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Tomatillos are known as Mexican green tomatoes. Commonly used to make salsa, tomatillos are small compared to regular tomatoes and resemble tiny green pumpkins with a paper-like skin. You’ll find them in most grocery stores and farmers’ markets in the summer and fall. They’re also available canned and, more rarely, frozen.
Their unique lemon-lime flavor adds freshness to spicy dishes and they’re a staple in Mexican sauces/salsas and soups.
What to use if you don’t have them on hand? Or, want a milder flavor in your recipes? Read through our recommended substitutes to find out.
Canned Whole of Diced Tomatoes
These are our number one picks for tomatillo substitutes, suitable for sauces and soups. You’ll get a bit of that tomatillo tang thanks to the slight bitterness the canning process creates.
Mashing canned tomatoes will give them a texture similar to tomatillos for sauces. Add a little tomato paste to thicken and a dash of lemon or lime juice if desired.
Immature regular tomatoes, green tomatoes have a thick skin and bright, tart taste. Use green tomatoes as a substitute when you’re not pureeing and need some “chunk” (like in salsas).
Gooseberries have the sour taste of tomatillos and a consistency similar to a ripe tomato. They even look like tomatillos but without the paper skin. The only downside is that they’re not regularly in stores. Fresh gooseberries will show up in stores and farm stands in early summer. But if you have them on hand, add some roasted peppers with the gooseberries and you’ll get as close to tomatillo’s flavor as you can.
Green Bell Peppers
The less ripe green bell pepper will have some tartness similar to tomatillos. Add a little lime for a flavor boost or mix with tomatoes to add some sweetness. You can roughly chop or puree making them a good substitute for tomatillos in most recipes.
Fresh tomatoes of any kind make a good substitute for tomatillos. Since you can adjust the amount of lemon or lime juice and add spices as needed, you’re in total control of the amount of tartness and spice you want in your dishes.
Want a little (or a lot) of extra heat? Chopped red chiles are the tomatillo substitute you’re looking for! Red chiles will work well in sauces and dips. Tone them down with tomato paste if needed.
Looking for More Substitutes?
We have plenty more food alternatives for you to check out, so head over to our Substitutes page for more.