Adobo Sauce

Adobo sauce is best known for being the sweetly earthy sauce that bathes canned chipotle peppers. It’s an authentic and ridiculously versatile Mexican staple that’s easy to DIY. Here’s how to make it at home.

An open Mason jar of adobo sauce with a spoon resting on the lid beside it.

Adobo sauce is an authentic, earthy, rich, velvety, and not particularly tongue-tingling Mexican sauce made from dried chile peppers. It’s typically made from dried ancho chile peppers but our recipe also offers an easier riff that relies on pure ancho powder rather than dried ancho chiles in pepper form. How brilliant is that?!–Renee Schettler

How to Use Adobo Sauce

We’re all probably most familiar with adobo sauce as the sweetly earthy sauce that bathes canned chipotle peppers. But it boasts far, far more uses than that…

Use it as a marinade for fish, scallops, shrimp, chicken or pork destined for the grill or skillet.

Stir a little into rice as it cooks.

Mix with ground pork for a quick substitute for Mexican chorizo.

Add to pretty much any brothy soup for depth and interest.

Season sautéed greens or potatoes.

Use in a simple vinaigrette to drizzle over a salad.

Dribble over your morning (or evening) eggs.

Adobo Sauce

  • Quick Glance
  • (2)
  • 15 M
  • 15 M
  • Makes 20 tablespoons (1 1/4 cups)
5/5 - 2 reviews
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Scoop the chile powder into a blender or small food processor. In a medium saucepan, bring the water to a boil. Pour the hot water over the chile powder, loosely cover the blender or secure the top of the processor, and pulse to create a smooth slurry. Let cool.

If you prefer a straightforward and quick adobo, toss the peeled garlic cloves in a microwavable bowl, add enough water to cover, and microwave on 100% for 1 minute. Drain. If you prefer a sweeter, toastier flavor to your adobo, toss the garlic cloves, still in their papery skins, in a dry skillet and place over medium heat, turning them regularly until they turn soft and blotchy black, about 15 minutes. Let cool and then remove and discard the papery skins.

Toss the garlic in the blender along with the cinnamon, pepper, cumin, oregano, vinegar, and salt and process until a smooth purée forms. If necessary, stir in some water, a splash at a time, until the adobo is the consistency of barbecue sauce.

Scoop the adobo into a pint jar, screw on the lid, and store in the refrigerator for up to a couple months. Originally published September 11, 2016.

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    *How to Make Adobo Sauce with Whole Dried Ancho Chiles

    • If you prefer to work with whole dried ancho chiles rather than ancho powder, simply remove the stems and seeds from 4 medium dried ancho chiles and toast them in a dry skillet over medium heat for a minute or so, until very aromatic. Move to a plate to cool and then tear the chiles into small pieces, scoop into a blender, and proceed with the recipe, blending the dried chiles instead of the chile powder with the boiling water as directed and then adding the remaining ingredients.

    Recipe Testers' Reviews

    This adobo sauce recipe is exactly as advertised. Quick, easy, and delicious.

    I don't really think that dried anchos are mysterious or hard to find (in fact, they're probably easier to find than ground ancho powder), but using the ground chiles really does shorten the prep time as there's no soaking to deal with. And the boiling water technique works well to produce a smooth sauce. The adobo sauce makes a great marinade.

    Vegetarians, take note: you can freeze some tofu and then thaw it and pulse in a food processor until coarsely ground. Sauté the ground tofu with some of this adobo, and you will have a vegetarian chorizo that tastes much, much better than the soy-based chorizos you can buy in the store.

    I swear that condiments speak to me. My fridge is proof. I've never found an unusual condiment I could resist. One taste of this adobo sauce and you'll hear it, too. It's shouting to be used with tomatoes in shakshuka or ranchero sauce, begging to be mopped over pork chops or flank steak, talking its way into your baked beans, even cozying up to your squirt of mayo on your sandwich. Think I'm crazy? Take a taste. This adobo sauce recipe is easier than most—it's largely a dump-and-blend situation.

    We added about 3 tablespoons of the adobo sauce to a pot of rice pilaf with shrimp and were rewarded with a rich garlic and chile flavor without any heat.



    1. This recipe is totally wrong! The amount of water is way to much; that has to be a typo, you meant 1/4 cup not 1 1/4 right?

      1. Actually, Peter, that’s accurate. It’s the amount listed in the recipe as it appears in the original cookbook and it’s how we tested it in several different home kitchens, and folks absolutely raved. I know it seems a lot, but it actually does work.

    2. I only had a generic chili powder instead of ancho chili powder so I cut that in half. That meant the final product was more liquid than slurry but the taste is absolutely fantastic — salty and tangy and smoky.

    3. “Chile” is a country in South America. The correct name for this peppers is “chili” or “chilies”
      NOT chile!

      1. The spelling is different in different parts of the world. In New Mexico chile is always spelled chile when referring to the the peppers.

      2. Just for clarity–There is no such thing a Mexican oregano. It’s just wild sage that grows all over MexiCali. Oregano is strictly Mediterranean and does NOT resemble sage.

        1. BiancoBoy, thanks for that. But for cooking clarity (rather than botany clarity), we use the name Mexican oregano, as that is what people will see on the shelves.

      3. Lester, it is a variant spelling. From Webster’s Dictionary

        chile noun
        variant spelling of CHILI
        1a: a hot pepper of any of a group of cultivars (Capsicum annuum annuum group longum) noted for their pungency
        — called also chili pepper

    4. A tbs or three added to your cornbread recipe would be the bomb. Making this and canning it when our Harvest Season rolls around and I’ve got the canners and packaging equipment out. Maybe even smoke my own Jalepeno’s for Chipotles.

    5. I have a home-canned jar of smoked jalapenos and I was wondering do you put these into the adobo sauce?

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