Adobo powder is a popular seasoning blend commonly used in Latin American and Spanish cuisine.
It typically contains a mix of garlic, oregano, cumin, pepper and other spices that give it a savory,slightly spicy flavor.
Adobo refers to a Spanish marinade or seasoning that usually contains garlic, salt, vinegar and spices. The term can refer to either a wet marinade or a dry spice blend.
Adobo powder, also called dry adobo or adobo seasoning, is the dry spice mix version. It's commonly used to season meats before cooking but can also be added to sauces, stews and more to impart flavor.
The exact blend can vary, but basic adobo powder contains:
- Garlic powder - Provides a strong, pungent garlic flavor.
- Onion powder - Adds savory undertones.
- Oregano - Earthy herbaceous notes.
- Ground black pepper - A bit of heat.
- Salt - Enhances overall flavor.
It's wonderful on proteins like chicken, pork, fish and beef but can also add a flavor boost to veggies, rice, stews and more. Keep reading for the top recommended swaps for adobo powder.
Adobo Paste or Sauce
One of the closest replacements for adobo powder is adobo paste or adobo sauce. These are wet versions containing similar ingredients - garlic, oregano, pepper - plus vinegar and sometimes tomatoes or chilies.
- Has a similar garlicky, savory taste as dry adobo powder.
- The spices are concentrated so a little goes a long way.
- The vinegar provides acidity to balance out the other flavors.
- The wet texture makes it a great marinade or stew/soup base.
If using adobo paste instead of powder, you'll want to account for the extra liquid by slightly reducing other wet ingredients in a recipe. And because it's more concentrated, start with about half the amount of paste as you would powder and adjust to taste.
Overall, adobo paste makes an excellent 1:1 substitute in wet applications like stews, chilies or marinades.
Key Takeaway: Adobo paste provides very comparable flavor to adobo powder. The added moisture makes it ideal as a marinade or stew seasoning.
Homemade Adobo Seasoning
For the best flavor match, you can easily make your own adobo powder with basic spices likely already in your pantry:
HOMEMADE ADOBO SEASONING
- 2 tablespoons paprika
- 2 tablespoons garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon onion powder
- 1 tablespoon oregano
- 1 tablespoon black pepper
- 1 tablespoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon chili powder (optional)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
Simply mix together the spices until well blended. Store in an airtight container.
Benefits of homemade adobo powder:
- Contains the same core ingredients like garlic, oregano and pepper.
- Allows you to control salt and spice levels. Omit salt for a salt-free option.
- Customizable - add other spices like thyme, turmeric or bay leaf.
- Fresher and more flavorful than pre-made blends.
- Also tends to be more budget-friendly than store-bought.
Homemade adobo can be used just like the pre-made powder in any recipe. Start with 1 teaspoon at a time and adjust amounts to your liking.
Key Takeaway: Creating your own adobo seasoning blend allows you to adjust flavors to your taste.
For an easy, inexpensive and readily available option, chili powder makes a suitable adobo powder substitute.
- Imparts a similar warm, earthy flavor.
- Includes adobo spices like garlic, oregano and cumin.
- Adds mild heat instead of adobo's black pepper.
- The red color differs from adobo's usual yellow hue.
- Found in any grocery store for just a couple dollars.
When using chili powder in place of adobo seasoning, start with about half the amount of adobo called for. Chili powder tastes best when used in moderation. Then adjust to taste if needed.
Chili powder works well in most savory applications like meats, stews and Tex-Mex dishes.
Key Takeaway: Chili powder contains many of the same spices as adobo and adds comparable flavor.
For a spicier, more robust alternative, use Cajun seasoning in lieu of adobo powder.
How Cajun seasoning compares:
- Contains adobo components like garlic, pepper and oregano.
- Often includes paprika and cayenne for extra heat and smokiness.
- Adds a bolder, spicier flavor than adobo's more mellow taste.
- May also contain onion, thyme, basil and other herbs.
Cajun seasoning can be used in a 1:1 ratio in place of adobo powder in most recipes. But because it's quite zesty, start with 3/4 tsp Cajun for every 1 tsp adobo and tweak amounts to preference.
It works especially well to liven up mild foods like chicken, fish and veggies.
Key Takeaway: Cajun seasoning makes a flavorful, kicked-up substitute thanks to its blend of spices.
For a Mediterranean twist, Greek seasoning makes a solid adobo alternative thanks to its blend of garlic, oregano and pepper.
How Greek seasoning stacks up:
- Contains adobo's core ingredients of garlic and oregano.
- Often includes black pepper for mild heat.
- No cumin or chili powder, so flavor is simpler.
- May contain dill, mint, thyme and other herbs.
- Imparts a Mediterranean essence.
Use Greek seasoning in place of adobo powder in a 1:1 ratio. It works well in Mediterranean recipes, on lamb, in marinades and more.
Key Takeaway: Greek seasoning provides comparable dried herb flavor to adobo powder.
Looking to add some spice and smoke? Swap in savory jerk seasoning for the adobo powder.
How jerk seasoning differs from adobo:
- Contains less garlic and oregano but more robust spices like allspice, cinnamon and nutmeg.
- Smoky and spicy thanks to ingredients like chili peppers and thyme.
- Complex sweet, sour and bitter undertones.
- More potent so use about 3/4 tsp for every 1 tsp adobo powder.
Jerk seasoning fantastically flavors proteins like chicken, pork and seafood. Or add intriguing flavor to black beans, veggies and rice dishes.
Key Takeaway: Jerk seasoning offers deep, smoky flavor with a touch of heat.
Mild Curry Powder
For a more exotic, aromatic vibe, mild curry powder can pinch hit for adobo seasoning.
How mild curry powder compares:
- Contains garlic, pepper and cumin like adobo.
- Warm yet subtle heat, not very spicy.
- Earthy notes from spices like coriander, fenugreek and turmeric.
- Bright yellow color. Use about 3/4 tsp for every 1 tsp adobo powder.
Mild curry shines in stews, curries, roasted veggies and more. Add it along with a little coconut milk to lend rich flavor to otherwise bland meals.
Key Takeaway: Mild curry powder provides fragrant flavor different from yet complementary to adobo.
Missing that Southwestern flair? Grab some fajita seasoning to stand in for adobo powder.
How fajita seasoning stacks up:
- Usually contains familiar adobo components like garlic, cumin and oregano.
- Adds mild heat from ingredients like chili powder and paprika.
- Provides that Tex-Mex punch perfect for fajitas or tacos.
- Use in a 1:1 ratio in place of adobo powder.
Fajita seasoning fantastically flavors skirt steak, chicken and veggies destined for fajitas or tacos. Also delicious on chilies, rice and more Tex-Mex fare.
Key Takeaway: Fajita seasoning offers Tex-Mex essence thanks to staples like cumin, garlic and chili powder.
Another excellent sub for adobo when craving Tex-Mex is taco seasoning.
Taco seasoning vs. adobo powder:
- Contains onion, garlic, cumin and chili powder like adobo.
- Robust savory flavor with a hint of heat.
- Often has more salt so use a bit less, about 3/4 tsp for every 1 tsp adobo.
- No oregano, so herb flavor will differ slightly.
Taco seasoning is ideal in ground beef or turkey for tacos. Also adds punch to Mex-inspired rice, soups, eggs and poultry.
Key Takeaway: Taco seasoning provides the salty, savory, slightly spicy flavor profile of adobo.
Don't have more elaborate spice blends on hand? Simple seasoned salt makes a quick adobo powder pinch hitter.
How seasoned salt compares:
- Provides essential salty flavor, though less complex.
- Most contain garlic and onion powder for savory depth.
- No heat or herb components like oregano or cumin.
- Use about 1 1/2 tsp for every 1 tsp adobo powder.
While not an exact match, a dash of seasoned salt can lend a basic savory quality when adobo isn't available. Use it to quickly perk up meats, veggies, eggs and more.
Key Takeaway: Seasoned salt adds salinity and basic savory flavor in place of adobo's complexity.
What's a good adobo powder substitute for marinades?
For marinades, opt for a wet substitute like adobo paste or sauce, jerk seasoning or taco seasoning blended with a little oil and vinegar. This allows the seasoning to penetrate for maximum flavor.
What can I use instead of adobo on chicken?
On chicken, great adobo substitutes include Cajun seasoning, jerk seasoning, Greek seasoning, mild curry powder or a blend of garlic powder, paprika and black pepper.
What spices make a good homemade adobo seasoning?
An easy homemade adobo blend contains garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, cumin, chili powder, black pepper and a pinch of salt. Tailor it to your taste by adjusting amounts or adding spices like paprika.
Can I use chili powder and cumin instead of adobo seasoning?
Yes, a blend of 2 parts chili powder and 1 part cumin approximates adobo seasoning's flavor profile quite well. Add a pinch of garlic powder too. Use about 3/4 teaspoon of this mix per 1 teaspoon adobo powder.
What's a quick substitute for adobo powder?
In a pinch, seasoned salt, taco seasoning or fajita seasoning will add a basic punch of savory flavor similar to adobo. Start with 3/4 to 1 teaspoon per 1 teaspoon adobo seasoning called for.
Adobo powder boasts a signature savory, garlicky taste that enhances meats, stews and more in Latin cuisine. When this specialty seasoning isn't available, viable substitutes like adobo paste, chili powder, jerk seasoning, mild curry and more can save the day.
With a mix of spices you likely have on hand, you can also easily whip up a homemade version. So don't let a lack of adobo powder deter you from cooking up a flavorful Spanish or Mexican feast.