Top 8 Adobo Sauce Substitutes

Adobo Sauce

We all want some sauce on our roasted meat or to dip our fries in a juicy sauce. My favorite sauce that I’m using in almost every dish I make is adobo sauce.

Adobo dish, spice mixture, and sauce have different variations depending on the region where they are used. There are variations made with coconut milk, rice vinegar, coconut vinegar, olive oil, and some other liquids. Some other variations are with added onion, cumin, brown sugar, parsley, and lemon or orange juice.

Adobo sauce is mostly known as chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. However, if you don’t have this sauce at hand, what can you use?

The best substitutes for Adobo sauce are chili garlic sauce, chipotle in adobo sauce, ranchero sauce, cajun seasoning, adobo seasoning, and many more.

Let’s learn more about these substitutes and how to use them properly to save your dish and enjoy a lovely meal without this specific sauce.

Adobo Sauce Substitutes

Adobo, also known as adobar (in Spanish marinade) was a traditional method of cooking that originated from the Philippines. This phrase is used in Mexican and Caribbean cuisine with a different meaning.

In the Philippines’ cuisine adobo is a cooking method for dishes prepared with meat, vegetables, or seafood marinated in a mixture of garlic, vinegar, bay leaves, black pepper, and soy sauce.

The dishes prepared in this way are also called adobo. Soy sauce and vinegar are the basic ingredients of the Philippines’ adobo. Adobo dishes can be also created with other meats, like beef, fish, and seafood.

In Caribbean cuisine, adobo is a mixture of spices like oregano, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. This dry seasoning mixture is used on meats before cooking. But it can be also made as a wet rub used to marinate meats or vegetables.

The Mexican version of adobo is a sauce made with tomatoes, garlic, oregano, salt, vinegar, and chili peppers. The most used hot peppers in the Mexican version of adobo sauce are chipotle and poblano, but other chilly peppers are also used.

If you don’t have adobo sauce at home you can use some ingredients from your pantry, or you can buy other similar sauces to adobo. These are one of the better substitutes for adobo sauce you can use in your dishes. Let’s discuss each in detail.

1. Adobo seasoning

Adobo seasoning

The basic ingredients in this seasoning include garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, and ground black pepper. It is mostly used in sauces, rice, stews, beans, veggies, soups, or as a base for marinades and dry rubs for meats.

It has the same content as adobo sauce without the liquid. However, you can add some vinegar, and lemon juice. Or another liquid you like. You can also add some spices for better flavor.

2. Chipotle in adobo sauce

Chipotle is Mexican jalapeno chili pepper ideal for sauces, vegetables, beans, stews, soups, and marinades. When they are added in adobo sauce they are dried and smoked for a beautiful smoky flavor.

Chipotle in adobo sauce is a hot sauce. Thus, if you don’t like hot or you are cooking for your kids don’t use it as a substitute for adobo sauce.

3. Chili-garlic sauce

This sauce is made with vinegar, chili peppers, garlic, and salt. It has a slightly acidic garlic flavor and works well in sauces, stir-fries, and soups.

You can use this sauce as a substitute for adobo sauce. However, if you’re not a fan of the strong garlic flavor add some tomato paste and oregano. Or some other spices you like.

4. Ranchero sauce

Ranchera sauce is perfect for chicken, pork, or beef meat, and veggies. Or added to tacos and nachos as a filling. It’s a mix of tomatoes, oregano, chili peppers, garlic, onion, salt, and oil. It has a beautifully smoky and spicy flavor.

To look more like adobo sauce you can add soy sauce, vinegar, or some other herbs. But don’t add too much salt because ranchero sauce is already salted.

5. Achiote paste

Achiote paste is a staple in the Caribbean, Mexican, and Central American cuisines. It’s a mix of annatto seeds, garlic, oregano, black pepper, coriander, cloves, and cumin. Annatto seeds have a sweet-peppery and nutty flavor. They work as both food coloring and spice.

Reduce this paste with broth or water before cooking. It adds a sweet, spicy, and smokey flavor. You can use this paste as a rub for meats and fish. Or as marinade and sauce. If it lacks chili peppers, you can add some for a spicy flavor.

6. Hoisin sauce

Hoisin sauce

This thick dark-colored sauce consists of chilly peppers, vinegar, garlic, sesame oil, fermented soybeans,five-spice powder, fennel, and sugar.

It has a strong salty and sweet umami flavor. Hoisin sauce is a great dipping sauce but you can also use it for marinades, in stir-fries, or as a glaze for meats.

This sauce is very salty, so you can add some water, vinegar, lemon juice, or oil to reduce the saltiness. You can also add some onion, tomatoes, or garlic to enhance the flavor according to your taste.

7. Cajun seasoning

Cajun seasoning mix includes garlic powder, oregano, chili pepper, black pepper, and smoked paprika. It has a spicy and smokey flavor with a hint of garlic.

Cajun seasoning is great for meats, seafood, soups, vegetables, stir-fries, and as a dipping sauce. This seasoning is spicy, so you should not add too much to your dish. You can use it as a dry rub or add some olive oil, lemon juice, or vinegar and marinate the meat in it.

8. Homemade adobo sauce

The best substitute for store-bought adobo sauce is homemade adobo sauce.

The recipe includes 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 tablespoon vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon onion powder, 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika or chili sauce, 1/2 teaspoon soy sauce, oregano and cumin, and 1 tablespoon tomato paste.

Mix all the ingredients and strain the mixture. Store it in a jar in the refrigerator. You can also freeze this sauce and use it for your future recipes.

Also check: 8 Best Plum Sauce Substitutes


What can I substitute for chipotle in adobo?

For chipotle in adobo, you can substitute smoked paprika, chipotle powder, or any chili pepper you have.

Is adobo sauce the same as chipotle sauce?

No, they are not the same sauce. But the chipotle sauce consists of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, some plain yogurt, garlic, and lime juice. So, you have two sauces in one.

Final Verdict

Adobo sauce is a mix of different things in different regions. But one thing is in common in all adobo sauces. And that is the appetizing flavor they give to dishes.

Maybe some of these substitutes will give a different flavor to your dishes. However, they are all tasty and have their unique content. Try some of these substitutes and share your favorite in the comments. We will be happy to read your comments.

Adobo Sauce

Homemade Adobo Sauce


  • 6 cups water
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar
  • 4dried guajillo chiles
  • 4​ ​dried ancho chiles
  • 1/2 cup oil 
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1cup of broth
  • 3 garlic cloves minced
  • 1  onion diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 tablespoon oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/8 cup lemon juice


    1. Clean the chiles from the seeds and fry them in hot oil.
    2. Add the water and half of the vinegar to a pot and boil the chiles in it. Let them soak for a few hours.
    3. Blend the peppers with the tomato paste, the other half of the vinegar, and a little broth in a paste.
    4. Saute the garlic and the onion and add the remaining broth, lemon juice, chile paste, and seasonings.
    5. Cook until it thickens.
    6. Store the sauce in an airtight container in a refrigerator.


You can adjust the amount of salt and spices to your taste, or use lime or orange juice instead of lemon juice.

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