Sun-dried tomatoes are great for any food. They help complement it and bring more flavor than regular, fresh tomatoes. It sometimes happens, though, that you might find you have run out of sun-dried tomatoes. When this happens, you will need to have a handy substitute by your side.
There are multiple sun-dried tomato substitutes such as cherry tomatoes, pureed and canned, and fresh tomatoes. You can also use bell peppers and mushrooms as non-tomato substitutes.
My favorite substitute when I run out of sun-dried tomatoes is cherry tomatoes as they have almost the same taste. In this piece, we shall go over this, plus other ingredients you can use as substitutes and which recipes they work with. This will help you cut your work in half and let you have the best food possible.
Let’s get started.
Why Do We Love Sun-Dried Tomatoes
Before we look at the substitutes, let us talk about what sun-dried tomatoes are and why we love them so much. These tomatoes have a long history that started out of need. In the past, before fridges and refrigerators, there were not many ways to store vegetables and crops. Farmers needed to find a way to elongate and preserve their crops, and that is where dehydrating tomatoes came from.
Drying the tomatoes and getting rid of the liquid inside them helped preserve them, which came with a surprising twist. Dehydrating the tomatoes helped them have a more concentrated and tart flavor. That also made their sweetness stand out, even more, giving them a more chewy texture and unique taste.
With the rise of technology, faster and better methods of drying tomatoes came about. These days, dehydrators are used to dry the tomatoes. Others still prefer to use the old drying method which is also fine, but there are a few notable differences in the texture and flavor. However, we will not discuss that today.
Now, on to the question, why do we love sun-dried tomatoes? The answer to this is quite simple: taste and flexibility. Their flavor is unlike that of regular tomatoes, being more flavorful and fragrant. There are also multiple uses for sun-dried tomatoes, and you can use them on many different dishes, even as appetizers or antipasto with various meats and cheeses.
Here are some of the recipes that you can use sun-dried tomatoes in:
- Vegetable broth
- Chicken parmesan
- Pasta sauce
These are just but some of the foods that use sun-dried tomatoes. All these dishes taste very different and have different ways of being cooked, but sun-dried tomatoes bring out the best in them. With versatility like this, who wouldn’t love these special tomatoes?
Another reason we love sun-dried tomatoes is their nutritional value. Vitamin C is one of the essential vitamins for a healthy life, and tomatoes contain a generous amount. They are also known to have high levels of magnesium, iron, and vitamin A.
To add on, since they go through the drying process, these tomatoes retain more vitamins and antioxidants than other types of tomatoes. This makes them a great source for all those vitamins and gives them a high nutritional value.
Why Would You Need to Replace Sun-Dried Tomatoes?
With all these benefits and advantages, why would you then need to replace sun-dried tomatoes? There are multiple reasons why someone would choose to substitute these tomatoes. Some of them include:
i. Allergies- this is one of the lesser reasons but one that affects some other people regardless.
ii. Personal preferences- sun-dried tomatoes have a stronger taste compared to other tomatoes, which can be a bonus for some people but can completely put off others. The flavors might be too intense for people with more delicate tastes, and they might opt to get something milder and more palatable.
iii. Poor storage- I have to admit, I have fallen victim to improper food storage, which has almost always led to them going bad. Without the proper storage, sun-dried tomatoes will go bad, and you will need to throw them away. If your recipe calls for sun-dried tomatoes and the only ones you have are spoiled, you will have to look for a substitute or risk changing the recipe altogether.
iv. Convenience- sometimes you want to use just what is right next to you. You might not have bought any sun-dried tomatoes when you went grocery shopping, or they might be way at the back of your fridge, making it hard for you to reach them. Whatever reason it is, you might decide to use whatever substitute is closer to you and go on with your cooking.
Choosing Substitutes for Sun-Dried Tomatoes
Because of their specific taste, finding sun-dried tomato substitutes is not an easy task. You have to look for things that will match two of the most important qualities of these tomatoes: flavor and texture. To help you gain a deeper understanding of the two, let us define them:
- Taste- sun-dried tomatoes have a sweet and tart flavor that is intense, unique, and distinctive to these tomatoes. The flavors are more potent and pronounced than with fresh tomatoes, so they are used to add more flavor to dishes, such as in soup dishes.
- Texture- sun-dried tomatoes have a chewy texture that comes from the dehydration process. This texture is exclusive only to sun-dried tomatoes, and that texture can be a little unpleasant when eating. That is why if you are using the tomatoes in salad recipes, you will need to hydrate them as the chewy texture can ruin the fresh and crispy-like texture of most salads.
These two features are what we use to determine what our substitute will be; they help us find what substitute works well and is closer to the original taste and texture of the sun-dried tomatoes.
Sun-Dried Tomatoes Substitutes in:
Sun-dried tomatoes go well with some sauces, such as red sauces. Here are some of our recommendations for sun-dried tomatoes substitutes in sauces:
Tomato puree has about the same consistency as sun-dried tomatoes, and it gives you the right thickness in your sauces. You can use it alongside canned tomatoes to get the same consistency level as if you used sun-dried tomatoes.
These are our second recommendations for sauces. They have the same flavor as sun-dried tomatoes, especially those that have been peeled and canned. Their flavor is less intense, however, and is a great substitute for those who want a less in-your-face taste.
The only reason they are not our first choice is that they are lighter in consistency, hence resulting in lighter sauces. You can also use these tomatoes for pizza sauces.
And, of course, our list would not be complete without fresh tomatoes. As can be expected, however, these have a tamer flavor. You can boost this flavor by adding a few spices if need be. Fresh tomatoes also have a thicker consistency in sauces which can cause them to be meatier compared to using sun-dried tomatoes.
Salads are also another popular food that uses sun-dried tomatoes. You can mix the tomatoes with the green, leafy vegetables to add a splash of flavor and acidity to the salad. However, people with tamer palates might find this flavor too overwhelming and require a milder substitute.
If you are one of these people, as I am, you might want to consider using cherry tomatoes or fresh tomatoes. They have a less intense taste and are juicier than the dried ones.
I mentioned that cherry tomatoes are my favorite substitute, and this is because they taste much fresher and do not have the bland taste that most fresh tomatoes have. This is, of course, according to my taste and opinion.
Fresh and cherry tomatoes have a much subtler flavor, and you can boost it by adding some lime or lemon juice for a bit of zing. Don’t worry, these too will add some acidity to your salad without being too overpowering.
Tomatoes are also used in antipasto, served alongside other foods on a platter. Some of these foods include meats, cheeses, and a host of other delectable vegetables.
Below are some of the best substitutes I have found to work well with antipasto. They are my best substitutes because of how close they are to sun-dried tomatoes, with regards to their flavor, strength and acidity.
- Cherry tomatoes, their flavor is unmatched.
- Roasted bell pepper
- Roasted red pepper
- Fresh tomato slices
- Cherry peppers
- Fresh tomato slices
- Artichoke hearts
Because of their acidity, sun-dried tomatoes are a must-have in soups. They create a nice and distinctive consistency and a level of viscosity that should be in this food.
The substitute that comes close to mimicking this in soups is tomato puree. This is because it has the intense flavor that you get from sun-dried tomatoes. Tomato puree also gives soups the correct consistency, making it an ideal substitute.
Are sun-dried tomatoes and dehydrated tomatoes the same thing?
While most people consider dehydrated and sun-dried tomatoes the same thing, in reality, they are not. The major difference is in how they are made. Dehydrated tomatoes are washed, put through tunnels, then exposed to currents of warm air.
On the other hand, sun-dried tomatoes use ripened tomatoes which are washed, cut in half, and put in a water bath that contains sulfur dioxide. After the water bath, they are kept on drying trays and then dried in the sun for seven to ten days.
Dehydrated tomatoes go through a faster process compared to their counterparts and have a moisture content below 7%. They also allow for a wider variation in the use of the product, have a less sharp taste, and a lighter color after a year in storage. On the other hand, sun-dried tomatoes have a moisture content of 12-24%, have a stronger taste, and darken 9-12 months after expiration.
Can you use any tomato for sun-dried tomatoes?
Yes, you can use any tomato to make sun-dried tomatoes. Use whatever tomatoes you have in hand and adjust the seasoning according to your preference. The two best tomatoes to use when making sun-dried tomatoes are plum or paste tomatoes, but the choice depends on you. Keep in mind that the tomatoes’ volume will reduce a lot during the drying process.
So there you go, all the substitutes for sun-dried tomatoes you can use in different dishes. Try them out whenever you need and let us know which ones are your favorites. Happy cooking!
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