The Best Adobo Paste Substitute for All Your Dishes!


Adobo paste, also known as adobo sauce, may not be as popular as other Mexican condiments and side dishes like guacamole, queso Blanco, or salsa. But that doesn’t make it any less tasty or essential! Unfortunately, the mainstream market still hasn’t picked up on adobo paste as quickly as we’d hoped – we sometimes can’t find adobo paste in ours.

That’s why it prompted us to research the best adobo paste substitute so we can continue whipping up deliciously spicy dishes. We found that ancho chile paste, chili garlic sauce, and even tabasco Chipotle hot sauce work excellently as adobo paste alternatives!

Of course, we don’t stop here. Read on as we share the best substitutes for achiote paste.

The 10 Best Substitutes For Adobo Paste

Adobo paste is a flavoring coming in different variations, depending on the cuisine. We frequently use this to flavor rice dishes, as a marinade or dipping sauce. It has the balanced flavors of sweet, savory, and slightly tangy and spicy with a hint of smokiness.

Choosing an adobo paste substitute will depend on the cuisine. To help narrow down your options, here are the ingredients you can choose from:

1. Tabasco Chipotle Hot Sauce (Most Available)

You get a good bang for your buck with a big brand of bottled hot sauce you can find in any grocery store at a low price. Tabasco Chipotle Hot Sauce contains adobo sauce’s core ingredients, such as chipotle peppers, distilled vinegar, sugar, salt, garlic powder, onion powder, and certain spices.

While Tabasco sauce doesn’t have the same thick and pulpy consistency that adobo paste offers, you can quickly fix this by adjusting your recipe’s ingredients.

Pro-tip: To achieve the most authentic adobo paste flavor, blend a few cups of Tabasco Chipotle hot sauce with dried chipotle, guajillo, or ancho chilies.

2. Adobo Seasoning

No adobo paste? One of the closest substitutes for adobo paste is adobo seasoning, a spice combination that enhances flavors in Latin cuisine.

Like adobo paste, it works well with beef, chicken, and pork, whether as a marinade or dipping sauce. Like the chipotle powder, they have a different consistency and won’t give you the paste-like texture you expect.

Learn more: Adobo Seasoning Substitute (#3 YOU MIGHT HAVE NOW!)

3. Chipotle Powder (A Powdered Substitute)

The chipotle powder consists of ground and smoked chipotle peppers with moderate heat and a slightly sweet and smoky flavor. Use this adobo paste substitute as marinades, rubs, or sauces. Note that it has a totally different consistency, so we recommend it best as a seasoning!

When in the grocery, you might come across chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. This is another excellent adobo paste substitute but also one of the spiciest! It gives you a smoky, spicy flavor almost similar to adobo paste, so it’s worth trying, especially if you love spicy food like us. (*)

4. Ranchero Sauce

Think of Ranchero sauce as adobo paste’s more laidback relative. You can use Ranchero sauce as a topping for tacos, and enchiladas, among other Mexican dishes.

It has similar ingredients and flavor, tasting salty, zesty, and with tomatoes. Ranchero sauce is also pretty spicy! It consists of tomatoes, garlic, onions, cilantro, salt, lime juice, and serrano or jalapeno chilies.

However, it feels like something is missing with Ranchero sauce, those trademark tasting notes you love from adobo paste. That said, some people actually appreciate Ranchero sauce better as it suits their tastebuds.

If you’re not a huge fan of bitter tanginess from dried peppers or want to lessen the sweetness, Ranchero sauce is the way to go. But if you want more intense flavors, you can add a bit of your chosen red chili powder. You may also add more spices and seasonings like soy sauce, vinegar, black pepper, and maybe bay leaves.

5. Chili Garlic Sauce

You can find a wide array of chili garlic sauces, so make sure you choose a Latin style for the sake of this article. However, if you can’t find that, you can always choose another chili garlic sauce that suits your style.

Chili garlic sauce gives you the spiciness of chili peppers, savory flavors from garlic, tanginess from vinegar, and sweetness from sugar.

One primary component chili garlic sauce does not contain is soy sauce, a non-negotiable ingredient in adobo paste. Because of that, we recommend adding a bit of soy sauce to your recipe alongside chili garlic sauce. That way, you achieve the slightly dark color and saltiness with a fantastic umami flavor!

Learn more: Best Chili Paste Substitute (#2 You Might Have NOW)

6. Ancho Chile Paste

Ancho chili paste isn’t the perfect adobo paste substitute as it won’t provide that depth of flavor adobo paste offers. However, this ingredient gives a sweet and smoky flavor note critical to nailing a dish’s character.

If there’s one thing we love about ancho chili paste, it’s how you have more freedom to add seasonings for flavor. Don’t be afraid to experiment if you can add more salt, garlic powder, smoked paprika, cayenne pepper, or whatever else you see fit.

7. Achiote Paste

Achiote paste gives your dishes sweet, earthy, and slightly spicy flavors. The heat comes from black pepper, so it doesn’t taste spicy, but it gives the right kick!

It’s made from annatto seeds, oregano, paprika, and cumin, among other spices. Since achiote paste is very thick, add a bit of water to dilute it before adding it to your dish.

Learn more: The 4 Best Achiote Paste Substitutes You Might Have NOW!

8. Hoisin Sauce

Hoisin sauce is a Chinese barbecue sauce, looking almost similar to adobo paste because it’s thick and dark brown. It consists of hoisin (fermented soybeans), honey, rice wine, water, and other spices.

While hoisin sauce is a condiment, we see it as better for grilling than as a dipping sauce as it provides a smoky flavor perfect for us as rubs or marinades. To emulate the flavor of adobo paste, mix it with a bit more oyster sauce, soy sauce, or fish sauce for added umami. If your hoisin turns too salty, you can add water or lemon juice.

9. Cajun Seasoning

This is a popular spice blend you can find in, you guessed it, Cajun cuisine. It consists of garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne pepper, black pepper, and paprika.

Cajun seasoning would give your dish a bit of heat but not too much that you’ll have to reach for cold water and milk!

10. Greek Seasoning

Alright, Greek seasoning sounds like a far reach as an adobo paste substitute, but don’t knock it ’til you try it! This has herbs like basil, oregano, thyme, garlic, salt, and pepper.

It’s great on meat and vegetables, and you have a bit more control over the spice levels. Add a bit more dried chilies to add more heat, whether you’re grilling meats or roasting vegetables.

BONUS: How to Make a Homemade Adobo Paste Substitute

You can always create your own adobo paste substitute to truly get an authentic flavor! It will take time, and you may not have some ingredients, so it isn’t the best if you’re in a hurry.


That said, here is a simple recipe to follow (you may adjust the number of ingredients based on your preferences):

  • Six cups of water
  • ¼ cup of white vinegar
  • Four dried guajillo chilies
  • Four dried ancho chilies
  • ½ cup of oil
  • One tablespoon of tomato paste
  • One cup of broth
  • Three minced garlic cloves
  • One diced onion
  • ½ teaspoon of cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon of cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon of salt
  • ½ teaspoon of oregano
  • ½ teaspoon of black pepper
  • Two tablespoons of lemon juice



  1. Clean your chilies and fry them in hot oil. Add your water and half the vinegar, and let it boil with the chilies. Soak the chilies for a few hours.
  2. Remove the chilies from the heat and drain the water. Blend your chilies with tomato paste, the other half of your vinegar, and a bit of broth until it reaches a thick consistency.
  3. Saute your garlic and onion, adding lemon juice, seasonings, the remaining broth, and your chili paste.
  4. Let that mixture cook until it achieves a paste-like consistency.
  5. And that’s it! After your chili paste cools, store it in an airtight container and place it in the fridge.  

Frequently Asked Questions

If you would like to learn more about adobo paste, keep on reading! We’ve got you covered with our frequently asked questions:

1. What’s adobo sauce made of?

You can find adobo sauce used in Mexican, Spanish, Filipino, and Portuguese cuisine. Depending on the cuisine, there are different variations of adobo paste.

  • In the Philippines, adobo is a cooking method in mead or seafood dishes marinated in a mix of vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, bay leaves, and black pepper.
  • In the Caribbean, adobo is a spice blend consisting of oregano, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and pepper. You use this dry seasoning on meats before cooking or a wet rub to marinate vegetables and meats.
  • In Mexico, adobo paste has tomatoes, oregano, chili peppers (chipotle or poblano peppers), garlic, vinegar, and salt.

2. Where do you use adobo?

You can use adobo paste or sauce in numerous recipes, particularly in marinating various meats like pork, beef, and chicken. Moreover, it also works in numerous Mexican and Tex Mex dishes to add a bit of heat and smokiness.

Wrapping It Up

Adobo paste or sauce can mean different things in different regions, though they all taste appetizing and give dishes newfound flavors we appreciate! Even if some of these adobo paste substitutes may have different tastes or consistencies, they are still delicious with unique characteristics.

We hope our adobo paste substitute helped you find the best ingredient for your recipes! Learn a lot more about food substitutions and other informative topics here at Nomspedia.

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