Adobo Sauce

Adobo sauce is probably best known for being the sweetly earthy sauce that bathes chipotle peppers in a can, although it has a ridiculous number of other uses. It’s an authentic Mexican pantry staple from Rick Bayless which has no substitute. Here’s how to make it at home.

A jar of quick red chile adobo

Adobo sauce is one of countless authentic Mexican sauces made from dried chile peppers that boasts an impossibly rich taste and velvety texture but not a lot of mouth-tingling heat. The trick to making adobo at home is that it typically requires dried ancho chile peppers, which are easy to find yet require a little more effort than many time-challenged home cooks are willing to dedicate to the cause. Which is why Rick Bayless concocted this riff that relies on pure ancho powder rather than dried ancho chiles in pepper form. What are you waiting for?–Renee Schettler Rossi

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 as 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.

Adobo Sauce

  • Quick Glance
  • 15 M
  • 15 M
  • Makes about 1 1/4 cups
5/5 - 1 reviews
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  • Scant 1/2 cup (2 ounces/57 grams) ancho chile powder*
  • 1 1/4 cups (296 ml) water
  • 8 garlic cloves (about 25 grams), peeled
  • 1/2 teaspoon (1 gram) ground cinnamon, preferably Mexican canela
  • 1/4 teaspoon (0.6 grams) ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon (0.3 grams) ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon (2 grams) dried oregano, preferably Mexican
  • 3 tablespoons (45 ml) apple cider vinegar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons (9 grams) kosher salt


  • 1. 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.
  • 2. 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.
  • 3. 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. Transfer the adobo to a pint jar, screw on the lid, and store in the refrigerator for up to a couple months.

*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. Transfer 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, 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 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 ketchup or 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. My only gripe is that I'm directed to boil water on the stove AND in the microwave. Next time I'll boil the 1 1/4 cups water in the microwave in a Pyrex, dump it over the chile powder, then throw the garlic in the empty Pyrex, add water to cover, and put it back in the microwave.

This quick red chile adobo sauce was easy to prepare and could be used for quite a few things. I made it into a vinaigrette and served it over salad. I added it to plain Greek yogurt and used it as a quick veggie dip. I marinated some pork chops in it with good results. And I also used some to spice up a pot of chili.


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

    1. 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

  2. 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.

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

  4. Add a little sour cream, possibly a little Cholula, and wow – you have an amazing sauce for shredded beef tacos. Better yet, add this to a couple of nicely seared chuck roasts in the crock pot, and put on your seat belt, Betsy!

  5. Is it OK to pin?? You have pin buttons. Appreciate your copyright tips to followers at the bottom of recipe. ?

  6. I’ve seen jalapeno chili powder. I wonder if you could make a version with that, without burning your mouth every time you used it. ;)

    Meanwhile, I’ve always wondered how they made this. Thanks you guys, and Rick Bayless, too, of course.

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