Sun dried tomatoes are an amazing culinary ingredient. They are perfect for adding intense, concentrated tomato flavor and a satisfying texture. However, they aren’t exactly a staple ingredient, and they aren’t cheap.
In this article, I’ll share 7 great substitutes for sun dried tomatoes, along with some great uses for them in cooking. There are no perfect solutions, but these alternatives will work in a pinch!
Substitutes For Sun Dried Tomatoes
Since the ingredient list for store bought sun dried tomatoes is usually simple, finding an alternative around the house shouldn’t be too difficult. However, if you don’t have any type of tomatoes on hand, it may be tricky to replace the flavor (but I still have a few options for you!).
1. Canned Tomatoes
One easy-to-find replacement for sun dried tomatoes is canned tomatoes. Both tomato products are sold at most grocery stores.
However, canned tomatoes are significantly more watery. In order to get a similar flavor and quantity of tomatoes, use about 3x the amount of canned tomatoes when replacing sun dried tomatoes.
For example, if you are making a pasta sauce that calls for 1/4 cup of sun dried tomatoes, you should use 3/4 cups of canned tomatoes. This will offer a similar flavor boost to your sauce, but will also add significantly more moisture.
You can use whole, crushed or diced canned tomatoes as a substitute, depending on the size or shape needed. Try straining off excess liquid in a fine mesh strainer to keep this substitute from adding too much water to your meal.
Sauces using canned tomatoes will be thinner than sun dried, so consider simmering for longer to reduce the moisture content. Or, use slightly less water or broth when preparing your meal.
2. Tomato Paste
Another common product that can replace sun dried tomatoes is tomato paste. This thick, reduced tomato product is essentially condensed tomatoes.
When substituting sun dried tomatoes with tomato paste, use a 1 to 1 conversion. In other words, if the recipe calls for 3 sun dried tomatoes, use about 1-2 tablespoons of tomato paste (or the equivalent volume).
The drawback of using tomato paste is that the flavor will be less intense. Sun dried tomatoes usually contain added spices and/or salt. Also, dehydrated tomatoes are are naturally more concentrated with rich tomato flavor.
To add back some of the flavor, try adding an extra pinch of oregano, garlic powder, or other compatible spices.
3. Homemade Dehydrated Tomatoes
One of the best options for a sun dried tomato alternative are homemade dehydrated tomatoes. When you dry your own tomatoes, the process condenses the flavors into a small package. This is true even when you don’t add any spices!
If you have a food dehydrator or even just an oven, you can easily dehydrate fresh tomatoes. This process does take time, so if you are in a rush, this option is not for you.
However, if you grow your own tomatoes, I highly recommend dehydrating some of your harvests for preservation. They keep in the refrigerator or pantry for months and are perfect for adding powerful flavor to meals!
Again, sun dried tomatoes are usually combined with flavorful herbs and spices, so consider adding a few pinches of your favorites to improve the potency of this substitute.
4. Roasted Peppers
If tomatoes just aren’t accessible, or you have a dietary aversion to them, try substituting with roasted red peppers. These are usually sold in a similar format, in oil or water.
Roasted peppers are perfect for pasta dishes, omelets, sandwiches, or sauces. Though the flavor profile is certainly different, the texture is somewhat similar, especially when cooked and/or blended.
Roasted peppers are usually red as well, keeping the color consistent for your meal. After all, tomatoes and peppers do come from the same plant family (nightshades).
These fancy roasted red peppers (with mushrooms) are packed with flavor.
5. Artichoke Hearts
Artichoke hearts have a more mild and subtle flavor, but are used for similar purposes as sun dried tomatoes. Commonly used as pizza toppers, artichoke hearts are more vegetal in flavor than tomatoes.
A few other non-tomato alternative options are olives, mushrooms or pepperoncini. Though they don’t have the same flavor profile as tomatoes, the salty taste of these canned foods may fit your needs nicely!
6. Fresh Tomatoes
Of course, fresh tomatoes can be used in place of sun dried tomatoes. If you have access to fresh tomatoes, use about 3x the recommended amount of sun dried tomatoes to make up for the more concentrated flavor.
Tip: To remove some of the extra moisture in fresh tomatoes, try slicing and blotting away excess water with a paper towel before cooking. Also, add a pinch of salt, oregano, basil, garlic and/or olive oil to enhance the flavor.
What type of fresh tomato is best?
In terms of selection, I recommend choosing any of the highly-flavorful tomato varieties. These include sweet cherry, grape, plum or heirloom tomatoes. Avoid bland tomato varieties or any that do no appear to be fresh and ripe.
The most important factor for good flavor is the time of year – tomatoes are always better tasting when they are in season!
7. Tomato Sauce
Lastly, if you have some available, tomato sauce will work as a sub for sun dried tomatoes. Although tomato sauce is very thin, the flavor added may work for your needs.
Obviously tomato sauce isn’t going to replace a sun dried tomato as a pizza topping, but if you are making a sauce or dressing, it can fill in. As always, you will probably need to compensate for flavor with additional herbs and spices.
Tip: For all of these alternatives, I recommend adding a bit of something acidic for a little extra bite and flavor. This could be a squeeze of lemon or lime juice, a splash of white wine vinegar, or some balsamic. This will help bring back that concentrated flavor that is so desirable in sun dried tomatoes.
What Are Sun Dried Tomatoes?
In case you were wondering what distinguishes a sun dried tomato from normal dehydrate tomatoes, I’ve got you covered.
In short, sun dried tomatoes are dehydrated tomatoes that are often suspended in olive oil and flavored with herbs and spices. They are typically preserved with citric or ascorbic acid.
Sun dried tomatoes are typically used as a flavor-booster for sauces, pizza, pasta and many other Italian dishes. Some people even enjoy them on their own as a tasty and nutritious snack.
You can even make your own sun dried tomatoes by dehydrating fresh tomatoes from the garden. You can use a dehydrator, the oven or, you guessed it, sunshine! True sun dried tomatoes take much longer to properly dehydrate, but it is certainly possible.
However, I do not recommend “preserving” fresh or dehydrated tomatoes in olive oil. Olive oil does not preserve foods. There is a risk of botulism without proper pH balancing, hence why store bought sun dried tomatoes always have some form of acidifier.
Always do your homework before attempting to make any homemade preserved foods.
What Are Sun Dried Tomatoes Used For?
After you use sun dried tomatoes for one recipe, you may be left with an abundance of them. If you have extras on hand, here are a few ideas on how to use them:
- Toss them into a salad. Chop up the sun dried tomatoes into small pieces and toss them in a salad. The texture is similar to a raisin, and the flavor is very complimentary with Italian or balsamic dressing.
- Flavor chicken. This meal is a perfect example of a great use of sun dried tomatoes in cooking. The flavor goes far, serving as the secret ingredient to a delicious meal.
- Make a vinaigrette. Using simple ingredients, you can combine sun dried tomatoes to make a homemade vinaigrette salad dressing. The salty, intense flavor of the tomatoes combined with balsamic vinegar, olive oil and garlic make an incredible salad topper. Try this recipe and add in some of your favorite herbs and spices.
- Top pizza or sandwiches. The flavor of sun dried tomatoes is intense, to be careful not to overdo it. Slice the tomatoes in half or into pieces and evenly distribute them on a sandwich or homemade pizza.
Of course, you could use sun dried tomatoes as you would any type of tomato, but the flavor will be more powerful. Typically, I will reduce the amount called for when replacing with sun dried tomatoes.
I hope this article helped you find a good replacement for sun dried tomatoes. There are many alternatives to choose from, some nearly identical, and some very different. If you are in need, there is probably something in your pantry that will do the trick.