Chipotles in Adobo Sauce

This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

I’m a huge fan of the smoky heat of this double-duty condiment: pop the lid and you have both fiery smoked jalapenos and the flavor-power sauce in which they have been floating. For years, I relied on canned chipotles en adobo, but I’ve done my best to replicate those flavors in a from-scratch version, and I’m really happy with the results. Both chiles and sauce grace my table in every form-on chicken, omelets, tacos, and burritos, and even in Indian curries. If you’re using a gas grill rather than charcoal, I suggest using some hickory sawdust to add to the smoke flavor (I get mine from

Cooking Methodsmoking


Total Timeunder 4 hours

Make Ahead RecipeYes

Dietary Considerationegg-free, gluten-free, halal, kosher, lactose-free, peanut free, soy free, tree nut free, vegan, vegetarian

Equipmentgrill, smoker

Taste and Texturegarlicky, hot & spicy, smoky

Type of DishCondiments, sauces


  • 1 pound red jalapeno or red Fresno chiles
  • 1½ cups coarsely chopped tomato
  • 1¾ cups coarsely chopped onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • ½ cup plus 1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 6 tablespoons tomato paste


  1. First, we’ll smoke the peppers. Wash them and dry them; leave the stems intact.

  2. Open the top and bottom vents of a barbecue grill and light a moderate amount of mesquite hardwood coals; enough to fill a chimney starter about halfway. In 20 to 30 minutes, the flames in the coals will have died down and they will be glowing and turning white. Pour the coals into one side of the grill: we want to get the chiles to smoke from indirect heat and not roast from high, direct heat. If you’re using a gas grill, heat one side of the grill to low heat. Scoop 3 cups of hickory sawdust into the middle of a large sheet of aluminum foil. Wrap the foil around the sawdust as if you were wrapping a present; the result should be a flat, square pack. Flip it over, and using the tip of a knife, stab about 15 small holes into the package to allow smoke from the sawdust to escape. Place the foil pack, holes side up, directly onto the grill’s lava rocks or grill plate.

  3. Place the chiles in a single layer on the “cool” side of the grill. Cover the grill, positioning the open vents over the chiles. The entire smoking process will take about 1½ hours; the chiles should be rotated and turned about halfway through. The chiles will be finished smoking when they smell of smoke and they have softened somewhat, with a small amount of char in spots. At this point, the chiles can sit for up to 3 days, covered and refrigerated.

  4. Now we’ll make the sauce. In a blender, combine the tomato, onion, garlic, oregano, sugar, vinegar, salt, and tomato paste and blend until smooth. Scrape the sauce into a small covered saucepan, add the chiles, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat (note that while there isn’t a tremendous amount of sauce, it should be just enough to cover the fruit). Reduce the heat to low, cover, and keep on a very low simmer, stirring occasionally; for 60 to 75 minutes. The chiles should soften further but not burst, and the sauce will take on a darker hue.

  5. When they’re cool enough to handle, pour chiles and sauce into 2 or 3 glass jars, seal tightly; and refrigerate for up to 2 months.


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I have made this sauce and I always double or triple it.


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