This homemade adobo sauce recipe is classic, authentic Mexican cuisine, made with ancho and guajillo peppers. It is earthy, spicy and huge on flavor.
Adobo Sauce Recipe
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 quite 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.
What is Adobo Sauce?
Mexican adobo sauce is a traditional chili paste used in Mexican cuisine. It is a blend of ground chilies, vinegar, garlic, oregano, and other herbs and spices used to marinate meats, poultry, and fish, or as a flavoring for soups, stews, and rice dishes.
It offers a smoky and slightly sweet flavor, with a spicy kick from the chilies, and quite versatile. You will find different variations of adobo sauce, depending on the region of Mexico and the personal preference of the cook.
This is how I like to make mine.
Let's talk about how to make adobo sauce, shall we?
Adobo Sauce Ingredients
- 4 guajillo peppers (2 ounces by weight)
- 6-8 ancho peppers (2 ounces by weight)
- 3 cups hot water (or enough to cover the dried peppers)
- 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 and black pepper to taste
- 1/2 to 1 cup chicken broth
- 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar (or use white vinegar)
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.
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.
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.
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 6 cups of adobo sauce.
Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container. It should last about a month this way.
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 bay leaves, cloves, allspice, sugar or honey, brown sugar, other chili powders, basil, thyme, vinegar, lemon juice, lime juice, or orange juice.
About the Peppers
I'm using here are guajillo peppers and ancho peppers, two essential chili peppers for Mexican cooking and recipes. You can find them in Mexican markets or order online.
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 an extra smoky flavor.
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 Adovada, beef 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!
Store leftover adobo sauce in the refrigerator in a sealed container for 1 week or longer. You can freeze it for up to 6 months.
I like to freeze it in small batches in ice cube trays so I can use it anytime I'd like.
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!
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.
Mexican Adobo Sauce Recipe
- 4 guajillo peppers
- 4 ancho peppers
- 3 cups hot water or enough to cover the dried peppers
- 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
- 1/2 cup chicken broth (use 1 cup for a thinner adobo sauce)
- 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 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 chicken stock. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes.
- Add the mixture to the food processor along with the softened peppers, vinegar, 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.
NOTE: This recipe was updated on 5/15/23 to include new information, photos, and video, It was originally published on 1/24/20.