Make (and can for shelf stability if you want) a Rotel copycat recipe at home using fresh ingredients – it really is like the real thing!
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 in frozen tomato sauce, canned salsa and pizza sauce, and of course, Addictive Tomato Chutney.
But the search for a good, safe, canned tomato-and-chilies product (also known by the brand name of Rotel) has surprisingly taken awhile. 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!
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 do 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.
What I found was the Minnesota Method for canning a tomato mixture. 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.
Some notes to the recipe:
- I think the flavor is really good as I made it, but the dry spices are totally adaptable, so adjust to your tastes.
- I added 1 jalapeno in my 1 cup of chilies to make ours a bit spicier, but all mild peppers like anaheim or ancho is probably more like the store-bought product.
- 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.
Click the arrow for the full canned tomatoes & chiles recipe (with print options)!
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