Adobo seasoning is a pungent and powerful blend of herbs and spices that often include garlic, onion, oregano, and cumin.
These different recipes vary, depending on the regional cuisine.
You can purchase a commercial adobo seasoning from the grocery store but it’s not too difficult to make your own—layer the flavors into a shaker and you’ll have a homemade adobo that you can use to flavor meals year round.
I’m trying my hand at my own recipe: Texas Adobo With A Kick! Use a dry rub of your homemade adobo seasoning recipe to make your own adobo sauce.
Read more to learn about the rich flavors that encompass all the different kinds of adobo seasoning.
What is adobo seasoning?
The word adobo comes from the Spanish word adobar which means “to marinate,” adobo seasoning is essentially made from a combination of spices, herbs and other ingredients.
Whether it’s prepared as a dry spice mix or a marinade, adobo imparts a burst of flavor in a variety of food.
Due to its distinctive flavor, this aromatic spice has become a staple ingredient not only in Caribbean cooking, Spanish, and Latin American cuisine but also across the world.
If you’re curious about what is in adobo seasoning, the basic ingredients of the traditional spice are garlic powder, garlic, oregano, black pepper, and turmeric.
But this dry spice blend varies with cultural and regional preferences.
One great example is the adobo powder version in Cuba, which typically contains a blend of garlic, cumin, and sour orange juice.
Others prefer adding onions, lemon, parsley, or cilantro into the mix, as well as vinegar and oregano, specifically in Puerto Rico.
It’s a versatile seasoning mix!
In Spain, adobo seasoning is combined with vinegar, olive oil, and other liquid ingredients to create an aromatic marinade for vegetables and meats, including beef, pork, fish, and chicken.
Other cooks even include soy sauce, paprika, red pepper, dried citrus or lime juice, and chili powder into the mixture to incorporate more flavor and aroma to the spice.
What does adobo seasoning taste like?
Adobo seasoning features a perfect blend of garlic, heavy with oregano and sometimes tangy flavor.
The taste is also often described as earthy and savory too.
But as the mix comes in many versions, expect these flavors to vary.
How to store adobo seasoning
Though adobo seasoning certainly won’t lose its potency and flavor in a few weeks, you should know how to store the spice so you can enjoy it longer and ensure you take advantage of its peak freshness.
Follow these simple steps on how to store homemade adobo seasoning the right way:
- Put the mix into a glass jar or airtight container.
- Cover it with a lid tightly. This prevents oxygen from sneaking in.
- Place the container in a dark place out of direct sunlight, like the cupboard.
I recommend using glass containers with tight-fitting lids to store adobo spice mix as plastic or metal vessels sometimes affect the flavor of the spice.
And in case it’s store-bought, be sure to keep the spice in its original packaging as this increases longevity and optimum flavor.
For those who don’t have a dark place to store the spice, use tins to make sure that the sunlight can’t reach your adobo spice.
Recipes using Mexican adobos
Mexican cooking and Spanish cuisine is made easier with a simple shake of your own seasoning. Use your favorite key ingredient with organic spices and keep in a glass jar.
You can cook many adobo seasoning recipes with adobo seasoning. As mentioned, you can use it as a sauce base, rub, and marinade to meat-based dishes like fish, pork, and much more.
Here’s a list of some of the best dishes seasoned with adobo seasoning:
Every sip of this creamy adobo chicken soup is zesty and robust!
Topping the comforting dish with fresh cilantro, avocado, and a slice of lime will make it extraordinary.
Best served over rice or used as a taco filling, this quick and easy recipe combines chicken breasts, adobo seasoning mix, turmeric, tomatoes, and green chiles then slow cook in a handy instant pot cooking method for 25 minutes.
Potato lovers, assemble!
This creative dish turns your dull potatoes into something savory and worth craving.
The inclusion of red bell pepper, onion, and fresh parsley beautifully complements the flavor of adobo seasoning.
Add a quick flavor of latin spices to your next potato dish!
You won’t believe that these adobo-inspired skirt steak fajitas are bursting with nice flavor—they’re incredibly spicy and flavorful.
To complete the meal, pair the dish with pico de gallo or guacamole. You’re welcome!
Easy to assemble and full of earthy adobo flavor, there’s no room for saying no with this scrumptious adobo salmon dish.
It is filled with basic ingredients such as pepper, corn, homily, and kale. And above all, it’s ready in less than an hour!
Tips for making your own adobo seasoning:
- There are so many combinations and blends that call themselves “Adobo” that you can’t really mess up creating your own. Just keep your favorite flavors balanced.
- I avoid off-the-shelf “chili powder” because store-bought chili already has other spices in it.
- Mexican Oregano tends to be sweeter and milder but you can use the standard oregano you might see in most supermarkets. Because it’s usually a dry flake, we will pulse this one into a finer powder with the salt, sugar, etc.
- Dried vinegar is kind of pricey but the sugar/salt/acid all in one seasoning really makes this combination SING. You can also add regular liquid vinegar to your dish alongside this blend.
- Do you love even more heat? Add a 1/8 t of cayenne or dried ghost pepper to your blend a bit at a time.
- If you are using only powders (onion powder, garlic powder, coriander powder, table salt, table sugar) you don’t really need to pulse or crush my recipe. But the action of grinding releases more flavor from the spice.
The bottom line
Since “adobo” is a Spanish word, you might think that it’s only highlights latin flavors, but that’s simply not true.
It’s so deeply complex and flavorful that you can use it anywhere you want to add an earthy flavor: stew, soup, marinade and rubs for roast, and more.
It has such an earthy flavor, though, that I tend to avoid sprinkling it on foods that are about to be served. It is best cooked, roasted, sauteed, marinated, or heated low and slow in some other way.
It’s synonymous with the umami richness of meats, but also elevates roasted vegetables.
We hope you learned a bit about adobo here, how to store it, what it tastes like, and a few of our favorite recipes out in the wild.
We also love Marta’s sass over and Sense & Edibility. Scroll to the bottom to see her homemade adobo variations.
Let us know if you have a favorite recipe that calls for adobo seasoning!
- 2 T granulated garlic (or 1 T of fresh garlic powder)
- 2 T dried minced onion (or 1 T of onion powder)
- 1 T Mexican oregano
- 1 T sea salt
- 1 T turbinado/raw sugar (or 1 T of table sugar)
- 1 t crushed jalapeno pepper OR chipotle powder
- 1 t coriander seeds (or powder)
- 1 t cumin
- 1/2 t ground turmeric
- Optional: 1 T dried vinegar
- Combine the “chunky” spices (garlic, onion, oregano, sugar, salt, coriander, jalapeno) in a herb grinder, food processor or mortar and pestle. Pulse or crush until these become reduced by half. Be aware that the jalapeno may dust up, so avoid getting it in your eyes, or transferring it from your fingers to your eyes.
- Transfer the crushed/processed herbs to a bowl and add remaining ingredients. Stir gently.
- Move adobo seasoning blend to an airtight spice container with lid, preferably glass.
- Best used within six weeks or keep in the freezer and remove only what you need for each recipe.