Mexican Guajillo Adobo Sauce (Adobo de Guajillo)

Ingredients and tools for Adobo de Guajillo

Ingredients and tools for Adobo de Guajillo

I love mexican cuisine, and one of my favorite recipes is adobo de guajillo: pureed hot pepper sauce. It’s easy to make, it tastes absolutely delicious, and it goes well with almost any savory dish. In this simple version, it’s really just toasted chiles, softened, and then blended with a few simple side ingredients. Although this probably sounds suspiciously bland, nothing could be farther from the truth.

Adobo” (spanish, meaning “marinade”, “sauce”, or “seasoning”, I’m told) originated in Spain as a way to preserve meat in the hot months, before refrigeration was available. A mixture of the spicy sauce, salt, and vinegar could keep meats well. Over time, and as better methods of preservation developed, it started being used primarily as a marinade and sauce.  As a marinade, the capsaicin in the chiles helps by dissolving fats, allowing the marinade to penetrate more deeply. As with other things Spanish, it was carried to the New World and even into the islands in the Pacific, and has branched into many different versions.  This recipe is specifically Mexican, and uses ingredients common in Mexico (and most of the USA).

  • 3 ounces guajillo chiles (about 12)
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pineapple vinegar
  • 3/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 rounded teaspoon cumin
  1. Clean, stem, slit open, seed, and devein the chiles
  2. Heat a comal over medium-low heat (without any oil)
  3. Toast the chiles two or three at a time, turning them over with tongs and pressing them down until they are fragrant and have changed color a bit–approximately one minute per batch.
  4. Soak the chiles in cold water for thirty minutes, until they become soft. Discard the soaking water.
  5. Put chiles and remaining ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Use more water if necessary.

The resulting sauce can be used to marinate meats, and as a sauce for beans, rice, tamales, and meats. It will keep for about a week in the refrigerator, and can also be frozen for longer periods of time (although I always make it fresh, when I want some).

Notes:

  • A comal is just a low-rimmed cast iron or stoneware griddle
  • Pineapple vinegar is traditional in many recipes, but apple cider vinegar is a fine substitute
  • Guajillo chiles can be found in many supermarkets; if not, mexican specialty stores will carry them. Other types of chiles will also work, but will vary in size and heat.
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