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 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!

  2. 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!

  3. 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.

  4. 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!

  5. 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!

  6. 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.

  7. 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!

  8. 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!

  9. I freeze my chipotle peppers too! I find it so much easier to pop a bit out and leave the rest in the freezer so it doesn’t waste. Nice to see all the ideas to use them in. I have a Chipotle Rubbed Salmon recipe that is to die for that we use them in 🙂

  10. Thanks for this! I bought a can recently to make a home-made version of Subway’s Southwest Chipotle Sauce. It turned out really good and is really versatile! I use it on sandwiches, meats (you know those leftovers that are starting to dry out and need a little something something to dip it in?), and even baked potatoes. I also found a Rachel Ray recipe for Chipotle Ketchup (you can check her website for that if interested).

    Southwest Chipotle Sauce:
    1 cup mayo (or plain yogurt if you prefer…)
    1/2 oz Dijon Mustard
    1/2 oz lime juice
    1 oz chipotle in adobo, pureed
    1/4 oz garlic, minced
    salt to taste

    Mix well!

  11. You say that the can and the powder are interchangable, but are the amounts the same? Is one tsp. of the can the same as one tsp. of the powder? Super excited about this recipe!! We love chipotle!!!

    1. That’s a great question Kim. I don’t think there’s a specific equivalent, I usually just eyeball it and do it to taste.

  12. Whole Foods sells a jarred chipotle paste that I really like. It’s super convenient, and you don’t have to actually touch any peppers. I like not having to worry about chipotle-eye. 🙂

  13. This post was exactly what I needed! I opened a can last night to use one pepper and thought to myself “what am I gonna do with the rest of them?”
    I’m heading to the kitchen to freee them now! Thanks!

  14. I so wish I read this before I tried PW’s Spicy Dr. Pepper Pork early this week. I was literally sweating while I ate. Two nights dinner ruined because of the spice (tacos, then bbq sandwiches). My children wouldn’t touch it either of those nights. A close friend later told me she rinses the peppers and jar out with the Dr. Pepper and throws the Chipotle Peppers away. I just didn’t think they were all that spicy until now! Lesson learned, thanks for the great tips. I am hoping to get your cookbook for my birthday. 😉

    1. I had the exact same experience with the PW Dr. Pepper Pork. Our mouths were literally buring. I think the recipe calls for 11 oz. can and I could only find a 12 oz can. Too hot for human consumption! I wonder if we were suppose to take all the seeds out first? Maybe next time I could just 2 or 3 peppers and the sauce??? So glad someone else recognized that this was extremely HOT!!

  15. This has nothing to do with canned chipotle peppers, but I just have to say that I entered every giveaway I could find trying to win your cookbook because I am totally cheap, but I decided to give in and just buy one because I love your blog. It came today and I am SO excited! It was probably for the best that I didn’t win one so I could support you in something that has benefited my family and me so much. Thank you for so many wonderful recipes. You gals are the best!

  16. Thanks for posting this! I recently made the salad dressing with adobo on your site, and put the leftover can in the fridge until I figured out something to do with them. Unfortunately, it spilled–all over the place. Will definitely do something like this next time!!

  17. Genius! I just used a can the other day and heard it was a good idea to puree the left overs in an ice cube tray and I did. If only I would have known to line the tray with plastic wrap. The frozen chili didn’t want to come out of my trays very easily. Now I know and it makes me love your blog even more.

  18. Thank you so much for sharing this idea!! Chipotle’s have become a pantry staple in our house this past year. Like you said, you only ever use 1 or 2 for a recipe and I always feel so bad tossing out what’s left. I just opened a can last night (made some chipotle aioli sauce for our bbq burgers, YUM!) and I’m going to use your idea for the rest since I have the can sitting in my fridge right now. Thank you for the great tip!!

  19. Thank you for sharing these recipes, and freezing tips. My favorite hummus recipe calls for a couple of these, but the rest of the can always goes to waste….Not any more! 🙂

  20. I love your blog and your recipes always sound so good! I also like your feature to “print recipe”. I checked out the website to get that option on my blog, but I dont like the icons they have available. Was it pretty easy for you to design the one you use. Also, I cant tell from the website if it automatically puts that feature on every post, i noticed yours is only for the recipe. Any input would be great, as I dont know much about website design…

  21. Thank you for this post!! It is just what I needed. I used Chipotle pepper in adobo sauce for the first time ever in a Smoky Split pea soup…but it only used 1 tsp!! So, I have all these leftovers…and now I know what to do with them!!!

  22. I love that you posted this, because I see so many recipes with it and I never know what to do with the leftovers. This is very helpful. Thank you so much!!

  23. Thanks so much for these tips. I recently found a recipe for Chicken Patties using the chipotle peppers in adobe sauce and though it looked great I thought “utoh” because I’ve never used them before, in anything!! Thanks for all the info. 🙂
    BTW… your site!

  24. Thanks for the fabulous tutorial and the tip for freezing them. I am adding these to my grocery list this week.

  25. This is so helpful! Last summer I found a recipe for something that had these as ingredient. I followed the recipe but the dish (whatever it was) was WAY too hot for us. If I’d known all of this little tip, I would have been much smarter about it and might have tried the now lost recipe again with better results!

  26. This is genius. I only use ONE pepper with ONE recipe I use and now I not only have more recipes from you, I can freeze these puppies so I don’t have to waste them in the future! Thank you! 🙂

  27. THIS is why I LOVE YOU GUYS! Thanks for this! I stopped using them in recipes because it annoyed me to throw away so much! AND I LOVE LOVE LOVE that you referenced other recipes with the chipotles so that I know if I DON’T freeze them- I can use them in something else wonderful later in the week. Thanks!

  28. I am a chipotle nut and am always figuring out brew ways to use them. I like to puree a little and add it to mayo for chipotle mayo and serve on fish tacos. I absolutely love the freezer idea. Thank you, thank you!

  29. I SO needed this today! I have a tupperware in my fridge right now that’s full b/c the last recipe I used only called for 1 tsp of sauce. I wasn’t sure what to do with it and I’ve wasted many a can too. Thank you so much for this tip! I’ve been a follower for quite some time now and still love your site!

  30. Hey Sara – Thanks again for your comment on my blog! (I think that was you!) I read your profile and we seem to have so much in common (although you are a way better cook than I am!!) But I also see you have Portuguese/Brazil in your history! I never lived there, but I did study Portuguese in college…I’m going to try some of your great recipes!!! – Jocelyn

  31. I’ve tried cooking with these, I wasn’t afraid . . . . but I didn’t know what I was doing and didn’t bother to remove the seeds! The dish came out so incredibly burn-your-mouth-off spicy my husband couldn’t even eat it. We gave the rest of the dish to a friend whose spice/heat tolerance is higher than ours and he said he could barely get it down. I haven’t bought a can since, but I think I will now . .

  32. It’s crazy that I found this, we went grocery shopping today and I had never seen canned chipotle peppers before. I bought them thinking they would go good on pizza or in our adobo. I’m sitting here waiting for my pizza dough to rise (doing za on the grill tonite), and randomly browsing OBB and I come across this fun little tutorial. You gals are great, I’m glad you have had such wonderful success with your blog and cookbook 🙂

  33. Like you said, a lot of recipes call for either the sauce or the peppers. I always end up with leftover peppers and no sauce. For the life of me, I can’t find adobo sauce by itself. Is there such a thing?

  34. Thank you so much for breaking it down for all of us! This was so helpful and thanks for all the great pictures to better explain. 🙂

  35. woah.. WHY have I not thought to freeze the remaining chipotle peppers and sauce?! Brilliant 🙂 Thank you! I have a recipe that calls for 1 pepper and in the past the rest usually goes bad. And I made the same mistake as you originally by adding 3 peppers instead of 1.5 and OMG I was crying. 🙂

  36. Help, I just put a can, in my chili pot, I removed the peppers from the pot, its still HOT, What can I add to cool down this pot of chili?????????????????

  37. Thank you sooooo much for the explanation of what they are. I’ve had a can in my pantry for the longest time, but really didn’t know how to use them. Shame on Food Network, of which I’m addicted, for using them frequently without adequate information. You, however, rock.

  38. This presentation about chipotles in adobo sauce is toprate. I used a single pepper with sauce for the first time last night in chili con carne, a lovely change from our standard chili with meat today. Believe my mother used a similar recipe back in the 40’s. Anyway, your explanation anticipates my “what-to-do” with the remainder of the can. Pictures and layout are perfect. Thank you.

  39. You can also simply save the entire remaining contents in a heavy tupperware container with little headroom. I have emptied the contents of a can and kept it in the fridge for literally a year with no spoilage or loss of vitality of flavor. 🙂

  40. Wish I had read this post before making the pulled beef and pork for supper. My DH and DD loved it, I still have a mouth on fire. Next time I will try your suggestion to just use some of the sauce for flavor not fire. Thanks again for a wonderful explanatory post. -j-

  41. Oh thank you so much for that – a friend passed your site along to me – I’m in Australia and am going to make some chipotle soup (it’s winter here tomorrow) out of lots of veggies, a ham hock, beans and pulses for my hubby while I’m in hospital for around 3 weeks (not for all the meals of course because he can cook!) but I wanted to try these and wasn’t sure. Now I’m ready!

  42. Thank you for this information! I must admit I was wondering if I should throw a whole can in the crock pot with a pork loin and some other ingredients! Wow, that could have been painful! You write a very helpful and cheerful blog. Thanks.

  43. Thanks for the tips. I just made a creamy chipotle sauce and have a few of the peppers left over. Now I know what to do with them.

  44. I’m making a pasta salad that calls for chipotle peppers in a food processor but I accidentally grabbed chipotle sauce. Will it give it the same taste? Is it the same thing? I’ve never worked with either?

  45. Great post. If you don’t mind an alternative to freezing is : I’ve recycled a small jar (just about the same size as the can the Chipoltes come in) and put the unused portion in the jar (with a lid). It works fine for me.

  46. I added way too many chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, no time to remake and current batch too costly to discard. What can I add to cut some heat? Making chipotle maple bacon jam. Will be topping hamburgers with it this Saturday. (Hamburger cookoff)

  47. Okay, I have to admit, I’m from southern New Mexico, so I do like hot stuff (and I admit that I meet people from old Mexico all the time who have come to New Mexico and can’t eat our mexican cuisine because its too spicy), but chipotle peppers are NOT hot. This ice cube thing is ridiculous, not ingenious. Heres my argument: If you buy the SMALL can of chipotles, but you can’t use it ALL in two recipes, YOU DON’T LIKE CHILE. You probably don’t like mexican food. Just make some mac&cheeze, or one of those casseroles with the condensed soup or whatever.
    This whole article reminds me of the brief period when I lived in central Texas (yes, it WAS gross), where they claim to have mexican food, but it all tastes like a Mexican explained the idea of it to a German over a bad phone connection, and then the German tried to make it for you, which is probably pretty accurate (Heil, Perry!). One time, in a fit of wreckless optimism, I ordered an enchilada and, I swear to God, they brought me a flour tortilla wrapped around some velveeta with Hormel hot dog chilly on top.
    But I digress. My point is that you don’t need to screw with ice trays and plastic wrap and measuring spoons for a .79 cent can of peppers, Goya will make more. And if you honestly find eight ounces to be an embarrassment of riches, I’d like to point out that they make chipotle POWDER! It tastes awful similar, and one jar could last you… 20 years? No ice tray required! But, if you really think you need the adobo sauce for something, I just made up a recipe that should work perfectly for someone who would actually use ONE chipotle pepper. Here it is:

    Chifauxtle Adobo for the Daring Gringo
    1 Tbsp Heinz ketchup
    1/2 tsp Chile powder
    1-2 drops liquid smoke

    Mix all ingredients in a Pyrex bowl. Be sure to wear your asbestos gloves, and wash your hands thoroughly afterwards. In fact you’ll probably want to take a shower. Use sparingly, and don’t forget to warn your guests, we wouldn’t want any wreckless endangerment lawsuits. You gotta watch yourself, Tiger, there’s CHILE in there!

  48. Yea I don’t find chipotle canned with adobo that hot. I use a whole can on my chicken thighs. I actually leave the seeds in and just chop them up all together. I find them mild. Of course it depends on how much you make. Also when you use them to marinate, a lot of the seed and pepper fall off the the chicken when grilling/cooking.
    I’m not a super spicy loving person, though my family loves squirting sirancha/tasbaco sauce and freshly cut hot chilli pepper in everything (vietnamese background).
    I just love the rich smoky flavor it gives the chicken.
    I’m not really a fan of freezing ingredients because when I need to use them I gotta thaw them, I just leave the can in the fridge wrapped for a week and if I don’t use it I throw it out. Jeez what they are like $1.39-2 for a can in Canada.

  49. Thank you for this!!! I am trying a new recipe to surprise the Hubby and had NO idea what these were. I am a super wimp when it comes to anything spicy.

  50. Thank you! I have a new recipe for Spicy Southwestern Black Bean Burgers and it calls for ‘1’ of these. I had no idea what they were and I guarantee I would have added more, as you did with the chili. This was very informative.

  51. For people who are uncomfortable storing foods in plastic, most stores have 1/2 cup glass canning jars which stack well. They work perfect for storing leftovers like this.

  52. Dear girls, i just want to say how much we main stream people appreciate you taking the time to explain chillies to us. You are lovely. Sherie

  53. Ingredients
    1 medium sweet potato
    1 canned chipotle pepper in adobo sauce
    2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lime juice
    1 tablespoon salsa
    1/4 cup (2 ounces) shredded pepper jack cheese

    Report this ad
    I was so excited to make this recipe for Sweet Potato Dip (See below. Thought you might like to try it), for the Superbowl on Sunday and we took it to a party and a people tried it but no one could tolerate the heat. I’m wondering if the type of Chipotle Peppers in Adobo Sauce vary’s? I am trying this recipe again tonight as a little ‘post’ Bronco’s win celebration treat. I’m going to try your suggestions and then freeze the rest. I can tell it will be delicious if the heat is manageable. If any of you try it let me know what you think and how you manage the Chipotle Adobo sauce. Love your blog and plan to try some of your recipe’s, as well!
    Bake sweet potato at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until tender. Let cool slightly and peel.
    Place baked sweet potato in small food processor or blender; add remaining ingredients. Pulse until well combined. Serve warm or at room temperature with fresh veggies, crackers or tortilla chips.
    *Recipe originally developed for The Southeast Dairy Association.

    1. Hi Stacey,

      Yes, 1 whole chipotle pepper will add a LOT of heat, especially if all of the seeds were in there as well. Make sure you scrape out the seeds and I would start with maybe 1/4 teaspoon of minced pepper and then add more as desired. Another option would be to just add some of the sauce and none of the peppers. It adds mild heat with lots of smokey flavor. Good luck!

  54. I put an entire can into chili and it’s hot! My husband likes hot but it’s a bit much. Is there a way to calm it down?

    1. The best way to calm it down is to use only the sauce from the can, not the actual chili. Usually a recipe only needs a single pepper, if that. A whole can is a LOT haha!

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