Mexican Adobo is a delicious red-chili based sauce that's thick, rich, spicy, and savory. Use this earthy chili sauce as a marinade, sauce, or salsa for meat, poultry, seafood and vegetables.
Adobo is a staple sauce in Mexican cooking used in every way imaginable in a wide variety of dishes. Mexican adobo is vegan, gluten free, and low in carbohydrates, making it one of the best quick and easy condiments to have in your recipe box.
- Mexican adobo can be used as a simmer sauce, marinade, or grilling sauce for seafood, meat, poultry, and vegetables.
- Stir it into a simple pot of rice and beans to add immediate rich smoky flavor.
- The spicy sauce is also delicious spread on warm tortillas or bread
- Spoon Mexican Adobo over tacos, tostadas, burritos, or enchiladas.
- I also love to stir adobo into scrambled eggs or use it instead of salsa and/or ranchero sauce to make huevos rancheros.
The tacos include white fish that's marinated and then baked in Mexican adobo before being piled into warm tortillas and topped with citrus, salsa verde, and crispy fried onions.
And Mexican Adobo Chicken is a quick, one-pot dish that's pure comfort food!
- Ingredients Needed to Prepare this Recipe
- Short Cut to Quick Mexican Adobo: Red Chili Puree Instead of Dried Chilies
- How to Make Mexican Adobo
- How to store Mexican Adobo
- Variations and Substitutions
- How to Use Mexican Adobo
- Equipment Needed to Make Mexican Adobo
- More Popular Mexican Inspired Recipes
- 📖 Recipe
- 💬 Comments
Ingredients Needed to Prepare this Recipe
All you need to make Mexican Adobo is a handful of dried spices, some garlic and jalapeños, and pureed red chilies.
- Vegetable, canola, or extra virgin olive oil. The oil is used to cook the garlic, jalapeño, spices, and red chile.
- Diced garlic and jalapeño.
- Spices: Ground cumin, dried oregano, ground thyme, and chili powder (I used chipotle chili powder).
- Granulated sugar - just a half teaspoon of sugar rounds out the flavor of the red chile while keeping the sauce rich and savory.
- Frozen pureed red chile OR red chile sauce (see information below).
- Cider vinegar. You can also use red or white wine vinegar or unseasoned rice vinegar.
- Fresh cilantro.
*See recipe card for precise quantities.
Short Cut to Quick Mexican Adobo: Red Chili Puree Instead of Dried Chilies
Mexican Adobo is usually made by toasting and soaking dried chilies then pureeing them into a paste. A FANTASTIC short cut to this process is to use frozen chile puree or red chile sauce instead.
Both frozen red chile puree and red chile sauce are simply red chilies that have been soaked and pureed into a smooth paste. Both are equally delicious and so, so, so much easier than starting with dried chilis.
Some supermarkets will cary packages of frozen red chile puree in their freezer section. The brand that I most often see in supermarkets around the country is Bueno Red Chili.
The other good option is El Pinto Hatch Red Chile Sauce, which is what you see in the photo above. This is basically the same thing as frozen red chile puree, but each container is heat sealed and does not require refrigeration.
I've never El Pinto Hatch Red Chile Sauce in a supermarket, but have ordered it many times on Amazon. It's now something I keep in my pantry at all times so I have it available to me whenever I want to make Mexican Adobo or Red Enchilada Sauce.
How to Make Mexican Adobo
Thanks to starting with pureed red chilies, making Mexican Adobo is incredibly easy!
The whole process requires about 15 minutes of hands on time plus about 10 minutes to let the sauce cool down. After that, you can use it immediately, or store it in the refrigerator or freezer for later use.
Step #1: Pour some oil into a skillet and then add chopped garlic and jalapeño, ground cumin, dried oregano and thyme, some chili powder, and a pinch of sugar. Cook the vegetables and spices over medium heat for a couple of minutes to soften the veggies and open up the flavors in the dried spices.
Step #2: Pour the chile puree into the pan and bring it to a boil.
Step #3: Cook the adobo for about 5 minutes to round out and intensify the flavors. As the sauce cooks, the color of the red chile will darken and the sauce will thicken slightly.
Step #4: Remove the pan from the heat and let it cool down for about 10 minutes.
Scoop the adobo into the bowl of a food processor and add some vinegar, cilantro and salt. Process the adobo until it's smooth. Taste the sauce and add more salt if you like.
That's it! The adobo is now ready to use!
How to store Mexican Adobo
Mexican Adobo will keep well in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks and in the freezer for up to 3 months.
If storing in the refrigerator, simply scoop it into a jar or airtight container and pop it into the fridge.
To freeze the entire batch of Mexican Adobo, scoop it into an airtight container or zip-to bag.
If you'd like to freeze adobo in small portions that can be added to soups, scrambled eggs, or used as a topping for tacos, freeze the sauce in a clean ice cube tray. Then, pop out the frozen cubes of adobo and store them in a zip-top bag or other airtight container.
You can also cover meat, poultry, or fish in adobo before freezing it. Add whatever protein you'd like to use in a zip-top bag and scoop in a generous amount of adobo. I like to aim for 1 cup of adobo per 2 pounds of protein.
Seal the bag and use your fingers to rub the adobo over the protein so that it's completely covered. Freeze for up to 3 months. Allow the meat, poultry, or fish to thaw in the refrigerator overnight and you have pre-marinated protein that's ready to be baked, grilled, sautéed or broiled.
Variations and Substitutions
- Chili Powder: I used chipotle powder because I like the smokey flavor chipotle chilies add to the sauce. Also, chipotle chiles and adobo are a delicious match. You've probably used chipotle chilies in adobo sauce to make other recipes. But, you can use whatever kind of chili powder you like in this Mexican Adobo recipe. Specialty markets and online stores are now selling a wide variety of dried chili powders like pasilla, ancho, guajillo, etc. Use whatever you prefer.
- In a pinch, use paprika instead of chili powder. If you don't have any chili powder, you can use smoked or hot paprika instead.
- Use garlic powder instead of fresh garlic. If you don't have any fresh garlic, use a teaspoon of powdered or granulated garlic instead.
- To make adobo super spicy: The spice level of adobo is dependent on the heat of the red chili puree you use. If you want to make it even spicier, add some crushed red pepper or ground cayenne.
How to Use Mexican Adobo
It's a crucial ingredient in traditional Mexican dishes like tacos al pastor, birria, and homemade chorizo. Here are some other ways to use Mexican adobo:
- Stir it into scrambled eggs.
- Mexican Adobo is one of those versatile condiments that can add immediate smoky, rich flavor to vegan, gluten free, or low-carb dishes.
- Stir it into a simple pot of rice and beans.
- Adding Mexican Adobo to soups and stews to give the broth instant favor and complexity.
- Use it as a dipping sauce or spread for warm homemade tortillas.
- Use it as a sandwich spread. Use it plain, or mix it into some mayonnaise or aioli.
- Replace BBQ sauce with Mexican Adobo in pretty much any recipe.
- Leave out the vinegar and use it as a sauce for enchiladas. (By the way, my favorite red enchilada sauce uses the same chili puree/ Chile sauce used in this recipe to save the hassle of toasting, soaking, and pureeing dried chilies!)
Equipment Needed to Make Mexican Adobo
You need two pieces of equipment to make Mexican Adobo - a skillet to cook the spices and Chile sauce in and a food processor or blender to puree it.
- This Cuisinart Nonstick skillet is one of the pans in my kitchen that gets used the most and is perfect for sautéing the veggies, spices, and Chilies to make Mexican Adobo.
- This Cuisinart Mini Food Processor is the perfect size for this recipe! I received this mini food processor as a gift 3 years ago and honestly thought I would never use it. After a year, I got rid of my regular size food processor because the mini processor was the only one I was using!
- If you have a high powered blender, like a Vitamix, you can use that to blend adobo sauce instead of a food processor.
- 2 tablespoons of vegetable, canola, or extra virgin olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon dried, ground thyme
- 1 tablespoon ground chili powder (I used chipotle powder)
- ½ teaspoon sugar
- 1 jalapeño, stem and seeds removed and roughly chopped
- 1 cup/ 8 ounces frozen pureed red chili/ red chili sauce (See note below or information above for clarification and recommended brands)
- 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar (or white wine, red wine, or unseasoned rice wine vinegar)
- ½ cup fresh cilantro
- ½ teaspoon salt, more to taste
- In a small skillet or saucepan, add the oil, garlic, cumin, oregano, thyme, chili powder, sugar, and jalapeño. Set it over medium heat. When everything in the pan is sizzling, cook for 2 minutes longer, stirring constantly.
- Pour the chili sauce/ chili puree into the pan. Bring to a boil and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes longer. Remove from heat and let cool for at least 10 minutes.
- Transfer the mixture to a food processor, add the vinegar, cilantro and salt, and puree until completely smooth. Taste and add more salt if desired.
What is Frozen Red Chili Puree and Red Chili Sauce?
Mexican Adobo is usually made by toasting and soaking dried chilies then pureeing them into a paste. A FANTASTIC short cut to this process is to use frozen chili puree or red chili sauce instead.
Both frozen red chili puree and red chili sauce are simply red chilies that have been soaked and pureed into a smooth paste.
Both are equally delicious and so, so, so much easier than starting with dried chilis.Both frozen red chili puree and red chili sauce are simply red chilies that have been soaked and pureed into a smooth paste. Both are equally delicious and either can be used to make Mexican Adobo. Some supermarkets will cary packages of frozen red chili puree in their freezer section. The brand that I most often see in supermarkets around the country is Bueno Red Chili.
The other good option is El Pinto Hatch Red Chile Sauce. This is basically the same thing as frozen red chili puree, but each container is heat sealed so no refrigeration needed. I've never seen this product in a supermarket, but have ordered it many times on Amazon. It's now something I keep in my pantry at all times so I have it available to me whenever I want to make Mexican Adobo or Red Enchilada Sauce
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Serving Size:¼ cup
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 117Total Fat: 9gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 6gCholesterol: 10mgSodium: 468mgCarbohydrates: 6gFiber: 1gSugar: 1gProtein: 4g