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The 6 Best Adobo Seasoning Substitutes

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Adobo seasoning in a bowl

Adobo seasoning is a flavor-packed savory spice mix that is popular in Mexico, Spain, the Philippines, and much of South America. It is delicious used as a rub on meats before frying or grilling and can also be used in taco meat. Soups, steaks and everything in between benefit from a mild spicy hit of this seasoning.

In some parts of the world finding adobo can be a challenge as it isn’t commonly stocked in supermarkets. If you can’t get your hands on some of this spice mix or you would simply like a different flavor to your food then you’re going to need a substitute for adobo seasoning. We’ve compiled a list of our favorite alternatives, most of which are commonly available in the spice section of any supermarket. Keep reading to find the best option for your recipe.

Recommended adobo substitutes

A typical adobo seasoning will include garlic, onion, turmeric, black pepper, oregano, cumin, and red pepper. However, the spice combination can vary quite a lot depending on the country you’re in and who’s making it. Your best option is to make a homemade version of adobo seasoning; other useful replacements include adobo paste, chipotle in adobo sauce, chili powder, Cajun seasoning, or Greek seasoning.

1. Make your own

Unlike some spice mixes, adobo is not a complicated melange of flavors and when freshly made it tastes better than the store-bought version. You’ll probably only need 8-10 ingredients to make it. Take a look at our recipe below, it’s perfect for giving meat a spicy flavorsome hit.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 1 ½ teaspoons onion powder
  • 1 ½ teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric

Directions

  1. Add all ingredients to a medium bowl and mix until well combined.
  2. Spoon the mixture into an airtight container or jar and store in a cool dry place until required.

Note: If you enjoy hot and spicy food then double the chili powder and then taste test. Add cayenne pepper to take the mix from medium to hot.

2. Adobo paste

Adobo paste or sauce uses adobo seasoning as the base for its product but also includes ingredients like vinegar and sugar. This option will provide your dish with a similar “feel” to the original ingredient, but you will need to allow for the extra liquid that the paste brings. If the recipe you’re using calls for the addition of liquid like oil or water then reduce the quantity a little to ensure that your food isn’t overly moist.

Adobo sauce is perfect for scooping into soup or casseroles as the extra water content won’t affect your dish. The paste is also excellent for lathering onto meat before grilling, enhancing its color and flavor.

3. Chipotle in adobo sauce

Chipotles in adobo sauce is a much spicier alternative and will also add a smoky flavor to your food. The sauce uses dried jalapenos that have been smoked and rehydrated; they are then canned along with tomato, garlic, vinegar, and spices.

This is another substitute that will work in almost all recipes that call for adobo seasoning but understand that it will change the flavor profile of your dish. If extra hot food isn’t your thing, then look at other alternatives on this list. It also won’t appeal to many kids, unless they’ve been brought up on spicy food.

Adobo seasoning substitutes infographic
Options for replacing adobo seasoning.

4. Chili powder

Chili powder is probably the most accessible option on this list, being available in practically any supermarket around the world. It is commonly used to make chili con carne and includes other spices such as black pepper, garlic, cumin, and oregano. All of these are commonly used in Adobe seasoning. The biggest difference between the two spice blends is that adobo will commonly be a yellow shade, whilst chili powder is a vibrant red.

Chili powder can be added to a marinade or simply used as a dry rub on meat. In many cases, you can use the same amount of chili powder as you would adobo. Keep in mind that some chili powder is very spicy, so read the label to make sure it is suitable.

5. Cajun seasoning

If you’re in a pinch, then a Cajun blend will also step in as a good alternative to adobo seasoning. They both contain similar ingredients such as garlic, black paper, and oregano. Sure, their flavors will be different, but Cajun will still taste delicious added two most savory meals. If you’re using a recipe, then use Cajun seasoning 1:1 as a substitute.

Related reading: If you enjoy learning about flavors from around the world then check out our guide to aromatics. We look at how to cook cajun, along with popular flavor combinations from Italy, Spain, France and much more.

6. Greek seasoning

We included Greek seasoning in this list for those that love Mediterranean flavors. The base spices in this mix are the same as adobo’s; however, it will often have additional flavors such as marjoram and thyme. Use Greek seasoning in the same way and with similar quantities as adobo seasoning.

Adobo-seasoned meat in a dish
Meat seasoned with adobo is delicious.

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Summing up

Adobo seasoning is a pleasant combination of spices used for flavoring savory dishes. It is popular for adding depth of flavor to any meat and is perfect for spicing up ground beef used in tacos.

If you need a substitute, then you are best to make your own using a handful of everyday spices that may already be in your spice rack at home. Other good alternatives include adobo paste, chipotle in adobo sauce, chili powder, Cajun seasoning, and Greek seasoning.

Except for the DIY recipe option, the other replacements won’t perfectly mimic the flavor of adobo seasoning. However they won’t be out of place in most recipes that require meat to be flavored. Use common sense and don’t be afraid to try new flavor combinations – that’s the fun part about cooking.

Do you have a go-to seasoning which you use to replace adobo? Please let us know in the comments below and we will be sure to try it out.