What’s A Good Adobo Seasoning Substitute?

Adobo seasoning is a delicious spice mix that provides a little earthy sizzle to everything from soups to steaks. But it may not be something you have readily stocked in your pantry, so where do you turn when your recipe calls for it? What’s a good adobo seasoning substitute that you can use immediately, or what’s an option to pick up if you happen to be heading to the store? Let’s review your best options.

Your best option: Make your own (it’s easy)

Sure “DIY” doesn’t sound easy, but in this case, it really is. If you have a well-stocked spice rack, you likely have all of the ingredients you need to make homemade adobo seasoning. These are common spices: paprika, chili powder, black pepper, oregano, onion powder, garlic powder, and ground cumin.

See our homemade adobo seasoning recipe here for the portions you should use to create your seasoning mix from scratch. Ours calls for chipotle powder, but regular chili powder will work just fine as well.

A good second choice, depending on the recipe: Adobo paste or adobo sauce

Check your local grocer – they may carry either adobo paste or sauce even if they don’t carry the powder. These can be a good alternative to adobo seasoning, but it really depends on the context of your recipe. You are adding additional water to the ingredient list.

That’s all well with a soup or a steak marinade instead of a rub, but something else relying on dried powder for a little flavor may become soggy with the switch to a sauce. It can ruin the balance of certain recipes, so use your best judgment. Making your own spice mix as an adobo seasoning alternative (if at all possible) is still the much better solution.

A spicier alternative: Chipotle in adobo sauce

Many supermarkets carry chipotle in adobo sauce, even if they don’t carry the plain seasoning or sauce. This can be an adobo seasoning substitute, but be very careful. Not only do you have the sauce issue as outlined above, but you also have the additional heat (and smoke) of chipotle peppers in the mix. If your use case won’t stand for extra spicy and slightly smoky, you may want to look elsewhere.

UPDATE NOTICE: This post was updated on August 17, 2019 to include new content. It was originally published on January 11, 2017.
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