Tomatillo, also known as Mexican groundcherry or Mexican husk tomato, is an exotic green fruit that comes in a range of sizes and ripens to a yellow, red, or purple color. It gives a splash of color as well as an acidic, tart, and slightly citrusy flavor to various Mexican dishes including sauces and salsa.
But what happens when you’re planning to whip up a Mexican feast but don’t have any tomatillos left? You don’t need to rush out to the supermarket. With these tomatillo substitutes, you can replicate the tomatillo’s texture and flavor profile!
#1. Canned Tomatillos
Canned tomatillos are one of the best and most widely used substitutes for tomatillos. They’re a touch sweeter than fresh tomatillos and work exceptionally well in a range of dishes, including salsa verde. Canned tomatillos (both crushed and diced varieties) are also widely available in supermarkets, so you can easily stock up on them.
While canned tomatillos lack the vivid bright color, firm texture, and fresh flavor of fresh tomatillos, they do offer the same flavor to meals. Because they’re usually pre-cooked, canned tomatillos much softer and more yielding than fresh tomatillos. As a result, they work as a good stand-in in dishes where the ingredients are blended together, such as sauces.
Use the same amount as fresh tomatillos, but make sure you don’t overcook them as canned tomatillos are pre-cooked.
#2. Green Tomatoes
Green tomatoes are unripe tomatoes that have a pale green color, firm flesh, and a crunchy texture similar to tomatillos, making them a fantastic stand-in for tomatillos in a variety of dishes. As green tomatoes can vary in levels of ripeness and tartness, it’s recommended to check their taste before adding them to a recipe.
Green tomatoes may not deliver the same sour flavor as tomatillos, so you may need to add some freshly squeezed lime/lemon juice to dishes like enchiladas and tacos to deliver a burst of sour flavor. You can also add fresh cilantro to elevate the acidity of green tomatoes.
Use the same amount as tomatillos but add 1-2 tablespoons of lemon juice to get the same citrus flavor.
#3. Green Peppers
With a gorgeous bright yellow-green color, green peppers have a firm, crunchy texture similar to that of tomatillos. They’re known to offer a sour and slightly less spicy flavor when consumed raw. But this sourness substantially reduces when they’re cooked, resulting in a far lower level of sweetness than tomatillos. This flavor profile makes them an excellent addition to salads and soups.
Green peppers have a similar crunchy texture to tomatillos, but their flavor is much milder. Still, you can use it as a substitute for tomatillos in certain dishes, provided you tweak their taste a little. If you’re making salsa verde, for example, you’ll need to add a sour ingredient like freshly squeezed lime juice or tamarind paste to achieve the desired tomatillo flavor.
Use the same amount as tomatillos but add a squirt of lime/lemon juice to adjust the tartness according to your recipe.
Gooseberries are tiny green fruits that have a tartness similar to that of tomatillos, making them a great stand-in for the original ingredient. They come in a variety of colors but green gooseberries will give you the best results. They’re also incredibly nutritious and rich in antioxidants.
While gooseberries do not have the same texture as tomatillos, the zesty, sour, and acidic gooseberries don’t hold back on flavor, providing a delightful bright flavor to any dish. You can add some roasted green peppers to create a flavor profile that is quite similar to tomatillos.
Use the same amount as tomatillos, and if needed, add roasted green peppers to increase the heat level.
#5. Green Chiles
Green chiles have a mild sweetness and a spicy flavor with a firm and crunchy texture that is very similar to tomatillos. There are also different types of green chiles available in the market today.
And as they ripen, green chiles tend to become spicier. Despite the higher spice level and lack of sourness, green chiles can work wonderfully in recipes like Mexican salsa verde when you’re in a pinch.
If you’re using green chiles as a substitute, do some flavor testing every now and then to make sure you’re not overpowering the recipe with heat. Keep in mind that the flavor profile will differ from the original because this version may be significantly less sour than tomatillos.
Use the same amount as tomatillos, and add tamarind paste or lemon juice for some tartness.
#6. Salsa Verde
If you have a can of salsa verde chilling in your refrigerator, consider using it as a replacement for tomatillo. Salsa verde is often made with copious amounts of tomatillo, making it a great stand-in for tomatillo in several Mexican dishes. It has a tangy, acidic flavor and is best used to make tacos and tortillas, as well as marinating meat and seafood.
To make this Italian classic more appealing, add roasted green chiles, green onions, fresh cilantro, lemon juice, and other ingredients to the mix. To keep the color and flavor profile closer to the original, consider using green salsa. Green salsa is milder than red salsa, making it a better substitute for tomatillos.
Use the same amount as tomatillos, and add some green chiles for some heat.
#7. Cherry Tomatoes
Pulpy, soft, juicy, and sweet, cherry tomatoes are a great alternative to tomatillos. Both green and red cherry tomatoes deliver the same freshness as regular tomatoes, but they have a more concentrated flavor.
Because their bright, juicy, and sweet flavor is more concentrated, cherry tomatoes may not bring the same sourness or firm, crunchy texture to the dish. Cherry tomatoes are also a little sweeter and have a softer texture, but you can mimic the acidity and aroma of tomatillos by adding a squeeze of lime juice or fresh cilantro.
Use the same amount as tomatillos, and add a squirt of lemon juice to enhance the tartness.