How To: Work with Canned Chipotle Peppers in Adobo Sauce

Every time I write a post including canned chipotle peppers I think we should really have a resource post for those who aren’t familiar with them or might even be afraid to try something new.  So here we go!

What are they? Chipotles are small peppers (often jalapenos), usually 2-3 inches long that have been dried by a smoking process that gives them a dark color and a distinct smoky flavor.  The canned variety we are talking about are canned in a red sauce that has a fantastic, smoky flavor as well.

Where do I find them? You can find canned Chipotle Peppers in Adobo sauce in the Latin isle of most grocery stores.

Are they spicy? Yes, they are spicy, but not crazy-burn-your-face-off spicy.  Well, let me re-phrase that.  If you use the right amount, they are not burn-your-face-off spicy.  Remember that a little bit goes a long way.  Start with small amounts and add more to taste.  Or, use the sauce from the can instead, which has the same great flavor, but much less heat.  I will never forget the first time I used these peppers.  I was making a chili recipe that called for one pepper for the whole pot.  That didn’t see like very much so I threw 2 or 3 in there.  3 peppers for the entire pot, and it was SO hot.  I couldn’t even swallow it.  So trust me and start small!

Is there an alternative? You can buy dry Chipotle Chili Powder, which can be found in the spice isle of a well-stocked grocery store.  It has that distinctly smoky flavor, much different than a standard chili powder.  Depending on the recipe, one may work better than the other (real chipotles vs chipotle powder), but often they can be interchanged without a problem.

How do I handle them? Make sure not to touch the peppers and then rub your eyes, mouth, or nose.  To cook with the peppers, remove one from the can and use a knife to gently scrape the seeds off.  Or, reserve as much of the sauce that’s sticking to the pepper and then carefully run it under a light stream of water to wash away seeds.  You can then mince with a knife.

Most recipes call for a very small amount and I feel like it’s a waste to buy an entire can.

Me too!  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve used a pepper and then put the leftover can in the fridge with intentions of making something else.  I’ve thrown away a LOT of cans!  So here’s what I do.  Take the extra time to do this process and your little can of peppers can last you months and months stored in the freezer.

Line an ice cube tray with plastic wrap.

I really like to have my sauce and my peppers separated because I have a lot of recipes where I just use the sauce, and others where I use the peppers, and some where I use both.  But that’s just me.  So I remove the seeds from my peppers (because they pack a lot of heat) and place them in my food processor and leave the remaining sauce in the jar.  You could however, just pop the entire can in there.

I pulse it a few times until they’re very finely minced.  Almost like a paste.  If you don’t have a food processor you could just use a knife here.

Use a teaspoon or Tablespoon to measure your sauce and/or peppers into the tray.  First I am putting the sauce in by Tablespoons, because I tend to use more sauce at one time than I do peppers.

Then I put in the peppers, by teaspoons.

If you don’t have an ice cube tray, you can just use a plate.  Doesn’t work so well with plain sauce though!

After the peppers are frozen, just lift them right out of the tray and wrap the plastic right up.

Place the plastic in a freezer bag or container and make sure to label what you did.  Now the next time you need a couple teaspoons of peppers, you’re ready to go!

Now that my freezer is stocked, what can I use them in?

Here’s some of our favorites!

Baked Breakfast Taquitos with Chipotle-Lime Dip

Southwest Stuffed Bell Peppers

Southwest Burgers

Garden Fresh Salsa

Baked Chipotle Beef Taquitos

Chipotle Chicken Taco Salad

Chipotle Chocolate Chili

Chipotle Pork Tacos


  1. Thanks! I have always been intimidated by these peppers. Now I feel like I can rock a chipotle pepper recipe! And I’m so glad you included freezing instructions, I hate throwing food out, it’s like money in the garbage!

  2. What an awesome idea to freeze the left over peppers and sauce. I made a recipe once with these but didn’t take out the seeds, our food was so hot we couldn’t eat it! Needless to say, I’ve been a little hesitant to use them again. Thanks for the tips! We love spicy food and will have to give these chipotle pork tacos a try, they look delicious!

  3. I love the idea of freezing them like that. Why didn’t I think of that? I have leftovers sitting in my fridge right now because I made some cupcakes a couple of weeks ago that actually called for both canned chipotles and the chipotle chile powder in different parts of the recipe. I’ll have to do this with them, thanks.

  4. I love cooking with chipotle peppers — Alton Brown has a chipotle smashed sweet potato recipe that even got me eating sweet potatoes at Thanksgiving. Delish! I’ve never, ever thought to freeze them (because I’m not awesomely innovative and creative like you ladies) so I’m really glad I popped over today and read this!

  5. Thank you so much! This post was very timely as I just bought a can of these for a new recipe I’m trying. I was looking for more recipes that used them or a way to store them for later. Perfect!

  6. I freeze chipotles en adobo, too, although I don’t bother to separate the peppers from the sauce. If the recipe calls for sauce only, I just use a smaller amount to reduce the heat. Of course we like things spicy so heat isn’t a problem! I’ve also quit chopping the peppers before freezing. I’ve found that I like the texture from shaving the frozen blobs with a knife better. Instead of ice cube trays, I now use press and seal wrap. I put tablespoon size blobs on the sheet, fold over and seal to separate them, place in a ziploc bag and toss in the freezer. When I need to use the chipotle, I cut a blob off the sheet.

  7. Brilliant! Quiznos has a chipotle mayo on one of their subs that I am pretty sure is just mayo and chipotle sauce mixed together. Now I can make it at home and freeze the rest of the can.

    Thank you!

  8. Thanks so much for explaining this! I have always wondered just what to do with them. Now I have a bunch more of your recipes to try! We had Cowboy Quesadillas last night for dinner, they were a huge hit! Thanks for a simple quick recipe! I will definitely be ordering your cookbook just as soon as my amazon gift card gets here! Thanks again for the tips!

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