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24 January 2020

This homemade adobo sauce recipe is classic, authentic Mexican cuisine, made with ancho and guajillo peppers. It is earthy, spicy and huge on flavor.

We’re making adobo sauce in the Chili Pepper Madness kitchen today, my friends. You may know of adobo sauce from the “chipotle peppers in adobo sauce” cans you purchase from the store. Those are very common and easy to find at your local grocery store, but have you ever thought about making the sauce at home yourself?

Homemade adobo sauce is big on flavor and it’s pretty easy to make at home. I like to keep some of it in my refrigerator for making all sorts of Mexican recipes or for quick and easy flavor building.

I highly recommend making it yourself, as it will allow you to adjust the recipe to your personal tastes with different ingredients, which I discuss in the recipe tips and notes section. See below.

Let’s talk about how we make adobo sauce, shall we?

Adobo Sauce in a bowl, ready to serve

Adobo Sauce Ingredients

  • 4 guajillo peppers
  • 4 ancho peppers
  • 3 cups hot water (or enough to cover the dried peppers) + ½ cup
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 small onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste (optional for a milder flavor)
  • ½ teaspoon Mexican cinnamon (or use cinnamon)
  • ½ teaspoon cumin
  • ½ teaspoon Mexican oregano (or use oregano)
  • ½ teaspoon sugar (optional, to taste – see my NOTES on Optional Spices)
  • Salt to taste

Adobo Sauce in a bowl surrounded by peppers

How to Make Adobo Sauce – the Recipe Method

First, remove the stems from the guajillo and ancho peppers and remove the seeds. You may need to cut into the peppers for this, which is fine.

Dried ancho and guajillo peppers

Heat a large pan to medium heat and dry toast the dried peppers a couple minutes per side. They will become more pliable and slightly puff up. When you dry toast them in a skillet over medium heat or medium-high heat, it helps to release the oils from the pods for more flavor.

Place the dried chiles in a large bowl and cover with very hot or boiling water. Soak them for 15 minutes, or until they become very soft and rehydrate. They could take 20 minutes to 30 minutes to get very soft. Transfer the softened peppers to a food processor, but reserve the soaking liquid.

Soaking the peppers to make adobo sauce

While the peppers are softening, cook down the other ingredients. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a medium pan and add the onion. Cook it down for 4-5 minutes to soften. Add the garlic and cook another 30 seconds to 1 minute, until you it becomes fragrant.

Add the tomato paste, cinnamon, cumin, oregano, sugar and salt. Cook for 1 minute, stirring, then stir in 1/2 cup water. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes.

Adobo Sauce, ready for processing

Add the mixture to a food processor along with the softened peppers and 1/4 to 1/2 cup of fresh water, or you can use the dark liquid from soaking the peppers. Process until smooth.

Adjust with salt and sugar to taste, and with a bit more water until you achieve your desired consistency. Strain if you’d like a thinner sauce, or use as-is.

Makes about 2 cups of adobo sauce.

Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container. It should last about a month this way.

Showing the texture of the Mexican adobo sauce

Boom! All set! Adobo sauce is pretty easy to make, isn’t it? I love this sauce. I keep versions of this in the refrigerator most times through the year so I can easily whip up flavorful recipes in a snap. So great to have around.

Recipe Tips & Notes

  • Soaking Water. You’ll notice that the soaking water used to rehydrate the dried ancho chiles and guajillo chiles becomes very dark. This is because some of the nutrients from the peppers seeps into the water. You can use this steeped water to thin out your adobo sauce if you’d like. Some people consider it to be slightly bitter, however, to use accordingly. If you feel it is too bitter, use fresh water to thin your sauce.
  • Optional Spices. I am using a few of my favorite spices for this adobo sauce, but there are many available to you. Recipes can vary from cook to cook depending on personal tastes. Some ingredients you might consider include cloves, allspice, sugar or honey for a touch of sweetness and to adjust bitterness, brown sugar, other chili powders, dried basil, vinegar, lemon juice or lime juice.
  • Freeze It. Adobo sauce freezes nicely. You can freeze it in freezer friendly containers, or freeze them in ice cube trays, then bag them to use smaller portions as needed.

Adobo Sauce in a bowl

About the Peppers

The peppers I’m using here are guajillo peppers and ancho peppers, two essential chili peppers for Mexican cooking and recipes. Guajillo peppers are the dried form of the mirasol pepper, which offer a sweet flavor and mild-medium heat. Ancho peppers are the dried form of the poblano pepper, offering a mild paprika flavor, with sweet to moderate heat.

Together they are a flavor combination power house. You can use other peppers, such as the chile de arbol for more heat or pasilla peppers, which are hugely popular for making moles and adobo sauces, or chipotle peppers for a smoky flavor.

Ancho Chili Peppers

What to Make with Adobo Sauce

Adobo sauce is quite versatile and can be used in any number of Mexican dishes, such as enchiladas, seasoning taco or burrito meats, or for swirling into soups like Mexican chicken posole or taco soup, or any type of stew. Use it to season meats for dishes like Carne Adovadabeef barbacoa, or use it as a sauce for dishes like chilaquiles rojos. There are so many ways to use adobo sauce! See my Mexican Recipes for even more ideas.

You can also use it to preserve chipotle chiles, which are smoked, dried jalapeno peppers. It’s just like making your own chipotles in adobo sauce. Big flavor!

That’s it, my friends. I hope you enjoy your new homemade adobo sauce. Such a great recipe. Let me know how you wind up using it. Feel free to spice it up!

Try Some of My Other Popular Sauce Recipes

Adobo Sauce in a bowl with a spoon

This recipe is great for making Beef Barbacoa.

Got any questions? Ask away! I’m happy to help. If you enjoy this recipe, I hope you’ll leave a comment with some STARS. Also, please share it on social media. Don’t forget to tag us at #ChiliPepperMadness. I’ll be sure to share! Thanks! — Mike H.

Showing the texture of the Mexican adobo sauce
Print Recipe
5 from 1 vote

Adobo Sauce Recipe

This homemade adobo sauce recipe is classic, authentic Mexican cuisine, made with ancho and guajillo peppers and wonderful seasonings, earthy and huge on flavor.
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time15 mins
Course: Main Course, sauce
Cuisine: American, Mexican
Keyword: adobo, ancho, guajillo, sauce, spicy
Servings: 16 tablespoons
Calories: 19kcal

Ingredients

  • 4 guajillo peppers
  • 4 ancho peppers
  • 3 cups hot water or enough to cover the dried peppers + ½ cup
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 small onion chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic chopped
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste optional for a milder flavor
  • ½ teaspoon Mexican cinnamon or use cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon cumin
  • ½ teaspoon Mexican oregano or use oregano
  • ½ teaspoon sugar optional, to taste – see my NOTES on Optional Spices
  • Salt to taste

Instructions

  • Remove the stems from the guajillo and ancho peppers and remove the seeds. You may need to cut into the peppers for this, which is fine.
  • Heat a large pan to medium-high heat and dry toast the dried peppers a couple minutes per side. They will become more pliable and slightly puff up. This helps to release the oils for more flavor.
  • Place the dried pods in a large bowl and cover with hot water. Soak them for 15 minutes, or until they become very soft and rehydrate. Transfer the softened peppers to a food processor, but reserve the soaking liquid.
  • While the peppers are softening, heat olive oil in a medium pan and add the onion. Cook it down for 4-5 minutes to soften.
  • Add the garlic and cook another 30 seconds to 1 minute, until you it becomes fragrant.
  • Add the tomato paste, cinnamon, cumin, oregano, sugar and salt. Cook for 1 minute, stirring.
  • Stir in 1/2 cup water. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes.
  • Add the mixture to the food processor along with the softened peppers and 1/4 to 1/2 cup of fresh water, or you can use the dark liquid from soaking the peppers. Process until smooth.
  • Adjust with salt and sugar to taste, and with a bit more water until you achieve your desired consistency. Strain if you’d like a thinner sauce, or use as-is.

Video

Notes

Makes about 2 cups.
Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container.

Nutrition

Calories: 19kcal | Carbohydrates: 2g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 20mg | Potassium: 61mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 494IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 5mg | Iron: 1mg
 

Adobo Sauce
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