Adobo Sauce

Prep 10 mins
Add'l 30 mins
Total 40 mins
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Homemade Adobo Sauce is a versatile staple in Mexican and Tex-Mex cooking, thanks to its earthy, mildly sweet flavor. With real dried chilis and a few pantry staples, you can whip up your own in no time! 

Easy Homemade Adobo Sauce, Packed with Flavor!

Just what is adobo sauce, and is it worth making at home? Well, given its smoky, earthy, slightly sweet taste and thick, satisfying texture – this is one crave-able condiment, and yes! It’s totally worth making your own. The process is simple, the ingredients list is short, and the result is kind of magical!

You can use adobo sauce in almost any dish that would be good with salsa or barbecue. Its unique flavor brings out the best in grilled meats, scrambled eggs, seasoned rice, tacos, burritos, quesadillas, soups… anything you’d like to enrich with real Southwestern flavor.

Blended chili pepper sauce, close-up shot to show texture.

Is Chipotle Sauce the Same as Adobo Sauce?

No, these are not quite the same, but they are often packaged together. Chipotle peppers are often canned in adobo sauce, and both the peppers and the sauce are used in tons of Southwestern recipes. So chipotles and adobo are definitely good partners – but they are not the same thing.

From top: Chicken stock, dried ancho chilis, dried guajillo chilies, garlic, additional chicken stock, salt and pepper, cumin and Mexican oregano, vinegar, tomato paste.

What Is Adobo Sauce Made Of?

Let’s talk ingredients. The first thing you’ll need to do for this recipe is soak the dried peppers, which means you’ll need some soaking liquid. I use chicken broth. You can use some of the soaking liquid in the recipe as well, but it may be bitter- if so, you’ll want additional broth instead. You’ll also need…

  • Dried Chilis: Dried ancho chilis and dried guajillo chilis are usually sold in grocery stores on the international foods aisle.
  • Garlic: You’ll need to peel the garlic cloves, but you don’t have to chop or mince them. 
  • Seasonings: Cumin, Mexican oregano, pepper, and salt. If you don’t have Mexican oregano, marjoram is a good substitute.
  • Vinegar: I use plain white vinegar, but you could use apple cider vinegar if you prefer.
  • Chicken Stock: Again, you’ll need some for soaking, and a bit more for the sauce itself. 
  • Tomato Paste: Just a couple of spoonfuls will add depth of flavor, and help color the sauce a beautiful, earthy red.

How Spicy Are Ancho Chilis and Guajillo Chilis?

If adobo sauce is made with ancho and guajillo chilis, how spicy will it be? Actually, adobo sauce is a fairly mild sauce, because the anchos are quite mild (much less spicy than jalapeños) and so are guajillos (somewhat less spicy than jalapeños).

When combined with the other ingredients and blended up, these chili peppers make a flavorful, earthy, mild sauce that goes beautifully in all kinds of dishes.

Mexican sauce made with chilis, in a white bowl on a wooden cutting board.

How to Make It

This method for making homemade adobo sauce is definitely one of the simplest ways to do it. There’s no need for simmering or roasting, so it comes together in a snap! You can easily make a batch while you’re cooking dinner, or just on the fly.

Prep the Chilis. First, you’ll want to cut the tops off of the chilis, cut them open, and de-seed them. Next, lightly chop the chilis, and place them into a shallow bowl.

Cut chilis rehydrating in a shallow dish.

Soak the Chilis. Heat up the chicken broth until it’s steaming hot, but not boiling. You can do this on the stove, or in the microwave. Pour the hot broth over the chilis, cover, and let the chilis soften in the broth for about 30 minutes.

Drain and Process. Once the chilis have softened, drain out the broth, and throw the chilis in a blender or food processor, along with the remaining ingredients. Process until the adobo sauce is smooth. If it’s too thick, you can add a tablespoon or so of water.

Enjoy! Serve immediately, with your favorite recipes, or store (see below for instructions).

An overhead shot of thick, deep-red sauce in a white bowl, with a spoon.

Tips and Hacks

There are probably as many ways to make adobo sauce as there are cooks who make it, so don’t hesitate to tweak my recipe! Here are some helpful tips for creating the perfect adobo sauce.

  • Handle with Care: As always, if you’re working with chilis, consider wearing gloves – and DON’T touch your eyes or face until you are done with the chili prep and have washed your hands very thoroughly. Even dried, mild chilis like these can sting and burn if you touch your eyes or the delicate skin on your face.
  • Seeding the Chilis: A good pair of kitchen shears makes topping the chilis and cutting them open very easy. From there, you can just use a knife or spoon to scrape away the seeds.
  • Tweak the Spices: My spice blend is very simple here, but you can definitely add things that you love, like cinnamon, chili powder, or cloves.
  • Chicken Stock Substitutes: I like the extra flavor you get from using chicken stock in this recipe, but it would also be great if you use vegetable broth, or just plain water.
  • Add Spice: Adding a small amount of a hotter dried chili, or a smudge of cayenne pepper, is an easy way to give your adobo sauce a kick.
A spoon lifting some adobo sauce out of a small white bowl, to show the texture of the chilis and other ingredients in the sauce.

How To Use Adobo Sauce

Adobo sauce is very versatile and used in many different types of recipes. You can add a spoonful to meats, veggies, soups, over eggs, spice up a sauce, and more. Here are a few of my favorite recipes that use adobo sauce:

How to Store Leftover Adobo Sauce

Store any remaining sauce in an airtight container in the fridge. It will keep for up to five days.

You can also pour the sauce into ice cube trays, freeze, and then store the adobo cubes in zip-top bags in your freezer for up to three months. 

Yield: 12 Servings

Adobo Sauce

A small jar of thick red sauce on a wooden work surface, with a cloth napkin and peppercorns in the background.

Homemade Adobo Sauce is a versatile staple in Mexican and Tex-Mex cooking, thanks to its earthy, mildly sweet flavor. With real dried chilis and a few pantry staples, you can whip up your own in no time!

Prep Time 10 minutes
Additional Time 30 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes

Ingredients

For the Adobo Sauce

For Soaking the Chilis

  • 1 ½ cups chicken broth or stock

Instructions

  1. Cut the tops off of the chilis, and de-seed them. Lightly chop, and place into a shallow bowl.
  2. Heat the chicken broth until steaming hot. You can do this on the stove, or in the microwave using a microwave-safe dish or measuring cup. Pour the hot broth over the chilis, cover with a lid or a plate, and let the chilis absorb the broth for about 30 minutes.
  3. Drain the broth from the softened chilis. Transfer them to a blender or food processor, and add the remaining ingredients. Process until smooth. If the sauce is too thick, you can add a tablespoon or so of water.
  4. Serve immediately with your favorite recipes.

Notes

Storage:

  • Store sauce, in an airtight container, in the fridge for up to five days.
  • Freeze sauce, in an airtight container, for up to 3 months. Move to fridge to thaw overnight before using. You can also freeze small amounts of sauce by using an ice cube mold.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

12

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 299Total Fat: 16gSaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 7gCholesterol: 44mgSodium: 1117mgCarbohydrates: 22gFiber: 4gSugar: 3gProtein: 18g

Categories

More Crave-Worthy Sauces and Condiments 

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy.

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Welcome!

Jessica
I'm a trial & error, self taught, sugar addict who thankfully learned how to survive in the kitchen! I am also a wife, mama of 3.
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