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 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!!

  2. 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!

  3. 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!!

  4. 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!

  5. 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. 🙂

  6. 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.

  7. 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!

  8. 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 🙂

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