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Mexican Chile Marinade and Sauce Recipe

Mexican Chile Marinade and Sauce
Difficulty: Medium | Total Time: | Active Time: | Makes: About 4 1/2 cups, or enough to marinate 3 pounds of meat

Adobo is a Spanish word for “sauce” or “marinade.” This version—a chile marinade containing a blend of ancho, pasilla negro, and guajillo chiles, as well as onion, garlic, fresh pineapple, vinegar, and lime juice—is traditionally paired with Tacos al Pastor (pork), but is also excellent with grilled or smoked chicken or beef.

What to buy: Chile negro (also called a pasilla chile or pasilla negro) is the dried version of the chilaca chile. It can be purchased at most Mexican grocers or online. Note that ancho chiles are often mislabeled as pasillas. If you cannot find chile negro, you can use ancho chiles or mulato chiles instead.

Mexican oregano (a relative of lemon verbena) can be found in Latin markets or the Latin section of your supermarket.

Game plan: If you can, prepare the marinade the day before. Coat the meat in it and refrigerate overnight. If you are pinched for time, you can marinate the meat for less time, but no less than 4 hours.

This recipe was featured as part of our No-Fail Mexican Favorites for Cinco de Mayo.

INGREDIENTS
  • 1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano leaves
  • 5 dried guajillo chiles
  • 5 dried chiles negros (also called pasilla negro)
  • 2 dried ancho chiles
  • 1 (1-1/2-pound) pineapple (about 10 ounces fresh pineapple meat), peeled, core removed, and finely chopped
  • 1 cup finely chopped white onion (about 1 small)
  • 2 medium garlic cloves, peeled
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice (from about 1 medium lime)
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more as needed
INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Place the cumin seeds in a medium frying pan or cast iron pan and toast over medium heat, shaking the pan often, until fragrant, about 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a spice grinder and let cool slightly. Set the pan aside. Add the cloves and oregano to the spice grinder and process to a fine powder; transfer the spice mixture to a blender and set aside.
  2. Rinse the chiles under cold running water, then dry well with paper towels. Place the chiles in the pan used to toast the cumin and roast over medium heat, turning occasionally, until fragrant, about 3 to 5 minutes.
  3. Transfer to a cutting board to cool. Wearing rubber gloves, cut the chiles in half lengthwise and discard the seeds and stems. Place the chiles in a medium saucepan, cover with water, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer until softened, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Set aside 1/2 cup of the chile cooking liquid and let cool. Let the chiles sit in the saucepan of hot liquid for 5 minutes more. Drain the chiles and let cool.
  4. Add the pineapple, onion, garlic, vinegar, lime juice, measured salt, cooled chiles, and cooled chile liquid to the blender and blend on high to a smooth purée.
  5. Use as a marinade for beef, pork, or chicken. Marinate the meat at least 4 hours or up to overnight (ideally overnight). If you choose, strain the marinade through a fine-mesh strainer set over a small saucepan; discard the solids. Bring to a boil, season to taste with salt, and slather on the cooked meat just before serving.