Well, well, well! It seems as though food is more controversial than anyone expected it to be. Today, ladies and gentlemen, we will learn that we can make any thing we want to. Yes, even spice blends that we only thought to buy before can (and should) be made at home. As a woman who grew up dedicated to certain brands, I learned very early on that making things myself was the way to go. Not only is it cheaper, it’s safer when you consider that you know everything that went into it. Here we have Adobo, the all-purpose seasoning blend beloved by many Hispanics. Shake this seasoning on everything… and I mean, “ER’THANG.” Poultry, beef, pork, seafood, rice, veggies… well, not dessert. I don’t think that’s going to turn out well.
What flavor does Adobo seasoning have?
Adobo is a seasoning salt, so its prominent flavor is salty.
Beneath the saltiness lies hints of herbaceousness and warmth from oregano and cumin. Aromatics- garlic and onion- bring piquancy, while turmeric provides a hint of color.
The main flavors, though, are the garlic and salt. When it comes to what flavors it goes with, however, the answer is: all of ’em. Even if you’re not cooking Spanish dishes, this seasoning lends itself to flavoring whatever you’re adding it to deliciously. Use it in place of your everyday seasoned salt and you’ll not regret it.
Is Adobo seasoning the same as Adobo the dish?
Nooooooo. The two are as different as salt is to tomato sauce. Since the Philippines and Puerto Rico were both Spanish colonies, they have a few shared words. Adobar is one of those words, but it refers to two different things. Both countries’ word have the same meaning: “marinade or season” or “to marinade or season”. In Puerto Rico, adobar el pollo means “season the chicken”, so it’s the actual process, which morphed into naming the seasoning Adobo.
In the Philippines, well, I have no idea what “season the chicken” is in Filipino. But, Chicken Adobo is a dish that is made by simmering chicken pieces in a marinade (adobo) of vinegar, soy sauce, and herbs.
So, these two are not interchangeable, nor are they, even remotely, the same things.
What is Adobo seasoning made of?
Adobo seasoning is fairly easy to make and you most likely have all the ingredients you’ll need to have it ready by dinner time. The brand who is no longer mentioned has a wide variety of blends, which I’ll give you the recipes for to replicate all of them. Well, not “replicate”- ours will taste better.
A spice boutique here in San Antonio called Spice and Tea is where I prefer to get my spices. They sell organic spices with no fillers or flowing agents, which means you get more than what you pay for. They also ship!
If all else fails, though, I guarantee your local grocery store has everything you need to prepare this Adobo.
Granulated garlic and onion powder, along with salt, are (again) the backbone of this basic recipe. Oregano is their co-star; with ground cumin and black pepper being extras (and therefore optional). Turmeric is like the old giant of the screen. He doesn’t have an extended role, but gets top billing because he’s important.
Before the actual mixing, measure all of the spices out into small prep bowls. We need to do some work on the salt and oregano before we combine all the others together.
Grind the Salt and Oregano a Bit
Before we mix up the Adobo, the salt and the oregano need to be ground down a little more. If you’re using iodized salt and ground oregano, you can skip this part. This step is beneficial if you’re like me and prefer to cook with kosher salt and oregano leaves.
Because they are bigger grains/leaves, they want to settle at the bottom of the container they’re stored in. Even in the store brands, you’ll find that settling occurs. To minimize this, add the salt and oregano to your pilon or coffee grinder. The salt grains sharp edges help to break down the oregano.
Grind the two until the salt is the consistency of the garlic or onion. If you’re using a coffee grinder, just pulse the two together 4 times and that should do the trick.
What gives Adobo its color?
Pour the salt-oregano mixture into a mixing bowl.
Store bought Adobo has this odd, yellow hue to it. You can thank turmeric for that funky yellow color. I, personally, love the way turmeric adds color to recipes, but it’s also beneficial for adding a tangy, astringent flavor to foods. Add the turmeric- or, if your budget allows, saffron- to the bowl with the salt and oregano.
While the red-topped bottle of Adobo that I normally use doesn’t have cumin, I think it should, so I’m adding it. Cumin is an unsung hero of the Hispanic diet. It doesn’t get as much shine as the garlic and oregano, but without it a lot of our food would taste cold and harsh. Cumin’s earthy mellowness literally smooths food out. If you’re a fan of the green-topped bottle of Adobo, double the amount of cumin called for to replicate it. That said, if you hate cumin for some reason, you can omit it completely.
Finish the Adobo
We’re almost at the end of our Adobo recipe. All that’s left is to add the black pepper (omit it to recreate the blue-topped bottle), the onion, and garlic powders.
By the way, the recipe note card will include add-ins to recreate all of the Adobos available. You’ll need to plug in the nutrition facts on your own, though. I’m good, but I ain’t that good.
Once all of the spices are in place, use a small whisk and stir them together well.
How do I store spices?
The thing with spices- especially ones that have herbs like oregano- is that their flavor isn’t eternal. After 6 months, you need to consider tossing them. But, that, alone, is reason enough to make your own spice blends at home. Instead of binding yourself to massive containers of Adobo, you can make it a couple of cups at a time and not feel rushed to use them up.
Make sure your Adobo jar is tightly sealed and stored away from moisture or heat. Remember, our Adobo doesn’t have tricalcium phosphate added to it, so it’s not going to remain free-flowing. Moisture in the environment will cause even more caking, so store the Adobo in a closet or drawer away from steam or excessive heat. If yours clumps during storage, give the jar a vigorous shake to break it up.
How long can I keep spices?
Optimum spice storage is no longer than 6 months. If you don’t cook often, you can push it to 9 months, but 1 year is the absolute limit. Throw it out after that and make a new batch.
Spices don’t necessarily “go bad” unless they’ve grown mold. They do, however, lose their potency. If you know you’re not going to use up a whole bottle within 6 months, consider gifting half a batch to a friend or neighbor who could use it. No one’s ever turned down my spice blends.
What can I use Adobo seasoning for?
Maybe it’s easier for me to tell you what you can’t use it for. Don’t use it on ice cream or in pies.
Here are some recipes where you can use Adobo:
- Habichuelas Guisadas (Stewed Beans)
- Bistec Encebollao (Cube Steak with Onions)
- Arroz Borracho (Beer-Steamed Yellow Rice)
- Pernil (Roast Pork Shoulder)
And Adobo isn’t just for Puerto Rican recipes. Seriously! This seasoning is truly all-purpose and all-cuisine. Anywhere you’d use salt, this needs to be your go-to.
Be sure to save this recipe to you boards and share it with your friends who are looking to make the switch from the store brand Adobo.
Adobo All-Purpose Seasoning
Prepare your own all-purpose, all-cuisine seasoning salt with just a few ingredients. Variations included- see notes.
- 1/4 cup kosher salt
- 1 1/2 tablespoons dried oregano
- 2 tablespoons granulated garlic
- 1 1/2 tablespoons onion powder
- 2 teaspoons black pepper
- 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
Add the salt and oregano leaves to a mortar and pestle and grind the salt down until it is the same consistency (size) as the granulated garlic.
Transfer the salt-oregano mixture to a mixing bowl and add the garlic, onion powder, black pepper, turmeric, and cumin.
Use a small whisk to blend the spices together into a uniform mixture.
Transfer the finished Adobo seasoning to a glass container using a funnel. Cover the seasoning with a tight-fitting lid and store in a cool, dark area of the kitchen.
A typical serving of Adobo is a 1/2 teaspoon, but use as desired.
Adobo Flavor Varieties:
Blue Top (Original):
- omit the black pepper and ground cumin
Red Top (without Cumin):
- omit the ground cumin
Green Top (with More Cumin):
- add an additional (1) teaspoon of cumin
Orange Top (with Bitter Orange):
- add 2 teaspoons bitter orange powder
- add 1 1/2 teaspoons cayenne powder (add less for less spicy Adobo)
Orange Sazon Adobo:
- add 1 1/2 teaspoons Accent flavor enhancer (MSG)
- add 1/2 tablespoon ground coriander
- add 1 teaspoon ground annatto
Yellow Top (with Lemon Pepper):
- add 2 teaspoons lemon powder
Light Blue Top (Reduced Sodium) with or without pepper:
- decrease salt to 2 tablespoons
- add 1 teaspoon lemon powder
- without pepper: omit the black pepper in the original recipe
Adobo con Azafrán (with Saffron):
- add 1 teaspoon saffron