The Absolute Best Way to Use Jarred Chipotles (You'll Never Look Back)

According to our office's resident chili guru.

February 25, 2019
Photo by Trevor Baca Adams

Trevor Baca Adams and I first met by our office tea kettle. He’s our merchandising coordinator and I’m a copywriter, but it turns out we both drink our weight in Assam, favor cravat-heavy films set in the 18th century (hi, Amadeus), and like jazz songs about dogs.

But more than anything else, we’re both unapologetic condiment junkies. For me, it’s mustard (I recently caught four—F-O-U-R—different kinds of dijon loitering in my fridge door), but for Trevor, it’s chili sauce. And that’s where our similarities come to a screeching halt. You see, his tolerance for spicy foods outstrips mine by, well, continents: His mother's side of the family is from Coahuila, a state in Northern Mexico. His great-grandfather emigrated to New Mexico. He likes chili peppers. He knows chili peppers. Which is why I asked him to try out this Xilli chipotle in adobo. Meanwhile, I went home to re-alphabetize my mayo collection.

Pretty in pink. Photo by Ty Mecham

The word “chipotle” is derived from Nahuatl (the language of the Aztecs), a combination of the words chi (chile) and poctli (smoked). It’s made from a pepper called a Morita, found in the jalapeño family. The “adobo” comes from adobado—Spanish for “marinated.” And sure, you could find them canned just about anywhere, but Xilli makes theirs in small batches in Brooklyn with authentic, consciously-sourced ingredients straight from Mexico. The result is fall-apart-tender, semi-sweet and deeply the best enchilada sauce you’ve ever had, but way bolder and thickly textured.

Photo by Ty Mecham

This is why, when our Shop team asked me to develop a recipe using this sauce, I politely shoved it toward Trevor. Not only does he understand the significance of the chili pepper more than anyone I know—he's also a dang good cook. While attending culinary school in Paris, Trevor told me he constantly found himself returning to Mexican culinary traditions and techniques, since (in his words) “they work.” A total understatement, because when I tasted his sauce—a taste first, then a spoonful—I rolled my eyes heavenward in tearful silence. Full disclosure: This was partially due to the blazing heat. It was spicy. Really spicy. But I could also taste the smoke in the chipotle, the acid from the vinegar, and even a sort of warm fruitiness that made the pain, well, worth it.

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His recipe features a standard adobo (sauce traditionally used to marinate meat), but incorporates a mix of three chiles, all very distinct in flavor to give it a little complexity. You don’t have to use all three. In fact, when I make it this weekend, I’m just using the Xilli because, yeah, I’m a lightweight and don’t want to down a gallon of milk in between bites. Totally your call, of course. You can also sub in a wide variety of meats, but Trevor tends to stick to tougher cuts like beef, pork butt, and lamb for the best flavor. Needless to say, the best way to serve this dish is with homemade tortillas. Last time I ran into him in the team kitchen for our ritual 2 p.m. tea, I asked what his technique was—but that, he said, would have to wait for another article.

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Top Comment:
“It makes the BEST enchilada sauce. Add a little dark chocolate for more of a mole. So easy and so delicious.”

Have you cooked with chipotle peppers? Tell us about your favorite recipe below!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • isw
  • Hannah
  • Beth VanDorp Collier
    Beth VanDorp Collier
  • Paul A'Barge
    Paul A'Barge
Maggie Slover

Written by: Maggie Slover


isw February 26, 2019
A few chipotles en adobo, chopped fine, makes a nice addition to a batch of queso dip.
Another tip: dump the contents of the can or jar of chipotles into a zip-top plastic bag, mash it evenly flat, zip it, and freeze it. Keeps forever, and when you need some, it's easy to break off whatever amount you want. Works for tomato paste, too.
Maggie S. February 26, 2019
Ugh I'll take queso any way it comes! Thanks for that amazing freezer tip—I never use a whole jar in time and that's a great solution!
Hannah February 25, 2019
I like using jarred Chipotle peppers in my chili, along with fresh peppers (habanero and serrano when available), and the other fixings for a meat, tomato and spice based chili.
I also typically use it when making a chili paste, along with dried peppers, garlic, broth, sugar and spices.
Maggie S. February 26, 2019
I like the idea of mixing the jarred peppers with fresh! Thanks Hannah :)
CATHERINE L. February 25, 2019
I put a few tablespoons worth of the canned chipoltes in a slow cooker along with a few chicken breasts, some taco seasoning mix (store-bought or home made), a can of tomatoes with jalapenos, and some chopped up onion. After the chicken is cooked, I remove the chicken and shred it for tacos or enchiladas. I take the remaining sauce and puree it with a hand blender then reduce it in a large sauté pan on the stove. It makes the BEST enchilada sauce. Add a little dark chocolate for more of a mole. So easy and so delicious.
Maggie S. February 26, 2019
Catherine that sounds glorious! Thank you so much for sharing. Gonna try that out myself.
Beth V. February 25, 2019
Our favorite way to use jarred chipotles is in scrambled eggs. One heaping teaspoon with 2 eggs whisked together. We’ve also added cheddar cheese to make creamier.
Maggie S. February 26, 2019
That's an excellent idea Beth! I usually stir sriracha into my eggs with cream before I scramble, but I bet the smokiness of the chipotle would make them taste incredible.
Paul A. February 25, 2019
you mixed up his name. Is it Adams Baca or Baca Adams.
Life is hard when our colleagues have weird names.
Smaug February 25, 2019
I use chipotles quite a bit- in limited quantity, not being a real heat freak- but I prefer them dry or in powdered form; I like to keep control of my ingredients, and the adobo is composed of ingredients that can easily be added separately if desired.