If you’ve ever come across Mexican or Central American cuisine, you’ve probably heard of tomatillos. Sometimes called “Husk Tomatoes”, these fruits are high in vitamin C, vitamin K, dietary fibers, and niacin, among other nutrients.
Tomatillos, like typical tomatoes, can be boiled, sautéed, or roasted. Tomatillos are sweet, tangy, slightly fruity, and earthy. They’re highly acidic when they’re raw. Tomatillos that have been cooked have a milder flavor.
Along with their nutrients, tomatillos are difficult to replace due to their distinct taste and texture. It is native to an environment exposed to full sun and hot temperatures but here are some alternatives you can consider testing.
- Canned Tomatillos
- Mexican Style Salsa Verde
- Roasted Green Tomatoes
- Green Bell Peppers
- Green or Red Chilies
- Underripe Gooseberries
- Tomato Puree with Chili Powder
- Green Salsa
Mexico, its place of origin, still produces the highest number of tomatillos all over the world. When American farmers discovered this fruit’s health benefits in improving their diet and relieving their sickness, they started to invest in cultivating tomatillos on their farms, especially in colder northern places where it is cold and hard to find.
But before that, let me introduce to you the Tomatillo and what separates this tiny, green, spherical fruit from the nightshade family, often confused by its identical family plant, Tomatoes.
12 Best Substitute For Tomatillo
Tomatillos are less sweet, more acidic, has less liquid, denser, and more vegetal in flavor than tomatoes, despite their similar names. It is the main ingredient in the famous Mexican green sauces, as well as other sauces, whereas varieties that yield red or purple tomatillos are better for jams and preserves since they have a somewhat sweeter flavor.
When the fruit is green and fully fills out the husk, farmers realize it’s time to harvest.
Tomatillos will split the husk and become yellow or purple if left to ripen longer. When the husks begin to split open at the bottom, they’re ready to eat.
The hue of the fruit is a lovely brilliant green that fades little while cooked. Tomatillos have a slightly dry and solid texture. They do, however, have a sweet flavor. Their flavor is similar to that of a green apple and an immature cucumber.
Tomatillos that are quite ripe are slightly yellowish in color, as opposed to the regular green ones. They’re a lot sweeter and tastier. They are, nevertheless, safe to eat in both green and ripe form. Tomatillos are commonly consumed raw. When cooked, though, they take on a more citrusy and acidic flavor.
Let’s get to know more about these unique ingredient alternatives and why they make the best substitute for your Tomatillo dishes!
The fruit itself, as found in a canned version, is the closest substitute for tomatillos. However, canned tomatillos are normally precooked so you want to be careful not to overcook them because they’re delicate.
They may lack the freshness required in certain recipes, but they are a great alternative if you’re going to cook salsa verde or other sauces.
Canned tomatillos work well in sauces and salsas, but they don’t have the same vibrant green hue as fresh tomatillos. They are sweeter than fresh tomatillos, but you will usually achieve identical results if you use the fresh product.
The fruits are softer and more yielding in texture because they have already been processed.
Many Hispanic grocery stores sell canned tomatillos, which are diced and precooked. Some canned tomatillos lose the bright green color of fresh tomatillos, so keep this in mind before purchasing.
Otherwise, they’re fantastic if you use them as a flavor enhancer in your recipes. Crushed and diced tomatillos are both available at your local Hispanic grocery stores.
New Mexico Style Salsa Verde
Salsa verde in the authentic New Mexican style is another option for Tomatillos. New Mexican cuisine is delectable, albeit distinct from that found south of the border.
It’s essentially another regional Mexican cooking style. Tomatillos are nearly always substituted for tomatoes in New Mexican cooking, or tomatillos are omitted entirely.
The chilies take the center stage. Roasted green chiles, diced tomatoes, chopped onions, and salt make up a New Mexico salsa verde.
In a green chili sauce (for enchiladas, for example), the tomato is frequently omitted. If you have a batch of salsa verde in the fridge that you haven’t used in a while, you should consider using it instead of tomatillos in a variety of dishes.
The New Mexico salsa verde has a distinct zing and acidic flavor that makes it an excellent seasoning ingredient for fish and meat.
When prepared with ingredients such as white and green onions, cilantro, cheese, roasted green chillies, with a fresh squeeze of lemon juice, it can almost mimic Italian classic dishes.
Many Mexican fare, such as tacos, tortillas, and savory dishes, can benefit from the acidic and spicy flavor that enhances the tanginess and zesty flavor of the food.
Green Bell Peppers
Green bell peppers can also be used as a tomatillo alternative. When green bell peppers are prepared raw, they have a zesty, tart, and slightly spicy flavor.
It appears in a lovely yellow-green hue and an intriguing flavor profile that can mimic the flavor of tomatillos in a variety of sauces and soups. This mild pepper has a crisp, firm texture that reminds you of tomatillos as you bite into it. When green pepper is cooked, however, the sourness is greatly reduced.
For best results, use green bell paper if the recipe requires raw preparation. To make your salsa verde taste like fresh tomatillo, increase the acidity and sourness to emphasize the citrusy note of the tomatillo.
Achieving the tomatillos’ signature flavor also comes in handy just by adding the right amount needed of a squeeze of lime juice or tamarind paste, especially when adding hot peppers to your cooking.
Roasted Green Tomatoes
Tomatillos have a flavor that is almost similar to tart green tomato. When substituting green tomatoes, add some vinegar or a splash of lime juice to simulate the flavor of tomatillos.
Given that tomatoes and tomatillos belong to the same family, green tomatoes, no doubt, make an excellent substitute for tomatillos. Green tomatoes are unripe tomatoes with brilliant green flesh that works well in your salsa verse recipe.
When comparing the flavor and texture of green tomato and tomatillo, you’ll notice a lot of similarities. Green tomatoes have a little sour flavor that is not as strong as tomatillos.
These underripe tomatoes, on the other hand, are crisp and thick to the bite, resembling tomatillos in texture.
Green or Red Chillies
New Mexico has its version of salsa verde, which relies heavily on green chilies rather than tomatillos or green tomatoes.
Tomatillos are frequently left out of New Mexican recipes. Chopped tomatoes, onions, salt, and roasted green chiles are all options. While the result will differ slightly from that of tomatillos, you may discover a new favorite.
If you want to make your salsa verde sourer than the one made with tomatillos, add a touch of fresh lime juice into the mixture.
When eaten raw, green chiles have a fruity and spicy flavor with a crunchy and firm texture. When working on each type, you’ll have a variety of options to choose from to impact the outcome of your chili Verde.
The different variations of chilies can make a great substitute for tomatillos. If you run out of green chilies, red chilies can be used.
The color of red chiles is their drawback in as a substitute. They can also be used as an option for purple tomatillos. Red chilies possess a mild tart flavor and are significantly hotter than green chilies. You can emulate the tomatillo taste by combining the red chilies with the sourness of a tablespoon of fresh cilantro.
Gooseberries are a great option if you’re seeking an alternative that offers freshness like green tomatillos. It is used as a substitute because of its sourness similar to the original. Serve them underripe so they can work well with your dishes!
Gooseberries come in a variety of colors and sizes, and offer that zesty flavor close to that of tomatillos. Gooseberries add a bright and tasty note, with a grape undertone to many green tomatillo-based meals with their fresh and distinct sour flavor.
Gooseberries offer a subtle sweetness like any tropical fruit with a distinct taste that you can find in lemon.
In terms of mouthfeel, they are pulpy, soft, and juicy rather than rigid and thick like tomatillos. Cook these berries with roasted green peppers to make the most out of each flavor.
The sourness of fresh gooseberries balances off the heat of the green peppers, resulting in a flavor that is remarkably similar to tomatillos.
Tomato Puree With Chili Powder
These two ingredients often come in handy, and you can always find them in your kitchen. If you have a sudden need for tomatillos, simmer the tomato puree and chili powder together to use as a sauce for your one-pot dish with rice.
The tanginess of the tomato puree and the heat of the chili powder can help you save your recipe if you don’t have gooseberries and bell peppers in your fridge. It goes well with guacamole and chips.
You can also serve it in a burrito or eat it on its own. Remember that a little ingenuity and resourcefulness can go a long way toward saving a meal.
Rhubarb is a perennial vegetable that people either love or hate. Because it requires cold temperature to thrive, it is native to the Northern States such as Illinois, Washington, and Maine.
When eaten raw, rhubarb has an earthy-crunchy bite with a tartness that is sweet and savory. It also has a bitter kick with an acidic aroma, depending on its kind. Its blend of citrusy, sour, and tangy flavors makes it a great sub if paired with green bell peppers.
You might want to cook them for shorter periods as they are best served with a tender texture and rich flavor. Pickling it is the most effective way to achieve a similar flavor profile.
If you’ve previously made pickled rhubarb salsa, you can use the pickling liquid to add different flavors.
To give the sauce a Mexican salsa vibe, add flavors like coriander seeds, jalapeno, and lime. It will taste distinct from tomatillos, but it will have the same acidity and crunch!
If all you have in your pantry is a couple of canned diced tomatoes, you can make use of them in unique ways. For one, they can work well in place of tomatillos. However, they may vary according to their texture and thickness.
Work them well with a potato masher until there are no more clumps. Canned tomatoes are available in stores and groceries in a variety of flavors.
Make sure to choose the ones that are less processed so you can blend them nicely and provide a similar flavor profile by adding green peppers and lime juice.
Cherry Tomatoes With Lime Juice
Cherry Tomatoes give a slightly sweet and softer crunch mouthfeel similar in terms of texture to the tomatillos. If you happen to have no supply of green tomatoes, you can always alternate it with cherry tomatoes of the same green color, so it can easily imitate the luscious color that the tomatillo provides.
Its concentrated flavor may not have the same authenticity as tomatillos, so adding a sprinkle of fresh lime or cilantro to the dish can enhance its citrusy flavor and mimic the taste in your tomatillo dishes. You can find cherry tomatoes in your local supermarkets all year round.
Grape tomatoes are often confused with cherry tomatoes, but they are significantly different in terms of flavor and shape.
You can easily harvest grape tomatoes in your garden and identify them by their tiny oblong appearance similar to that of grapes, only with thicker skins and roughly half the size of cherry tomatoes.
They are easy to shop in your nearby grocery store and they make a great substitute for tomatillos because their flavor is more concentrated than any other kind of tomato.
They are less sweet and have a meatier, less watery bite. Add a fresh squeeze of lemon to resemble the tart flavor of tomatillos and you’ll have a great rescuer for your recipe.
You may consider this the last option if you can’t find any substitute for your tomatillo recipes. Cucumbers are almost always consumed raw in most salad dishes, but they are more versatile than that.
They are refreshing to eat as they give a lightly sweet watery taste with a great crunch. What is similar in cucumbers and tomatillos is the earthy taste that they offer.