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16 Genius Ways To Substitute for Rotel Tomatoes

Here are 16 genius ways to substitute for Rotel tomatoes in all your favorite dishes, plus a simple recipe to make your own!

Rotel tomatoes are a zesty, flavorful, and unique ingredient featured in many of our favorite dishes.

You’ll find them in recipes for nachos, party dips, casseroles, and more.

But, what do you do if you happen to run out or the grocery store is out of stock?

Luckily, there are plenty of simple ingredients you can use in place of Rotel tomatoes.

And we’re sharing the best substitutes for all your favorite recipes.

You’ll also find a simple recipe to make your own!

Rotel 101

Close up of can of Rotel (diced tomatoes and green chiles).

Before we list the best ways to substitute for these canned tomatoes, here’s some info on what they are and their main ingredients.

Rotel tomatoes are essentially canned diced tomatoes with added green chiles, citric acid, and Mexican spices like cilantro, cumin, ancho chili powder, and coriander.

They have a smokey heat and come in a few different varieties including a mild version and a spicy version.

It’s a popular ingredient in Tex-Mex and Mexican cuisine, and you can use it as a dipping sauce or a flavor and texture agent for soups, stews, casseroles, and dips.

You can find Rotel tomatoes in most grocery stores, but they’re especially popular in southern states. And they’re usually next to other tomato products or in the Mexican section of the grocery store.

Common recipes that use Rotel:

  • Nachos
  • Chile
  • Soups
  • Fajitas
  • Ground beef dip
  • Tacos
  • Stew
  • Sausage dip
  • Casserole
  • Lasagna

The Best Ways to Substitute for Rotel Tomatoes

1. Tomato Puree

Large mound of tomato puree on a metal spoon over a wooden table.

You can use tomato puree as a substitute for Rotel in soups, stews, and lasagnas.

It’s a decent Rotel alternative because it has a similar texture and a strong tomato flavor base.

However, you’ll need to add some spices and seasonings to jazz it up.

You can add canned diced green chiles if you have them and ingredients like chili powder, onion powder, garlic powder, and coriander.

Use tomato puree as a 1-to-1 substitute.

2. Tomato Sauce

Tomato sauce in clear glass bowl next to fresh tomatoes and herbs.

You can use tomato sauce to substitute for Rotel tomatoes the same way you would tomato puree.

And it’s a good 1-to-1 substitute for similar recipes.

3. Tomato Paste

Tomato paste in can next to garlic cloves and spoon of paste on white plate.

Tomato paste is thicker than Rotel, so you’ll need to thin it out with some water until you reach your desired consistency.

After you thin the paste, you can also add seasonings and green peppers if you have them.

Then you can use the doctored-up tomato paste as a 1-to-1 substitute in soups, stews, and casseroles.

4. Pizza Sauce

Large white bowl filled with pizza sauce, green garnish, and a metal spoon.

Pizza sauce has a similar consistency to Rotel. But, if you can find a chunky variety, it will make an even better substitute.

Pizza sauce typically includes Italian seasonings, so you’ll need to combat those flavors with some Mexican spices. And you can also add fresh or canned diced chiles.

It’s best to use pizza sauce as a 1-to-1 Rotel substitute in dishes like lasagna, fajitas, and soups or stews.

5. Picante Sauce

Picante sauce in an antique silver bowl surrounded by red chilis.

You can find premade picante sauce in most grocery stores, and it’s a ready-made Rotel tomato substitute.

It has a similar flavor and texture and you can use it as a 1-to-1 substitute anywhere you would Rotel.

6. Marinara Sauce

A large cream bowl filled with marinara sauce topped with green garnish.

To substitute Rotel with marinara sauce, simply combine one part marinara sauce with one part water.

If you want a little more heat, you can add a pinch of cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes. Then, just follow your recipe as usual!

7. Tomato Ketchup

Heinz ketchup bottle standing upside down on its cap on restaurant table.

You can also use tomato ketchup to substitute for Rotel if you’re really in a pinch.

Ketchup tends to be sweet, so you may need to add some acidity to cut the sweetness along with Mexican herbs and spices.

If you have chiles, you can also add those to improve the texture.

You can use ketchup as a 1-to-1 substitute in casseroles, soups, and stews.

8. Stewed Tomatoes

A large clear glass bowl filled with stewed tomatoes on a whitewashed table.

Stewed tomatoes are a great substitute for Rotel in chili recipes and dips.

Take your plain can of tomatoes and add chiles if you have them and Mexican herbs, seasonings, and spices to your taste.

You can also use a food processor to break up the large bits of tomatoes if desired.

Once you’ve added some flavor, you can use your stewed tomatoes as a 1-to-1 substitute.

9. Petite Diced Tomatoes

Petite diced tomatoes spilling from a can onto a white plate next to fresh tomatoes.

You can use petite diced tomatoes as a 1-to-1 substitute.

If you have it, add a 4 ounce can of diced green chilies to a 15 ounce can of petite diced tomatoes.

Then add 2 teaspoons of lime juice and 1 tablespoon of chopped fresh cilantro.

You can use this substitute anywhere you would Rotel tomatoes.

10. Fire-Roasted Diced Tomatoes

A wooden spoon lifts a mound of fire roasted diced tomatoes from a wooden bowl.

Rotel tomatoes also come in a fire-roasted version.

If you need a substitute for that variety, you can use a can of fire-roasted diced tomatoes the same way you would regular petite diced tomatoes.

11. Chunky Salsa

A miniature black clay pot filled with chunky salsa on a wooden table.

Chunky salsa is a great alternative to Rotel for queso dip and nachos.

It has a similar texture and may include lime juice and similar spices. However, salsa comes in more heat levels so you can have more control over the spice level of your dish.

Use salsa as a 1-to-1 substitute.

12. Canned Green Chilis

Close up on two stacks cans of diced green chile peppers.

If you have a can of diced green chilis, you can add a few tablespoons of canned tomato sauce or puree and use it as a 1-to-1 substitute for nachos, dips, and sauces.

13. Lemon Pickle

A large mound of lemon pickle on a silver plate next to paper bag.

If you don’t like the taste of tomatoes, lemon pickle might be your best option to substitute for Rotel.

If you’ve never heard of it, lemon pickle is preserved lemons in water, lemon juice, and a variety of seasonings.

It also comes in a spicy version with harissa spices that are very similar to the flavors of Rotel tomatoes.

You can use lemon pickle as a 1-to-1 substitute anywhere you would Rotel tomatoes.

14. Fresh Tomatoes

Several plump, fresh red tomatoes on the vine over rustic wooden table.

Fresh red tomatoes are a great substitute for Rotel in fajitas.

Just add chilies and spices to your taste.

Substitute 2 medium whole tomatoes for one 10 ounce can of Rotel.

15. Enchilada Sauce

A large plate of enchiladas topped with red enchilada sauce, cheese, and green garnish.

Enchilada sauce has a similar flavor to Rotel tomatoes.

To use it as a substitute, simply combine one part enchilada sauce with two parts water and add additional spices and chiles if desired.

Use it as a 1-to-1 substitute in place of Rotel in any recipe.

RELATED: Homemade Chicken Enchiladas with Sour Cream White Sauce

How to Make Your Own

Fresh diced tomatoes, green chilies, cilantro, and onion on a white plate.

You can also make your own homemade Rotel to keep on hand.

If you make your own, you can adjust the spice level to your preference and add your own twist using your favorite seasonings and spices.

You can follow this simple recipe using canned ingredients. Or, try this recipe using fresh ingredients:


  • 2 pounds of Roma tomatoes
  • 1 pound of fresh Anaheim peppers (or other green chili peppers like serrano peppers depending on your spice preference)
  • 2 tablespoons of lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon of coriander
  • 1 teaspoon of dry oregano
  • 1 teaspoon of black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon of salt


Line a baking dish with parchment paper and add the green peppers in a single layer. (Remove all the seeds if you want a milder Rotel).

Broil for 4 minutes, flip, and broil until both sides are browned. Let cool, then dice.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, core the tomatoes, and score them with a knife to create an “X” mark.

Blanch the tomatoes in boiling water for 2 minutes, then transfer them to an ice bath.

Peel off the skins of the tomatoes and dice.

Cook the tomatoes and the tomato juice over medium heat for 45 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent them from burning. 

Let cool, then add the peppers and seasonings.

Add 2 tablespoons of lemon juice to the bottom of a glass mason jar.

Pour in the Rotel and leave a half inch of space at the top and remove any air bubbles with a toothpick.

Apply the lid to the jar and place the jar in boiling water for 30 minutes. 

Let cool then refrigerate.

NOTES: You can add Tabasco sauce for more heat or adjust the green chili ratio.

The jar can last up to 2 months in the fridge, and once you open it, it can last for up to 2 weeks. 


What’s a good substitute for Rotel in queso?

Picante sauce, chunky salsa, or lemon pickle are the best substitutes for Rotel in queso.

Are Rotel tomatoes just diced tomatoes?

Rotel tomatoes are not just diced tomatoes. They also include diced green chilis and savory seasonings.

Is Rotel spicy?

Regular Rotel has a relatively low heat level and won’t bother anyone who doesn’t like spicy food. However, you can also purchase Rotel in mild and hot.

Yummy Recipes to Try

Now that we’ve covered all the best ways to substitute for Rotel tomatoes, here are some yummy recipes you’ll love!

White Chicken Chili Recipe With Cream Cheese

Bowl of white chicken chili with cream cheese garnished with lime wedge and tortilla strips.

Easy Spaghetti with Chili

Fork and spoon in green bowl of Cincinatti chili topped with cheese and sour cream.

Cheesy Zucchini, Black Bean, and Rice Skillet

Close up of zucchini and rice dinner in large black skillet.

Healthy Turkey Lasagna Soup

Bowls of lasagna soup on countertop with slices of bread and kitchen towel nearby.

The Easiest Creamy Taco Soup

Bowl of creamy taco soup with spoon and cilantro, avocado, and lime garnish.

Italian Ground Turkey Patties

Eight cooked turkey patties on sauteed vegetable in large black skillet.

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