Fire-roasted tomatoes have a remarkable ability to take a bland, common recipe and turn it into a show-stopping meal that’s talked about for weeks.
If you find yourself without fire-roasted tomatoes as you’re trying to prepare a gossip-worthy meal, it can be rather stressful.
There are many reliable substitutes for fire-roasted tomatoes. The best solution is to fire-roast your own whole, fresh tomatoes. It isn’t a difficult or time-consuming process, but it’s not always an option either.
So what are the best substitutes for fire-roasted tomatoes? The best substitutes for fire-roasted tomatoes depend on the recipe you’re making, but generally, they include diced tomatoes, crushed tomatoes, and roasted bell peppers. You can also add a blend of spices to these options to create a more flavorful substitute.
Using the right spices and flavorings can help make your substitute even more appropriate, as long as you choose the right flavors for your recipe.
In the following article, we’ll not only share with you our best suggestions for alternatives to fire-roasted tomatoes but also how to incorporate them with the appropriate spices into your favorite recipes.
What Are Fire-Roasted Tomatoes?
Fire-roasted tomatoes are exactly what they sound like – tomatoes that have been roasted over an open fire. They’re typically roasted whole and then either diced, crushed, or pureed, depending on what they’re being used for.
They can be done whole at home, but they’re more commonly purchased pre-roasted in cans. 365 Everyday Value makes our favorite organic canned fire-roasted tomatoes, without any additives or extras.
Many companies do add basil, garlic, or chilies to their tomatoes to spice up the flavor, but every manufacturer is slightly different.
If you’re roasting tomatoes yourself, you may choose to slice them or quarter them to bring in even more flavor from the roasting process.
What Do Fire-Roasted Tomatoes Taste Like?
Fire-roasted tomatoes tend to be sweeter than other types of fresh, canned, or cooked tomatoes. Being charred by the fire brings out the natural sugars in the fruit and contrasts them perfectly with the smoky flavor from the fire.
The appeal to cooking with fire-roasted tomatoes is the added flavor they bring to a recipe, both in sweetness and in smokiness.
Depending on whether you have bought canned tomatoes or charred them yourself, there may also be added flavoring agents, most commonly, roasted garlic, chilies, or basil.
How to Make Fire-Roasted Tomatoes
If you don’t have fire-roasted tomatoes and you want to create a recipe that calls for them, the best solution will be to make them yourself using your BBQ or oven and some fresh tomatoes.
The best way to make fire-roasted tomatoes is to char them over an open flame, which makes your BBQ the ideal choice if possible.
Here are the three easy steps for homemade fire-roasted tomatoes:
- Wash and dry your whole tomatoes
- Coat your tomatoes and the grill with a little bit of olive oil
- Fire up the grill and roast your tomatoes until they’re charred black evenly on all sides
If you don’t have a BBQ accessible, you can use your oven on broil, or even a toaster oven if you’re careful.
Follow steps 1 and 2 above, replacing the “grill” with a wire rack sitting inside a baking sheet. Place your tray of tomatoes close to the elements so that the heat can char the skin well, but keep a close eye on them.
Whether you’re roasting your tomatoes over an open fire or under a hot element, you will probably have to rotate them occasionally to get the whole tomato blackened.
Once they’re fire-roasted to perfection, transfer them to a heat-safe bowl and cover it with a kitchen towel or lid to allow the tomatoes to steam for a minute or two.
When they’re cool enough to handle, the skin should peel off easily, leaving behind smoky, sweet, fire-roasted tomatoes.
Best Fire-Roasted Tomatoes Substitutes
If you simply don’t like tomatoes, can’t eat tomatoes, or don’t have any tomatoes at all, whether fresh or previously fire-roasted, there are a variety of ways you can substitute for them in recipes while still making delicious meals.
What and how you substitute for fire-roasted tomatoes should vary based on the recipe and your preferences for flavor in the dish. Below, we share our favorite substitutes for fire-roasted tomatoes and the best way to use each alternative.
1. Diced Tomatoes
The easiest and most obvious substitute for fire-roasted tomatoes is simple diced tomatoes. If you have a can of diced tomatoes instead of a can of fire-roasted tomatoes, you can simply swap one for the other.
The general consistency and purpose of the recipe will remain the same, though the flavor will be lacking in depth and complexity.
You may want to use one or some of the spices we suggest a few paragraphs down to add more flavor to your dish without changing the overall recipe too much.
2. Crushed Tomatoes
You can substitute crushed tomatoes for fire-roasted tomatoes, but there will be some differences. Fire-roasted tomatoes are typically either whole or diced, so crushed tomatoes will change the texture and consistency of your recipe.
Crushed tomatoes tend to have more flavor and sweetness since much of the water content has been removed, so that helps to bring back some of the complexity of flavors, but in a different way.
Again, you may want to add some of the spices we talk about later in the article to help mimic the fire-roasted flavor a bit more closely.
Conversely, we also have an article for the 5 best substitutes for crushed tomatoes.
3. Roasted Red Peppers
Roasted red peppers are a great alternative to fire-roasted tomatoes, especially if you’re searching for a substitute because you don’t like or can’t eat tomatoes.
Roasted red peppers share the same sweetness and smoky flavor of fire-roasted tomatoes, but they’re obviously a different fruit and will not be an exact match.
The biggest difference between using roasted red peppers in a recipe that calls for fire-roasted tomatoes will be the liquid content.
Tomatoes have a lot more water than red peppers, so you may have to adjust by adding water, broth, or another type of liquid that suits your recipe.
Spices for Tomato Substitutes
If you’re working with fresh or canned tomatoes that aren’t fire-roasted, there are many different spices and herbs that you can use to bring in more flavor to your dish, specifically the umami flavor that comes from fire-roasting.
Here are our favorite options:
- Liquid smoke
- Smoked paprika
- Chili powder
- Chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
- Smoked salt
- Basil & Garlic
- Soy sauce
- Liquid aminos
- Savory meat juice/gravy
- Roasted onions or garlic
- Maple syrup
- Smoked cheddar, gouda, or other cheese
You can use one option or even mix and match to perfect your substituted recipe.
Substitutes for Roasted Tomatoes in Recipes
Now that you know what our favorite alternatives are for fire-roasted tomatoes, we wanted to share some advice on how and when to use these substitutes in specific recipes.
Of course, you should adapt and experiment for yourself, but this will help you get started.
Chili is one of the most common uses for fire-roasted tomatoes, but it’s also really easy to substitute for them because there are so many similar flavors already involved in the dish.
To get the texture, we recommend using diced tomatoes, either fresh or canned. To add more flavor, there are many other options.
Chili powder will already add some smokiness to your recipe, and many also call for added paprika. We recommend using some smoked paprika and maybe some smoked salt if you have some.
Chipotle peppers in adobo sauce add a great smoky flavor and a nice heat to the chili, but they should be used sparingly, especially if you’re sensitive to heat.
Salsa is very forgiving and versatile, making it easy for you to substitute fire-roasted tomatoes for fresh or canned diced tomatoes.
You can stop there and serve a lighter, brighter, fresher tasting salsa, or you can add some extra seasoning to make up for the lost smoky flavor.
Liquid smoke is our favorite way to add a touch of rich smoke to your salsa without drastically altering the recipe. If you haven’t used liquid smoke before, be aware that a little goes a long way.
There are so many different types of soup that the options for substituting fire-roasted tomatoes are nearly limitless.
Crushed tomatoes work really well in soup because they offer a lot of flavor and mix well with the primarily liquid base.
If your soup is made with meat, adding a little gravy can enhance the savory flavor of the soup without changing the profile at all.
For vegetarian soups, you can get a similar effect by sauteeing some mushrooms and adding them to your soup.
Using miso broth will also bring a lot more umami flavor to your soup, which will make up for the lack of smokiness from substituting for fire-roasted tomatoes.
Pasta and fire-roasted tomatoes are a fantastic combination, but here roasted red peppers make a great alternative.
They don’t have nearly as much liquid, however, so they won’t turn into a sauce the same way fire-roasted tomatoes do.
If you have tomato sauce or paste that you can add to the roasted red peppers, you’ll get the best of both worlds – fire-roasted flavor with the sauciness of tomatoes.
If you prefer to use diced or crushed tomatoes instead, you can use spices to make up some of the flavor. Cumin, smoked paprika, and/or a little bit of chili powder all work well to bring warmth to pasta sauce without any actual fire.
Because pizzas are often fire-roasted or at least broiled themselves, if you don’t have fire-roasted tomatoes, you will likely still get some smoky flavor just from the cooking process.
You can use fresh diced tomatoes or roasted red peppers equally well, but if you really want to add delicious roasted flavor to your pizza, we recommend adding roasted garlic and/or caramelized onions as well.
You can also add smokiness to your pizza by changing up the type of cheese you would typically use as a topping. There are plenty of smoked cheeses out there, but for a pizza, our choices would be either smoked cheddar or gouda.
Meat dishes vary widely, and how the fire-roasted tomatoes are used will make a difference to the recipe in every situation.
The meat itself will lend some savory flavor to the recipe, but fresh tomatoes can often taste quite sharp and acidic against a rich cut of meat.
For this reason, we recommend using another roasted vegetable instead of diced or crushed tomatoes.
Roasted red peppers, roasted garlic, caramelized onions, or sautéed mushrooms will all enhance the flavor of the meat dish in unique ways, depending on what type of meat you’re cooking and how it’s being prepared.
You can roast many other vegetables if you need a lighter flavor. Carrots add sweetness, eggplant will bring a little bitterness, and zucchini will add creaminess to your dish, depending on what you feel it is lacking.
Substitutes for Fire-Roasted Tomatoes – Comparison
Creativity and experimentation are crucial whenever you’re substituting ingredients in a recipe, and the more you understand the flavors of your options and your own unique preferences, the better results you’ll have.
Here is a quick recap of our best suggestions for substituting fire-roasted tomatoes in popular recipes.
Substitutes Comparison Chart
|Best for Recipes
|Comparison to Fire-Roasted Tomatoes
|Smoked paprika, chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
|Barely noticeable because of all the traditional smoky and spicy flavors of chili
|Gravy, broth, or miso
|Roasted red peppers plus tomato sauce
|Cumin, smoked paprika, chili spice
|Similar yet different in texture
|Roasted garlic, caramelized onions
|Similar smokiness but very different inherent vegetable flavors
Are Fire-Roasted Tomatoes Spicy?
No, fire-roasted tomatoes are not inherently spicy. In fact, they’re usually sweeter than fresh tomatoes because the fire brings out their natural sugars. There is also a smoky flavor that develops from the roasting, but it is not spicy.
Some canned fire-roasted tomatoes do incorporate chilies into their product and, in that case, the tomatoes and liquid they’re packed with may be spicy.
If you’re concerned about spice, make sure you read the can for added ingredients before you purchase it.
Can You Freeze Roasted Tomatoes?
You can absolutely freeze roasted tomatoes. There are 2 components you want to be very careful about:
- When you package your tomatoes for freezing, they should be completely cooled and at room temperature, if not fridge-cooled.
- Remove as much air as possible from the freezer-safe bag they’re being frozen in to best protect the quality and flavor of your tomatoes.
- Label the bag with the date to keep track of expiration.
One final tip is to portion control your fire-roasted tomatoes before you freeze them.
You shouldn’t refreeze them, so packing in single servings will help ensure you only defrost as much as you can use in one day.
Can You Roast Canned Tomatoes?
If your canned tomatoes are whole, you can roast them, yes. When you open the can, there will be a considerable amount of liquid that you’ll want to drain out and save for another use.
Since your tomatoes are probably already peeled, you’ll have to be careful to roast them long enough to get a smoky, caramelized flavor, but not long enough to actually char.
You may find it easier to cut them in half, saving the juicy centers for later. This way, you won’t have to worry about rotating them as much.