The Ideal Tomato Substitute For Every Situation

Tomatoes are one of the most used foods worldwide—an essential ingredient in thousands of recipes, including pizza, pasta, chili, and much more. In this article, we’re looking at what you can use as a tomato substitute in any situation.

What Are Tomatoes?

Tomatoes are a botanical fruit and culinary vegetable that come from the tomato plant. Used as side dishes and ingredients, you can enjoy tomatoes either raw or cooked. They are both a source of sweetness, acidity, and umami flavors. 

Cherry Tomatoes

The tomato plant originated in South America, Central America, and Mexico. Today, tomatoes are used in thousands of dishes, salads, sauces, and drinks. Now there are over 10,000 known varieties of tomatoes being cultivated around the world.

High in Vitamins A, C, and K, tomatoes are an important part of a well-balanced diet for millions around the globe.

What Do Tomatoes Taste Like?

Common words that you could use to describe tomato flavor would be sweet, tangy, tart, and with some varieties, savory.

Some varieties have a bright and refreshing bite that oozes sweet tomatoey juices. Others have a more mild, less vibrant flavor with fleshier centers.

What Does Tomato Go With?

You can use tomatoes for salads, sauces, marinades, hot sauces, dipping sauces, and more. 

Some common foods that utilize tomatoes include:

  • Pizza
  • Sandwiches
  • Salads
  • Sauces
  • Chutneys
  • Soups

You will find tomatoes in Mexican, Italian, and Meditteranean cuisine as an ingredient and a side more often than in other cuisines. 

Tomatoes are well-balanced, and with such wide varieties and types available, you will find them to be a versatile ingredient that goes with almost anything.

What Makes a Good Tomato Substitute?

Picking out the ideal substitution for tomatoes will vary based on what dish you’re cooking or preparing. Some recipes call for specific types of tomatoes, while with others, it’s more down to personal preference.

Check out some of our other guides on tomato substitutes below:

If you’re looking for an excellent alternative to tomatoes, it’s often better to choose a replacement based on the type, such as above, or the dish itself, which you can do below. 

Note: You should always pick the most similar tomato or vegetable as to what the recipe calls for you to use.

Best Tomato Substitutes – Recipes

Best For Curry: Tamarind Paste

When you need a substitute for tomato in curry, you can give tamarind paste serious consideration. Tamarind paste is widely used in many curry recipes, often when tomato isn’t utilized.

Tamarind paste is made from pod-like fruits that grow on the tamarind tree. Despite originating in Africa, the fruits are most often used in Indian and Filipino cuisine.

Tamarind contains tartaric acid, which gives it a tart flavor from the sweetness of the fruit and the sourness of the added acidity. This makes it an excellent alternative to tomatoes for curries of all types.

Best For Pasta: Red Bell Peppers

You can use red bell peppers in place of tomato when cooking many pasta-based dishes. Whether you’re cooking a pasta sauce or adding tomatoes to the cooking process directly, red bell peppers are a delicious alternative.

While the two do not taste exactly the same, there are few things that do taste the same as tomatoes. So it’s more about finding alternatives that are complementary to the flavors.

Best For Sandwiches: Persimmon

Persimmon is a type of seasonal fruit, most available in the Fall months. They are similar in shape to tomatoes, with a soft texture when eaten.

They have a subtle sweetness and delicate tangy flavor that makes them a good alternative to tomato for sandwiches that utilize cheese. They even work well as a tomato alternative in burgers.

Like tomatoes, these are also part of the nightshade family which means you’re out of luck if you’ve got a tomato allergy. However, for all other reasons, they can be a perfect substitute when using tomatoes with bread. The main downside is the limited availability.

Substitute tomatoes with persimmon by slicing the fruit into thin sections.

Best For Bolognese: Anything You’ve Got

Most people use diced or canned tomatoes in bolognese, which you can also do if you’re using something else like fresh tomatoes or tomato paste.

Bolognese really isn’t the same without tomatoes, so you can always pick another tomato-based replacement. Or a nomato sauce if you have a nightshade allergy.

The best option is to use tomato paste and water it down a little with 1 tablespoon of water per tablespoon of tomato paste. Add a little sugar or salt to taste, depending on if you want it sweeter or less so.

Best For Chili: Tomatillo


While the tomatillo shares a similar name to tomatoes, they’re not a type of tomato as some people think. They come inside of a husk that you need to remove before using them, and they can be eaten cooked or raw.

Tomatillos aren’t as sweet as tomatoes, having a more tart flavor with mild sweetness, subtle earthiness, and a tart bite from being more acidic. However, when cooked, they are a bit milder tasting compared to when eaten raw.

They make an excellent tomato substitute in chili because they add some punch and robustness to a dish that’s best known for not going easy on the flavor!

Best For Allergies: Nomato Sauce

If you are sensitive to tomatoes or foods from the nightshade family in general, you can use a nomato sauce alternative when looking to make a sauce.

Containing onions, garlic, beets, carrots, white wine vinegar, and balsamic vinegar – it’s not the easiest to make. You can follow the video below to find out how.

Best Of The Rest: Options

If you’re still stuck for a good tomato substitute for other recipes or general uses, then look into some of the foods below:

  • Amla
  • Pumpkin
  • Mango
  • Zucchini
  • Eggplant
  • Umeboshi Paste
  • Bilimbi
  • Green Bell Peppers
  • Yellow Bell Peppers


No matter the reason that you need a tomato substitute, there are dozens of excellent substitutions available to you. In our ultimate guide, we’ve shown you some of those options while giving you the information you need to make an informed decision about swapping out tomatoes for other tomatoes or vegetables in any situation!