Slightly bitter, a little sweet, and subtly smoky, Adobo Sauce is a classic Mexican sauce made from dried chilis. This Adobo Sauce Recipe can be used for dipping tortilla chips, as a marinade, or for adding flavor to a variety of dishes.
What Is Adobo Sauce?
Most of us have experienced Adobo Sauce as the marinade which canned chipotle chilis are sold in. However, this sauce is extremely versatile and can be used for a variety of culinary purposes. Adobo is a thick sauce with a rich red color which comes from the chilis that make this recipe special. Authentic Adobo Sauce is made using dried chilis which are then rehydrated in hot water and blended together with other ingredients like onions, garlic, spices, and tomato paste.
What Is This Sauce Used For?
Adobo Sauce is most commonly used as a marinade for meats. However, for our purposes, it can be used to marinate veggies. Additionally, this sauce works well as a dip for homemade tortilla chips, or as an ingredient to add flavor to soups (vegan tortilla soup) and other dishes. You can also drizzle it over your favorite vegan tacos like my lentil tacos.
If you want to get creative, add a little of this sauce to my vegan ranch dressing to make a smoky adobo ranch. Additionally, you can whisk some into a little mayonnaise to make chipotle aioli.
Lastly, you can cook some of the sauce into my Spanish rice recipe.
Why I Love This Recipe
Being vegan, it’s important for me to find ways to add flavor and excitement to my dishes. I love having a variety of sauces and ingredients on hand to make this happen. This Adobo Sauce is a great addition to further that goal. It can be made with mostly staple goods from the pantry: dried chilis, spices, olive oil, and tomato paste. If you’re big on meal prep, you can make up a large batch and keep it in the fridge to enjoy throughout the week. Additionally, you can easily freeze this sauce for up to several months.
Adobo Sauce Recipe
- Dried ancho chilis (ancho chile) – Ancho chile (also called chile ancho seco) is the dried (seco) form of poblano peppers. This is considered a mild chili. If we take a look at the Scoville scale, a rating system used to rank the spiciness of chili peppers, we find that the ancho is lower on the scale with 2,000 heat units. In comparison, the jalapeno pepper has 8,000 heat units.
- Dried guajillo chilis (chile guajillo) – Chile guajillo (guajillo chili) is the second most commonly used dried pepper in Mexican cuisine. It has a slightly smoky and fruity flavor. This is also a mild chili with only 2,500 heat units on the Scoville scale.
- Aromatics – Onions and garlic.
- Olive oil – Extra virgin is best.
- Spices – Cinnamon, cumin, and oregano. I can’t imagine making this recipe without the cinnamon. Just smelling the cinnamon when you cook up a batch of this sauce is worth it. Additionally, it adds a nice warmth to the flavor composition of the recipe.
- Tomato paste – You can also use tomato sauce. However, if you do, make sure you don’t add as much water to the recipe. Dial back the water by about 1/4 cup.
- Water – This is what I call “chili water” because it’s the water you’ll be soaking your chilis in which you will also be adding back into the sauce at various stages throughout the recipe.
- Salt – This sauce can be rather bitter. That’s where adding a nice punch of salt helps to balance the flavors.
How To Make Adobo Sauce
- Remove chili stems and seeds. Either tear the tops off the chilis or cut them off with a knife and pour out the seeds. Some of the seeds may be wedged in the crevices of the chilis so you may have to cut them open to remove all seeds.
- Toast the chilis. You don’t need oil for this, you’re going to dry-toast them. Just add them to a skillet and toast them over medium-high heat, about 2 minutes on each side.
- Rehydrate chilis. Place chilis in boiling hot water and allow them to soak for at least 15 minutes.
- Sauté onion. Add oil to a skillet and sauté onions for about 5 minutes.
- Add in tomato paste, spices, and garlic. Add tomato paste, garlic, spices, an 1/2 cup of the water used to soak the chilis into the same skillet and simmer for 5 minutes.
- Add all ingredients to a food processor. Blend rehydrated chilis, tomato an onion mixture, and another 1/2 cup of water from the soaked chilis in a food processor until smooth.
After toasting and rehydrating the chilis, everything moves much quicker as these take up most of the time. However, to save some time, you can use adobo chili powder. See my suggestions for this just below.
Tips For Making Adobo Sauce
- Use good water when soaking chilis. Remember, you’ll be adding some of the “chili water” into the skillet and food processor to make this sauce. I’m a bit of a stickler for quality water. Just a suggestion.
- Add additional water when soaking your chilis. This sauce is very thick and you may find that you need to add extra “chili water” to thin it out.
- Don’t scrimp on soaking the chilis for the full length of time. I’ve made this mistake and you end up with large pieces of chili that refuse to be blended. However, if you’re going for a chunkier sauce, be my guest.
Where To Buy Dried Chilis
You should have no trouble finding either guajillo or ancho chilis because they are both fairly common and most supermarkets carry them. You will likely find these chilis in the international food aisle; typically they come packaged in a clear plastic wrapper and are hung on a rack with other dried chilis. However, you can also find them at almost any Mexican market. Finally, as a last resort, you can buy them online.
If you love this sauce as much as I do, consider picking up a few bags of each type of chili, they will last for up to a year.
Can I Use Ancho Chili Powder Instead?
Yes, you can. Substitute the dried chilis for about 1/2 cup ancho chili powder. However, keep in mind, that’s a lot of chili power. You will likely use almost half a container of dried chili powder. Yet, it’s easier than toasting an rehydrating chilis. I’ll let you make the call on that one.
Is This Recipe Healthy?
While the chilis in this sauce are healthy, the nutritional value comes mostly from the garlic and onions in this recipe. Let’s take a quick look at the health benefits for each of these. Garlic is not only loaded with antioxidants but it’s also believed to be beneficial for combating the common cold. Onions are also a great source of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Additionally, some studies have revealed that they may be beneficial for managing blood pressure.(1)(2)
Looking For More Sauces and Salsas?
- Salsa Verde
- Guajillo Sauce
- Salsa Ranchera
- Mango Habanero Sauce
- Boom Boom Sauce
- Easy Chimichurri Sauce
- Salsa Roja
- Chipotle Tomato Salsa
- Pineapple Habanero Salsa
- 4 Dried guajillo chilis, stems and seeds removed
- 4 Dried ancho chilis, stems and seeds removed
- 3 Cups hot water
- 1 1/2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 Onion, diced
- 6 Cloves of garlic, minced
- 3 Tablespoons tomato paste
- 1/2 Teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 Teaspoon oregano
- 1/2 Teaspoon cumin
- 1/2 Teaspoon salt
- Remove stems and seeds from the dried chilis. Either tear or cut the tops of the chilis off and shake out the seeds.
- Heat a skillet or pan over medium-high heat. Add the dried chilis and toast them for about 2 minutes on each side. Use tongs or a spatula to flip them over.
- Add the water to a pot and bring it to a boil over high heat. Remove the pot from the heat and soak the dried chilis in the hot water for 15 to 20 minutes until they become soft.
- Pour olive oil into a skillet and heat over medium-high heat. Add in the diced onion and sauté for about 5 minutes until they become soft and translucent.
- Add tomato paste, garlic, spices, salt and 1/2 cup of the water from the soaked chilis into the same skillet and let simmer for 5 minutes.
- Add the rehydrated chilis and onion tomato mixture into a food processor with another 1/2 cup of water from the soaked chilis and blend on high until smooth.
Adobo sauce should be kept refrigerate in an airtight container where it will last for up to a week.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 274Total Fat: 16gSaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 8gCholesterol: 40mgSodium: 907mgCarbohydrates: 18gFiber: 3gSugar: 3gProtein: 16g
The Vegan Plate attempts to provide accurate information. However, this nutritional information is provided as a courtesy and is an estimate only. The nutritional information provided comes from online sources and calculations. https://theveganplate.com/privacy-policy-2/