I’ve personally tried and tested a range of different chipotle peppers in adobo sauce substitutes to find the best one.
Whatever your reason for avoiding chipotle peppers in adobo sauce is and whatever dish you’re cooking.
Here’s the quick answer.
The best substitute for chipotle peppers in adobo sauce is to make your own! If you’re in a rush, you can try Tabasco chipotle hot sauce, ancho chile powder, or smoked paprika (long with some tomato paste). Or try experimenting with a mixture of roasted jalapeno peppers + ketchup + liquid smoke.
Ready? Let’s jump right in.
I made a chipotle salsa and tried loads of different substitutes for chipotle peppers in adobo sauce.
Chipotle peppers in adobo sauce are a popular canned product featuring smoked and dried peppers (called chipotle) packed in a Mexican-style adobo sauce.
These peppers are smoky, spicy, and slightly sweet, with hints of tanginess from the sauce.
Here’s what I tested and the verdicts:
|Homemade version||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||10/10|
|Other forms of chipotle||Rehydrate and replace in a 1:1 ratio||9/10|
|Tabasco chipotle hot sauce||Add a few drops at a time to taste||7/10|
|Other dried chilis||Rehydrate and replace in a 1:1 ratio||8/10|
|Roasted jalapeno peppers + ketchup + liquid smoke||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||8/10|
|Ancho chile powder||Replace one pepper with 1 tsp chii powder||7/10|
|Smoked paprika||Replace one pepper with 1 tsp smoked paprika||7/10|
Common dishes that use chipotle peppers in adobo sauce and their substitutes
Here are some popular ways to use chipotle peppers in adobo sauce and the best substitutes for those situations:
- Salsas – a homemade version, Tabasco chipotle hot sauce
- Additions to condiments like mayo – a homemade version, other dried chilis, Tabasco chipotle hot sauce
- Stews, chilis, and soups – a homemade version, chipotle powder or chipotle paste, roasted jalapeno peppers, other dried chilis
Homemade chipotles in adobo sauce
You might think making chipotle peppers in adobo sauce from scratch is difficult and time-consuming, but you’re wrong!
All you need are dried chipotle chiles, which you can find in grocery stores, and a good adobo sauce recipe.
I swear by Kevin is Cooking’s recipe – most of the ingredients are pantry staples and it only takes about 20 minutes to make.
Once you’ve got the sauce, you’ll need to rehydrate your dried chipotle peppers before letting them simmer in the sauce for a few minute.
The flavor is so good you’ll wonder why you ever relied on the canned stuff!
How to substitute: replace canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with this homemade version.
Other forms of chipotle
If you have dried chipotle peppers but don’t want to make your own adobo sauce, you can re-hydrate them and mix them with a bit of tomato paste instead.
Or you can puree them with water and a splash of vinegar.
Likewise you can mix chipotle powder or chipotle paste with water and vinegar to create a quick-and-easy replacement for the adobo sauce.
You can also add spices like oregano, cumin, or garlic powder if you want to get a more complex flavor.
If you’re really stuck, you can use ketchup to replace the adobo sauce.
How to substitute: replace the chipotle pepper in adobo sauce in a 1:1 ratio with whole chipotle, or use 1/2 teaspoon of powder or paste.
Tabasco chipotle hot sauce
Another easy substitution for chipotle peppers is Tabasco chipotle hot sauce.
The flavor isn’t complex as the peppers in adobo sauce, but it’s a convenient way to get your smoky, sweet-spicy fix in a flash.
And the vinegar in the sauce means you can still enjoy that subtle acidic note adobo sauce brings.
Just add a few shakes of this condiment straight into whatever you’re making or eating, and you’re done!
Pro-tip: Cholula chipotle hot sauce is excellent too (or you can try one of these hot sauce substitutes)
How to substitute: replace the chipotle peppers in adobo sauce to taste with hot sauce. Add a few drops to begin with and add more as needed.
Other dried chili peppers
There’s a whole host of dried peppers out there that can bring a delicious smoky flavor to your meals.
Here are some of my favorites:
- Pasilla de Oaxaca chiles – these peppers are dried over wood coals for days, giving them a smokier, more nuanced flavor than chipotle peppers. They’re also spicier.
- Guajillo peppers – these are a staple in Mexican cuisine. They have a pretty similar flavor profile and heat level to chipotle peppers.
- Ancho peppers – these come from poblano peppers, so they’ll bring a milder heat to your dishes. I talk more about the powdered version of these peppers below!
To use these dried peppers in place of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, you’ll need to reconstitute them with warm water until soft.
Then you can add them to a homemade adobo sauce, or simply blend them with a bit of water and vinegar. The vinegar replaces the tang you get from adobo sauce.
How to substitute: replace chipotle peppers in adobo sauce in a 1:1 ratio with rehydrated dried chilis (mixed with water if want extra liquid).
Roasted jalapeno peppers + ketchup + liquid smoke
This combo won’t completely match chipotle peppers’ flavor to a tee, but it’s a solid substitute when you need that smoky kick in a pinch.
Roasting the jalapeños brings out their natural sweetness, while the ketchup adds the tangy kick you’d usually get with the adobo sauce. Then the liquid smoke ties it all together with a smoky flair.
This substitute won’t be as spicy as chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, but you can always add some chili powder.
Psst… use ripe red jalapeños is you can find them – but really any chili will do.
How to substitute: replace chipotle peppers in adobo sauce in a 1:1 ratio with your mix of roasted jalapeno peppers, ketchup, and liquid smoke.
Ancho chile powder
Find chipotle peppers too spicy? Try ancho chile powder instead.
It’s made from dried and smoked polbano peppers, and has the same sweet and smoky notes as chipotle but with a milder heat.
A downside with this substitute is you’ll be missing the saucy, tangy kick from the adobo sauce.
A quick and dirty solution is to mix it with tomato paste or ketchup. You can add a little vinegar too.
Pssst… you can also use ancho chile paste for a more concentrated flavor if you can find it.
How to substitute: replace one chipotle pepper with a one teaspoon of ancho chile powder (and mix with tomato sauce to taste).
Stick with that bottle of paprika sitting in your spice rack if you can’t go on an emergency grocery run to hunt for alternatives.
Its mildly spicy flavor is more one-dimensional than chipotle peppers, but it still brings that much-needed smokiness.
Again, I recommend pairing it with some tomato sauce or ketchup to make up for the missing adobo sauce.
And if you’re missing the heat, just toss in a pinch of cayenne pepper for an extra zing.
How to substitute: replace one chipotle pepper with a one teaspoon of smoked paprika (and mix with tomato sauce to taste).
Three chipotle peppers in adobo sauce substitutes to avoid
While looking for different substitutes to test, I came across a few that didn’t work so well.
Here are some substitutes for chipotle peppers in adobo sauce that I’d skip:
- Ranchero sauce – this sauce normally contains chipotle peppers, and sometimes adobo sauce! But it also has a load of other ingredient. And it works better as an accompaniment or sauce rather than an ingredient. It would be great as a replacement for chipotle mayo.
- Barbecue sauce – you can get chipotle barbecue sauce or ketchup, and while they do have a slight smokiness to them, they’re way too sweet to use as a substitute. If you’re really in a pinch and want to use them, add a splash of vinegar or lemon juice to help balance out the sweetness
- Chili garlic sauce – this Asian condiment was mentioned on a few blogs as a substitute for chipotles in adobo sauce and i’m not really sure why! It’s tasty, but the flavor is nothing like smokey chipotles.
Best Substitutes For Chipotle Peppers In Adobo Sauce
- 1 tbsp homemade version
- 1 tsp chipotle powder + water and vinegar
- 2-3 drops tabasco chipotle hot sauce
- 1 tbsp roasted jalapeno peppers + ketchup + liquid smoke
- 1 tsp ancho chile powder + tomato paste
- 1 tssp smoked paprika + tomato paste
- Cook your meal according to the recipe.
- Add your chosen chipotle peppers in adobo sauce substitute at the appropriate cooking time.
- Mix until thoroughly combined and continue with the recipe.