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.

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).

Why This Recipe Works

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

For a quick, easy and less intimidating method, I use dried ancho chili powder instead of whole chiles. The chili powder cuts out the process of toasting and rehydrating the dried chiles. It’s important to use dried ancho chili 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 chili 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

Ingredient Notes

Ancho Chile Powder

Make sure you seek out ancho chili powder. Not Regular chili powder. Look for it in the spice aisle, or order online.

Fresh Garlic

Fresh cloves of garlic are essential for this recipe! You’ll need 8 cloves, so grab a whole head of garlic.

Vinegar

Every great adobo sauce is a bit tangy—you can use apple cider vinegar or distilled white vinegar.

Dried Herbs and Spices

You’ll need dried Mexican oregano (though marjoram is a good substitute and regular oregano can be using in a pinch). You will also need ground cumin, ground cinnamon, black pepper and kosher salt.

How to Make Quick Adobo Sauce

By using ancho chili 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 ancho chili powder, vinegar, salt, oregano, cumin, cinnamon and black pepper to a blender.
  3. Add water and garlic to a blender.
  4. Blend until smooth. 

How to Use Adobo Sauce

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

Test Kitchen Tips

  • Store homemade adobo sauce in a glass, airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 months.
  • To make the adobo sauce last even longer, freeze sauce in ice cube trays until solid then transfer to a large zipper-lock bag. Homemade adobo sauce will last up to 6 months in the freezer.
a thick red sauce in a bowl

More Mexican-Inspired Recipes to Try

FAQs

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 chili powder?

You can absolutely use whole dried ancho chiles instead of ancho chili 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. 

Quick Red Adobo Sauce

Print Recipe
5 from 3 votes
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 5 mins
Total Time 10 mins
Yield 1 ⅓ cups
Category Sauce/Dip
Cuisine Mexican
Author Lauren Grant

Description

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

Ingredients

  • 8 large cloves garlic
  • ½ cup ancho chile powder
  • 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar or distilled white vinegar
  • 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano, marjoram or regular oregano
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

Instructions

  • 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. 

Equipment

blender

Notes

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

Nutrition

Serving: 1tablespoonCalories: 2kcalCarbohydrates: 0.5gSodium: 175mg
Keywords adobo sauce, homemade adobo sauce
Did you make this recipe?Leave a comment below and tag @ZestfulKitchen on Instagram and hashtag it #zestfulkitchen!
a thick red sauce in a bowl with a spoon in it

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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, EatingWell.com, AmericasTestKitchen.com, and more.

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Comments

  1. 5 stars
    A wonderful adobo sauce recipe that’s easy to make. I appreciate it’s made with acho chile powder instead of whole dried chiles. Just easier for us! Wonderful flavor—will be using this again!