What Is Chipotle Peppers In Adobo Sauce?

If you’ve tried your hand at cooking any spicy Mexican or Tex-Mex dish, you’ve likely come across the ingredient chipotle peppers in adobo sauce in a recipe or two. You’ve likely also been amazed at the spicy kick it brings to those meals. But what is chipotle peppers in adobo sauce? The quick answer: chipotle peppers in adobo sauce is dried and smoked jalapeño peppers mixed in a spiced tomato sauce. But that really doesn’t give this delicious ingredient its due. To really understand why this spicy concoction is so tasty and potent, let’s break it down into its parts.

what is chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
Chipotle peppers in adobo sauce – what makes it tick?

What is chipotle?

If you have five minutes, we recommend you read this article on chipotle peppers here at PepperScale. But here’s the short of it – chipotles, as mentioned, are jalapeño peppers that have been dried and then smoked. The peppers chosen have ripened on the vine to their mature red jalapeño stage, so they tend to be spicier than your normal green jalapeño. On the normal 2,500 to 8,000 Scoville heat units for jalapeños, expect chipotle chilies to range in the middle to upper portion of that spread.

So chipotle in adobo sauce starts with a chili that’s definitely in the medium-hot range with an intense smoky flavor, perfect for Tex-Mex and traditional Mexican cuisine.

Let’s now look at the other side of the equation.

What is adobo sauce?

Calling it a spiced tomato sauce really underplays the complexity of this sauce. Let’s take a look at the spices. Typical adobo sauce spices include paprika, bay leaves, garlic, onions, oregano, salt, and black pepper. There’s, obviously, a lot going on in this sauce.

Paprika, if you didn’t know, is dried pimento pepper, so it has a mild spice to it. It, plus the black pepper, give adobo sauce on its own a slight warmth. When it’s then paired with chipotle peppers, some of that chili’s spiciness (and smokiness) transfers into the sauce as well.

This sauce has been used to marinate meats and vegetables for generations, as a way to preserve them over months. The small amount of capsaicin in the paprika helps make that possible – it acts as a preserving agent. Of course with modern refrigeration that’s much less important, but the great taste of adobo still makes it a favorite sauce in the kitchen.

How much chipotle in adobo should I use in cooking?

Be careful! This is a potent mix. Most recipes call for a single tablespoon or two maximum. In this case, take a single chipotle with some of the sauce, pulse chop it (or simply use a knife), and measure the sauce according to the recipe. Any more and you may find the recipe a lot hotter than you expect.

Remember, in many recipes you can simply add more to taste, so it’s best to add a little and adjust up from there.

Where can I buy chipotle peppers in adobo sauce?

You can typically find it in the international foods section of your local supermarket. It’s also available via many online retailers. If you want a specific brand, it may be best to purchase online.

What else can I make with it?

You’ve likely discovered the chef’s dilemma when it comes to this sauce. Recipes call for a small amount, and yet you buy a jar of chipotle peppers and adobo sauce that contains ten times what you need!

The good news is this sauce keeps very well. Simple refrigeration in an airtight container will keep it fresh. Or you can puree the remainder of the can and freeze it in small tablespoon dabs. An ice tray works wonders for that.

There are also many tasty uses that you may not have thought of and that are easy to do. Check out our post about fun ways to use extra chipotle peppers in adobo sauce in your everyday cooking.

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UPDATE NOTICE: This post was updated on April 6, 2022 to include new content.
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Thanks for the post. I bought the can at a target near me. When opened it is actually looked like bell pepper in oil instead. Was I ripped off? It looks nothing like pictures ive seen.

Ann Hession

I am making making a 5 pot roast.
It has 2 cups stock, 12 Oz can beer and
The recipe calls for 4 chipolte peppers
In adobo. Does this mean adobo sauce?
My family just like mild heat.
Will 4 peppers be really hot. It
Cooks for 2 1/2 hours. Thanks Ann


Great article, helped answer a lot of my questions. BUT, simple refrigeration in an air tight container will keep them fresh. For HOW LONG pretty please? I’ve never cooked with them before and we want to start out slow.

So my question is, in addition to how long will they keep in refrigerator, but also will they keep better in a plastic snap on type lid container, or would you advise a jar with a screw on lid? I have lots of those because I save my little glass jars that bullion cubes come in. Thanks in advance!