Quick Red Adobo Sauce

red adobo sauce

You won’t need much to make this Quick Red Adobo Sauce. This is a base ingredient for many delicious foods including birria, chorizo, barbacoa, and much more.

red adobo sauce and marinade

You can make all of those dishes without this adobo sauce BUT this base ingredient is going to save you so much time. SO much time.

What is Adobo Sauce?

Opening a can of chipotles in adobo blasts your nostrils with heat, and smoky flavors. That sauce is the red adobo sauce commonly used for many types of Mexican foods. The core recipe is created with dried chiles, garlic, vinegar, and herbs. Peru, Puerto Rico, Uruguay, and the Philippines are some of the other places you’ll see wide variations of this dish. The Spanish brought their influence all over the world, and the different adobos were born.

The main ingredient used in the Mexican adobo sauce is the ancho chile, which is a poblano chile that has been dried out. These chiles are very smoky and fruity, almost like a giant smoked raisin. Central America has a diverse food culture, so you’ll find many variations of the sauce using slightly different measurements and spices.

Opening your fridge to a large jar of adobo is the blessing you’re looking for. You can grab a spoonful and add it to soups. Rub down beef, chicken, or lamb and marinade before grilling. Mix some into a vinaigrette for a warm, roasted vegetable side dish. We’ll talk about how this is the core ingredient for making fresh chorizo. Hopefully, you master this recipe for yourself.

We all want simple recipes

This recipe I’m sharing with you today is based on authentic red adobo sauce, but it’s my interpretation. Many home cooks, like myself, love to make sauces from scratch with dried chiles. The goal for this was to bring this incredible versatile dish into home kitchens using a quicker method without compromising flavor.

Are you ready for the secret here?

Chile powder. Yes, you can cheat and just use chile powder. Adding boiling water to a specific measurement will rehydrate the ground chiles, prompting them to soften and bloom for the wonderful sauce. The end result is not a powdery, gloopy mess. You’ll see.

spiceology ancho chile powder is the main ingredient for the adobo sauce

Adobo Sauce Recipe

Let’s discuss the ingredients. This couldn’t be more simple to throw together, should take you about 10 minutes and you’ll have it pretty much ready to go.

Ancho chile is the main ingredient. You absolutely cannot skip or substitute if you’re trying to create a Mexican red adobo sauce. I’ll teach you how to customize it to your preferences though, as the ancho chile is pretty mild. Here’s the core recipe:

  • 1/2 cup Ancho chile powder
  • 10 cloves garlic, toasted
  • 3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp Mexican oregano
  • 1 tsp cinnamon, canela
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp cumin, ground
  • 1/2 tsp salt, more to taste

Important Steps

Hydrating the chile powder. Bringing dry chiles to life requires pouring boiling water over them after they’ve been lightly toasted and seeded. As we’re going to use chile powder, we can skip part of it and jump into boiling. You’ll use 1 1/4 Cup boiling water for 1/2 Cup chile powder. Add the chile powder into your blender, pour the boiling water over it and then let it steep for about 10 minutes.

Toasting the garlic. This step is really up to you, but I highly recommend it. Turn the heat on your stove to medium heat, warming up a skillet. Take the 10 cloves of garlic, unpeeled, and toast them on the pan, stirring every so often for about 5-7 minutes. You want the outside of the skin to toast. This will provide a roasted flavor for the garlic, mellowing out the sharpness.

Customizing the heat. The recipe is for 1/2 cup of ancho chile. This is an easy adjustment, you simply need to substitute a portion of the ancho chile for another chile powder. Using Guajillo chile powder, and Chipotle chile powder will add smoky and spicy flavors of different heat levels. Definitely consider experimenting if you’d like to kick up the heat. My recommendations are these based on my testing:

  • MILD: 1/2 cup Ancho chile powder
  • MEDIUM: 1/8 cup Guajillo, the remaining as Ancho
  • HOT: 1/8 cup Guajillo, and 1/8 cup Chipotle, 1/4 cup Ancho
  • Xtra HOT: 1/4 cup Guajillo, 1/4 cup Chipotle, 1/4 cup Ancho

Trust me, I’ve had 3-year-old chipotle powder side by side with the fresh stuff. Flavor and heat dissipate over time. It’s important to use high-quality chile powders, especially when you’re using cups of them at a time. Check out Spiceology for their larger containers and varieties. They are known for higher quality, which you’re paying for. The cheap stuff at the grocery store will taste very different and is also much more expensive per ounce.

Recipes using the Red Adobo Sauce:

I will keep adding new recipes that use this red adobo sauce. There are plenty of delicious ideas!

chorizo and potato soft tacos, created with the sauce
Chorizo and potato soft tacos, made from the red adobo sauce.
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red adobo sauce

Red Adobo Sauce

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This fresh Mexican adobo sauce is the base ingredient for so many delicious dishes. Keeps in the fridge for months, but you’ll use it up before then.

  • Total Time: 12
  • Yield: 6-8 1x


  • 1 1/4 cup boiling water
  • 1/2 cup Ancho chile powder
  • 10 cloves garlic, skin on, toasted
  • 3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp Mexican oregano
  • 1 tsp cinnamon, canela
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp cumin, ground
  • 1/2 tsp salt, more to taste


  1. Heat up a skillet to medium heat. Add the garlic cloves with their skins attached. Stir occassionally, toasting the outsides until they are soft. Should take about 5-7 minutes.
  2. Boil the water. Add the chile powder to the blender, and pour the water over it. Allow it to steep while you prep the rest.
  3. Peel the skins off the garlic once they have cooled, and add all the remaining ingredients into the blender. Blend until fully incorporated, it should be a thick consistency. 
  4. Taste and adjust the salt.
YouTube video


Want it spicy? Check out the blog post for measurements on how to increase the heat level using guajillo and chipotle powders.

  • Author: Brad Prose
  • Prep Time: 10
  • Cook Time: 2
  • Category: Sauces & Salsas
  • Method: Blending
  • Cuisine: Mexican
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