What Exactly is Adobo Seasoning?

We've talked before about the essential spices you should have on hand in your kitchen. You might remember that stocking a good spice blend is a great way to add a specific touch to many different kinds of dishes, so let's take a deeper dive into one of those spice blends to see what's in it, how you can make it yourself, and how you can use it to create amazing meals.

What is in Adobo Seasoning?

Adobo seasoning is, in its most basic form, a blend of garlic powder, oregano, black pepper, and turmeric. But depending on your location in the world, you'll find adobo blends with cumin, oregano, paprika, onion powder, cayenne pepper, chili powder, coriander or other spices or herbs. To understand the variety in adobo seasonings, you have to understand the geographic history of this spice mix.

Is Adobo Seasoning Spicy?

The word adobo comes from the Spanish word adobar, meaning "to marinate." The Spanish prepared meat with a blend of salt, vinegar, and spices, though at this point in history their purpose was to preserve the meat without refrigeration instead of simply making it tasty in advance of cooking it on the grill.

When Spain colonized Mexico and Latin America, adobo marinades took on the flavors of the new locations, which is why Mexican adobo tastes different than Puerto Rican adobo which might different than adobo from other Caribbean locations. It all depends on local ingredients and tastes.

The Adobo seasoning you find in stores is filled with spices but isn't "spicy" hot. The seasoning recipe is the perfect all-purpose seasoning.

What is Adobo Seasoning Used For?

Adobo seasoning works as either a dry rub or a wet marinade. The spice mix can be combined with olive oil, bitter orange juice, vinegar or lime juice to make a paste for any kind of meat, poultry or fish. You can also use the adobo seasoning for beans, vegetables, stews, and other dishes.

You may have also seen a Mexican adobo sauce in the store. It's a bright red paste, often sold as chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. This sauce is the wet version of adobo seasoning with the addition of ground chilies and vinegar. If you want to add a bit of tangy heat to any dish, put a bit of adobo sauce in it.

Here's a tip: If you buy a can and don't use it all, chop the peppers up in the sauce and freeze it in tablespoon-sized portions for use anytime.

Goya Adobo


There are several commercial adobo seasoning blends available; Goya makes one that you can find in almost any grocery store. Or you might try your hand at mixing up your own version of this Latin seasoning mix.

This post was originally published on June 27, 2019. 

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