I’ve personally tried and tested a range of different tomato bouillon substitutes to find the best one.
Whatever your reason for avoiding tomato bouillon is and whatever dish you’re cooking.
Here’s the quick answer.
The best substitutes for tomato bouillon are other bouillon varieties or tomato paste. You can also try tomato sauce, tomato powder, sofrito tomato base, and fire-roasted tomatoes. Jarred salsa is a quick fix but may not work in all dishes. If you only want to add color, try annatto oil.
Ready? Let’s jump right in.
I whipped up a batch of Mexican rice to test 10 different tomato bouillon substitutes.
Tomato bouillon is a dehydrated stock made with a blend of spices, chicken, and tomato flavors. It’s a versatile ingredient that brings savory tomato goodness to dishes.
It’s becoming more popular nowadays, but if you can’t find it, there are other options you can consider using.
Here’s what I tested and the verdicts:
|Other bouillon varieties||Replace with a 1:1 ratio||10/10|
|Tomato paste||Replace with a 1:1 ratio||10/10|
|Tomato sauce||1 tsp tomato bouillon = 1 cup tomato sauce||9/10|
|Sofrito tomato base||Replace with a 1:1 ratio||9/10|
|Tomato powder||Replace with a 1:1 ratio||8/10|
|Fire-roasted tomatoes||1 tsp tomato bouillon = 1 cup diced fire-roasted tomatoes||8/10|
|Tomato juice + chicken broth||1 tsp tomato bouillon = ½ cup tomato juice + ½ cup chicken broth||8/10|
|Diced tomatoes||1 tsp tomato bouillon = 1 cup diced tomatoes||7/10|
|Jarred salsa||1 tsp tomato bouillon = ½ cup jarred salsa||7/10|
|Annatto powder||1 tsp tomato bouillon = 2 tbsp annatto oil||6/10|
Common uses of tomato bouillon and their substitutes
Here are some popular ways to use tomato bouillon and the best substitutes for those situations:
- Soups and stews – other bouillon varieties, tomato paste
- Rice dishes – other bouillon varieties, tomato paste, sofrito tomato paste
- Sauces and gravies – other bouillon varieties, tomato paste
Other bouillon varieties
If you’re already making a tomato-based dish, the easiest substitute for tomato bouillon is to use other kinds of bouillon like chicken, beef, or vegetable.
You won’t get that extra hit of tomato, but they’re just as effortless to use, and you’ll have a tasty base for your dish in minutes.
I usually keep a stash of chicken bouillon in my cupboard because it works well with everything.
Beef bouillon is good if you want a rich finish. While vegetable stock tend to be lighter.
Pro-tip: add herbs and spices like cumin and oregano to enhance the existing tomato flavors in your dish.
How to substitute: replace the tomato bouillon in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with your chosen bouillon variety
Tomato paste is by far the best substitute for tomato bouillon when it comes to flavor.
It’s made from cooked-down tomatoes, and it has a really intense sweet-acidic taste just like tomato bouillon.
The paste is missing the extra seasoning and savory taste from the chicken, but you can fix this by sprinkling in a dash of granulated chicken bouillon along with the paste.
Psst… a trick I learned from Bon Appetit when using tomato paste is to add it in at the beginning while you’re cooking the aromatics. This will help it caramelize and develop an even deeper flavor.
This also ensures you won’t be left with raw tomato taste in your dish.
How to substitute: replace the tomato bouillon in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with tomato paste
Tomato sauce is another easy option you can use if you can’t find tomato bouillon.
It has sweet-tangy flavor notes like tomato bouillon, although it’s not as concentrated as tomato paste.
Canned tomato sauce is also liquidy, so you’ll need to reduce the amount of extra liquid you add into your recipe to account for this. Or leave extra time for reducing.
Again, I like adding a dash of chicken or veggie bouillon and some extra oregano to better recreate tomato bouillon.
How to substitute: 2 tsp tomato bouillon = 1 cup tomato sauce
Sofrito tomato base
Another convenient tomato bouillon alternative you can consider is sofrito tomato base.
It’s made from tomatoes blended with green peppers, onion, and garlic (similar to the holy trinity in Southern cooking) to create a concentrated paste.
With just a tablespoon, you can quickly jazz up your dish and add a delicious depth of flavor, just like tomato bouillon would.
This substitute is especially great for Latin American dishes, and I use it when I want to spruce up my basic tomato soup.
Popular brands like Goya and Better than Bouillon offer ready-made sofrito bases, but you can also make it from scratch if you have 20 minutes to spare.
How to substitute: replace tomato bouillon in a 1:1 ratio with softrio tomato base.
Tomato powder is a fantastic alternative to tomato bouillon.
It’s made from dehydrated tomatoes, giving you a concentrated sweet-tangy kick reminiscent of tomato bouillon that you can easily incorporate into your dishes.
Tomato powder is only missing the savory flair tomato bouillon has, but you can remedy this again by using chicken/vegetable broth and other seasonings. A dash of MSG should also do the trick!
One downside with this substitute is accessibility. But you can make it yourself by drying tomatoes and grinding them into a powder.
I have a really helpful guide on how to store dehydrated tomatoes.
How to substitute: replace tomato bouillon in a 1:1 ratio with tomato powder.
Want to give your dish a different twist? Use a can of fire-roasted tomatoes instead of tomato bouillon.
They’re not an exact match for tomato bouillon, but they have a smokiness that adds a layer of complexity to your dishes.
Pro-tip: you can also use regular canned tomatoes and add a pinch of smoked paprika to add that smoky flair.
How to substitute: 2 tsp tomato bouillon = 1 cup chopped fire-roasted tomatoes
Tomato juice + chicken broth
Instead of using water for your recipe, combine tomato juice and chicken broth for an easy tomato bouillon alternative.
The flavor is more subtle, but it’ll still add the tomatoey, savory kick your dish needs.
And you can always add extra herbs and spices like bay and oregano to help amplify the tomato juices’ sweet-tangy notes.
This combo isn’t perfect, but finding both ingredients is a breeze – you might even have them in your kitchen right now!
How to substitute: 2 tsp tomato bouillon = ½ cup tomato juice + ½ cup chicken/vegetable broth
Fresh diced tomatoes or canned diced tomatoes will both work as a substitute for tomato bouillon.
Fresh tomatoes will be sweeter and less acidic, and for best results you should try and use fully-ripened ones.
Canned tomatoes will have more of an acidic flavor, but they’re oh-so-convenient.
Pro tip: if your recipe calls for water, I highly recommend using chicken or vegetable broth instead to replace tomato bouillon’s savory kick.
How to substitute: 2 tsp tomato bouillon = 1 cup fresh diced tomatoes
Jarred salsa may not be the perfect tomato bouillon substitute for all recipes, but it worked really well in my Mexican rice as a quick way to add some tomato flavor.
Salsa is well seasoned, so you won’t need to think about adding extra herbs or spices.
And there’s load of different varieties to pick from depending on what you like.
You can go for something spicy, or stick with a mild option. Or go crazy and use a green tomato salsa for a sharper bite.
How to substitute: 2 tsp tomato bouillon = 1//2 cup jarred salsa
Annatto oil (for color only)
If you’re only after the vibrant color that tomato bouillon brings to Mexican rice, consider using annatto oil as a substitute.
You can make this with this recipe and three ingredients – annatto seeds (available in most grocery chains), a neutral-tasting oil, and garlic.
The resulting oil will add a subtle nuttiness to your dish, but won’t be anywhere near as strong as tomato bouillon. Make sure you have other things in your dish to make up for this!
Pssst… you can also use anatto powder!
How to substitute: 2 tsp tomato bouillon = 2 tbsp annatto oil
Substitute to avoid – Ketchup
I encountered this substitute during my research, but it was the worst one I tried.
The ketchup was too sweet, so I couldn’t add much. And when I tried diluting it with water, the flavor was too weak to do anything for my rice.
If ketchup really is the only option you have, I recommend mixing it with some lemon juice or vinegar to help offset the sweetness.
10 Best Tomato Bouillon Substitutes [Tried And Tested]
- 2 tsp other bouillon varieties
- 2 tsp tomato paste
- 1 cup tomato sauce
- 2 tsp sofrito tomato base
- 2 tsp tomato powder
- 1 cup diced fire-roasted tomatoes
- ½ cup tomato juice + ½ chicken broth
- 1 cup diced tomatoes
- ½ cup jarred salsa
- 2 tbsp annatto oil
- Cook your meal according to the recipe.
- Add your chosen tomato bouillon substitute at the appropriate cooking time.
- Mix until thoroughly combined and continue with the recipe.