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7 Best Mexican Adobo Sauce Substitutes

From marinating meats to adding flavor to stews, soups, and homemade Asian sauces, there’s nothing quite like Mexican adobo sauce. But what happens if you can’t find adobo sauce in your local grocery store, or maybe you wanna try your hand at different flavors? Worry not, as there are several Mexican adobo sauce substitutes you can use instead. 

You can substitute Mexican adobo sauce with chipotle peppers, adobo seasoning, ranchero sauce, and achiote paste. But this isn’t all you can use to substitute the sauce with, so let’s cover all the Mexican adobo sauce swaps!

🤷 What is Mexican Adobo Sauce?

Mexican adobo sauce is a complex, tangy, and slightly sweet flavor that’s made from a combination of dried chilies, vinegar, garlic, and spices. The sauce has a rich, deep red color and a slightly grainy texture due to the ground spices used in its preparation. Aside from its obvious Mexican cuisine applications, it’s commonly used as a marinade for meats, such as spicy chicken sauce recipes or beef glaze recipes, before grilling or roasting.

🧑‍🍳 How to Make Mexican Adobo Sauce

To make Mexican Adobo Sauce, just start by toasting 3-4 dried ancho and 2-3 guajillo chiles in a dry skillet until fragrant. Remove stems and seeds, soak in hot water for 15-20 minutes, and blend with peeled garlic, cumin, oregano, cinnamon, cloves, and white vinegar until smooth. Strain for a smoother texture if desired. Heat 1-2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a saucepan, add the paste, and cook for 5-7 minutes to deepen flavors.

📌 Mexican Adobo Sauce Substitutes Comparison Table

This is a comparison chart to give you a quick idea of the basics of each substitute before we get in-depth with each one:

IngredientFlavor ProfileHeat LevelCommon Uses
Tabasco Chipotle Hot SauceSmoky, tangy, mildly spicyMediumAdds smoky heat to various dishes
Chipotle PeppersSmoky, earthy, medium heatMediumEnhances salsas, marinades, and meat dishes
Ancho Chile PasteSweet, mild, with a hint of fruitinessMildUsed in mole sauces, soups, and stews
Adobo SeasoningRich, savory, mildly spicyMildRubs for meats, flavoring beans, and marinades
Achiote PasteEarthy, slightly sweet, with a hint of spiceMild to MediumUsed in traditional Yucatecan dishes, like cochinita pibil
Ranchero SauceBold, tangy, mildly spicyMediumIdeal for enchiladas, tacos, and meat marinades
Guajillo Chile SauceFruity, tangy, with a moderate heatMediumCommonly used in Mexican sauces and stews

💡 Best Substitutes for Mexican Adobo Sauce 

Tabasco Chipotle Hot Sauce

1 tablespoon of Mexican adobo sauce = 1 tablespoon of Tabasco chipotle hot sauce

Tabasco chipotle hot sauce is a popular and delicious substitute for Mexican adobo sauce. It’s made from vine-ripened red jalapeño peppers, which are smoked and blended with spices. The sauce has a rich and smoky flavor that’s also very spicy. The availability, affordability, usability, and long shelf life find great use in a sauces for pork chops, poultry, and fish or added to stews, soups, and different little rice dishes.

Chipotle Peppers

1 tablespoon of Mexican adobo sauce = 1 tablespoon of chopped chipotle peppers

Chipotle peppers give a nice smoky, spicy flavor with a hint of sweetness. These peppers are created by smoking and drying ripe jalapeño peppers, giving them their characteristic smoky taste. Rehydration is often necessary before using chipotle peppers. To rehydrate, soak the peppers in warm water for 10-15 minutes until they become soft and pliable. After removing the stems and seeds, chop the peppers finely. If you can’t find any, you can use some chipotle pepper substitutes instead.

A black bowl of dried red chili peppers.

Ancho Chile Paste

1 tablespoon of Mexican adobo sauce = 1 tablespoon of ancho chile paste

Ancho chile paste is a fantastic alternative to Mexican adobo sauce, offering a unique but delicious flavor profile. The paste is made from dried and smoked poblano peppers, giving it a sweet and smoky taste. This paste is also a less spicy option that’s perfect for those who enjoy a more subtle flavor. This paste is simple to prepare, as dried poblano peppers, garlic, cumin, and chicken broth are all that’s required. If you can’t find any of the peppers, you can use poblano pepper substitutes instead.

Adobo Seasoning

1 tablespoon of Mexican adobo sauce = 1 tablespoon of adobo seasoning

Adobo seasoning is composed of a blend of spices such as garlic, oregano, cumin, and chili powder that all combine to add depth and complexity to your favorite Mexican dishes. Unlike adobo sauce, it’s a dry seasoning that’s highly available, cost-effective, and has a long shelf life. Its versatility lets you season meats, poultry, and fish with a delicious spicy rub.

Achiote Paste

1 tablespoon of Mexican adobo sauce = 2 tablespoon of achiote paste

Achiote paste is made from a blend of annatto seeds, garlic, vinegar, and other spices. This delicious paste offers a tangy and slightly sweet taste. It’s also less spicy than some seasonings, making it a perfect choice for those who like a toned-down flavor. You can use this milder spice as a rub for meats, poultry, and fish, added to stews, soups, and rice dishes.

Ranchero Sauce

1 tablespoon of Mexican adobo sauce = 1 tablespoon of ranchero sauce

This sauce is a fantastic substitute for Mexican adobo sauce. It’s made from a blend of tomatoes, onions, garlic, and chili peppers, giving it a rich and savory flavor that’s similar to adobo sauce. It’s also less spicy, very flexible, and an even healthier alternative to store-bought sauces because it’s made with fresh ingredients and contains no preservatives or additives.

Guajillo Chile Sauce

Guajillo Chile Sauce is a more than viable alternative to Mexican Adobo Sauce, offering a deep, mildly fruity flavor with a moderate heat level. The sauce is crafted by toasting and rehydrating dried guajillo chilis, blending them with garlic, cumin, dried oregano, and white vinegar to achieve a smooth consistency. Adjusting the seasoning allows for customization to suit individual taste preferences. It’ll also let you make it closer to the Mexican adobo sauce flavor.

🧐 FAQs

What is in Mexican adobo sauce?

It includes a blend of spices, chilies, and vinegar. The exact ingredients can vary depending on the recipe, but the common spices used are cumin, garlic, oregano, and paprika.

What is the difference between adobo seasoning and adobo sauce?

Adobo seasoning is a dry spice blend that typically includes garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, and black pepper. Adobo sauce is a wet sauce made from a blend of spices, chilies, and vinegar.

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