The two best qualities any canned food can have are a long shelf life (duh) and versatility. Yet while items like canned black beans and corn can be added to any number of dishes, they don’t contribute hugely to the overall flavor of a dish—meaning you must also do the work of seasoning them enough once you incorporate them. If you haven’t taken a trip down the “ethnic” food aisle in a while, then let me introduce you to canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, a product that livens up almost anything it touches.
This itty bitty can is filled with possibilities. Just this week, the chipotle peppers in my pantry contributed to two days’ worth of dinners, courtesy of my roommate. The first night was chicken tinga (more on that later), the next night was flautas. While grocery stores do sell cans in larger sizes, I recommend the smaller 7-oz. size, because they’re more affordable (often under $1) and their portion better aligns with whatever you happen to be cooking.
Quick plot twist: chipotles in adobo are actually jalapeños. Per Goya, an American food producer that sells many hispanic products, the jalapeños are dried, smoked, and submerged in the tomato-based adobo sauce. Recipes for adobo sauce vary, but they do generally contain tomatoes, onions, chile peppers, garlic, and vinegar, along with a variety of spices. The combination of dried peppers and spicy tomato sauce makes for a hot and smoky bite.
There are likely 1,000 ways to use these little sauced-up peppers, and though I’ve enjoyed cooking with them for years, I learn about fresh applications of them all the time. Did you know you can mix a can of these things into mashed sweet potatoes? That’s a new one I just heard about today.
This ingredient’s potential is unlimited, but just in case you need some inspiration, here are a few different ways you can incorporate these peppers into dishes you probably already make at home:
- Make chicken tinga: Toss the contents of the can into a blender to make a smooth sauce. After you’ve cooked it on the stove, mix in some shredded chicken, and you’ve got tinga. If you have tortillas on hand, you can fill them with leftover tinga and fry it all up to make flautas.
- Marinate meats: Making a marinade is pretty straightforward. All you need to do is blend the contents of the can with any other ingredients you desire, such as garlic, onion, spices, and maybe lime juice to kill some of the spice. Place the meat in the marinade and let it soak in all the flavor for a few hours.
- Boost salsas and sauces: When it comes to using your can of chipotle peppers in adobo, the blender is your friend. Pour it into the blender with onion, tomatoes, and garlic, blend briefly, and you’ve got a great salsa.
- Add it to beans: Ever make a bowl of chili and feel like it’s missing a bit of a kick? Chop up some peppers from the can and add them to the chili, plus a few spoonfuls of the sauce, and you’ll have the zing you’re looking for.
I know I said that the best quality a canned food can have is a long shelf life. But really, that’s irrelevant here; canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce are so versatile you’ll end up clearing your pantry of them pretty quickly.