Adobo sauce is a South American kitchen staple. The key to making great adobe requires learning the base technique, then you can begin having fun with experimenting with chiles and peppers in season at the market.
Start to finish takes around 15 minutes
The base of South American adobo sauce is the dried chile peppers. The two most commonly used peppers for adobo are Guajillo and Ancho chiles.
Let's take a look at each of the chiles respective flavor properties and spice levels.
TIP: You can always purchase dried chilies online.
🌶️ Types Of Chiles
Chiles each have different flavor profiles. Just like the different varietals/grapes used in making wine. Having a solid understanding helps you adjust the recipe to the growing season and what is available at the market.
Below shows the 4 chiles we love to include. Our finished adobo sauce recipe is balanced and not spicy. If you want spicy, no problem, I explain how to accomplish both heat levels below.
The collection of dried peppers is from the middle of the hotness level of the Scoville scale and is most commonly found in grocery stores.
What is the Scoville Scale?
The Scoville scale measures the amount of Capsaicin in hot peppers.
To best understand how spicy a pepper or chile can be we use the Scoville scale. This helps guide you when picking them out at the market and will give you the confidence in controlling your spice level.
Capsaicin (8-methyl-N-vanillyl-6-nonenamide) is an active component of chili peppers, which are plants belonging to the genus Capsicum. It is a chemical irritant for mammals, including humans, and produces a sensation of burning in any tissue with which it comes into contact. Capsaicin and several related compounds are called capsaicinoids and are produced as secondary metabolites by chili peppers, probably as deterrents against certain mammals and fungi.
Here's the combination of chiles and peppers used in our adobo sauce recipe
- Ancho Chiles - Mild in spice level - has a smoky raisin flavor - Scoville scale = 1000-1500 (lower than a jalapeno) (recipe to try with ancho chiles: Chicken Tortilla Soup
- Guajillo Chiles - Medium(+) in spice (Guajillo range in spice/heat level) Flavor is spice mixed with hints of berries and green tea. To most, this is a must use in adobo sauce recipes. The chile also brings great color to the sauce.
- Chipolte Chiles - Chipotles have around the same spice level as their fresh form, which is the jalapeno pepper - The chipotles are not considered "spicy-hot" in the world of peppers and chiles - Scoville scale: 2000-8000
- Fresh Peppers 1) Shishito Peppers - 2) Serrano Peppers - 3) Jalapeno Peppers - With the addition of fresh peppers, it overall intensifies the flavor profile. Some Chefs skip the fresh peppers, what a disappointment. To control the heat level, remove the seeds and rib. (Rib: the white stuff the seeds are attached to)
- Puya Chiles - Similar to Guajillo chiles, but with more spice and a bit more fruitiness. Another great option you'll find in the markets is Pasilla chilis or Mexico chilies.
💭 Controlling The Spice
Seeds and stems are where the spice is found. I removed all of the seeds and stems and the result is a balanced adobo sauce that does have some spice, but nothing in the way of being "Hot".
Our adobe sauce is rich with smokiness, a touch of spice, with a full floral aroma from the chiles & peppers, and a touch of fruit.
If you want spicy adobo sauce, then add in the seeds and stems, the adobo sauce will end up around twice(+) as spicy.
If you wanted to perfect your adobe sauce recipe on the spice level, you could try something as exact as counting the number of seeds.
Removing Seeds & Stems: - Break off the stem at the top by pinching right below the stem, then using your other hand grab right below where you want to remove and twist.
Shake the seeds out of the dried chilies into a bowl. Then using your fingers or scissors, open the chile all the way up, and finish removing any seeds. It's ok to leave a few.
MAX Flavor: Roast the dried chiles to release their natural oils and flavors on a cookie sheet. This will certainly enhance the overall complexity of flavor. You can skip this step, but the adobe sauce will not be the best you can make.
Bake @ 400 for 4-5 minutes. You will know when the chiles are ready by the aroma/smell in the air. Once you can smell the chiles it's pretty much time to remove them from the oven. All ovens cook a little bit differently.
It only takes a moment to burn the dried chiles. Keep an eye on the process until complete.
🧂 Seasoning & Herbs
- Fennel Seed (1 Texas-sized tablespoon)
Cumin (1 Texas-sized tablespoon)
Dried Thyme (1 ½ tablespoon)
Mustard Seeds (1 tablespoon)
Using a blender, begin with the roasted dried chiles and give them a head start blending. The chiles take up a lot of space in the blender. After a quick chop, you'll have more space to add the rest of the ingredients. Add water to help the blender get started. (½ cup)
Add the additional ingredients to the blender:
- ½ (+) large Red Onion
- Minced Garlic - ( 2 tablespoons)
- Kosher Salt - ( 2 tablespoons)
- Canola Oil - ( ¾ cup )
- Olive Oil - ( ¼ cup )
- Brown Sugar - ( 2 Tablespoon )
- 1 Juiced Lime
- Mustard Seeds ( 1 tablespoon)
- Thyme ( 1+ tablespoon)
- Cumin ( 1+ tablespoon)
- Fennel Seeds ( 1+ tablespoon)
Blend everything together, then take a taste.
TIP: Usually adobo sauce is made in batches. I would suggest not adding any more salt than the recipe calls for and waiting until you use the adobo sauce for the recipe you cook in the future. Try to not overdo the recipe on any one ingredient and make your changes the day of using the sauce.
Texas adobo sauce will last in your refrigerator for at least 3 months in glassware. The sauce slightly ferments over that time and improves in flavor #adobo
- Soups - Adds depth of flavor
- Chicken - Use as a marinade with a fresh squeeze of lime and minced onion
- Make a smoky adobo hummus - Add extra garlic
- Spicy mayonnaise - the uses are many. BBQ chicken, salmon, steaks burgers...
- Nothing much better than great chili
Try These Adobo Sauce Recipes
- Stuffed Pepperoni Chicken Parmesan
- Real Traditional Texas Chili
- Texas Charred Peppers Salsa
- Texas Queso
- Texas Bolognese Sauce
Yes, there are a few different worldly cuisines with their own versions of adobo. An example would be the Philippines. Their style of adobo sauce is base on using soy sauce instead of dried chiles
Here's a link to a Filipino Pork Adobo
Yes, the recipe requires no seasoning adjustment. Just make sure the salt is distributed evenly. Do not just add all the salt to one area of the sauce, mix it in as parts.
You can also cut the recipe by equal parts
Yes, but add in extra oil before freezing. It will stay good for around 3 months
The recipe is very open to testing and trying different combinations of chiles and peppers with great success.
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Adobo Sauce Recipe
- 20 chiles Chipotle Peppers
- 15 chiles Guajillo
- 15 chiles Puya Chiles or/ Pasilla
- 8 chiles Ancho Peppers
- 3 Jalapenos
- 3 Serranos
- 5 Shishitos
Herbs & Spices
- 1 ½ tbsp Cumin
- 1 ½ tbsp Fennel Seed
- 1 ½ tbsp Thyme
- 1 tbsp Mustard Seed
- 2 tbsp Minced Garlic
- ¾ cup Canola Oil
- ¼ cup Olive Oil / optional
- 1 cup Water / use a much as needed to create a paste-like consistency
- 2 tbsp Kosher Salt
- 1 medium Onion
- 2 tbsp Brown Sugar
- 1 juiced Lime
Controlling The Spice Level
- For a balanced adobo sauce, you'll want to remove the seeds and stems. If you would like the adobo sauce to be spicy hot, start by removing the seeds. Then smash/grind the seeds into a paste. This way the adobo sauce will not be full of seeds and have improved texture.
Preparing the Chiles
- Roast the dried chiles on a cookie sheet in a preheated oven of 400 degrees for about 5 minutes. You'll know the chiles are almost done once you can smell them in the air.You'll want the chiles to be almost crispy once out of the oven. They will crisp up even further once out of the oven as they cool down. This will make blending them easier.
Preparing the Herbs & Spices
- Next, toast the spices and herbs in a dry pan on the stovetop. Do not add anything to the pan other than the herbs and spices. Take about 3 minutes. Keep an eye on them so they do not burn. TIP: - while toasting, you can move the pan on and off the heat to control the toasting process. Best practice...
- Toasting: Add to dry pan on medium heat,- 1 ½ tablespoon of Cumin- 1 tablespoon of Mustard Seeds- 1 ½ tablespoon of Fennel Seeds- 1 ½ tablespoon of Dried Thyme
- Using a blender or food processor. I like using a blender since it has high walls and the chiles are long/tall. Start with the roasted chiles in the blender and get them to blend up first. Add water at this point to help the blender chop the chiles.Start with ½ cup of water to moisten the dried chiles and blend again. Then add in ½ cup of canola oil plus ¼ cup of olive oil. Add as much water/oil as needed to create a paste consistency.Next, add in one medium onion, 1+ tablespoons of kosher salt, plus 2+ tablespoons of brown sugar, normal white sugar will work. Squeeze or juice one lime and add to the blender.
- After adding all the ingredients, adjust the consistency with water. The end result, you will want the consistency of a paste. If the mixture looks too tight/thick add more water or oil.
Recipe Ideas / Uses
- - Soups: Depth of flavor- Spicy Mayonnaise - Marinade on chicken/turkey- Chili recipes- Spicy Hummus dips
- Roasting the dried chiles releases their natural oils and improves the flavor
- Adding fresh peppers gives needed fresh acid, deeper flavor, and capsaicin (spice oil)
- Brown sugar, the secret ingredient to balancing
- Adobo sauce will mature in flavor by a small amount of fermentation while in controlled temperature, ie the refrigerator
- Experimenting with different chiles and peppers is the most fun in my opinion with adobo sauce making. Keep an eye out while shopping during the year. Take note of what is available and in season. Build your foundational recipe here today, and next time make a small adjustment.