Make and can (or freeze) this Rotel copycat recipe at home using fresh ingredients. Using the ingredients list on a can of Rotel, this recipe truly is like the real thing you can use in all your favorite dishes.
We use a lot of tomato products at our house – soups, stews, salsas, casseroles… the list could go on for awhile. For years I’ve preserved our homegrown tomatoes and chilies in frozen tomato sauce, canned salsa and pizza sauce, and of course, Addictive Tomato Chutney.
I wanted to add a homemade Rotel to my canning list for awhile because there are always a few recipes that call for this and I’ve always thought it would be a good way to use the abundant tomatoes and chili peppers I grow.
However, the search for a good, safe, canned Rotel copycat (basically a tomato and chilies product) surprisingly took awhile to find. Most recipes I found online included things like onions (um, then isn’t it just salsa?), or more disturbingly, sugar – sometimes as much as 1-1/2 cups!
Commercial Rotel Ingredients
However, a quick look at the ingredient list on a can of Rotel shows no sugar, just:
- citric acid
OK, basically tomatoes and chilies – I should be able to figure something out that would come close to that.
But since chilies are a low-acid ingredient and tomatoes are right on the edge of being safe for water-bath canning (with the addition of citric acid or lemon juice), I needed to find a tested recipe that I could feel good about canning and storing.
Do I have to can this – can I just freeze it?
Yes you can freeze it. Like other tomato products (salsa, chutney, sauces), this freezes just fine. I haven’t noticed any difference when I’ve used it between frozen and canned. It’s just more convenient to use canned (no defrosting needed) and it’s easier to store.
To freeze, cool completely after cooking the 10 minutes and transfer to freezer-safe containers (I only use glass mason jars to freeze food now), leaving an inch of headspace for expansion. Label and date. Freeze for up to a year.
Note: A reader asked if you could leave out the citric acid or lemon juice if you didn’t can the Rotel and the short answer is yes. However, citric acid is on of the ingredients in the commercial version, so it may taste different without that citrus flavor.
Boiling Water Canning Tutorial
If you’re unsure about canning, please check out the written water-bath canning tutorial I wrote here, or the video below – it’s really easy and I know you can do it! It’s worth investing in the few items you need to safely can at home.
Safely Canning Homemade Rotel Tomatoes & Chilies
When I found the Minnesota Method for canning a tomato mixture I knew I could use it to create a safe for canning Rotel copycat. It is very clear that the ratio of tomatoes to low-acid ingredients has been tested as is and can’t be increased, but that it is safe for water bath canning.
However, I didn’t want celery or onions – just chilies, so in adapting the recipe I omitted the 1-1/2 cups chopped celery and onions and increased the chilies by only 1/2 cup, so the total ratio of low-acid ingredients to the 12 cups of tomatoes went down from 2 cups to 1 cup.
All this is to assure you that although I did technically increase the amount of chilies, I decreased the total low-acid ingredients overall, so this is actually a better, safer ratio than the original recipe.
Homemade Rotel Tomato Ingredients
The ingredients are simple and straightforward:
- Mild Chili Peppers
- Salt & Pepper
- Spices: Oregano, Coriander
Making Homemade Rotel Tomatoes
- I think the flavor of the finished recipe is really good as is written, but the dry spices are totally adaptable and safe to change or increase, so adjust to your tastes. I chose oregano and coriander (the dried seeds of cilantro in the US – if in the UK, you’d want the dried form of coriander) because both are used in Tex-Mex cooking. You can play with other dry spices (since they aren’t revealed on the Rotel ingredient list) if you’d like.
- Use all mild peppers like Anaheim or ancho to make your Rotel most like the store-bought product. We like things spicy, so I added 1 jalapeño in my 1 cup of chilies. It wasn’t very spicy, actually, so now I add 2-3, depending on the size.
- I found that even though quartered tomatoes seemed too big for a Rotel-type product, they cooked down so much in the 10 minutes that when I tried it with chopped tomatoes, it came out more like a chunky sauce, so I’m recommending simply quartering the tomatoes.
- I’ve been using only citric acid in tomatoes for the last few years as most bottled lemon juice is full of preservatives and the Rotel ingredient list uses it as well. However, you can use lemon juice if that is what you have (the option is included in the recipe below).
I sure hope you enjoy this recipe and that it makes your cheese dips, soups, and stews that much better!
Canned Tomatoes & Chilies: Rotel Copycat Recipe
- 12 cups cored, peeled, and quartered tomatoes about 32 medium round tomatoes
- 1 cup finely chopped chili peppers anaheim, ancho, or other mild pepper *
- 1 tablespoon canning salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon dry oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon coriander
- Citric Acid to add to jars: 1/4 teaspoon for each pint 1/2 teaspoon for quarts OR 1 tablespoon bottled lemon juice for pints (2 tablespoons for quarts)
- Wash, core, peel and quarter tomatoes. Add to a large stockpot.
- Wash, stem, and seed chilies (leave the seeds to increases spiciness if you'd like). Finely chop by hand or cut into large pieces and finely chop in a food processor.
- Add chilies, salt, pepper, oregano, and coriander to tomatoes in stockpot, bring to a low boil, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
- While tomato mixture is simmering, prepare canner, jars and lids (see note for a tutorial for water-bath canning).
- To clean, hot, pint canning jars, add 1/4 teaspoon citric acid or 1 tablespoon lemon juice (if using quart jars, add 1/2 teaspoon citric acid or 2 tablespoons lemon juice).
- Ladle the tomato-chili mixture into each jar, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Remove bubbles with a spatula, wipe rims, and attach lids.
- Add jars to canner, cover, bring to a boil and process 40 minutes for pints (50 minutes for quarts), adjusting heat as needed to maintain a soft boil. When timer goes off, remove lid, turn off heat and allow jars to sit in canner 5 minutes.
- Remove jars from canner to a towel-lined counter and let cool 12 to 24 hours. Remove rings for storage and check lids to be sure they've sealed (gently pull up with your fingers). Refrigerate any that didn't seal.
- At step 3, remove from heat and let cool a bit before transferring to freezer-safe containers (if using plastic, cool completely before transferring).
- Label and date containers and freeze for up to a year.
- Note: if freezing, you could leave out the citric acid if you want, but since it is an ingredient in the commercial Rotel, it may affect the flavor.
Do you use Rotel tomatoes? What are some of your favorite recipes that use them?
More Canning Recipes To Try:
This recipe has been updated – it was originally published in September of 2012.