With tomatoes selling as costly as three small pieces for N200 and six medium sized pieces for N500, there are outcries for the possibility of other options to explore for similar or near results as that of fresh tomatoes. It is no longer news that recent policies by the newly-inaugurated administration of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, especially that of the fuel subsidy, has no doubt, had multiple effects on prices of goods and commodities. The prices of tomatoes have skyrocketed such that many are looking for substitutes to replace fresh tomatoes when cooking. Whether you are trying to cut costs, or you are trying to look out for a quick fix, there are other substitutes that can be considered. When tomatoes are expensive or in short supply, it can be helpful to explore alternative ingredients that can provide a similar flavor or texture in your recipes. Here are some easy substitutes for tomatoes in Nigeria:
1. Tomato paste: Tomato paste is a concentrated form of tomatoes and can be used as a substitute in many recipes. It is more affordable than fresh tomatoes and has a long shelf-life. You can choose to dilute it with water to achieve the desired consistency in your dishes. If you can afford to buy your dried cayenne pepper or fresh scotch bonnet pepper, you can mix this paste with it to make it less peppery for dishes.
2. Red bell peppers: Red bell peppers, commonly called Tatashe in Yoruba, while another variety of it is called sombo, which can be a good substitute for tomatoes in terms of adding colour and texture to dishes. While they have a different flavour profile, they can provide a similar vibrant appearance and mild sweetness. You can choose to blend with onions, garlic, ginger and some carrots to achieve a similar effect of what a fresh tomato blend would give. You can also decide to blend your red bell peppers with some dried pepper and onions to serve as a cooking base for your dishes.
3. Palm fruit extract: In certain Nigerian dishes, especially soups and stews, palm fruit extract (banga) can be used as tomato substitute. It adds a rich and slightly tangy flavour to the dish. Ensure that you adjust the quantity, according to your taste preferences.
4. Vegetable puree: Create a flavourful vegetable puree, using a combination of other vegetables like carrots, onions, bell peppers, and sometimes with some hard mangoes, and any other vegetables available to you. Blend them together until smooth and use the puree as a base for your dishes. Some even decide to blend carrot and cucumber, and mix with fresh onions, crayfish, and pepper to make stew, for instance.
5. Red palm oil: In some Nigerian dishes, red palm oil can be used as a substitute for fresh tomatoes. For instance, instead of your regular jollof rice, you can do palm oil jollof or native rice to give you the colour and a near-taste of what you desire. Red palm oil adds a distinct flavour and reddish colour to soups and stews.