Everything You Can Do With a Can of Chipotles in Adobo

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[Photograph: Vicky Wasik]

Take away my fancy olive oil, my spices, the peppers I've been air-drying in my fridge. Take my copper-lined sauciers and vintage cast iron. You can have it all, as long as I get to keep my chipotles in adobo.

Because these little buggers can do it all; it's easier to think of cooking applications where chipotles in adobo don't fit in rather than the other way around. How many ingredients are equally at home in sauces, glazes, marinades, braises, soups, sandwiches, beans, and then some? We're talking top-level pantry stuff here, olive oil and vinegar territory.

If you've never tried them, a quick primer. Chipotles in adobo are smoked and dried jalapeños rehydrated and canned in a sweet and tangy purée of tomato, vinegar, garlic, and some other spices, for a ruddy sauce that packs wicked heat but with plenty of balance and body. They're complex enough to use as a solo seasoning but friendly enough to play well with others—more chilies, fresh herbs, honey, vinegar, dairy, you name it.

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A can costs just a few dollars and will keep pretty much forever, so there are few reasons to not keep a couple dozen around. Even when opened, the chilies last for weeks (at least) right in the can. I usually purée them and their sauce into a paste, then transfer to tupperware or an ice cube tray for long-term storage.

So what can you do with these smoky-sweet blobs? How about...

Sauces and Condiments

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[Photograph: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt]

I'm prone to eat adobo sauce straight from the can, but it takes well to dilution with fat and sugar. Mix it with mayo and sour cream for a subtly smoky crema to drizzle over tacos, or use it to spice up ketchup with bittersweet orange juice.

Braises and Chili

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[Photograph: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt]

You want deeply flavored, smoky, and rich real-deal Texas chili? Chipotles are the answer. They also add incredible depth to braises like barbacoa and chicken tinga, both of which are ready taco fodder.

Soup and Beans

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[Photograph: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt]

Chipotles add meaty depth to meatless cooking, and I love how their smoky intensity plays with earthy beans. Throw them into some lazy black beans or use them to amp up vegan refried beans. Or add a couple to gild the lily on this black bean soup with tender chicken and fatty Spanish chorizo.

Sandwiches and Tacos

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[Photograph: Vicky Wasik]

Chipotles are essential to a proper cemita and great on a shrimp and cheese torta. And they're killer with egg sandwiches, here blended into guacamole or mayo. And let's not forget about tacos; fry up some Mexican chorizo and add chipotle for an extra jolt of spice.

Marinade and Glazes

[Photograph: Josh Bousel]

If you're grilling or roasting, chipotles pull double duty as both marinade and glaze. Try this smoky-sweet pork loin with orange and brown sugar, or these pork ribs, where the chipotle's intensity is mellowed out by apricots.