There are a few reasons why you might need an adobo seasoning substitute. Perhaps you’re out of adobo seasoning and need to make a dish that calls for it. Or, maybe, you’re trying to avoid certain ingredients in adobo seasoning (like chiles or garlic).
Whatever the reason, there are several potential substitutes for adobo seasoning. In this post, we will share with you all the options so you can pick the best one.
Adobo seasoning, also called dry adobo, is a spice mix most commonly used in the cooking process called adobar. It’s a Spanish word that means ‘marinade’ or ‘to marinate.’
Although this multi-purpose seasoning has many variations, the basic ingredients of this dry spice blend are garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, black pepper, and salt. Some versions also include ground bay leaves, ground cumin, turmeric, and even red pepper.
You can make adobo seasoning at home, but store-bought versions are also available in grocery stores, especially in Asian grocers.
Adobo seasoning tastes savory based on its ingredients; it’s salty and flavorful. It can be spicy, but it most definitely is garlicky. If your adobo seasoning contains bay leaves and oregano, it can taste herby and earthy.
You can consider adobo seasoning an all-purpose mix because you can use it in various ways.
Before grilling, frying, or roasting, you can use adobo seasoning as a rub. Another popular way to use adobo seasoning is to add it to marinades.
If you want to give any dish an additional spice and aroma, you can also sprinkle it directly into whatever you can think of seasoning – stews, soups, cooked meat and vegetables, mashed potatoes, taco meat, stir-fries, and even steamed rice.
Adobo seasoning has a distinct taste due to its spices, but it does not mean that you won’t be able to find a substitute that you can use in its place should you find yourself without it.
Here are 7 of the best adobo seasoning substitutes:
The best thing about adobo seasoning is that you can easily make homemade adobo seasoning because the ingredients and spices needed are probably sitting in your pantry.
Like the store-bought version of this spice mix, this DIY version is dry and will work well as a dry rub.
How to make DIY adobo seasoning
Mix 1 teaspoon salt, 3 tablespoons garlic powder, 1 tablespoon onion powder, 1 teaspoon dried oregano, 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper, 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon paprika in a small bowl.
Store the mix in an airtight container.
Adobo paste or adobo sauce is also an excellent substitute for adobo seasoning. It is essentially adobo seasoning with vinegar, creating a paste or a sauce depending on the consistency.
If you do not have this ready, you can make it yourself using the recipe above for adobo seasoning. Just add vinegar to the mix. Start with one tablespoon, adding more and more to the mixture until you get your desired consistency.
Since this is a liquid substitute, this will work well in dishes that require liquid ingredients, including stews, soups, and marinade.
Because adobo paste or adobo sauce is more concentrated than adobo seasoning, you should use less of it than the amount of adobo seasoning asked for in your recipe.
Chipotle in Adobo Sauce is a popular food item available in most supermarkets. As the name suggests, it is just chipotle peppers immersed in adobo sauce, making it an excellent adobo seasoning substitute.
When using this, the most obvious consideration is that it will be hotter than your adobo seasoning. So, if you are not looking for a spicier alternative to add a kick to your dish, this may not be the best substitute for you.
Conversely, this will be a perfect substitute if your recipe calls for chili peppers. You just need to be mindful not to add more chilis or chili powder if you are not a fan of hot and spicy food.
Cajun seasoning is another good adobo seasoning substitute you can commonly find in the spice section.
It is a spice blend made up of powdered garlic, cayenne pepper, black pepper, oregano, and paprika. Please note that it’s a generally spicy seasoning, which is the defining characteristic of Cajun cuisine.
When using this as an alternative to adobo seasoning, you should always check the label to see what spices and other herbs it already contains. For example, there are cajun seasonings that already have salt and those that don’t. By doing this, you can adjust the salt in your recipe so you’ll not end up with a tad too salty dish.
Also, if your cajun seasoning is missing onion, you can add a bit of it to mimic the adobo flavor.
It would be best to use less cajun seasoning because it is very easy to overpower the other ingredients in your recipe when using this extremely spicy seasoning.
You might need to add chili powder to your dish if you are going for a hot dish.
Greek seasoning is another common condiment you can use as an adobo seasoning substitute. It is a mix of herbs and spices with Mediterranean flavors that come close to adobo’s flavor profile. Though the ingredients of greek seasoning differ depending on the maker, it usually contains salt, marjoram, thyme, dried dill, dried oregano, dried basil, powdered onion, powdered garlic, and ground black pepper.
Again, when using greek seasoning as an adobo seasoning substitute, it is wise to check the label to see what spices your greek seasoning comes with to skip adding them again, even when they are part of your original recipe.
Greek seasoning is a dry seasoning that will work well when substituted with adobo seasoning for rubs in your recipes and sprinkled over dishes. Use the same amount of greek seasoning as the amount of adobo seasoning called for in your recipe. Add chili powder if necessary to add a bit of spice.
Chili garlic powder and chili garlic sauce can also be a substitute for adobo seasoning because they have chili and garlic. It brings the savory flavor of adobo seasoning but with chili’s extra hotness.
Depending on the application you are going for, you can use chili garlic sauce and chili garlic powder interchangeably when using them as an alternative to adobo seasoning. Remember that they have a red shade instead of the yellow shade of adobo seasoning.
Chili garlic sauce and chili garlic powder are hotter than adobo seasoning, so you should use less of them if you don’t want a hot dish.
Hoisin sauce is made out of fermented soybean paste, vinegar, garlic, sesame oil, and chili. It tastes salty, sweet, tangy, spicy, and savory like adobo seasoning, which is why it can serve as a great substitute.
This substitute is a liquid condiment that you can use as a dipping sauce, glaze for meats, or seasoning in stir-fries and soup.
Hosin sauce is notably saltier than adobo seasoning; you should use less of it than the amount of adobo seasoning you need. If you want it to be spicier, then add chili powder.
Here are two tips for picking the best adobo seasoning substitute:
Adobo seasoning is not hot, but some substitutes can be hot. When choosing the best one for your dish, it is best to consider how hot your replacements are. This factor especially comes into play when feeding kids who do not enjoy hot dishes, so consider the other less spicy substitutes in that case.
There are both dry and liquid substitutes for adobo seasoning, and they work best when used for specific purposes. If you are choosing something to replace adobo seasoning as a rub or a sprinkle, go with the dry spice blends like Cajun or Greek seasoning. However, liquid replacements such as adobo paste or adobo sauce are better if you want to add the substitute to stews or soup.
Adobo seasoning is most commonly made of salt, powdered garlic, onion powder, dried oregano, ground pepper, and paprika. Some versions also include turmeric and chili powder.
Adobo seasoning is not the same as an all-purpose seasoning in supermarkets. But you can still consider adobo seasoning an all-purpose seasoning because it can be used as a dry rub, marinade, and seasoning for almost every dish.
Please note that adobo seasoning does not contain parsley and thyme, which you can commonly find an all-purpose seasoning.
Adobo substitutes are not challenging to find. If you look closely at your pantry or spice rack, you might find that you can create your own homemade adobo seasoning using the adobo seasoning recipe above or use some existing supplies you have in its place.
Just remember that there are some things you should consider when choosing substitutes based on the dish you are going to cook. Most replacements are hotter than adobo seasoning, and some are liquid, unlike dry adobo seasoning.