Adobo Sauce Substitute – What Can You Use?

Save for later!

A staple in Mexican cuisine, adobo sauce is a dark red chile sauce. It is made from ground ancho chiles, vinegar, sugar, garlic, and herbs. This rich and thick sauce has an earthy, spicy, and bold flavor that is indispensable in many Mexican recipes.

Adobo sauce is best known as the sauce that covers canned chipotle peppers, but it’s also used as a condiment and a marinade for meat. While adobo sauce is used in many meat-based dishes, it might not be available in your local supermarket. If this is the case, you’re probably wondering what can you use instead of adobo sauce in recipes.

So, what is the best adobo sauce substitute? The best adobo sauce substitute is Tabasco Chipotle Hot Sauce. Made from almost the same ingredients as adobo sauce, Tabasco Chipotle Hot Sauce is sold by most grocery stores. If you can’t find these two sauces, use ranchero sauce, chili garlic sauce, adobo seasoning, or ancho chile paste instead. 

Keep reading to learn which replacements you can use instead of adobo sauce in your favorite Mexican recipes. 

What Is Adobo Sauce?

Adobo sauce is a traditional Mexican sauce made from dried chiles, vinegar, garlic, sugar, and herbs. This rich, dark, reddish-brown sauce has an earthy, spicy, and bold flavor.

In Mexican cuisine, adobo sauce is synonymous with chipotle peppers and is also used as a condiment and a marinade for chicken, pork, and beef.

It’s worth mentioning that in the Philippines adobo is a method of cooking meat, vegetable, or seafood dishes. The food is marinated in a mixture of vinegar, garlic powder, black pepper, soy sauce, and bay leaves. All dishes prepared this way are known as adobo.

In Caribbean cuisine, adobo is a spice mixture used to season various types of meat before they are cooked. These spices can also be mixed with water to make a wet rub for marinating meat or vegetables. 

What Is Adobo Sauce made of?

Mexican adobo sauce is made from dried chiles like ancho peppers or guajillo peppers. These chiles are rehydrated and made into a thick paste using vinegar or citrus juice and flavored with spices like garlic, onion, cumin, and oregano.

Adobo sauce can be thinned with broth and used as a sauce, or used as a base for stew, or as a condiment. 

Best Adobo Sauce Substitutes

Here are several replacements you can use instead of the adobo sauce to attain a similar flavor and texture in recipes. 

1. Tabasco Chipotle Hot Sauce

Tabasco Chipotle Hot Sauce is a popular bottled hot sauce that is available in almost any grocery store. It is made from chipotle pepper, distilled vinegar, water, salt, sugar, onion powder, garlic powder, and Tabasco brand pepper pulp. These are almost the same ingredients used to make adobo sauce.

This sauce has a rich smoky flavor ideal for marinating or grilling meat. Substitute Tabasco Chipotle Hot Sauce at a 1:1 ratio for adobo sauce.

2. Chili Garlic Sauce

Chili garlic sauce is made from chili peppers, garlic, salt, and rice vinegar. It has a fragrant, spicy, and tangy flavor, and a chunky texture, with pieces of chili pepper and seeds still visible. 

If you decide to use chili garlic sauce as a substitute for adobo sauce, steer clear of Asian-style chili garlic sauces. These sauces are made with different kinds of peppers and usually have ginger and fish sauce and taste nothing like Mexican-style adobo sauce.

3. Ranchero Sauce

Ranchero sauce is made from tomatoes and onion and seasoned with a mixture of herbs and spices, as well as jalapeno and chipotle peppers. This mild tomato-based sauce has a smoky flavor with lasting spice.

Add a pinch of chipotle, guajillo, or ancho chile pepper to the ranchero sauce to make it taste exactly like adobo sauce. Use ranchero sauce as a 1:1 replacement for adobo sauce in recipes. 

4. Adobo Seasoning

Adobo seasoning is an all-purpose seasoning blend often used in Latin American and Caribbean cuisine. It is often made from granulated garlic, onion powder, black pepper, oregano, salt, and sometimes turmeric or citrus zest. 

Adobo seasoning has a smoky and powerful flavor that adds depth to meat-based and vegetable dishes. To use adobo seasoning as a substitute for adobo sauce simply add some water in it to make a paste that can be used for marinating meat. 

5. Ancho Chile Paste

Ancho chile paste is made with dried ancho chile peppers. The peppers are rehydrated and pureed into a smooth paste that is perfect for marinating meat or making sauces.

Ancho chile paste has an earthy, slightly fruity flavor that lacks the depth of the traditional adobo sauce. Replace ancho chile paste at a 1:1 ratio for adobo sauce when making burritos, enchiladas, tacos, and tamales. 

Is Adobo Sauce the same as Chipotle Sauce?

No, adobo sauce and chipotle sauce aren’t the same. Chipotle sauce is usually made by mixing pureed chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. On the other hand, adobo sauce is made from chili peppers, vinegar, salt, and spices. 

Can I Substitute Chili Powder for Adobo Sauce?

Chili powder doesn’t have the same flavor and texture as adobo sauce. Chili powder has a flavor profile known as Tex-Mex and is mild to moderately spicy. It’s possible to use chili powder as a substitute for adobo sauce, but you won’t get the same flavor as when using real adobo sauce.


Adobo sauce is a staple in Mexican cuisine and is used to stew or marinate different types of meat, including chicken, pork, and beef. It’s also used when cooking pasta, beans, rice, and soups, or as a spread for wraps and sandwiches.

Although it has many uses, adobo sauce isn’t always readily available at grocery stores. If this is the case use Tabasco Chipotle Hot Sauce as a substitute for adobo sauce. This sauce is sold in most stores and supermarkets and has virtually the same flavor as traditional adobo sauce.

As an alternative, use chili garlic sauce, adobo seasoning, ancho chile paste, or ranchero sauce instead of adobo sauce in recipes. 

Related Articles:

Save for later!

Leave a Comment