The 9 Best Substitutes For Adobo Sauce

What can I use instead of Adobo sauce? Tabasco chipotle hot sauce and dry Adobo seasoning emulate Adobo sauce best in terms of flavor. However, you can also use sauces like Ranchero, chili garlic, or hoisin sauce. Then, achiote and ancho chili pastes or Adobo and Cajun seasoning are suitable replacements. 

Adobo sauce is a basic yet indispensable ingredient in popular Mexican and Spanish dishes. Its smoky, earthy, and sweet flavor is mostly used as a marinade for various meat and fish. Regardless of its versatility, Adobo sauce is not readily available. Here are the perfect substitutes to help fill the void of spicy Adobo sauce.

The Best Adobo Sauce Substitutes

Tabasco Chipotle Hot Sauce

Tabasco chipotle hot sauce is a quick and easy substitute for Adobo sauce. This big-brand hot sauce is only a shelf away at any grocery store, and you won’t edge any closer to the taste of Adobo.

Tabasco chipotle hot sauce lacks the pulpy texture of Adobo sauce but has similar core ingredients like chipotle peppers, onion powder, garlic powder, vinegar, salt, sugar, and spices.

You can blend Tabasco with dried chipotle or ancho to emulate Adobo sauce. Use Tabasco chipotle sauce to add a smoky and spicy flavor to marinades, grilled meats, and nachos.

Ranchero Sauce

Ranchero sauce bubbles with flavor – it’s Adobo’s less-spicy cousin. As a result, Ranchero can be an excellent Adobo sauce substitute for marinades, meat rubs, and sauce bases.

Ranchero is pretty similar to Adobo sauce. It is zesty, salty, and tomatoey. However, the flavors are more subtle compared to Adobo sauce.

Use Ranchero sauce if you want to dial back on the spiciness or sweetness of Adobo sauce. However, you can add chipotle, guajillo, and ancho chilis to mimic Adobo.

Chili Garlic Sauce

Garlic is a prominent flavor of Adobo sauce. Therefore, chili garlic sauce can make a suitable substitute for those who enjoy lingering chili flavors on their tongue.

Chili garlic sauce is versatile and works well in all cuisines. Consider replacing Adobo with chili garlic sauce for marinades and dipping sauces. 

Chili garlic sauce is generally hotter than adobo sauce. So, only use one-third to half the quantity when replacing adobo sauce.

You can also add soy sauce or vinegar to reduce the spiciness of chili garlic sauce.

Ancho Chile Paste

Ancho chile paste is a slightly controversial Adobo sauce substitute. It does not work as a one-for-one replacement, but you can use it as a foundational ingredient.

Most store-bought ancho chile pastes contain puréed ancho chile, water, and salt. So, it lacks the depth of Adobo sauce.

However, it will provide a sweet-smoky flavor crucial in recipes that call for Adobo.

Although Ancho chile is an excellent flavor foundation, add soy sauce, vinegar, and water to ancho chile paste to create a sauce bursting with flavor.

Achiote Paste

Achiote paste is a brick-red paste with sweet, earthy, and slightly spicy characteristics. You can use this paste as an Adobo sauce replacement for marinades, sauces, or meat rubs.

Achiote paste contains cumin, annatto seeds, garlic, oregano, black pepper, cloves, and coriander.

First, dilute achiote paste when replacing Adobo sauce. You can reduce two tablespoons of the paste with ¼ cup water or broth. Then, add some chili peppers to add a spicy kick.

Hoisin Sauce

Hoisin sauce is a thick, dark sauce with a sweet and salty umami flavor. Hoisin is mostly used as a dipping sauce, but you can use it as a marinade or meat glaze substitute for Adobo sauce.

Hoisin sauce consists of fermented soybeans, chili peppers, chili powder, sesame oil, garlic, five-spice powder, vinegar, fennel, and sugar.

Add onion powder, vinegar (or lemon juice), and tomatoes to reduce the saltiness and create a closer flavor to Adobo sauce. Dilute two tablespoons hoisin sauce with ¼ cup water.

Adobo Seasoning

You can use Adobo seasoning to replace recipes that call for Adobo sauce. It only consists of dry ingredients, lending the same flavor profile to Adobo sauce.

You can use Adobo seasoning dry as a meat rub or turn it into a sauce by adding water, vinegar (or lemon juice), and a splash of soy sauce.

Cajun Seasoning

A Cajun seasoning blend is another excellent Adobo sauce substitute, lending a spicy, smoky flavor. However, the taste can differ slightly.

Cajun season typically contains paprika, black pepper, onion and garlic powder, cayenne pepper, salt, and oregano. You can use the Cajun seasoning as a dry rub or add vinegar, lemon juice, or oil to create a liquid.

Use a 1:1 ratio when replacing Adobo sauce with Cajun seasoning.

Homemade Adobo Sauce

If you have the loose ingredients at hand, make a homemade Adobo sauce for the closest comparison to store-bought Adobo sauce.

Mix 1 tablespoon vinegar and tomato paste and ½ teaspoon smoked paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, soy sauce, oregano, and Cumin powder.

Then, strain the mixture and store it in the refrigerator.