February 13, 2011 12:00 PM
You Asked for It: Chipotle Chiles in Adobo Sauce

Shortly after posting one of my first Basic Ingredients posts, on Chipotles in Adobo Sauce, Cath Kelly from Australia commented: "I've been desperately looking for a recipe to make Chipotles in Adobo. We smoke our own Jalapeños which turn out beautiful, and this is the next step in my cooking process. Please hurry up and cook them up for us!"

Australia... An exotic place for someone to wonder how to make this addicting and versatile Mexican chile pickle. What's more, as much as Chipotles in Adobo are a basic staple in Mexican cooking, most Mexicans buy them ready-made in cans in stores and of extraordinary quality.

Think mustard, do you buy it or make your own?

Then again, time has proved there are more people into making things from scratch than what I thought: The most visited Post on my site, by far, is the one to make Pickled Jalapeños. Another chile pickle devoured by Mexicans from morning 'til night, from north to south, also usually bought ready-made in cans. 

Well, Cath, it has taken me a while. I am sorry. It has not been because I didn't have your request in mind. On the contrary, I've been testing and tweaking my recipe here and there, for over a year (!) so that when you make it, it can be better than what you get in the stores.  

There are different types of Chipotle Chiles. All Chipotles are Jalapeños that have been ripened, dried and smoked. They all turn out to be spicy, rich and smoky. But different varieties of Jalapeños turn into different varieties of Chipotles.

The smaller kind of Jalapeños, more intensely flavored and fragrant than the rest, turn into Chipotles Moritas, pictured above. Dark in color and deep in taste, they're the ones I prefer. Commercial makers do too, probably because of their flavor and attractive color, but also because being smaller, they work well for the smaller sized cans sold in shops

You can also use Chipotles Mecos, pictured below. They are bigger than Moritas and with a much lighter color. They are tasty too.

The perception exists, that it is complicated to make Chipotles in Adobo. It's not.

Chipotles need to be rinsed and simmered in water for about 15 minutes. This rehydrates and plumps them up, so they can absorb the flavors from the Adobo sauce and have a soft bite.

Most recipes for pickling Chipotles, don't include the Adobo element. But it is the Adobo which makes the store bought product so rich and delicious.

To make it, aside from the usual pickling suspects such as vinegar, oil and spices, after a lot of testing, I found out you need Ancho chiles.  Some people add tomatoes some people don't. My palate does call for them. Once the tomatoes and Ancho chiles are cooked in water until soft, and pureed, they make a rich Adobo base. 

Yes... The idea of marinating a Chile in the puree of another Chile is wild. But it is exquisite. Chipotles are spicy, smoky and rich. Anchos are bittersweet, mild and have a prune like flavor. Trust me, they like each other's company.  

The Ancho chile base is cooked and seasoned over sauteed carrots, onion and garlic in olive oil.


With the addition of marjoram, thyme and bay leaves.


Then those chiles beg for salt and a generous amount of brown sugar, or piloncillo. What it does to those Chipotles is blissful.


Maybe sinful.  

You be the judge...  

To finish the Adobo, pour rice vinegar and white distilled vinegar. That combination of vinegars works as if you were using the fruit based home made vinegars traditional in Mexico's countryside.

Then you just add the chipotles, cook it all together for 10 minutes. And you are done.

Once they cool off, place them in pint sized jars.

This recipe will make four pints you can keep in the refrigerator until you finish eating them (they will last months and months and keep getting better).

There may be a more important reason why most Mexicans don't make their own Chipotles in Adobo Sauce. Not only is it because the product sold at the shops is so good. Or because there is the perception that it takes a long time to make them.

I think its mostly because they are so good, and eaten in such large quantities, that any home cook would need to make Chipotles in Adobo continuously in their kitchen to meet the steady demand for more.

They are eaten with everything! Tortas, sandwiches, quesadillas, tostadas as a pickle... They are also used to season and flavor from soups to stews, to tamales to beans, dressings and casseroles... and so much more...  

Here you go Cath Kelly, I hope this recipe pleases you so. Now you got me in trouble, my husband says he will not eat the canned product anymore.

Makes about 4 pints

1/2 pound dried chipotle chiles moritas, about 90, or for the mecos, about 45
1 oz ancho chiles, about 2 or 3 chiles, rinsed, stemmed and seeded
4 roma tomatoes, about 1 pound
1 1/2 cup ancho chile and tomato cooking liquid, (see below)
1 cup olive oil
3 medium carrots, peeled and sliced, about 2 1/2 cups
1 white onion, halved and sliced, about 3 cups
6 garlic cloves, thickly sliceds
1/2 tsp dried marjoram
1/2 tsp dried thyme
2 bay leaves
cup dark brown sugar, or piloncillo grated
1 tbsp kosher or sea salt, or more to taste
3/4 cup white distilled vinegar
3/4 cup rice vinegar

Rinse the chipotle chiles and drain. Place in a medium saucepan and cover with water. Set over medium-high heat. Once the water begins to simmer, cook for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat.

Place the stemmed and seeded ancho chiles and tomatoes in a pot and cover with water. Simmer for about 6 to 8 minutes until the tomatoes are cooked through and soft. Transfer to a blender with 1 cup of the cooking liquid, and puree until smooth.

In an extended and large saute pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking, about 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the carrots and onion, let them season for a couple minutes. Make some room and add the garlic, cook for another minute. Pour in the ancho chile and tomatoe puree, the marjoram, thyme, bay leaves, salt and sugar. Stir, and let the sauce season and thicken for 5 to 6 minutes.

Pour in the vinegars, and cook for another 5 minutes. Finally, drain the chipotles, discard their cooking liquid and add to the mix. Let it all cook together for 5 more minutes and turn off the heat. Let them cool off and place in jars.

Cover tightly and refrigerate. Give them a day before you eat them, so they will have had time to pickle and thrive in that adobo sauce.

They will keep in the refrigerator for 6 months, if they last that long.