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Adobo Sauce

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Think about the flavor of the sauce that comes in those small cans. Now imagine that same sauce, only a hundred times better. Store-bought simply cannot compare with the incredibly rich, robust, and complex flavor of homemade Adobo Sauce! This authentic adobo sauce recipe incorporates traditional ingredients and is made from scratch using whole chiles. It’s easy to make, stores well, and its flavor only improves with time. Deliciously potent, this DIY adobo sauce will positively transform your favorite Mexican dishes and more!

For more homemade Mexican sauces and seasonings be sure to also try our BEST Enchilada Sauce, our from-scratch Chili Powder, and for some refreshing contrast, our Cilantro Sauce!

adobo sauce recipe best homemade authentic Mexican traditional smoked chipotles diy jalapeno peppers

Over the years adobo sauce has evolved into a cornerstone of Mexican gastronomy. With its bold, smoky and complex flavor profile, it has captured the taste buds of people all over the world. Whether drizzled over tacos, added to salsas, used to marinate meats, or added to sauces and stews, it’s a staple for every Mexican food lover and something I always have in my fridge or pantry!

What is Adobo Sauce?

The word “adobo” is the Spanish term for marinade or seasoning. Adobo sauce is a traditional Mexican sauce that’s reddish-brown in color and thick in texture and is made from puréed chiles, tomatoes, onions, garlic, vinegar and variety of spices. It’s a delicious blend of earthy, spicy and tangy flavors. The ingredients and ratios vary from region to region and family recipes are often passed down through the generations. The versatility of adobo sauce makes it a transformative ingredient that can elevate a variety of dishes to new flavor heights.

Adobo sauce is also commonly paired with chipotles, which are smoked jalapeno peppers. The chipotles are marinated in the sauce and are sold canned as chipotles en adobo. These are chopped up and added to a variety of dishes. Be sure to check out my tutorial on How to Make Chipotle Peppers!

adobo sauce recipe best homemade authentic Mexican traditional smoked chipotles diy jalapeno peppers

How to Use Adobo Sauce

Adobo sauce is very versatile and can serve both a marinade, cooking sauce, and condiment, infusing meats like chicken, pork, and beef with its distinctive flavors. Adobo sauce also offers a robust option to enhance grilled vegetables, tofu, or plant-based proteins like tempeh. It has also found its way into fusion cuisines and innovated recipes like adobo-infused burgers and adobo-flavored roasted cauliflower. Use your imagination to experiment with this flavorful sauce. Here are just a ways to use adobo sauce:

  • Marinades: Adobo sauce makes a terrific marinade for meats, poultry, and even vegetables. Mix it with some oil and lime juice and for a touch of sweetness add some honey or brown sugar.
  • Grilling: Use it as a glaze for grilled meats or vegetables. Brush it onto the food during the last few minutes of grilling for a caramelized finish.
  • Sauces: Add a small amount to sauces like Enchilada Sauce for added flavor and kick.
  • Salsas: Add a couple of teaspoons to your favorite Mexican salsa for a flavor boost or transform any jar of store-bought salsa.
  • Condiment: Drizzle it over tacos, tostadas, burritos, grilled meats and vegetables, and more.
  • Dressings: Add a teaspoon or two into dressings or dips for leafy green salads or pasta and potato salads for a tasty twist.
  • Dips: Mix it with some mayo and/or yogurt for a creamy adobo dip for veggies, corn chips, or French Fries, Baked Potato Wedges, or Sweet Potato Fries. Or stir some into your refried bean dip or Queso Fundido.
  • Rice and Beans: Stir some into rice or beans for a spicy and tangy flavor boost. Stirring a bit into your refried beans has a delicious transformative effect.
  • Soups and Stews: Add a spoonful to soups or stews for added complexity, like Pozole Rojo, White Bean Chili, Albondigas Soup, or our favorite Instant Pot Chili.
  • Eggs: Mix a bit of adobo sauce into scrambled eggs or use it as a topping for huevos rancheros for a spicy breakfast treat.
  • Baked Potatoes: Mix a little in your sour cream for a delicious baked potato topping.

However you decide to use your homemade adobo sauce remember that it’s very potent and a little goes a long way, so use it sparingly! Start with less and add more as desired.

pozole rojo recipe

How to Store It

Stored in an airtight jar in the fridge, adobo sauce will keep for up to month. You can also freeze it for up to a few months. An convenient way to do that is to freeze it in ice cube trays, transfer the frozen adobo sauce cubes to a ziplock bag, and then remove one as needed. I am frequently asked if adobo sauce can be canned: this recipe has not been tested for canning and I cannot confirm if the pH level is adequate for water bath canning. For longer term storage I recommend freezing it.

adobo sauce recipe best homemade authentic Mexican traditional smoked chipotles diy jalapeno peppers

Adobo Sauce Recipe

Let’s get started!

The most commonly used chili varieties for adobo sauce are a combination of ancho chiles and guajillo chiles. Ancho chiles are somewhat sweet with smoky, chocolatey undertones and a flavor that’s almost reminiscent of raisins. Guajillo peppers contribute an earthy, floral, and berry-like flavor, almost like cranberries, and a mild touch of heat. Be selective about the chiles you buy because ones that have sat around in warehouses and then on store shelves for ages lose their flavor over time. “Fresh” dried chiles should be leathery and pliable, not brittle. For freshness and flavor, I have had good luck with these ancho chiles and guajillo peppers.

First we need to reconstitute the dried chiles. Place the dried ancho and guajillo peppers in a large bowl.

dried ancho and guajillo peppers

Pour boiling water over them so they’re submerged. Let them sit until they’ve cooled down and are soft.

Reserve 1 1/4 cups of the soaking liquid and discard the rest.

soaking dried peppers ancho guajillo

Place the reconstituted chiles in a blender with the onions and garlic.

Blend until the mixture is very smooth with no chunks remaining.

pureeing ingredients

Transfer the pureed chili mixture to a medium saucepan. Add all remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to a low simmer, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching. Do not allow the sauce to burn or it will become bitter. Discard the bay leaf.

Add salt and sugar to taste. If it’s too thick for your preference, add a little bit of water.

adobo sauce recipe traditional authentic Mexican ancho chile pepper guajillo garlic tomatoes onions herb spices chipotles

Allow the sauce to cool completely, then transfer to an airtight jar and store it in the fridge. For the best flavor, let your adobo sauce sit for at least a couple of days (preferably longer) before using. This will allow the vinegar to mellow out and for the flavors to develop. The longer it sits, the better the flavor becomes.

This will keep for up to a month in the fridge and you can store it in the freezer for several months.

Enjoy!

adobo sauce recipe best homemade authentic Mexican traditional smoked chipotles diy jalapeno peppers
adobo sauce recipe best homemade authentic Mexican traditional smoked chipotles diy jalapeno peppers

Adobo Sauce

Store-bought simply cannot compare to the incredibly rich, robust, and complex flavor of this authentic Adobo Sauce. Made from scratch with whole chiles, it stores well and its flavor only improves with time.
5 from 8 votes
Servings 20
Calories 31 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 1 ounce dried whole ancho chiles , about 3 large (see Note)
  • 1 ounce dried whole guajillo chiles , about 5 large (see Note)
  • 1/3 cup chopped onion
  • 4 cloves garlic , for best flavor results roast the garlic
  • 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
  • small pinch of ground cloves
  • 1 bay leaf

Instructions
 

  • Place the dried ancho and guajillo peppers in a large bowl. Pour boiling water over them so they're submerged. Let them sit until they've cooled down and are soft. Reserve 1 1/4 cups of the soaking liquid and discard the rest.
    Place the reconstituted chiles in a blender with the reserved soaking liquid, onions and garlic. Blend until the mixture is very smooth with no chunks remaining.
  • Transfer the pureed chili mixture to a medium saucepan. Add all remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to a low simmer, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching. Do not allow the sauce to burn or it will become bitter. Discard the bay leaf.
    Add salt and sugar to taste. If it's too thick for your preference, add a little bit of water.
  • Allow the sauce to cool completely, then transfer to an airtight jar and store it in the fridge. For the best flavor, let your adobo sauce sit for at least a couple of days (preferably longer) before using. This will allow the vinegar to mellow out and for the flavors to develop. The longer it sits, the better the flavor becomes.
    The sauce will keep for up to a month in the fridge and you can store it in the freezer for several months.
    Makes roughly 2 1/2 cups adobo sauce.

Notes

For the best flavor I highly recommend using whole dried chiles.  If you’re unable to source them you can substitute 1/2 cup ancho chili powder and place it in the blender with the 1 1/4 cups water, onions and garlic.

Nutrition

Serving: 2tablespoonsCalories: 31kcalCarbohydrates: 4gProtein: 0.5gFat: 2gSaturated Fat: 0.2gPolyunsaturated Fat: 0.2gMonounsaturated Fat: 1gSodium: 74mgPotassium: 83mgFiber: 1gSugar: 3gVitamin A: 779IUVitamin C: 2mgCalcium: 8mgIron: 0.4mg
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!
kimberly killebrew the daring gourmet

Hi, I’m Kimberly Killebrew and welcome to Daring Gourmet where you'll find delicious originals, revitalized classics, and simply downright good eats from around the world! Originally from Germany, later raised in England, world-traveled, and now living in the U.S., from my globally-influenced kitchen I invite you to tour the world through your taste buds!

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Recipe Rating




5 from 8 votes (5 ratings without comment)

11 Comments

  1. This adobo sauce is so delicious and so authentic. I’ve tried other recipes over the years and this really is the best. I can always trust the recipes here at Daring Gourmet, they’ve never let me down!

  2. This is truly the best adobo sauce I’ve had. I followed your advice to wait a few days and the flavor is out of this world. Next up I’m making my famous shredded chicken enchiladas that are only going to become even more famous with the help of this homemade adobo sauce, thanks to you. Keep up the great recipes!

  3. This is a FANTASTIC adobo sauce! I was already pretty confident I was going to like it because your enchilada sauce has been my go-to for about 3 years now. My confidence in your recipes was well placed yet again. I normally tweak recipes but have learned not to with yours. I made this yesterday as written. The only instruction I didn’t follow was to wait a couple of days before trying it. Well I can tell you it was fantastic on Day 1. Day 2 (today) it’s even better. Awesome sauce. Thank you for another great one.