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6 Easy Rotel Substitutes For Your Recipes

Lisa Price
Last Updated on
by Lisa Price

If you enjoy doing any sort of Southwestern or Mexican-style cooking, chances are you have seen recipes calling for Rotel tomatoes. These flavorful tomatoes lend a spicy kick to chili, dips, tacos, enchiladas, and more.

But what can you use as a replacement if you don’t have any Rotel tomatoes?

What is in Rotel?


Rotel tomatoes are a canned combination of diced tomatoes and green chilies. An old family recipe originating in Texas, Rotel tomatoes are a spicy and flavorful blend of ripe tomatoes, green chilies, and spices, including citric acid and cilantro.

Rotel tomatoes add incredible flavor to a wide array of Southwestern and Mexican-style recipes. However, you may find yourself wishing to create a recipe with Rotel tomatoes when you don’t have access to canned Rotel tomatoes.

Depending on where you live and where you do your grocery shopping, you may not be able to get Rotel tomatoes at your store.

Or perhaps you are throwing something together at home and have all the ingredients you need except for Rotel tomatoes.

Maybe you or someone you are cooking for does not like Rotel tomatoes. They might find Rotel tomatoes too spicy, they don’t like the texture, or they don’t like tomatoes at all.

Not to worry–many Rotel substitutes can imitate the flavor of Rotel tomatoes so well that you will hardly notice the difference.

The Best All-Around Rotel Substitute: Diced Tomatoes and Diced Green Chilies

Diced Tomatoes and Diced Green Chilies
Diced Tomatoes and Diced Green Chilies

The best Rotel substitute, which you can use in any recipe that you would typically use Rotel tomatoes, is taking a can of plain diced tomatoes and adding the ingredients that are already in a can of Rotel tomatoes.

Take one 15oz can of diced tomatoes, and add one 4oz can of diced green chilies. For a flavor that even more closely resembles Rotel, add 2 teaspoons of lime juice and 1 tablespoon of chopped fresh cilantro.

Stir together all the ingredients, and the result is a Rotel substitute as close to the original as you can get. This recipe makes about 20oz, so you can use half in place of one can of regular Rotel tomatoes and save the other half for your next recipe!

The Best Rotel Substitute for Dips: Salsa


You’re trying to throw together a quick dip for happy hour or watching the game with friends, but you’re out of Rotel! You look in the refrigerator and see a jar of salsa: will that work as a Rotel substitute?

Absolutely! One of the easiest and quickest dips you can make, chili con queso, is generally made by mixing Velveeta cheese and Rotel tomatoes.

If you don’t have any Rotel on hand, you can easily swap the Rotel for salsa for a result that is just as delicious.

Salsa contains the two main ingredients found in Rotel tomatoes: tomatoes and green chilies. In addition, Salsa usually contains lime, spices, and often other fruits, vegetables, or even beans.

Adding salsa to your dip instead of Rotel can switch up the flavor, and you may find a combination you like even more. Salsa comes in many more heat levels than Rotel tomatoes, so you can easily adjust your dip to be as mild or as spicy as you wish.

Just use the same amount of salsa as you would Rotel. If a recipe calls for a 10oz can of Rotel, add 10oz of salsa.

The Best Rotel Substitute for Soups: Tomato Puree

Tomato Puree
Tomato Puree

If you are making soup or another recipe that you don’t necessarily need the chunkiness of Rotel tomatoes, tomato puree can be a great substitution. Some people don’t like the texture of tomatoes, so tomato puree can offer the flavor of tomato without the texture.

The main flavor component missing if you use tomato puree in place of Rotel tomatoes will be the green chilies. If you have diced green chilies, you can add them along with the tomato puree to add spice to your soup.

Tomato Puree makes a great substitute for Rotel tomatoes if you or the people you are serving are not big fans of spicy food.

Use a 1:1 ratio when substituting. 10oz of tomato puree if your recipe calls for one 10oz can of Rotel.

The Best Rotel Substitute for Chili and Casseroles: Diced Tomatoes

 Diced Tomatoes
Diced Tomatoes

Many recipes that call for Rotel tomatoes, such as chili or casseroles, really need the chunky consistency of the diced tomatoes. In these cases, you can use regular diced tomatoes as a replacement for Rotel.

The main difference will be the spice factor. Perhaps you prefer your dish to be less spicy; in that case, just swap Rotel for diced tomatoes and don’t worry about altering your dish anymore.

If you want more spice in your dish, you can add a can of diced green chilies. If you don’t have green chilies, you can use whatever spices you have on hand to bring some heat to your dish: jalapenos, chili powder, and cayenne pepper are a few options.

Use a 1:1 ratio when substituting; 10oz of diced tomatoes for one 10oz can of Rotel tomatoes.

The Best Rotel Substitute for Fajitas: Fresh Tomatoes

Fresh Tomatoes
Fresh Tomatoes

One delicious use for Rotel tomatoes is homemade fajitas. The flavor and texture of the Rotel tomatoes combined with the meat and veggies make for a delicious fajita.

If you don’t have Rotel tomatoes but have access to ripe, fresh tomatoes, they will make an excellent replacement for Rotel. Fresh tomatoes put a fresh spin on whatever you are cooking.

Just remove the seeds from your whole tomatoes, then dice or mince them. Depending on what you are using them for, you may first wish to peel your whole tomatoes.

Fresh tomatoes add the flavor and texture of Rotel tomatoes without any of the spice. If you want a hotter dish, you can certainly add chilies or spices to your liking, but fresh tomatoes are a delicious alternative to Rotel tomatoes all on their own.

Use a 1:1 ratio when substituting; 10oz of fresh tomatoes (about 2 medium tomatoes) for one 10oz can of Rotel tomatoes.

The Best Non-Tomato Rotel Substitute: Lemon Pickle

Lemon Pickle
Lemon Pickle

Perhaps you are having a guest over for dinner who is allergic to tomatoes, or maybe you or a family member just don’t love the taste of tomatoes. Most Rotel tomato substitutes use other tomato products, but there is an alternative if you need to avoid tomatoes altogether.

Although it may seem surprising, lemon pickle is a great substitute for Rotel tomatoes. You can use lemon pickle in any dish that calls for Rotel tomatoes, including dips, soups, and casseroles.

Lemon pickle is lemon preserved in a brine of water, lemon juice, and spices. You can even buy a spicy version with Harissa spices that will more closely mimic the flavor of Rotel tomatoes.

While the flavor of lemon pickle will be, as expected, more lemony than Rotel tomatoes, the texture and flavor bear a seemingly unlikely resemblance to Rotel tomatoes.

If you want to mask the lemon flavor, you can add more spices to your dish. The acid of the lemons makes it a great alternative to Rotel tomatoes, and you may find that although it is a different flavor, you can get used to it.

Use a 1:1 ratio when substituting; 10oz of chopped lemon pickle for one 10oz can of Rotel tomatoes.

Can You Substitute Rotel for Diced Tomatoes in Chili?

You can use diced tomatoes as a Rotel substitute in chili. Just pour in your whole can of diced tomatoes, juices and all, just as you would Rotel tomatoes.

The main difference between Rotel tomatoes and regular diced tomatoes is the green chilies. If you have diced green chilies on hand, you can add them, but with all the other spices you will add to your chili, you will not miss the green chilies if you omit them.

The other difference between diced tomatoes and Rotel tomatoes is the additional spices. You can adjust your quantities of chili powder, cayenne pepper, and other spices to add heat to your chili, but diced tomatoes will work just fine as a Rotel substitute without any other adjustments to your chili recipe.

Can You Substitute Salsa for Rotel?

Yes, you can use salsa as a Rotel substitute. However, salsa will work better for some dishes than for others.

The two main ingredients in Rotel tomatoes–tomatoes and green chilies–are also found in salsa. However, while Rotel only has a couple of other ingredients, salsa is more complex in flavor.

Another difference between Salsa and Rotel is the texture of the tomatoes and the consistency of the sauce. Salsa may not lend itself well as a Rotel substitute in dishes where you want those big chunks of diced tomatoes, such as chili.

For chili con queso or other dips, salsa is a perfect replacement for Rotel tomatoes.

About Lisa Price
Lisa Price
Lisa is Food Champ's resident fitness enthusiast and nutrition expert. She holds a nutrition degree in her home state of Florida and works for a large health system to ensure sound nutrition and dietetics information is passed on to all members.
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