This quick homemade adobo sauce recipe is silky smooth, slightly spicy and incredibly versatile. Whip up a batch and keep it in your fridge for quick dinners anytime including tacos, enchiladas, soups, barbacoa and more.

a thick red sauce in a bowl with a spoon in it

What is Adobo Sauce?

Adobo sauce is a dark red chile sauce made from ground dried chiles, dried herbs and vinegar. It’s earthy, spicy and bold in flavor. Adobo sauce is used as a condiment as well as a marinade in Mexican and Spanish cuisine.

You likely know and have experienced adobo sauce through canned chipotle peppers in adobo. We love those around here and use them in our Vegetarian Chili and Smoky Tempeh Tacos. As delicious as the canned product is, homemade adobo sauce just can’t be beat (especially when it’s this easy).

About this Quick Adobo Sauce

Dried ancho, guajillo and/or pasilla chiles are traditionally used to make this sauce. However, I’ve found many American homecooks find dried chiles to be intimidating.

For a quick, easy and less intimidating method, I use dried ancho chile powder instead of whole chiles. The chile powder cuts out the process of toasting and rehydrating the dried chiles. It’s important to use dried ancho chile powder as it’s just that—dried and powdered ancho chiles. No added spices or seasonings (which are found in regular chili powder).

You can find ancho chile powder in the spice aisle of most grocery stores. It can also be found at Mexican markets, specialty spice stores and online.

Once hydrated and blended with traditional adobo sauce ingredients, the dried powder takes on a lovely velvety texture. 

spices, garlic and vinegar measured out in small white bowls

Ingredients in Homemade Adobo Sauce

How to Make Quick Adobo Sauce

By using ancho chile powder instead of dried whole chiles, we cut down on the total time of this recipe by quite a bit.

  1. Add water and garlic cloves to a small saucepan and bring to a boil. 
  2. Add water and garlic to a blender with ancho chile powder, vinegar, salt, oregano, cumin, cinnamon and black pepper.
  3. Blend until smooth. 

How to Use Adobo Sauce

This quick adobo sauce is incredibly versatile and can be used in an array of recipes. 

Storage tip: to make the adobo sauce last even longer, freeze sauce in ice cube trays until solid then transfer to a large zipper-lock bag.

a thick red sauce in a bowl

What is Mexican Oregano?

Mexican oregano has a very different flavor than mediterranean oregano. “Regular” or mediterranean oregano has a slight minty undertone whereas Mexican oregano is more earthy and cirtusy. Marjoram is a closer substitute for Mexican oregano than “regular” oregano is.

I get Mexican oregano at my local Mexican market, but you can also find it on Amazon. Then again, if all you have is “regular” oregano, go ahead and use that. It certainly won’t make or break this recipe.

Do I have to use ancho chile powder?

You can absolutely use whole dried ancho chiles instead of ancho chile powder for this homemade adobo sauce. Instead of the powder, use 4 medium to large dried ancho chiles. Remove their stems and seeds then transfer to a dry skillet. Toast the chiles over medium heat until slightly softened, pliable and very aromatic.

Transfer the toasted chiles to a cutting board and let rest until they’re cool enough to handle. Tear chiles into 1-inch pieces and transfer to the blender with spices, vinegar, hot water and garlic. Blend the sauce as directed in the recipe.

How long does homemade adobo sauce last?

Stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator, adobo sauce should last a couple of months. 

Mexican-Inspired Recipes You Might Also Like…

If you make this adobo sauce, be sure to let me know! Leave a comment with a star rating below. You can also snap a photo & tag @zestfulkitchen on Instagram. I love hearing about and seeing your ZK creations!

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a thick red sauce in a bowl with a spoon in it

Quick Red Adobo Sauce Recipe

  • Author: Lauren Grant
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 5 minutes
  • Total Time: 10 minutes
  • Yield: 1 ⅓ cups 1x
  • Category: Sauce/Dip
  • Method: Stove top
  • Cuisine: Mexican
  • Diet: Gluten Free


Smoky, spicy and earthy, homemade adobo sauce is a must-have condiment and sauce for homemade Mexican cuisine. 




Add garlic and 1 ¼ cups water to a small saucepan; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Meanwhile, add ancho chile powder, vinegar, salt, oregano, cinnamon, cumin and black pepper to a high-powered blender or food processor.

Add hot water and garlic to blender, secure lid and blend on high until completely smooth, about 1 minute. 


Adobo sauce will last a couple of months stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.


  • Serving Size: 1 tablespoon
  • Calories: 2
  • Sugar: 0g
  • Sodium: 175mg
  • Fat: 0g
  • Saturated Fat: 0g
  • Carbohydrates: 0.5g
  • Fiber: 0g
  • Protein: 0g
  • Cholesterol: 0mg

Keywords: adobo sauce, homemade adobo sauce

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About The Author

Lauren Grant is a professional culinary food scientist, food writer, recipe developer, and food photographer. Lauren is a previous magazine editor and test kitchen developer and has had work published in major national publications including Diabetic Living Magazine, Midwest Living Magazine, Cuisine at Home Magazine,,, and more.

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