Tomatoes are a staple ingredient in so many dishes and cuisines. But what can you use if you have a food intolerance to tomatoes or are simply out and want to make a flavorful meal? Let's talk through some tasty tomato substitutes!
Here I provide alternatives for tomatoes for many types of dishes, including sauces, salads and soups. All are easy to find in the store and I think you will have many of them already in your pantry!
What are tomatoes?
Tomatoes are often thought of as being a vegetable, but are actually a fruit. The most common types of tomatoes are red in color, but there are also green, yellow and purple varieties and some have stripy skins.
It's quite easy to grow tomatoes yourself and plants should give you a good harvest during the summer months. Or you can buy from the store of course!
Fresh tomatoes, as well as canned, sun dried and passata, are quite staple foods, particularly in Italian cuisine but many others too. They often form the base of sauces, curries and soups, and are the primary ingredient of caprese salads.
Why may you need some tomato substitutes?
There are a few reasons you may look for some alternatives to tomato. Personally I cannot eat tomatoes as they are high in histamine. This can be an issue for people with eczema, mast cell activation syndrome, histamine intolerance and other conditions.
Some people have an allergy to tomatoes and cannot consume them.
And of course, perhaps you are making a meal and realise that you are out of tomatoes and simply need a tomato replacement!
Please note that this is a broad informational post, and may contain reference to foods not suitable for specialist diets. Always consult with a dietician for your dietary needs.
9 best tomato substitutes
Whether you are looking for a substitute for the flavor of tomatoes, a ketchup substitute or the base of a sauce, I have you covered with so many alternatives for tomatoes!
Red bell peppers are such a good substitute for tomatoes. While no fruit or vegetable has the same flavor as tomatoes, bell peppers are a vegetable similar to tomato in their sweetness and can work so well as the base of a sauce or stew.
Roasting bell peppers is the best way I have found to use them as the base of a sauce. They become soft and have a similar sweetness to tomatoes. Adding a little vinegar gives you that kick of acidity too.
Blending roasted bell peppers gives you a tomato substitute in pasta dishes, curry and stews. You can also add a little to soups, or use as a spread in sandwiches or on crackers.
Try out my roasted red pepper ricotta pasta as a replacement for pasta with tomato sauce!
And for a tomato sauce substitute, my roasted red pepper nomato sauce is so versatile.
Pumpkin or squash
There are so many types of pumpkins and squashes, from butternut squash to spaghetti squash and so many more!
Pumpkins have a delicate mild tasting flesh that is especially delicious when roasted in the oven. They typically have a slight sweetness and a soft flesh that always feels like healthy comfort food!
Roasting squash gives you a soft flesh that can be used as a substitute for tomatoes to make sauces for pasta dishes. Dishes such as my baked ricotta and butternut squash pasta are tomato-free and use this tasty fruit instead.
Carrots have a natural sweetness that is similar to 'milder' varieties of tomatoes. Similarly to pumpkins and bell peppers, carrots can be roasted to bring out even more of their sweetness and then blended to make a sauce for stews and pasta.
Adding a little vinegar and spice can give the acidity and 'tangy' flavor of tomatoes and make for a tasty alternative!
You can also make a tasty carrot ketchup as a tomato ketchup substitute!
One of the distinctive flavors of tomato is their acidity. One of the best ways to mimic this acidity is to use vinegar as an ingredient alongside other tomato substitutes.
Adding a dash of apple cider vinegar to sauces made from bell pepper or pumpkins gives that tang we like from tomatoes.
Using vegetable stock provides a good depth of flavor to soups, stews and other dishes that typically use tomatoes. We can additionally use herbs and spices to give that umami taste many of us crave!
It is fairly simple to make your own vegetable stock, and it can be frozen in portions to use when needed for your dishes.
Apple juice can be used as a swap for tomatoes in the base of stews or sauces. It gives that delicious sweetness of fruit. Make your own freshly pressed apple juice or grab a carton from the store!
Recipe idea: my spicy turkey stew uses apple juice, stock and spices instead of tomatoes to make the base of the stew.
One of the best tomato substitutes in terms of spice is fresh tamarind. This flavorful ingredient has a wonderful tartness and sweetness that is similar to tomatoes, and packs quite a punch in its taste!
Fresh tamarind paste can be used in faux curries, stews or to make a chutney. It will give a depth of flavor to elevate your recipes!
Alongside tamarind, there are many other spices that can help give a good kick of flavor and provide a substitute for tomatoes.
Using sweet paprika, turmeric, ginger or ground coriander all give an aromatic flavor to dishes, with some having a light sweetness and others a zingy, slightly acidic kick much like tomatoes.
Tomatoes are a fruit, and so we can easily use other fruits as a replacement for tomatoes! Sliced tomatoes are commonly used in salads and sandwiches, giving a sweetness and tang.
One of the best fruit substitutes for tomatoes is mango as it has a similar sweetness. You can also use stone fruits, cucumber slices (yes it's a fruit!) or berries. All work so well in dishes such as my stone fruit caprese salad, that is made without tomatoes.
Recipe ideas using tomato alternatives
As well as the recipes mentioned above, these ideas are all tomato-free dishes!
- For a flavorful stew made without tomatoes, my spiced turkey stew uses sweet potato, apple juice and spices to make the sauce.
- Soups such as my vegan stuffed pepper soup and my turmeric chicken soup use vegetables and spices to make the broth that replaces tomatoes and are perfect for a tomato-free lunch or light dinner.
- Make a tomato-free turkey cranberry sauce sandwich around the holidays! The cranberry sauce has a delicious kick of sweetness and a touch of a sour taste.
- Looking for tomato-free ways to start the day? Check out my low histamine breakfast recipes round-up that has so many tasty ideas!
Frequently asked questions
Making a carrot ketchup is a great substitute for regular ketchup and is full of flavor!
Making a sauce with roasted bell peppers, a little vinegar and some spices works well as an alternative for stewed tomatoes.
While you can't replicate the exact same flavors, roasted slices of red bell pepper with a little vinegar and spices comes pretty close to sun dried tomatoes.
Tomato juice is both sweet and tart and while there isn't a direct alternative, you can make carrot juice for a more 'vegetable-tasting' juice, or celery cucumber juice for something a little lighter.
Slices of cucumber, onion, celery or radish are all fresh and tasty as a sandwich filling.
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This post is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical or dietetic advice in any way. Please consult with a doctor or dietician for your health and medical needs.