, earthy flavor. Due to the vinegar and white wine, the stock will already have that tart or tangy taste, making it an ideal tomato substitute.

13. Cheese

Cheese

Cheese is one of the few tomato substitutes that give off a perfect umami flavor to dishes.

There are many types of cheese in the market, but one thing is consistent: all have a milky buttery sweet, and mild taste with a little bit of tangy tartness that is both delicate and yeasty.

Choose the cheese depending on the processing method, as some will substitute better than others. 

How To Substitute

Substituting tomatoes for cheese can seem like a stretch, but it is worth all the hype. The secret is melting all the cheese in low heat to avoid burning before adding your main dish to it to give it that cheesy taste. It’s, however, best used on top of casseroles before popping it in the oven to give it a melted hearty covering. The substitute works best for tomato sandwiches, and they make the best feta cheese sandwiches.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is The Most Popular Type Of Tomato?

The globe tomato is the most popular, which works best for sandwiches. Smaller versions of the tomato are often used in salads or snacking. 

What Should You Consider When Substituting Tomatoes?

The biggest factor that determines what you will be substituting is the concentration of the paste required or recipes that use tomato paste as opposed to fresh tomatoes. The more concentration, the more substitute is needed. 

How Do You Choose Which Substitute To Use?  

The answer depends on the type of flavor expected at the end.  When looking to substitute tomatoes in soups and sauces, consider substitutes with a mild or earthy flavor. For a sweeter finish, consider fruity or sweet substitutes.

13 Perfect Tomato Substitutes To Make A Tangy Addition To Your Recipes

5 from 5 votes
Prep Time

3

minutes
Cooking Time

5

minutes
Total Time

8

minutes

Craving for a citrusy and tangy tomato flavor but don’t have any tomatoes? Here are the best substitutes for when you’re out of tomatoes.

Ingredients

  • Eggplant

  • Zucchini

  • Olives

  • Beets

  • Umeboshi Paste

  • Tamarind

  • Unripened Mangoes 

  • Bell Peppers

  • Carrots

  • Grapes

  • Pumpkin Puree

  • Stock And Vinegar

  • Cheese

Directions

  • Choose your favorite substitute from the list given above.
  • Follow the directions given in the recipe after having substituted the ingredient in the correct ratio.

Recipe Video

Jess Smith