While everybody knows how delicious strawberries are in desserts, we've actually heard you can use them as a replacement for a tomato. I decided to try this out and see how well it worked.
I can't take credit for this concept. That would go to Dave Woolley, a Denver-based culinary consultant (who, full disclosure, does work with California Strawberries). He said: try using strawberries in place of tomatoes in a veggie sandwich with goat cheese, in a Caprese-style salad, or in a salsa with seafood dishes.
While there are plenty of savoury recipes that call for strawberries, I loved the idea of strawberries as a replacement for tomatoes, so I decided to test a few more options. Strawberries, like tomatoes, are high in acidity and can be fairly sweet.
One more note: Strawberries tend to be more expensive than tomatoes. This, however, can vary based on variety, seasonality and supply. And let's be honest: sometimes you're simply trying to use what you have on hand.
Exhibit A: Classic Caprese Salad
A classic Caprese salad is pretty simple: just slices of fresh mozzarella, basil, tomato, and olive oil. I replicated that, simply subbing slices of vine-ripened tomato with sliced strawberries. The result was pleasant, if not a bit too subtle. To boost flavours, I added in a drizzle of balsamic reduction, and finished it off with chunky sea salt (I wanted an excuse to play around with my Hiwa Kai black lava sea salt). The added sweetness, acidity, and prune-like flavours of the balsamic glaze helped the salad really pop.
Exhibit B: In A Grilled Cheese Sandwich
Chef Wooley's sandwich suggestion had me most intrigued. I didn't want to go with the goat cheese option, since strawberries and chevre are a pretty commonplace flavour pairing, so I went with something a little riskier: teleme, an American semi-soft cheese with brie-like texture and meltability and a mild, nutty flavour. I griddled sourdough bread in butter and topped it with slivers of the teleme, dedicating the middle to thick, juicy strawberry slices.
I've never made grilled cheese with teleme before, and the result was ridiculously rich, but the strawberries' acidity helped to cut the fat. The sandwich had a flavour that was reminiscent of a mildly savoury strawberries and cream ice cream. I enjoyed it a lot, so much so that I'd suggest bumping up the savoury factor even more: this sandwich would be doubly fantastic with thin slices of prosciutto slipped in.
Exhibit C: In A Fresh Salsa
Strawberry salsas also aren't anything unheard of — there are plenty of strawberry-mango and strawberry-avocado salsas on the internet — but I wanted to see what would happen if I replaced chopped tomatoes with strawberries in a classic tomato salsa. So I took a basic fresh salsa recipe that called for standard Mexican salsa fresca ingredients, like garlic, onions, coriander and cumin, and used strawberries instead. This worked well visually and texturally (and bonus: I didn't have to seed any tomatoes!). The salsa did end up with more of a floral flavour profile, so if you try this, I'd also suggest tinkering with the sugar and acidity levels based on the ripeness of your strawberries. My salsa fared better with a squeeze of lime and an extra pinch of sugar.
The Verdict: Fresh Strawberries Really Can Replace Tomatoes
Given that all three of my tomato swaps were a solid success, I'd say that strawberries really can stand in for tomatoes. Keep in mind that this substitution is for fresh versions of both kinds of produce. I won't be trying stewed strawberries in place of tomatoes in a pizza sauce anytime soon.