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13 Best Adobo Sauce Substitutes [2023 Must-Try Alternatives]

By: Shivani Choudhary
Updated On: September 23, 2023

You're in the middle of crafting a Spanish or Filipino recipe that calls for that distinctive, spicy kick of adobo sauce. You're ready to go, but then you reach into your pantry, and - disaster strikes - you find your jar of adobo sauce is empty! We've all been in situations like this. Rather than panicking or running to the nearest grocery store, wouldn't it be great to have a list of perfect adobo sauce substitutes handy?

Now, with a little bit of kitchen ingenuity and a dash of adventure, you can explore using various alternatives that can perfectly mimic or even enhance the rich, smoky, and tangy flavor of adobo sauce. This detailed article is here to navigate you through your culinary journey of discovering potential stand-ins for this traditional seasoning.

Also Read: Best Pluckers Sauces

13 Best Adobo Sauce Substitutes in 2023

Best Adobo Sauce Substitutes in 2023

If you're a culinary enthusiast like me, you understand the importance of having an arsenal of alternatives at your disposal. Here, we will delve into the 13 best adobo sauce alternatives that bring as much tastiness and zest to your dishes as the beloved adobo sauce itself.

1. Tabasco Chipotle Hot Sauce: A Smoky Alternative to Adobo Sauce

Tabasco Chipotle Hot Sauce - Best Adobo Sauce Substitute

When it comes to adobo sauce substitutes, one at the top of my list has got to be Tabasco Chipotle Hot Sauce. With its balance of pungent heat and the smoky flavor imparted by chipotle peppers, it creates a harmonious dance of flavors rivaling that of genuine adobo sauce.

Imagine adding the smoky heat of Tabasco Chipotle Hot Sauce into your cozy pot of chili or using it to jazz up your BBQ marinade. It’s the bridge that connects the fiery courage of the Tabasco brand to the smoky wisdom of the adobo sauce, making it an incredibly versatile substitute.

Additionally, all it takes is a few drops to allow your dishes to resonate with the rich, smoky notes that this sauce is best known for. While many people reach for your standard hot sauce, consider becoming adventurous. Trust me, your taste buds will thank you.

Remember to control the heat by adjusting the quantity – a little goes a long way!

2. Ranchero Sauce: Adding Depth and Spiciness to Your Dishes

Ranchero Sauce - Best Adobo Sauce Substitute

If you're looking for something with a twist, Ranchero Sauce is another exemplary substitute that brings a tantalizing depth of flavor to your dishes. This sauce, a gem in Mexican cuisine, is loaded with tomatoes, jalapenos, and a delightful blend of herbs and spices.

Never underestimate the adventures that Ranchero sauce can embark on! It's hearty undertones and tangy heat make it a colorful substitute for adobo sauce, adding extra vibrancy to your Mexican-inspired dishes right in your very own kitchen.

So go ahead, smear it on your enchiladas, drizzle it on your huevos rancheros, or even spoon it onto your grilled chicken. Ranchero Sauce is proof that sometimes, substitutes can be just as delightful, if not more so, than the original.

3. Homemade Spice Blends: Creating Customized Flavors

Homemade Spice Blends - Best Adobo Sauce Substitute

Without a shadow of a doubt, familiarizing yourself with Homemade Spice Blends can open up a world of culinary possibilities. Imagine having the power to customize the flavor profile - be it the heat, the savoriness, the tang. Now, isn't that empowering?

To mimic the essence of adobo sauce, consider combining spices like cumin, oregano, garlic, chili flakes, and more. Adjust and experiment until you discover a blend that sings to your palate.

Remember, the beauty of using a homemade spice blend as your adobo sauce substitute lies in its personalization. Dishes taste all the more memorable when seasoned with a blend that’s been lovingly crafted by yourself!

4. Adobo Seasoning: Closest to the Real Thing

Adobo Seasoning- Best Adobo Sauce Substitute

Now, it probably comes as no surprise that Adobo Seasoning appears on this list. If you can't get your hands on adobo sauce, why not turn to its dry counterpart? With its multidimensional flavor profile that includes salt, garlic, oregano, turmeric, and black pepper, Adobo seasoning indeed comes closest to offering that authentic adobo experience.

Ideal for rubbing on meats, sprinkling over roasted veggies, or even stirring into your soups or stews, Adobo seasoning is all about versatility. Beautifully embodying the spirit of adobo sauce, this seasoning offers the perfect harmony of flavors that taste like home.

5. Chipotle in Adobo Sauce: A Convenient Substitute

Chipotle in Adobo Sauce A Convenient Substitute

When the craving for adobo sauce hits, but the pantry disappoints, chipotle peppers in adobo sauce can be your savior. While it's not exactly adobo sauce, Chipotle in Adobo Sauce brings a smoky, fiery, and slightly sweet vibe to any dish it graces.

Those little cans pack a punch of flavor that surpasses expectations. Chop them up, blend them into a sauce, or even use the adobo sauce in the can - the creative culinary choices are endless.

Long story short, when adobo sauce is not an option, Chipotle in adobo has got your back, bringing that delicious heat and smokiness right into your dish.

6. Chili Garlic Sauce: A Tangy and Spicy Option

Chili Garlic Sauce - Best Adobo Sauce Substitute

One of the most divine flavor combinations has to be chili and garlic, don't you think? That's where the delight of Chili Garlic Sauce shines. Its fiery kick, coupled with the enchanting aroma and innate depth of garlic, makes it a knockout substitute for adobo sauce.

From elevating your stir-fried greens to enlivening your noodle soups, the zesty tang and spicy notes of chili garlic sauce won't let you miss adobo sauce. Its versatility is its charm, and you'll be amazed at how comforting your dishes can taste with this in your creative culinary toolbox.

But be careful, the heat of chili garlic sauce can sneak up on you! So adjust according to your heat tolerance and dish requirements. In the end, it's all about finding the right balance.

7. Ancho Chile Paste: A Bold and Flavorful Replacement

Ancho Chile Paste - Best Adobo Sauce Substitute

Stepping into the realm of the bold and adventurous, let's explore Ancho Chile Paste as an adobo sauce substitute. Enveloping a smoky sweetness, ancho chile paste combines ancho chilies' mild heat with a robust richness that's hard to resist.

Believe me, this is no ordinary paste. It’s like a secret agent working to transform your dishes from okay to over-the-top delicious! Perfect for your chili con carne or added to your barbecue sauce, the ancho chile paste can seamlessly weave its magic into your cooking repertoire.

While it may not replicate the exact flavor of adobo sauce, it surely celebrates its spirit - fiery, bold, and unapologetically flavorful!

Also Read: Best Lee Kum Kee Sauces

8. Hoisin Sauce: A Sweet and Savory Alternative

Hoisin Sauce - Best Adobo Sauce Substitute

For an unexpected twist, consider Hoisin Sauce as an adobo sauce substitute. Thanks to its unique combination of sweet, salty, and slightly tart flavors, hoisin sauce can take your culinary creations on a tasty Asian-inspired journey.

From jazzing up your stir-fried noodles to enhancing your grilled meats, hoisin sauce's versatile nature brings a unique layer of flavors wherever it's used. While it strays a bit from the traditional adobo profile, it’s an exciting substitute with a charm all its own. Hoisin sauce could be that little secret ingredient that makes your guests wonder, "Hmm, what's that delightful flavor?" Now, won't that be fun?

9. Cajun Seasoning: A Spicy Stand-In

Cajun Seasoning - Best Adobo Sauce Substitute

If you're one who enjoys a kick of spice in your meals, Cajun seasoning could very well be your adobo sauce substitute. This spicy, aromatic blend boasts a combination of flavors that can turn any bland dish into a hot and flavorful treat.

Whether applied as a dry rub, mixed into marinades, sprinkled over dishes, or stirred into sauces, Cajun seasoning does not disappoint. Its intricate mix of paprika, cayenne, garlic powder, pepper, and oregano will bring the heat, making it an excellent substitute to revamp your dishes.

10. Homemade Adobo Sauce: Perfecting your own Recipe

Homemade Adobo Sauce - Best Adobo Sauce Substitute

When all else fails, why not make your own Homemade Adobo Sauce? This way, you can tweak the ingredients and their proportions to suit your culinary preference - perhaps a little more garlic, or a hint of extra chili for that kick? Go for it; after all, who knows your taste better than you do?

For starters, a simple recipe can include vinegar, soya sauce, garlic, bay leaves, salt, and black pepper. As you get comfortable and confident, feel free to mix and match, adding your favorite spices or herbs to create your unique blend of homemade adobo sauce. It's your journey to the best adobo sauce substitute, so let it be a fun and delicious one!

11. Achiote Paste: A Flavorful Substitute from Mexico

Achiote Paste - Best Adobo Sauce Substitute

The heart of the Yucatan cuisine, Achiote Paste has been a traditional Mexican favorite for years. This spice blend, known for its rich, earthy, slightly nutty, and subtly sweet taste, can be an interesting stand-in when you're out of adobo sauce.

How about making some marinated chicken in achiote paste? Or liven up a vegetarian dish where the achiote paste brings a whole new dimension of flavors? Trust me, the results can be surprising and delightful in equal measure. Remember to blend it with a bit of vinegar or citrus juice to mellow its rich intensity!

12. Greek Seasoning: A Mediterranean Twist

Greek Seasoning - Best Adobo Sauce Substitute

Indeed, the world of flavors is as vast as the sea, and Greek Seasoning is a treasure island in itself. Aromatic, zesty, and brimming with traditional Mediterranean flavors, Greek Seasoning proves itself to be a dynamic adobo sauce substitute.

Imagine the impact of thyme, basil, oregano, dill, and marjoram on your dishes. Regardless if it's a simple salad or a grand meat roast, Greek Seasoning spruces up anything it touches with a bold and exotic flavor. Plus, it's something fresh, something different, and certainly worth trying!

13. Italian Seasoning: A Herbal Substitute

Italian Seasoning - Best Adobo Sauce Substitute

Italian Seasoning really stands out with its unique blend of dried herbs commonly used in Italian cuisine. As an adobo sauce substitute, Italian Seasoning brings a tapestry of flavors- sweet basil, warm oregano, aromatic rosemary, piquant thyme, and cleansing lavender.

It’s perfect for extra seasoning in your soups, stews, or spaghetti sauce or to give your meat dishes a robust herbal zest. Just a dash in your dishes, and it's like a small trip to the Italian countryside. Truly a must-have for the imaginative and innovative home cook!

Also Read: Best Trader Joe's Pasta Sauces

How to Make Homemade Adobo Sauce?

Adobo sauce is a savory, slightly spicy sauce characterized by bold flavors of tomato, vinegar, garlic, and a blend of spices, often used in Latin American and Filipino cuisine dishes. But did you know that you could whip up your own homemade adobo sauce right in your kitchen? Let me take you through the steps:


  1. 8 dried guajillo chiles
  2. 4 garlic cloves
  3. 1/2 cup of apple cider vinegar
  4. 2 tablespoons of brown sugar
  5. 1 teaspoon of salt
  6. 1 teaspoon of oregano
  7. 1/2 teaspoon of ground cumin
  8. 1/4 teaspoon of ground cinnamon


  1. Start by rehydrating your guajillo chiles. Remove the stems and seeds, then soak the chiles in hot water for about 30 minutes until they are soft.
  2. Add the softened chiles, garlic, vinegar, brown sugar, and spices into a blender. Blend until you achieve a smooth consistency.
  3. Pass the resulting blend through a fine-mesh sieve to eliminate any chunks or seeds that might make the sauce less enjoyable.
  4. Transfer the sauce to an airtight container for storage.

A homemade adobo sauce delivers not only a burst of flavors but also gives you room to customize the blend to your taste preferences.

Why Use an Adobo Sauce Substitute?

Why Use an Adobo Sauce Substitute?

Sometimes we might find ourselves in the midst of preparing a delicious meal, only to realize that we've run out of a crucial element like Adobo sauce. Or perhaps, we simply want to experiment with new flavors while maintaining the essence of traditional Adobo sauce. In these scenarios, having knowledge of Adobo sauce substitutes can truly be a lifesaver!

Adobo sauce is a rich, reddish-brown, flavorful sauce or marinade used in Mexican and Southwestern cuisines. The key ingredients include chilli peppers, garlic, tomatoes, and often a mix of spices. It's embraced worldwide for its ability to lend a depth of flavor to dishes, making them taste robust and complex. However, not everyone has it on hand all the time and, for some, it might be a bit too spicy.

Luckily, there are plenty of substitutes that can offer similar taste profiles, and in some cases, even elevate your dishes to new heights. So, whether you are running low on your Adobo stash or you're just seeking a new twist to your recipes, Adobo sauce substitutes are worth exploring.

While the substitutes might not exactly mirror the taste of Adobo sauce, they offer a harmonious blend of flavors that will keep your dishes exciting without compromising the authenticity too much. Exploring these substitutes can also be a gastronomic adventure for the experimental cook, providing a fun and creative opportunity to mix and match, enhancing your culinary knowledge and skills.

Remember, in cooking, there are no strict rules. Don't be afraid to be creative and adventurous, because that's how the magic really happens in the kitchen!

How to Choose the Right Adobo Sauce Substitute?

Choosing the right adobo sauce substitute can be a daunting task, especially if you’re unsure of the flavor profiles you're aiming for. Nevertheless, there's no need to fret. The secret simply lies in understanding the primary flavor components of adobo sauce and finding an alternative that carries similar qualities.

Adobo sauce is characterized by its smoky, spicy, and slightly sweet flavor. At its core, it typically consists of chili peppers, vinegar, garlic, and a variety of other spices. Because of this rich and unique combination, finding a one-to-one substitute may not be possible. However, it doesn't mean you can't find a suitable alternative that delivers similar flavors.

Consider the dish you are preparing and its required taste. For instance, if you are cooking a Mexican dish, Ranchero sauce or Ancho Chile paste might be a suitable substitute given their similar regional flavor profiles. For an Asian twist, consider using Hoisin sauce. The key is to align the substitute with the cuisine and taste you are aiming for.

Another important factor is the heat level or the spiciness of the sauce. Some people prefer a milder sauce while others can withstand a hotter one. For milder options, consider Greek or Italian seasoning. For a hotter option, Tabasco Chipotle Hot Sauce or Chili Garlic Sauce might hit the spot.

When you're in a bind and can't find these specific substitutes, using a combination of homemade spice blends and vinegar can come really close to the original adobo flavor profile.

Remember, the right substitute ultimately caters to your personal preference. So feel free to experiment with what you have, and you might just discover a new favorite sauce along the way.

Why Choose Tabasco Chipotle Hot Sauce as an Adobo Substitute?

Why Choose Tabasco Chipotle Hot Sauce as an Adobo Substitute?

Now, let's talk about an excellent adobo sauce substitute - the Tabasco Chipotle Hot Sauce. Tabasco, a household name, delivers a distinctive smoky flavor thanks to the chipotle peppers, which are essentially smoked jalapeños - this gives it an edge as a suitable adobo sauce substitute.

So why should you opt for Tabasco Chipotle Hot Sauce as a substitute?

  1. Flavor Profile: Tabasco Chipotle Hot Sauce brings a perfect blend of heat and flavor, which makes it an excellent fit for any recipe that calls for adobo sauce. Its smoky undertones harmonize well with the typical sweet or sour background of recipes requiring adobo sauce.
  2. Versatility: This sauce can give a spicy boost to a wide variety of dishes - marinades, soups, stews, grilled meats, and even beverages like Bloody Marys.
  3. Nutritional benefits: Not only does Tabasco Chipotle Hot Sauce elevate your dish's flavors, but it also offers nutritional benefits like boosting metabolism, aiding digestion, and providing a healthy dose of vitamin C.

Choosing Tabasco Chipotle Hot Sauce as your adobo substitute opens up room for creativity while keeping the heat and flavor you love in your meals.

Also Read: Best White Castle Sauces

Frequently Asked Questions

What is adobo sauce?

Adobo sauce is typically a mixture of ingredients like tomatoes, vinegar, garlic, and spices. It's commonly used in Mexican and Filipino cuisines and is known for its tangy, savory, and slightly sweet flavor.

Is there a common substitute for adobo sauce?

Yes, one of the most common adobo sauce substitutes is a mixture of soy sauce, vinegar, and garlic. This combination provides a similar savory, tangy flavor profile.

Will using a substitute for adobo sauce change the taste of my food?

Any substitute can slightly alter the taste of your food. However, the substitutes mentioned here are chosen as they provide the closest possible flavor to authentic adobo sauce.

Can I use barbecue sauce as a substitute for adobo sauce?

While barbecue sauce does not perfectly replicate adobo sauce, it could work if you're in a pinch. Barbecue sauce provides a tangy and sweet flavor just like adobo sauce but may lack the depth of the more complex spices.

Are there any store-bought substitutes for adobo sauce?

Yes, there are store-bought options that can be used as a substitute for adobo sauce. Chipotle sauce, mole sauce, and even some types of hot sauce can work in certain recipes.

Is adobo sauce spicy?

Adobo sauce does have a slight kick, but it is not overly spicy. If you like your food with a bit of heat, feel free to add some chili powder or hot sauce to your substitute mixture.

Can I use tomato sauce as a substitute for adobo sauce?

Adding spices to tomato sauce can sometimes mimic the flavor of adobo sauce. However, it might lack the depth and complexity of authentic adobo.

Can I omit adobo sauce from a recipe if I don't have any?

If a recipe calls for adobo sauce and you don't have any or its substitutes, you could omit it. But remember that this may alter the taste.

Is there a difference between adobo seasoning and adobo sauce?

Yes, there's a significant difference. Adobo seasoning is a dry mix of spices often used in Latin American cooking, while adobo sauce is a flavorful, tomato-based sauce typically used in Mexican and Filipino cuisines.


When I embarked on this savory journey to discover the best adobo sauce substitutes, I didn't realize how many options l would come across. From the smokiness of the chipotle pepper to the mildness of the tomato sauce, it's evident that there's something for everyone. My taste buds have surely had a blast!

So, next time your recipe calls for adobo sauce, don't despair if you can't find any in your local grocery store. Trust me, with an adventurous spirit and these substitutes, your dishes could turn out even more delicious! Don't be afraid to experiment – you never know what culinary masterpieces you might end up creating in your kitchen. Happy cooking!

Food Lover and Storyteller 🍽️✨ With a fork in one hand and a pen in the other, Shivani brings her culinary adventures to life through evocative words and tantalizing tastes. Her love for food knows no bounds, and she's on a mission to share the magic of flavors with fellow enthusiasts.
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