Rotel tomatoes are an underrated ingredient outside of Mexican and Tex-Mex cuisine. But when you do finally discover it, you won’t be able to go without a couple of cans stocked in your pantry — trust us!
Unfortunately, Rotel tomatoes are often out of stock since they aren’t as popular across the country but are in high demand for the regions that use them. Frustrating, we know. So what can you use instead?
What are the best substitutes for Rotel Tomatoes? All the alternatives on our list are adjustable to create more specific Rotel flavors. You can use fresh red tomatoes with chopped green chilies, canned diced chili tomatoes, tomato puree, sauce, pasta sauce, and other fresh diced tomatoes. Which one you choose will depend on how you need to use it.
In this packed article, we’ll take a look at how to recreate the specific unique flavor Rotel products have and what your best options are. We’ll compare their flavor and texture, spiciness, and of course, the best ways to use them!
What Are Rotel Tomatoes?
If you’ve never heard of Rotel, the first thing you will be wondering is likely something along the lines of “what are Rotel tomatoes?” They are actually canned tomato products used in Mexican and Tex-Mex cuisine!
This is an extremely popular canned ingredient made from a combination of diced tomatoes and green chilies. There are multiple flavors, but unless the recipe calls for them specifically, you should use the Original Rotel Diced Tomatoes.
Now, substituting this product is pretty simple unless you need a specific flavor of Rotel tomatoes. Then, you will need to add other specific ingredients and maybe even mixing methods.
How To Recreate Specific Rotel Tomatoes Flavors (Products)
At the very least, all of the flavored canned diced tomato products from Rotel contain diced tomatoes and chilies.
But what if you have to substitute a specific flavor, for example, the Chipotle and Green Chilies Rotel product?
The easiest way to recreate these flavors is to see what goes into the original product. In this case, you can simply use diced tomatoes, green chili peppers, and chipotle peppers, as the product indicates.
To recreate the “Chunky” product, you can simply cut the tomatoes into larger pieces. This will create a chunkier texture than the original diced product.
In our opinion, the most difficult flavor to recreate is the Fire Roasted Diced Tomato option. In this case, you will first need to roast and char your tomatoes, then dice them and mix them with diced green chilies. Still pretty easy, right?
So, without further ado, let’s take a look at how to substitute Rotel canned products using our list of easy alternatives!
Best Substitutes For Rotel Tomatoes
This is a comprehensive list that includes easy substitutions alongside others that require a little bit of experimentation.
We tried to include something for everyone and every possible scenario you may need to use Rotel tomatoes in. This way, you have a very broad list of alternative replacements to choose from!
1. Fresh Red Tomatoes With Green Chilies
All of Rotel’s canned tomato products are made with vine-ripened tomatoes. Now, unless you grow and harvest your own tomatoes, there is no way to tell whether tomatoes have been vine-ripened or not.
In that case, just choose any ripe, fresh tomato. Many say that the flavor isn’t better when tomatoes have been ripened on the vine anyway. So, regular ripe tomatoes will do.
Red tomatoes are the most common and affordable type of tomatoes you can find. These are the ones that don’t have special names like “Roma” or “better boy.”
Fresh tomatoes have a much tangier flavor than canned tomatoes. So, depending on how you would’ve used the canned option, you may need to adjust the flavor of this mixture.
You can dice the red tomatoes and mix them with some diced green chilies. If you are creating specific flavors, make the adjustments (like using habanero chilies to recreate the Hot Rotel tomatoes).
What makes this option great is that you can adjust the consistency, the flavor, and the spiciness, and it can be used in virtually the same way as the Original Rotel tomatoes!
2. Canned Diced Tomatoes
Our second go-to option would be an alternative brand of canned diced tomatoes. There are many different brands available, but what makes Rotel special is that their “diced tomatoes” are actually diced, not roughly chopped or crushed!
When choosing a brand of canned diced tomatoes, make sure that it doesn’t contain seasonings or a ton of preservatives, and make sure they’re diced tomatoes — this will create a more realistic texture substitution.
Now, you can also use plain diced canned tomatoes, or ones that have already been flavored with chilies (preferably green chilies). If you buy an unflavored option, it will be easy to add the type and amount of chili you need.
A pre-flavored chili tomato product takes away a lot of work, but the downside is that the flavor may not be exactly the same as that of the Rotel Tomato product.
3. Salsa (Fresh Or Canned)
This may seem like a very strange alternative, but a lot of salsa recipes call for Rotel tomatoes! A basic salsa does mainly consist of diced tomatoes and green chilies. It also often contains some diced onions, cilantro, and lime juice.
So, if you are planning on making a recipe that requires all of those ingredients anyways, then buying a premade fresh or canned salsa is one of the easiest substitutions to go for!
The best part is that you can still easily adjust the flavor. You may just not be able to adjust the consistency much, like with canned diced tomatoes.
And before we forget to mention it: this alternative is especially great and easy if you needed to use Mexican Style Lime & Cilantro Rotel Tomatoes.
4. Tomato Puree
This is another substitute that will only work in certain scenarios, like in a cooked recipe. Tomato puree is essentially cooked and blended tomatoes. You do get a variety of textures for fresh, jarred, and canned tomato puree.
So, if you needed to use Rotel tomatoes in a soup, stew, casserole, or sauce, then a tomato puree mixture would work great. The texture from the Rotel tomatoes would’ve anyway disintegrated if it was cooked.
Furthermore, when you use tomato puree, it allows you to easily adjust and create the flavor that you want. You can change the spiciness and even leave it out (if you would like to).
If you need to add texture to a smooth tomato puree, add some diced tomatoes (fresh or canned). You can even add halved cherry or plum tomatoes.
5. Tomato Pasta Sauce
Tomato sauce differs from tomato puree in that it is flavored. Tomato-based pasta sauces also have some texture to them, which can mimic cooked Rotel tomatoes.
Again, like tomato puree, there are many different textures out there. Naturally, a chunkier pasta sauce will be better than a smooth one unless you need to blend everything together anyways.
You can find green chili pasta sauce as well. But usually, they aren’t spicy. You may be able to find a pizza sauce that is spicy. And you can also easily find roasted tomato pasta or pizza sauces.
We’d recommend buying plain pasta sauce and adjusting the flavor afterward. It does take more time and effort, but it’s worth it for a premade sauce like this that does come from an entirely different cuisine.
6. Fresh Tomatoes
We’ve already mentioned using diced fresh red tomatoes, but it’s also important to consider some other fresh tomato alternatives. It is also a super versatile option, and it is very easy to use and affordable too!
Using a specific type of fresh red tomato may have its own benefits. First of all, you can easily add as much chili (or other seasonings) to create a copy-cat Rotel product or use the combinations of flavors as inspiration to create your own.
These options will work for fresh salsas, toppings, stews, soups, and much more. By choosing a specific type of tomato, you have more control over the final flavor you want.
For example, red vine tomatoes (small tomatoes on the vine) have a sweeter and fruitier flavor, plus they’re extremely soft and juicy. Beefsteak tomatoes have a similar sweetness, less fruity undertone, and much meatier texture.
7. Lemon Pickle
This substitute obviously doesn’t contain any tomatoes, and that’s exactly why it’s on the list! This is a fantastic non-tomato alternative to Rotel tomatoes.
There are a bunch of different flavors you can choose from, plus you can store lemon pickles inside the pantry for months!
The flavor is still easily adjustable when it comes to adding chili. Generally, this alternative works better for fresh dishes like salsa or garnish, but you can also incorporate a little into your sauces and soups.
Don’t use this as a one-to-one substitute. You will likely use a lot less lemon pickle than Rotel since it has a much more intense, tangy flavor.