When cooking a Filipino, Spanish, or Portuguese recipe, you will need adobo sauce. Made with soy sauce, vinegar, salt, garlic, oregano, black pepper, bay leaf, and paprika, adobo sauce gives any dish a rich, savory taste. However, not many companies manufacture this sauce, and you might not find one when you need it.
Since adobo sauce contains spices commonly found in the kitchen, you can make homemade adobo sauce if you have time. You can also use adobo seasoning, hot chipotle sauce, ranchero sauce, chili garlic sauce, ancho chili paste, achiote paste, hoisin sauce, Cajun seasoning, Greek seasoning, and Italian seasoning.
Although adobo sauce originated from the Philippines, different countries have different takes on adobo sauce. This article will discuss each substitute: its contents, uses, and substitution ratio.
Table of Contents
Best Adobo Sauce Substitute
Homemade Adobo Sauce
Try making homemade adobo sauce if you have the time and want to make the perfect substitute for store-bought adobo sauce. Since adobo sauce consists of basic spices, making this at home is very easy. You will need:
- ¼ cup vinegar (preferably cane vinegar)
- ¼ cup meat broth
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tablespoon peppercorns
- 1 head garlic, crushed
- 3 tablespoons minced onions
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch dissolved in 2 tablespoons of water
If you wish to use the adobo sauce as a marinade, skip the cornstarch and add the mixture directly to the meat. However, if you intend to use it as an adobo paste, just combine all the ingredients except the cornstarch and boil them for 10 minutes on low heat. Then, add the cornstarch slurry and discard the bay leaves. Mix until well combined, and serve with your favorite dish.
Also considered the "dry adobo," adobo seasoning blend only contains the dry ingredients of adobo sauce. Common elements to dry adobo include granulated garlic, salt, onion powder, black pepper, and oregano. It may also contain turmeric and citrus zest, but other brands add more spices like cumin and paprika to the mix.
Although this substitute lacks vinegar, it contains citrus zest to add that tang. When used as a replacement, you can rub the seasoning on the meat and leave it for at least 30 minutes. Adobo seasoning also works well with grilling, roasting, and even sauteing meats and vegetables.
If you wish to turn your adobo seasoning into adobo sauce, just add water, lemon juice or vinegar, and a little bit of soy sauce. Since adobo seasoning already contains salt, you can use 1 tablespoon to replace 4 tablespoons of adobo sauce.
Chipotle Hot Sauce
If you’re making a Mexican recipe that requires adobo sauce, you can use the hot chipotle sauce as a substitute, like the Tabasco chipotle hot sauce. It might be a creamy sauce, flavored mayonnaise, or a spicy red sauce. Chipotle spice is utilized in any dish to give them a smoky, spicy flavor.
The main difference between adobo sauce and chipotle sauce is the peppers used. The chipotle sauce gets its smokey, spicy taste from roasted chili peppers, commonly used in Mexican cuisine. These sauces could be slightly sweet due to the modest sweetness of the chipotle chili pepper.
Lime juice, cilantro, and garlic are all common ingredients in chipotle sauces. Some tomato-based varieties even taste like barbeque, but the main flavor comes from the chipotle pepper. When used as a substitute, 1 tablespoon of hot chipotle sauce replaces 2 tablespoons of adobo sauce in a recipe.
Try the ranchero sauce if you’re up for a savory salsa to replace your adobo sauce. Ranchero sauce uses tomatoes, chili peppers, onions, cilantro, garlic, and a blend of herbs and spices. This sauce, however, comes in a variety of flavors. Despite this, they all remain predominantly tomato-centric, which gives the hint of sourness you can expect in adobo sauce.
Fire-smoked tomatoes and dried chipotle chilis give ranchero sauce a smokey taste with lingering spiciness. Sauteing the ingredients brings out the aroma of the dry spices while also blending sweet and savory flavors.
When used as a substitute, use 1 tablespoon of ranchero sauce for every 3 tablespoons of adobo sauce required. You can add soy sauce or vinegar if you wish for a lighter sauce, but ranchero sauce is excellent on its own.
Chili Garlic Sauce
Since adobo sauce contains lots of garlic, you might enjoy chili garlic sauce as a substitute. This sauce will take your dish to another level with chili peppers, garlic, vinegar, salt, and sugar. Most chili garlic sauces are made by frying them in oil for about 10 minutes to incorporate all the ingredients.
Chili garlic sauce is excellent as a marinade and as a dipping sauce. In fact, in Asian cuisine, most dishes are paired with chili garlic oil and chili garlic sauce on the side. When used as a substitute for adobo sauce, use 1 tablespoon to replace 3 tablespoons of adobo sauce.
If you find this too spicy than what you could take, reduce the substitution to half a tablespoon. You can then add soy sauce and vinegar to the mixture.
If you're a fan of Mexican and Central American dishes, you probably have achiote paste. Garlic, annatto seeds, oregano, black pepper, cumin, coriander, and cloves, are all used in making this paste. Annatto seeds provide a nutty, sweet-peppery taste and give color to the dish.
When used as a substitute for adobo sauce, dilute the paste with broth or water before using. It imparts a sweet, spicy, and smoky flavor to the dish. This paste can be used to rub meats and seafood, alternatively, as a marinade and sauce. If it doesn't have chili peppers or chili powder, add some for a kick.
Use two tablespoons of achiote paste, dilute it with ¼ cup of water, and use the mixture to substitute adobo sauce.
This thick, dark-colored sauce contains chili peppers or chili powder, garlic, vinegar, sesame oil, fermented soybeans, five-spice powder, fennel, and sugar. It has a distinct umami flavor that is both salty and sweet. Hoisin sauce is a fantastic dipping sauce, but it also works well in marinades, stir-fries, and as a meat glaze.
Because this sauce is salty, you may dilute it with water, vinegar, lemon juice, or oil. To increase the flavor, you can add chopped onion, tomatoes, or garlic, according to your preferences. To dilute, use two tablespoons of hoisin sauce, dilute it with ¼ cup of water, and use the mixture to substitute for adobo sauce.
Cajun seasoning is a peppery spice blend generally made with paprika, cayenne pepper, black pepper, garlic powder, and oregano, often used as an all-around spice blend for grilling, roasting, sauteing, and barbecuing. If you’re supposed to use adobo sauce for seafood, Cajun seasoning is the best substitute for you.
Since Cajun seasoning is a dry spice blend, you can use this like how you would like adobo seasoning. You can rub the seasoning into the meat and let it marinate or mix it with water, vinegar, and soy sauce. However, note that this is a spicy mix, so we recommend using just a tablespoon for every 5 tablespoons of adobo sauce and working your way up.
Also, most Cajun seasoning already contains salt, so do not overdo it or use too much soy sauce when diluting it.
Greek seasoning contains black pepper, salt, onion powder, garlic powder, and oregano like adobo seasoning. Depending on the brand, it can also include dill, basil, parsley, cinnamon, nutmeg, and marjoram. It offers a savory, minty, peppery, and earthy with sweet undertones.
Since it’s a seasoning blend, you can mix it with water, vinegar, and soy sauce if you wish to imitate adobo sauce marinade. However, note that this mix does not contain any citrus scent, so adding lemon juice can also be helpful.
When used as a substitute, use 1 and ½ tablespoons and dilute with ¼ cup water. Add a tablespoon of lemon juice or a dash of lemon zest and 2 tablespoons of soy sauce. You can cook the mixture with a cornstarch slurry if you like a dipping sauce.
Like Greek seasoning, Italian seasoning contains 5 basic spices, including basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary, and marjoram. Although these herbs are not often used in making adobo sauce, they provide an aroma that enhances any dish you wish to make. Italian seasoning also offers savory and slightly sweet, earthy flavors.
When used as an adobo sauce substitute, you need to mix 1 and ½ tablespoons Italian seasoning with ¼ cup water, 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 2 tablespoons vinegar, and 1 teaspoon of lemon juice or lemon zest for that citrusy scent and taste. Use the mixture to substitute adobo sauce in marinades and sauces.
Ancho Chili Paste
Ancho chili paste is considered a satisfactory adobo sauce substitute. The majority of those sold in supermarkets comprise dried ancho chili purée, water, and salt. However, this may not be the best option because ancho chili does not have the same flavor as adobo sauce.
However, if you need a sweet-smoky undertone to your food, this is an excellent option. Furthermore, ancho pepper is a fantastic sauce base. You may add other ingredients or spices to the sauce's taste to create a whole new flavor burst.
You can mix 2 tablespoons of ancho chili paste with ¼ cup water, 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 2 tablespoons vinegar, and black pepper. You can use this mixture to substitute adobo sauce for a spicy, peppery taste.
Let's look at the best adobo sauce substitutes and see which of their characteristics match your cooking needs.
|Homemade Adobo Sauce||Made with less than 10 ingredients and done in 15 minutes. Best substitute for store-bought sauce.|
|Adobo Seasoning||Also known as "dry adobo," this substitute uses citrus zest in place of the traditional vinegar.|
|Chipotle Hot Sauce||Hot and spicy substitute. Quite similar to adobo sauce but utilizes a different pepper.|
|Ranchero Sauce||A tomatoey sauce that gives a savory finish to any recipe. Best used as a side dish.|
|Chili Garlic Sauce||Made with salt and sugar to give that savory taste. Might be too spicy for some.|
|Achiote Paste||Provides a sweet-peppery taste. Needs to be diluted before using as a substitute.|
|Hoisin Sauce||A salty sauce that needs dilution when used as a substitute. Savory and slightly sweet.|
|Cajun Seasoning||Another spicy blend that mainly contains paprika. Can be used like adobo seasoning.|
|Greek Seasoning||Made with 10 herbs, this substitute provides an earthy taste with a sweet undertone.|
|Italian Seasoning||Needs additional soy sauce and vinegar. Provides a savory, earthy, and slightly sweet taste.|
|Ancho Chili Paste||Provides a sweet-smoky taste to your dish. Lemon, soy sauce, and vinegar should be added.|
Adobo sauce is different from the chipotle sauce. The original chipotle mayo is made with sour cream, mayo, and canned chipotle. The hot chipotle sauce uses tomatoes, chipotle peppers, or dried chipotle powder and is often used as a salsa. On the other hand, adobo sauce is mainly used as a marinade but can be used as a side sauce. Both contain chili pepper or chili powder, but adobo sauce is sourer than chipotle sauce.
If you don’t have chipotle sauce, you can use smoked paprika as a replacement, especially in dishes that already contain tomatoes. However, if you’re after a more adobo flavor, you can add chili pepper, black pepper, and garlic powder.
While there are different versions of adobo sauce, the original recipe from the Filipino adobo contains soy sauce, vinegar, salt, garlic, black pepper, and a dash of sugar. Adobo sauce was made originally as a marinade, hence the name.
Since adobo sauce is a foreign sauce, you can see it in the international aisle of the grocery store. If you happen to be in a Mexican, Spanish, or Filipino store, you can easily see adobo sauce along the condiment aisle.
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