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What Is Adobada?

Allison Boelcke
By Allison Boelcke
Updated May 16, 2024
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Adobada, also spelled adovada, is a Mexican dish that primarily consists of meat marinated in a spicy chili pepper and vinegar based sauce known as adobo. Historically the marinating process was used in order to help preserve the meat, but in more modern times the it is used to add flavor to the meat before cooking, which is then consumed on its own or added to other dishes. The meat is often made into a stew or may be shredded and used as a filling for tacos, burritos, or other tortilla-based Mexican dishes.

The meat base of adobada tends to traditionally be chunks of a boneless cut of pork, such as pork shoulder. A boneless cut beef may be used instead; however, the variation recipe is often referred to as carne adobada. The sauce for the meat is often made with dried chile peppers that have been soaked in liquid until they are softened. Other ingredients that commonly give the sauce its traditional spicy and tangy flavor include vinegar, garlic, citrus juice, and oregano.

Adobada is made by pureeing soaked chile peppers, along with vinegar and other preferred flavoring ingredients, to form a sauce. If a thinner sauce consistency is desired, water may be added. The meat is typically covered in the sauce and stored in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours to allow the sauce flavors to permeate the meat and add a deep flavor.

The marinated meat may be cooked in a variety of ways. Traditionally the meat is not drained after marinating, but rather the sauce and meat are cooked together for an extended period of time until the meat is tender. One of the most common cooking methods is simmering it in a pot on a stovetop over low heat until the meat begins to fall apart. Adobada may also be prepared in a slow cooker, baked in the oven, or grilled over a flame in a fireproof dish.

Although adobada may be served on its own in a bowl as a stew, it is often consumed with a starch to make it more filling. One of the most common serving methods is ladling the mixture onto a bed of rice. It is also often stuffed into warmed corn or flour tortillas and topped with avocado, sautéed onion, cilantro, cheese, or any other preferred toppings.

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