12 Best Adobo Sauce Substitutes

Adobo Sauce

We all want sauce on our roasted meat or dip our fries in a juicy sauce. My favorite sauce 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. Variations include coconut milk, rice vinegar, coconut vinegar, olive oil, and other liquids. Other variations include added onion, cumin, brown sugar, parsley, and lemon or orange juice.

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

Best Adobo Sauce Substitutes

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

In the Philippines, 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 essential ingredients of the Philippines’ adobo. Adobo dishes can also be 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 also be used as a wet rub 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 buy other similar spices 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 essential ingredients in this seasoning include garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, and ground black pepper. It is mainly 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 drink you like. You can also add some spices for better flavor.

2. Chipotle in Adobo Sauce

Chipotle is a Mexican jalapeno chili pepper ideal for sauces, vegetables, beans, stews, soups, and marinades. When added to 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 cooking for your kids, don’t use it as a substitute for adobo sauce.

3. Chili-Garlic Sauce

This sauce contains 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.

Also check: 10 Best Chili Garlic Sauce Substitutes

4. Ranchero Sauce

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

You can add soy sauce, vinegar, or other herbs to look like adobo sauce. 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 mixes 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 solid salty and sweet umami flavor. Hoisin sauce is a great dipping sauce, but you can also use it for marinades, stir-fries, or as a glaze for meats.

This sauce is very salty, so you can add 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 smoky 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 olive oil, lemon juice, or vinegar and marinate the meat.

8. Homemade Adobo Sauce

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

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

9. Ancho Chili Paste

Ancho chili paste is made with rehydrated and pureed dry poblano peppers. It has a red-brown color, is earthy, slightly fruity, and has a mild to medium spicy flavor.

Ancho chili paste gives heat to sauces, enchiladas, salsa, marinades, dips, and dressings. It doesn’t have the same flavor as adobo sauce, but you can use it as its substitute to give a nice spicy flavor to your dishes.

10. Tabasco Chipotle Hot Sauce

Tabasco chipotle hot sauce is another good substitute for adobo sauce. It has a slightly different flavor and texture than adobo sauce and will give your dishes a nice smoky, spicy flavor.

Tabasco chipotle hot sauce is great for grilled meats, marinades, and dips. But it also enhances the taste of sandwiches, pasta, salads, French fries, and tacos.

11. Greek Seasoning

Greek seasoning is a blend of dried herbs and spices like oregano, dill, thyme, basil, marjoram, pepper, salt, onion flakes, and garlic powder.

This versatile seasoning has a savory, earthy, minty, slightly sweet, and somewhat spicy flavor and is used in many different dishes.

It is usually added to marinades, salads, dips, dressings, roasted vegetables, meats, fish, and shrimp.

You can buy Greek seasoning or make it home and adjust the ingredients to your taste. Greek seasoning doesn’t have the same flavor as adobo sauce but will give your dishes a beautiful flavor.

12. Italian Seasoning

This is another spice blend you can use as a substitute for adobo sauce. Italian seasoning is usually made with basil, oregano, thyme, marjoram, and rosemary. But variations are also made with red chili flakes, fennel seeds, dried sage, parsley, and garlic powder.

Italian seasoning has an earthy, savory, sweet, and spicy flavor. It is used in many dishes like soups, dressings, marinades, sauces, meat, fish, and vegetables. Substitute adobo sauce with Italian seasoning and enjoy its wonderful flavor.


What can I substitute for chipotle in adobo?

You can substitute smoked paprika, chipotle powder, or chili pepper for chipotle in adobo.

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.

How to Make Adobo Sauce From Adobo Seasoning?

Add water, vinegar, or lemon juice; you can make adobo sauce from adobo seasoning. Mix all the ingredients until you get the desired consistency and use it in your dishes. Your dishes will get a very similar flavor to adobo sauce.

What Spice is Similar to Adobo?

The spice that is similar to adobo is oregano. Oregano is one of the main ingredients in adobo, alongside black pepper, ground cumin, onion powder, garlic powder, chili peppers, and salt.

Can I Substitute Chili Powder for Adobo Sauce?

Chili powder doesn’t have the same flavor and texture as adobo sauce. It is usually made with ground-dried chilies and spices like oregano, cumin, and paprika.

Therefore, you can substitute chili powder for adobo sauce, but you will not get the same flavor as with adobo sauce.

What is a Substitute for Chipotle in Adobo Sauce?

Dried chipotle powder, cayenne pepper, or smoked paprika are some of the substitutes you can use for chipotle in adobo sauce.

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 delicious 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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