Skip to Content

What are the Best Substitutes for Adobo Sauce?

Most people like to have some form of sauce when they are cooking different types of meat, to have on the side of a dish as a dipping sauce.

One type of sauce that is commonly used is called adobo sauce. You can get different types of this sauce as there are different variations of the sauce that have been created in different parts of the world.

What are the Best Substitutes for Adobo Sauce

Some types of adobo sauce will feature ingredients like coconut milk, rice vinegar, and various other oils and liquids. However, there are other types of adobo sauce that feature additional ingredients like onion, various herbs and spices, and even sweet additions like lemon juice.

However, if you don’t have any adobo sauce to hand, you might be looking for other alternatives that you can use instead.

Adobo sauce is quite a unique type of sauce, but there are lots of other types of sauces that you will be able to use in its place. Some of the best substitutes include garlic and chili sauce, chipotle, and more. 

What is Adobo Sauce?

Before we get into the different types of sauce that you can use in place of adobo sauce, it can be helpful to learn more about this sauce, so you know exactly what you are looking for in a replacement. 

Adobo, which is also called adobar in Spanish marinades, was a traditional method of cooking that originally comes from the Philippines. This is a phrase that is still used in both Mexican and Caribbean cuisine, but it has a slightly different meaning.

In the Philippines, abodo is a method of cooking for dishes that are made using meat, vegetables, or seafood. They are marinated in a divine mixture of vinegar, garlic, black pepper, bay leaves, and soy sauce.

Any dishes that are made this way are called adobo. The two main ingredients for this type of cooking are vinegar and soy sauce. These dishes can also be made with various types of meat, including fish, beef, and more.

When it comes to Caribbean cuisine, adobo is essentially a mixture of spices, and this dry seasoning mix will be used on various meats before they are cooked. However, it can also be created as a wet rub that is used to marinate either meat or veggies.

When it comes to Mexican cuisine, this version of adobo is essentially a sauce that has been made using ingredients like tomato, oregano, garlic, vinegar, salt, and chili peppers.

Some of the most commonly used chili peppers for this type of adobo sauce are poblano and chipotle, but various other peppers can also be used.

However, if you do not have adobo sauce at home, you can create your own using ingredients that you have readily available in your kitchen. Alternatively, you can get your hands on substitute sauces that are similar in nature to adobo sauce.

What Are the Best Substitutes for Adobo Sauce?

There are lots of different types of sauce that can be used in place of adobo sauce, and you can use any of these alternatives with your dish.

We are going to leave a list of some of the best substitutes for adobo sauce below for you to read about. You can then go ahead and choose the one that you think would pair the best with the dish that you want to make.

Adobo Seasoning

If you don’t have adobo sauce or the capability of creating your own sauce, then you could try making your own adobo seasoning instead.

This would create a blend of adobo flavors, without the use of a sauce. Some of the ingredients that could be used for this purpose include onion or garlic powder, oregano, and ground pepper.

Adobo seasoning is most commonly used to create sauces, stew, rice, vegetable dishes, soups, or marinades. Although, it can also be used as a type of dry rub for meats.

It contains the same ingredients as adobo sauce, you are just skipping the liquid part of the recipe. Although, you could add simple ingredients like vinegar or lemon juice to your mixture for an additional burst of flavor.

Chipotle Adobo Sauce

If you didn’t already know, chipotle is a type of Mexican jalapeno pepper that is often used to make sauces and more. When these peppers are added into an adobo sauce, they will usually be dried and smoked in order to create a stunning smoky flavor.

Adobo sauce that contains chipotle is generally considered to be a hot sauce. So, if you don’t like spicy foods, then you might not want to use this substitute. 

Garlic Chili Sauce

Garlic chili sauce is typically made using vinegar, chili peppers, garlic, and salt. It creates quite an acidic garlicky flavor, but it works really well in sauces and liquid based dishes.

This substitute adobo sauce works really well, but if you are not the biggest fan of strong garlic flavors, you might be better off adding in some tomato and oregano to tone things down a bit. There are also various other spices that you could include to take the edge off.

Ranchero Sauce

Ranchero sauce is great to use when you are making chicken, pork, beef, or veggie based dishes. You can even add it to things like tacos and nachos as the perfect filler.

This sauce is typically made up of a mixture of tomatoes, chili peppers, garlic, salt, onion, oregano, and oil. It has the perfect mixture of both a smoky and spicy flavor. 

If you want your sauce to look more like adobo sauce, then you might want to consider adding in some soy sauce or vinegar. There are also various different herbs that you could add into the sauce for extra flavor.

However you should be mindful not to add too much salt, as this sauce already contains salt, which makes it really easy to ruin the sauce by making it too salty.

Achiote Paste

Achiote paste is something that is most commonly used in Caribbean, Central American, and Mexican cuisines, and it is a tasty mixture of annatto seeds, black pepper, garlic, coriander, oregano, cumin, and cloves.

If you didn’t already know, annatto seeds have quite a sweet, peppery, and nutty flavor, and they can work as either a food coloring, a spice, or both. You can reduce this paste with a broth or water before you get down to cooking. 

It will work to create a sweet, smokey, and spicy flavor that is irresistible. You could even choose to use this paste as a meat rub, or even a fish rub.

Some people like to make it into a marinade or sauce to compliment their dinner. Although, if you are looking for a slightly spicier flavor, then you might want to think about adding some chili peppers for an extra kick.

Hoisin Sauce

An adobo sauce substitute that you might have already heard of is hoisin sauce, which is a thick sauce that has a dark coloring and is mostly made up of chili peppers, garlic, vinegar, sesame oil, five-spice powder, fermented soybeans, sugar, and fennel. Although, it does have a strong taste of both sweetness and salt. 

Hoisin sauce makes the perfect dipping sauce, but it can also be used as a marinade, an addition to a stir fry, or even as a glaze for various types of meat. This sauce is known to be quite salty, which is why some people will add some water, lemon juice, vinegar, or oil to the sauce in order to make it less noticeable. 

You could even choose to add in some onion, garlic, tomatoes, or different herbs in order to improve the flavor to better suit your preferences.

Cajun Seasoning

Cajun seasoning mix is made up of different herbs and spices, like smoked paprika, balck pepper, oregano, garlic powder, and chili pepper. It features a distinct spicy and smoky flavor, with a subtle hint of garlic. 

Cajun seasoning is perfect for use with meat, seafood, soup, veggies, stir fries and more, and you could even choose to use it as a dipping sauce.

This seasoning is quite spicy, so you shouldn’t add too much of it if you don’t want to overpower your dish. Although, you could even use it as a dry rub, or add a liquid to it in order to marinate your chosen meat in it.

What are the Best Substitutes for Adobo Sauce1

Make Your Own Adobo Sauce

If none of these adobo sauce substitutes are calling out to you, then you could even make your own version of the sauce at home.

Perhaps the best substitute for this sauce would be your very own homemade version. You could include various different ingredients, like garlic powder, onion powder, vinegar, chili sauce, smoked paprika, oregano, tomato paste, soy sauce, and cumin. 

All you have to do is select all of your chosen ingredients, mix them all together and strain the sauce that you have created.

If you don’t use it all up for dinner, you can store it in a jar within your refrigerator to save it for another day. You could even freeze the sauce to make it last for even longer.

Frequently Asked Questions

Now that you know about all of the different substitutes that you can use in place of adobo sauce, we are going to take a quick look at some of the most frequently asked questions on this subject. 

What Can I Use Instead of Chipotle for Adobo Sauce?

If you are trying to make adobo sauce without using chipotle, you could choose to use things like smoked paprika, chipotle powder, or various other types of chili peppers that you have available to you.

Are Adobo Sauce and Chipotle Sauce the Same Thing?

No, adobo sauce and chipotle sauce are two very different types of sauce. Chipotle sauce is made up of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, making it two sauces in one.

Can I Use Adobo Sauce Instead of Adobo Seasoning?

Yes, you can use adobo seasoning instead of adobo sauce if you want to create your own meat rub. Although, if you want to make a liquid based dish, you are better off either creating your own adobo sauce using the ingredients that you have, or choosing an alternative sauce..


Adobo sauce is the perfect blend of ingredients that works to create a delicious sauce that can be used for various different cooking applications. It doesn’t matter if you are marinating meat or fish or making a stir fry, adobo sauce can be used to introduce a variety of flavors to any dish. 

However, if you are unable to get your hands on some adobo sauce, you will be forced to either create your own or choose a suitable alternative.

Both of these things can create unexpectedly delicious results as long as you are conscious of the ingredients that you are using and keeping in mind the dish that you want to create.

You can either choose one of the delicious substitutes that are on our list above, or try your hand at creating your own tasty alternative.

If you do try and create your own adobo sauce at home, it might take you some trial and error to get the perfect blend of ingredients, but it will all definitely be worth it in the end. 

What are the Best Substitutes for Adobo Sauce?

5 from 1 vote

Adobo is a popular Filipino sauce made with vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, and bay leaves. Learn about the best substitutes for adobo sauce.


  • Adobo Seasoning

  • Chipotle Adobo Sauce

  • Garlic Chili Sauce

  • Ranchero Sauce

  • Achiote Paste

  • Hoisin Sauce

  • Cajun Seasoning


  • Decided on what substitute you need
  • Pick a substitute from the list above
  • Read what you need to substitute with
  • Create the recipe and enjoy

Recipe Video

Jess Smith