Mexican Adobo Seasoning

Adobo Seasoning, Dry

I want to talk about one of my favorite spice blends, Adobo Seasoning. Adobo is translated into English a number of ways, but is basically a “marinade” originally used to preserve meats.

Mexican Adobo Seasoning

Mexican Adobo Seasoning

Many countries and cultures have their own Adobo, but I first learned of Adobo in Mexican cooking, as a sauce – a blend of herbs, spices, and toasted chile spiked with vinegar and a touch of sugar. It has a kick and sweet/sour tang that’s not just appealing, but a little addictive.

So if you could take the essence of that beautiful sauce and put it in a jar, that’s what this Adobo seasoning is. My guess is that Chili Powder really wants to be Adobo and that it is probably originally based on Adobo. Adobo is so much better, though.

The real magic of the  Adobo seasoning is it can be used on or in so many things. Use it anywhere you’d reach for “Chili Powder” to spice up almost any old dish, Mexican or not. It can take you to Mexico or can be used in Tex-Mex or Southwestern dishes. And it can be sprinkled on things like fries or popcorn or other snacks.

Think of sprinkling in Adobo when you want to doctor up pintos, black beans, or rice. Use a teaspoon per pound as a seasoning for chicken, seafood, fish or pork chops. Sprinkle it in ground beef for tacos. Use it in Enchiladas, Burritos, whatever! Add a bit to Chili, Black Bean Soup, or spark up some dishes like stews, Jambalaya, or other dishes and nudge them into a whole different realm of flavor.

Try it on vegetables, or sprinkle over a baked potato, add it to mayo, sour cream or yogurt for a kicked up dipping sauce. Put a little in your Guacamole.

Use Adobo seasoning as a part of a wet or dry rub on larger pieces of meat, too. Since true Adobo sauce usually has a good sweet/sour tanginess, from the sugar and vinegar, a dry rub would be great with either white or brown sugar in it. A wet rub would be ideal with the Adobo seasoning, mixed with some sugar if desired, a little oil and a splash of vinegar.

Adobo makes a decent Mexican Chorizo, too. Bonus for making your own Chorizo? It’s fresher, cheaper and you can customize it to your own heat level!

As it stands, this Adobo seasoning is not so much hot, just flavorful. Use an Ancho chili and a combination of hotter chiles if you’d like to up the heat. An Ancho is just a dried Poblano, so it’s pretty low on the Scoville scale. Because I like things a little spicier, I often add a tablespoon each of Cayenne and pure Chipotle powder.

Adobo Seasoning

  • Servings: 1 cup
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 3 Ancho chiles, or a combination of Ancho and your choice (6 tablespoons of a pure Ancho powder)
  • 3 to 4 Guajillo chiles
  • 4 to 6 chile de arbol (choose your heat level)
  • 2 tablespoons coriander seeds (2 tablespoons ground)
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds (about 1/2 teaspoon dried mustard)
  • 2 tablespoons paprika (regular “sweet” paprika)
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon Mexican oregano or marjoram
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground clove

Heat a dry skillet over medium heat. Add the chiles and toast, turning on all sides, until puffed and fragrant. Set aside to cool.

Add the coriander and mustard seeds and toast until fragrant and slight whiffs of smoke appear, stirring constantly. Remove immediately from the pan and set aside to cool.

When room temperature, remove seeds & stems from peppers, tear into bits. Grind peppers, coriander, and mustard seeds to a powder in a spice grinder, food processor, or blender. Put the powder in a bowl and combine with remaining spices; stir well to combine.

Store in an airtight container. Keeps well but will begin losing flavor eventually, which is highly dependent on where/how it is stored and how often it is opened.


  • Hotter peppers or a combination of peppers may be used to vary heat levels. I often add aCayenne & Chipotle powder.
  • There is no salt or sugar in this recipe so the control is in your hands as you cook and you may add as little or as much as you’d like.

from the kitchen of

More on Adobo:

You might be familiar, already, with Adobo Sauce. Since I have no family recipe passed on down through the generations, one of my favorite sauces is from Rick Bayless. Diane Kennedy’s Adobo sauce is a bit more complex, but delicious, too.

Adobo sauce is also the “red stuff” in a can of Chipotle Chiles in Adobo Sauce, but of course home-made sauce (or this seasoning) is formulated to taste good, rather than just preserve the peppers.

There’s also Goya Adobo Seasoning, which is quite different than this type of Adobo.


While I love going to spice shops and exploring what they have to offer, I generally stay away from their mixes and blends! If you were to buy this at Penzeys,  a small jar would cost about eight bucks! If you shop well for your spices, it’s really not much to make.

The Adobo seasonings at the grocery store tend to have a lot of salt – so you’re paying for one of the cheapest ingredients of all!

If you’d like to see more of my spice & herb blends, check out Spice, Herb & Flavor Packet Substitutes. I’m adding as I go along!

4 thoughts on “Adobo Seasoning, Dry

  1. Sandhya

    Love your spice seasonings. Besides saving money, I like to blend my own so I know what I put in them too. Our homemade ones always taste so much better,don’t they?

    • Appreciate the feedback! And I’ve been enjoying your blog and the creative healthy recipes. I loved learning about Pease flour and it reminded me of that old nursery rhyme about pease porridge. Now I know where it came from.

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