Updated: 12+ Alternative ‘Stews’ & Sauces You Can Make Without Fresh Tomatoes

…because we cannot go and die because tomatoes are outrageously expensive.

Nigerians, praised for their resilience and ingenuity are currently seeking ways to do without Fresh tomatoes. Fresh tomatoes aren’t cheap for various reason but they are the bedrock upon which ‘stew’ is founded. In Nigeria, there is only one meaning of stew and that is a sauce based on the trilogy of fresh tomatoes, red onions and chilies. It does not mean any dictionary/ wiki definition of ‘a combination of solid food ingredients that have been cooked in liquid and served in the resultant gravy‘. 

Welcome to the world of Nigerian cuisine :). 

So yes,in  a country where stews are the foundation of almost every meal, the current reality is frightening. In the last few weeks, the price of tomatoes – farm fresh – have more than tripled. Some say its because Dangote, a business man has set up a tomato puree factory in the North of Nigeria. I salute him and his efforts.

However, newspaper reports say a tomato pest, Tuta Absoluta has harmed crops in most of the northern producing areas of Plateau, Jigawa, Kano, Kaduna and Katsina states so much so that Dangote’s factory is temporarily closed. Others are sure it is to do with the hike in fuel prices, impacting transportation costs from farm to market. All of these are probably responsible but there is a third angle – the start of the rainy season which historically affects yield.

The bottom line in any case is that fresh tomatoes are expensive and in keeping with the spirit of The New Nigerian Kitchen, where we eat seasonally and make the best of what we have, I’m sharing a collection of recipes that will not break the bank and will keep you eating well – colourfully and nutritiously.

Tomato-based Alternatives

Canned Tomatoes

Tip: choose a trusted brand, don’t store left overs in the tin/ can and you’re good to go.

  • I make an amazing tomato sauce, Sugo with canned tomatoes. It goes very well with pasta, pizza and other recipes which require tomatoes. Canned tomatoes can be virtuous too!
  • You can also use canned tomatoes in stews and other tomato based cooking.
Tomato Puree
  • I know a few friends who only use tomato puree in their Jollof rice and appaz, it remains bae…so, if you want a bit of tomato flavour, add a couple of tablespoons of tomato puree to a pot for 4 – 6 people. It will deepen the colour and flavour and add a bit of umami to your dish
  • You can also add tomato puree to the base of other sauces if you are addicted to ‘red’. So, I make a sauce using Cucumerina which I steam till soft then use as I would fresh tomatoes. I blend with onions, chilies and cook in some oil with seasoning to make a great sauce.
Cucumerina blend with tomato puree
Cooked – Cucumerina blend with tomato puree


Non-tomato based Alternatives

Green Sauces
Scent leaf curry

  • Make this scent leaf curry today. It is the very colour of health and fresh and delicious to boot. What are you waiting for?????????
  • Pesto
  • Thai green curry sauce
  • Cucumerina sauce, made from the snake gourd (see above for photos and deets on how to make it)


‘Red’ Sauces’
  • Red peppers make a great base for sauces, especially if roasted before hand to remove the skin and lend smoky flavour. Turn your Muhammara into sauce.
Other sauces

Please share your suggestions and ideas for recipes that don’t depend on fresh tomatoes :). In the meantime, enjoy these.



  1. Hi, just stumbled across your brilliant blog, love the new nigerian kitchen. Was in Lagos recently and recommended tinned tomatoes to my mum, she was pleasantly surprised, the local suermarket sold all their tinned tomatoes in minutes!🍅

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