Adobada I think means ‘marinade’ in Spanish but I’m not exactly sure because my online translation tells me that ‘marinade’ is ‘escabeche’ which I know for a fact is more like ‘pickling’. Sorry, my French is excellent thanks to Parisian chefs drilling it into my head under extremely stressful circumstances, my Spanish is inexcusably lame.

chilis adobada marinade

Language barrier be damned! This smoky-sweet-vinegary Mexican marinade that my cooking team has nicknamed “Out-of Body” for “Adobada” is serious. Get out the grill. This is gonna put your neighbor’s tri-tip to shame. Gaujillo and pasilla chiles (dried) are what give this sauce it’s fruity, mildly spicy kick.

I use this marinade more like a barbecue sauce and slather it over steaks after the first quick sear on the grill. Maybe that’s unorthadox. I don’t know. I do know that I served this at an event for two hundred people and there were no complaints. Nada.

adobada marinade

It’s definitely a leap from my usual French cooking and comfort zone, but I discovered these dried chiles on one of my many adventures to 24th Street in San Francisco and then had to figure out what to do with them. Why not try them out at a huge party and see how it goes?

This recipe is adapted from Roberto Santibañez, who is Chef/Owner of a great Mexican restaurant in Park Slope, Brooklyn called Fonda. For those West Coasters living in NYC, I suggest you stop whimpering about the lack of good Mexican food and make the trip… or make this at home if you can find the peppers ;-P

(Very easy to poke fun from my apartment in the Mission!)



Carne Adobada


  • 4 ounces pasilla chiles, stemmed and seeded
  • 4 ounces guajillo chiles, stemmed and seeded
  • 1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup light Mexican beer
  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 3 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon dried Mexican oregano
  • 1 tablespoon toasted cumin seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 5 limes, juiced
  • 2 pounds skirt steak, flank steak, tri-tip, or whatever you want you throw on the grill. Could be puerco or pollo.

Heat a heavy skillet over medium-low heat, and toast chiles until they are fragrant, about 1 minute per batch. Soak the chiles in enough cold water to cover until they're soft, about 5 minutes. Drain and discard the soaking water.

Put the vinegar and beer in the blender (Vita Prep if you have one) with the chiles and the remaining ingredients (not the steak, you do NOT want to blend the steak). Blend until smooth adding a little water if necessary to puree. Set aside 1 cup of the adobo for the steak, and keep the rest in an airtight container in the refrigerator or freezer

Pat the steaks dry, season them with the salt, sear over a hot grill then coat generously with adobo. Cook at a slower temperature until desired doneness. Or cover steaks with sauce and let them marinate in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 hours.