This Mexican adobo sauce is a basic preparation made from dried chiles, vinegar, and spices. It has a beautiful red color and a rich, smoky flavor. Make this traditional recipe from scratch and use it to bring your favorite foods to the next level!

Adobo sauce is a staple preparation in Mexican cuisine. It consists of a sauce made from various dried chilies, spices, dried herbs, and vinegar. It has a smoky and slightly spicy taste with a tangy kick.

The Mexican adobo sauce is used to add flavor to various traditional dishes such as birria or homemade chorizo. The traditional recipe varies from region to region, some may include other ingredients besides chiles and spices such as tomatoes or onions. But the only ingredient that is always included is vinegar.

This basic recipe is really simple to make and delivers a delicious homemade sauce that is far superior to any store-bought brand.

Close-up of Mexican adobo sauce.

Ingredients

  • Chiles: This sauce uses a mixture of different types of chiles, the most common are guajillo chiles, pasilla peppers, and ancho chiles. The combination of those 3 types of chiles makes a wonderful base flavor. From there other types of dried peppers can be added to achieve different flavors and spicy levels, such as chile de árbol, cascabel peppers, or chile morita (a.k.a chile chipotle).
  • Spices: Black pepper, cumin, Mexican oregano, bay leaves, and garlic are the most popular choices for spices. Each of them adds its distinctive flavor and aroma.
  • Vinegar: This is a key ingredient, you can use white vinegar, apple, or cider vinegar.
  • Salt: Use just a little bit, I prefer seasoning the final recipe and not this sauce.
Ingredients for Mexican adobo sauce in a marble surface with names overlay.

How To Make Mexican Adobo Sauce

Start by removing the stems from chiles. Then use kitchen seers and cut each chile lengthwise to remove the seeds and core.

Cleaning Mexican dried chilies with kitchen shears.

Heat a Mexican comal or a cast iron skillet over medium-low heat. Slightly toast the chilies for a few seconds on both sides.

Top Tip: Toasting the chilies will help them to release their wonderful aroma and bring out their flavor!

Place toasted chilies in a large bowl and generously cover them with hot water by at least 1 inch. Let them soak for about 15 minutes or until the chilies are nicely softened.

Soaking the chilies in a bowl.

Place chilies in a blender and add peppercorns, cumin, oregano, bay leaves, garlic, and a teaspoon of salt.

Pour the vinegar and one cup of water. If you want to make adobo paste, use less water.

Adding vinegar to the chilies and other spices in a blender to make adobo sauce.

Blend until achieving a thick and velvety sauce. Depending on the power of your blender this can take 3-4 minutes on high speed.

Tip: If you want a smoother texture, use 1 more cup of water and then strain the sauce.

Mexican adobo sauce fully made in a blender.

Transfer the adobo to a bowl or jar and store it as suggested below, or use it right away in your recipe.

Expert Tips

  • I use very little salt because I prefer to add it to the dish that I will cook with this adobo, it gives me more freedom to season each recipe depending on its other ingredients.
  • With the ingredients for this recipe, you’ll get about 3 cups of Mexican adobo sauce. But It also depends on how big the chilies are and how many you’re adding of each type.
  • To add more texture, blend in small onion with the chilies.
  • If you want, you can use powdered spices, such as cumin, pepper, cinnamon, bay leaf, etc. Just remember that the amounts are slightly higher when the spices are powdered.
Mexican adobo sauce in a ceramic bowl with ingredients scattered around.

How To Use

Mexican salsa adobo can be used in many dishes as a base ingredient. From marinade to any type of meat to use a few spoonfuls to soups or flavoring dough for tamales.

This adobo is really a wonderful homemade sauce you should make from scratch. Below are our recommended recipes to use it.

Mexican Adobo Chicken.

How To Store

You can store Mexican adobo in the fridge for up to 10 days in a glass container or a jar. Glass containers keep better the foods and prevent them from spreading smells in the fridge.

You can also divide the sauce into ice cube trays, once firm, remove them from the tray and place the cubes in resealable bags in the freezer for up to 6 months. This is very handy because you can thaw only the portions needed to make your recipe!

FAQ

What is adobo sauce made from?

Mexican adobo sauce is made from dried chilies, spices, and vinegar.

Is adobo sauce the same as chipotle sauce?

No. Chipotle sauce is made only using chile chipotle peppers and a few spices, while adobo always includes vinegar. However, the popular chiles chipotles en adobo are packed in adobo sauce, so they have a similar flavor profile.

Is this Mexican sauce spicy?

Mexican adobos sauce has a mild spicy taste because of the different types of chilies it uses in its recipe. If you want to add more spicy, use chile de arbol peppers.

Is there a substitute for adobo sauce?

Other sauces that include a type of dried Mexican chilies and spices can be a good substitute for this recipe. We recommend using chile guajillo sauce or this enchilada sauce as substitutes.

Where did adobo originate?

The adobo is a cooking technique that originated in Spain, this technique refers to the immersion of raw food (usually meat) in a sauce prepared with spices and vinegar.
Adobo has long been used in other regions of the world like the Philippines and Portugal.

Where can I find chilies to make adobo?

Try Mexican online stores or Amazon. In a pinch, you can use powdered chilies or paprika.

More Mexican Sauces Recipes

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Mexican adobo sauce recipe.

Mexican Adobo Sauce

3 cups
This recipe for Mexican adobo sauce is made from dried chiles, vinegar, and spices. It has a beautiful red color and a rich, smoky flavor, perfect to marinate chicken, pork, or your favorite protein!
prep 15 minutes
soaking time 15 minutes
total 30 minutes

Ingredients 

  • 6 guajillo chilies
  • 3 ancho chilies
  • 4 pasilla chilies
  • ½ cup white vinegar
  • 3 garlic cloves (peeled)
  • 1 tsp black peppercorns
  • ½ tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 tsp dry oregano
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp table salt

Instructions
 

  • Clean chilies by removing the stem, veins, and seeds.
  • Heat a comal or a cast iron skillet over medium-low heat and lightly toast the chilies for a few seconds on both sides.
  • Place toasted chilies in a large bowl and cover them with hot water by at least 1 inch. Soak for about 15 minutes or until the chilies are nicely softened.
  • Place chilies in a blender and add peppercorns, cumin, oregano, bay leaves, garlic, and a teaspoon of salt.
  • Pour the vinegar and 1 cup of water and blend for 3-4 minutes or until you'll have a velvety sauce.
  • Transfer the adobo to a bowl or jar and store or use it right away in your recipe.

Notes

  • Replace each piece of dried pepper with one teaspoon of sweet or hot paprika.
  • You can also use powdered spices, such as cumin, pepper, bay leaf, etc.
  • The adobo sauce lasts up to 10 days in a glass container or a jar stored in the fridge.
  • If you want to freeze it, divide the sauce into ice cube trays or small resealable bags and store it for up to 6 months.
Nutrition Information
Serving: 1cup | Calories: 189kcal | Carbohydrates: 37g | Protein: 6g | Fat: 4g | Saturated Fat: 0.4g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 0.3g | Sodium: 824mg | Potassium: 1049mg | Fiber: 16g | Sugar: 17g | Vitamin A: 14504IU | Vitamin C: 15mg | Calcium: 68mg | Iron: 4mg
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Maricruz Avalos Flores is a Mexican cook and photographer living in Italy where she shares authentic Mexican & Italian recipes that can be easily made at home using easy-to-find ingredients.

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Recipe Rating




4 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    I saw your recipe on Pinterest and wanted to come immediately to check it out, I am so glad I did because I just made it and it smells like heaven! THIS is the adobo sauce I was looking for, with all authentic ingredients and easy preparation. Thanks!

  2. 5 stars
    By the color st first though “must be similar to a BBQ sauce” but oh well! Never tried something like this, very strong sauce, I think it goes great with many many things, I definetly have a new sauce to add in my family meals and daily life!

  3. 5 stars
    Always wondered how mexicans achieve that wonderful color in grilled chicken. Now makes sense :D thanks for sharing, not sure if i can find the dry chilies here in Florida but I’ll give a try next time I’ll go out for shopping.

    By the way, can I use this sauce to make enchilada too? it looks pretty similar to the mole enchilada recipes I’ve seen before.