When you’re in the mood for something smoky, spicy, and full of tomatoes, you reach for that Southern favorite, RO-TEL tomatoes. But what happens if you’re busy making your chili or Tex-Mex special, and your pantry has no RO-TEL in it? What is the best substitute for RO-TEL tomatoes?
Substitutes for RO-TEL tomatoes are other canned tomatoes, such as diced, crushed, whole, pureed, stewed, or fire-roasted tomatoes. Use Arrabbiata sauce, canned green chilis, salsa, or Mexican-style tomatoes to add heat to your dish. Non-tomato substitutes are ajvar, roasted peppers, and Nomato.
A can of RO-TEL tomatoes, packed with chili, oregano, and coriander, is multipurpose and can transform a plain pasta or dish of scrambled eggs into a fiery fiesta. If you’ve got no RO-TEL tomatoes available, there are substitutes to help you create the same delicious flavors in your meal.
The Best Substitutes for RO-TEL Tomatoes
To find out the best substitutes for RO-TEL tomatoes, let’s first discover these unique American tomatoes.
What Are RO-TEL Tomatoes?
RO-TEL tomatoes are a unique combination of diced tomatoes, chili, and spices and come in several flavors:
- Original diced tomatoes and green chilies (mild, hot, and no-salt versions)
- Chunky diced tomatoes and green chilies
- Fire-roasted diced tomatoes and green chilies
- Diced tomatoes with serrano pepper
- /chiopotle peppers
- Chili Fixin’s seasoned diced tomatoes and green chilies
- Mexican-style diced tomatoes with lime juice and cilantro
Finding a substitute that combines the tomatoes, chili, and spice found in RO-TEL tomatoes is tricky but not impossible.
Best Substitutes For Original RO-TEL Tomatoes
Original RO-TEL tomatoes are the classic diced tomatoes with chili and seasoning.
Diced Tomatoes As A Substitute For RO-TEL
- Best for: pasta sauce, soup, stew
- Substitute ratio: 1 cup RO-TEL tomatoes = 1 cup diced tomatoes
RO-TEL tomatoes are diced tomatoes with a kick, so a great substitute is a can of regular diced tomatoes.
Diced tomatoes are small chunks of tomato canned in tomato juice, so they have the same texture and consistency as RO-TEL tomatoes and can be substituted in equal quantities.
You won’t get the same fire in the dish, but if you just wanted to make a hearty tomato pasta sauce or you have small children who don’t like hot food, diced tomatoes are your best bet.
If you want to spice up your dish, add some dried chili flakes, oregano, coriander, salt, and pepper – you can choose to make it mild or hot.
Crushed Tomatoes As A Substitute For RO-TEL
- Best for: soup, stew, casserole
- Substitute ratio: 1 cup RO-TEL tomatoes = 1 cup crushed tomatoes
Another possible substitute for RO-TEL original tomatoes is crushed tomatoes.
Unlike the chunks of diced tomato, crushed tomato is even finer, often processed to a thick smoothness by combining finely chopped tomatoes and tomato puree.
If you’re using RO-TEL for a soup or casserole, crushed tomatoes will create a tasty, mushy consistency, smoother than RO-TEL would ordinarily. You could use equal amounts of crushed tomatoes and RO-TEL in this case.
Crushed tomatoes have a strong, hearty tomato flavor but are not seasoned at all, so you will have to add flavorings of your choice.
Tomato Puree As A Substitute For RO-TEL
- Best for: soup, stew
- Substitute ratio: 1 cup RO-TEL tomatoes = 2/3 cup tomato puree + 1/3 cup water
If you’re using RO-TEL tomatoes simply to give a dish a tomato note, then you can substitute tomato puree.
Tomato puree, which is made from cooked skinless, seedless tomatoes, is great for thickening sauces. However, it has none of the texture of RO-TEL’s diced tomatoes, so it is best used in a soup or stew, where you can add water as well.
The flavor of tomato puree is also very plain, so it’s not the best substitute for RO-TEL if you’re looking for flavor. You’ll have to add a lot of chili and spices.
Nomato As A Substitute For RO-TEL
- Best for: pasta sauce, soup, stew
- Substitute ratio: 1 cup RO-TEL tomatoes = 1 cup Nomato
If you’re allergic to tomatoes (or nightshades in particular), there is a product called Nomato, a sauce that aims to taste like Marinara sauce.
Made from carrots, beets, garlic, onions, oregano, basil, and seasonings, Nomato gives the same fresh, sweet flavor tomatoes give to a dish.
Nomato is a great alternative to have if you have allergy sufferers, as it is nut and gluten-free.
Best Substitutes For Chunky RO-TEL Tomatoes
Chunky RO-TEL tomatoes have the same flavor profile as the original tomatoes but have a rougher, thick-cut texture.
Canned Tomatoes As A Substitute For RO-TEL
- Best for: stew, pasta sauce, casserole, chili
- Substitute ratio: 1 cup RO-TEL tomatoes = 1 cup whole tomatoes
If your dish calls for a more robust, chunky tomato, then reach for canned, whole tomatoes.
Canned whole tomatoes are usually whole, unpeeled plum tomatoes, usually the best quality, even better than fresh.
Instead of using chunky RO-TEL tomatoes, add a tin of whole tomatoes and gently crush or chop them roughly into the dish, along with their juice.
Flavorwise, you’ll have to add chili if you want a similar fieriness to RO-TEL tomatoes.
Fresh Tomatoes As A Substitute For RO-TEL
- Best for: casserole, stew
- Substitute ratio: 1 cup RO-TEL tomatoes = 1 cup fresh tomatoes
If you’re out of canned tomatoes, you can always use fresh, especially if you’ve got some Roma or plum tomatoes.
To get the same texture as RO-TEL chunky tomatoes, chop your tomatoes roughly and add them to your dish.
You may need to add some tomato paste for depth of flavor if you haven’t got the tastiest tomatoes. You can add some fresh chili as well.
Homemade Spicy Tomatoes As A Substitute For RO-TEL
- Best for: casserole, stew
- Substitute ratio: 1 cup RO-TEL tomatoes = 1 cup homemade tomatoes
Making RO-TEL-style tomatoes is possible at home, so you’ll always have a store in your pantry or freezer. Here’s how you do it.
1 pound of Roma or plum tomatoes (use fresh or canned)
1 finely diced onion
1 cup of finely chopped chili peppers (choose your heat)
2 tablespoons of lemon juice
1 tablespoon of salt
1 teaspoon of black pepper
1 teaspoon of dried oregano
½ teaspoon of dried coriander
- If you’re using fresh tomatoes, blanch, peel and core them.
- Dice your tomatoes, onion, and chili peppers.
- Put all the RO-TEL ingredients in a pot and bring to a simmer.
- Simmer for 30-45 minutes.
- Cool and can or freeze for later use.
Best Substitutes For Fire-roasted RO-TEL Tomatoes
RO-TEL fire-roasted tomatoes give your dish a spicy, smoky flavor, along with the bite of chili.
Fire-roasted Tomatoes As A Substitute For RO-TEL
- Best for: chili, pasta sauce, scrambled eggs
- Substitute ratio: 1 cup RO-TEL tomatoes = 1 cup fire-roasted tomatoes
There are several brands of canned and jarred fire-roasted tomatoes that you can use instead of RO-TEL’s combination of tomato and chili.
Fire-roasted tomatoes consist of tomatoes that have been flame-charred, diced, and canned with onion and garlic. Flame-roasting tomatoes brings out their sweetness and imparts a smokiness that enhances any dish.
Fire-roasted tomatoes won’t give your dish the bite of chili, so if you also want that effect, you’ll have to add some chopped green chili.
Substitute the same amount of fire-roasted tomatoes for RO-TEL tomatoes.
Ajvar As A Substitute For RO-TEL
- Best for: pasta sauce, stew, casserole, scrambled eggs
- Substitute ratio: 1 cup RO-TEL tomatoes = 1 cup ajvar
Ajvar is an East European condiment made from roasted red peppers, brinjals or eggplants, garlic, and sometimes chili.
With a relish-like texture and a deep, smoky flavor, ajvar is a great substitute for RO-TEL if you’re looking for deep umami taste in your dish.
The consistency of ajvar is smoother than RO-TEL but substantial enough not to make a difference to most dishes.
Roasted Peppers As A Substitute For RO-TEL
- Best for: pasta sauce
- Substitute ratio: 1 cup RO-TEL tomatoes = 1/2 cup roasted peppers + 1/4 cup tomato paste + ¼ cup water
If you’re not a fan of tomatoes, but you’re looking to add some savory depth to your dish, consider roasted peppers.
Roasted peppers are flame-charred, just like fire-roasted tomatoes, so they have a similarly sweet, smoky tenderness. The best roasted peppers are from Italy and bottled with olive oil.
If you want the tomato flavor, add a squeeze of tomato paste and some water. Add a smidge of red chili flakes if you want some heat.
The texture of roasted peppers is not the same as tomatoes, so you’d need to add liquid if you want the same consistency.
Best Substitutes For RO-TEL Tomatoes With Peppers
There are two kinds of RO-TEL tomatoes with added chili peppers. RO-TEL with serrano peppers is twice as hot as the Rotel tomatoes hot (made with habanero), while the RO-TEL chipotle is spicy and smoky, perfect for Tex-Mex or Mexican dishes.
Green Chili As A Substitute for RO-TEL Tomatoes
- Best for: chili, dips, taco soup
- Substitute ratio: 1 cup RO-TEL tomatoes = 1/2 cup green chilis + ¼ cup tomato paste + ¼ cup water
People don’t enjoy tomato’s taste or texture but want the heat that a can of RO-TEL provides can substitute a jar of green chilis.
You’ll need to chop the chili finely and add some tomato paste and water to mimic the consistency of RO-TEL, but you’ll get the burn you’re looking for.
Arrabbiata Sauce As A Substitute for RO-TEL
- Best for: pasta sauce, chili, stew
- Substitute ratio: 1 cup RO-TEL tomatoes = 1 cup Arrabbiata sauce
An excellent spicy substitute for RO-TEL tomatoes is ready-made Arrabbiata sauce, intended to be served with pasta.
Arrabbiata sauce is made with tomatoes, tomato puree, garlic, onions, and chili, so it is a suitable replacement for consistency and flavor. The bonus is that jarred pasta sauce is already cooked, so your dish will quickly be ready.
Best Substitute For Chili Fixin’s RO-TEL Tomatoes
Rotel’s Chili Fixin’s tomatoes include the usual diced tomatoes and green chili but are also seasoned with red chili, garlic, cumin, and oregano. Added to ground beef or chicken, they create an instant chili.
Tomato Relish As A Substitute for RO-TEL Tomatoes
- Best for: chili, dip, stew
- Substitute ratio: 1 cup RO-TEL tomatoes = 1 cup tomato relish
Tomato relish is a cooked and pickled chutney, more common in the UK than in the states. It’s similar to cucumber relish and often eaten with burgers.
Tomato relish is a great substitute for RO-TEL because it has many common ingredients, including tomatoes, chili, and garlic.
Use a jar of tomato relish in your chili for a sweet, bright flavor. If you want a Tex-Mex taste, add cumin and coriander.
Mexican Stewed Tomatoes As A Substitute for RO-TEL Tomatoes
- Best for: chili, dips, taco soup
- Substitute ratio: 1 cup RO-TEL tomatoes = 2/3 cup stewed tomatoes + 1/3 cup tomato juice/water
Stewed tomatoes are roughly chopped tomatoes that have been slow-simmered with onions, garlic, peppers, and celery. These tomatoes come in various flavors, including Mexican, which has chili added.
It is easy to use a can of Mexican stewed tomatoes instead of RO-TEL if you’re making chili, as the flavor will be very similar. Stewed tomatoes will also add a luscious sweetness to whatever you’re making.
However, stewed tomatoes have a thicker consistency than RO-TEL, so you’ll have to add some tomato juice, tomato puree, or water if you want a thinner sauce.
Best Substitute For Mexican RO-TEL Tomatoes
The Mexican RO-TEL flavor includes garlic, lime juice, and cilantro for that authentic flavor.
Salsa As A Substitute for RO-TEL Tomatoes
- Best for: chili, dips, refried beans
- Substitute ratio: 1 cup RO-TEL tomatoes = 1 cup salsa
When you’ve run out of RO-TEL but want to make a Tex-Mex chili, a dip, or tortilla soup, reach for the jar of salsa as a substitute.
Because it contains many ingredients in RO-TEL tomatoes, like garlic and chili, salsa is a good match and will add complexity to your dish, adding onions and other spices.
In terms of consistency, salsa is chunkier than RO-TEL tomatoes, so add some tomato juice or tomato puree to get the same effect.
Which RO-TEL Replacement Is Right?
Finding a substitute for RO-TEL tomatoes is tricky, as the product combines both tomatoes and chili. You can either choose another kind of canned or fresh tomatoes and add chili and seasonings. Or, you can use a spicy Arrabbiata sauce, salsa, or green chilis to add the fire that RO-TEL tomatoes usually give.