Smoky Chipotle in Adobo from 'Mastering Fermentation'

Homemade Fermented Chipotles in Adobo with Braised Pork
Photograph: Ed Anderson

Chipotles in adobo are one of those pantry staples that I always have around the house, but it never would have crossed my mind to make them myself. I definitely wouldn't have thought to ferment them. Mary Karlin's recipe in Mastering Fermentation does just that. Letting the adobo mixture ferment overnight helps to mellow the bite from the chiles and adds an enigmatic tang to the sauce not present in the store-bought product. The whole process is fairly involved, but you can cut down on the work a bit by using dried chipotles (rehydrate them before blending) instead of smoking your own peppers.

Why I picked this recipe: I use chipotles in adobo in a lot of my cooking, so it was about time I made a batch myself.

What worked: The complexity of the fermented adobo sauce here can't be beat. If it weren't so spicy, I would eat it with a spoon.

What didn't: My blender really struggled with this thick sauce. Next time, I'll use a food processor.

Suggested tweaks: If you're going to use dried chiles, it is easier to remove the stems and seeds before re-constituting them in hot water. You'll want to reserve some of this liquid to mix into the adobo sauce in the blender. Once you've made the chipotles, you can use them to braise pork (as Karlin demonstrates in the photo), in chili, or to liven up simple sautéed vegetables. As with the ketchup, you can use whey drained from high-quality plain store-bought yogurt or brine from unpasteurized sauerkraut as a starter.

Reprinted with permission from Mastering Fermentation: Recipes for Making and Cooking with Fermented Foods by Mary Karlin. Copyright 2013. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House. All rights reserved. Available wherever books are sold.

Recipe Details

Smoky Chipotle in Adobo from 'Mastering Fermentation'

Active 45 mins
Total 0 mins
Makes 2 cups


  • 3/4 pound red jalapeños
  • 1/2 cup julienned dry-packed sun-dried tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons dark raisins
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 3 cloves roasted garlic, peeled
  • 2 shallots, roasted and peeled
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted and ground
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds, toasted and ground
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons dried Mexican oregano
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons smoked brown sugar or natural brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons unrefined fine sea salt
  • 4 tablespoons raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons fermenting agent (basic whey, from yogurt; water kefir; or brine from pickled vegetables, like sauerkraut)


  1. To smoke the chiles: Line a wok snugly with aluminum foil. Place a handful of aromatic wood chips in the bottom of the wok, then insert a mesh pizza rack sized to fit the wok, raising about 2 inches above the chips. Line the rack with a jalapeños. Leave room between the pieces so the smoke will cover the surfaces evenly. Heat the wok over moderate heat until the chips begin to smoke.

  2. Cover, decrease the heat to low, and smoke for 10 to 12 minutes. Turn off the heat and allow to smoke for another 3 to 5 minutes. Remove the chiles.

  3. To make the ferment: Cut a slit down the side of each of the smoked jalapeños, and remove the stems and most of the seeds. Remove the skins from 5 of the chiles and set aside to stir in whole. Reserve any liquid from this process.

  4. In a blender (preferably) or a food processor, combine all the chiles but the 5 whole jalapeños, any reserved liquid from the peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, raisins, tomato paste, garlic, shallots, cumin, coriander, oregano, cinnamon, brown sugar, and salt with 2 tablespoons of the apple cider vinegar; blend to create a thick paste. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of the cider vinegar along with the balsamic vinegar and puree into a smooth, soft paste.

  5. Place the paste in a bowl and stir in the fermenting agent. Starting with the paste, spoon into a pint jar in layers, alternating with the smoked jalapeños, being careful not to break them up. Finish with a layer of paste; secure a piece of cheesecloth to the top of the jar and ferment at room temperature for 8 hours or overnight. Cover with an airtight lid and refrigerate for 2 days before using. Store, refrigerated, for up to 2 months.