3 November 2022

The 8 best marinade substitutes for your recipes

By Killian

Depending on where in the world you are from, marinade can mean a number of different things to you. It can be a sweet and sour Southeast Asian dish, a moist condiment made up of various seasonings, or even a peppery sauce used in sauces and baking.

Typically, when we refer to marinade in western cooking, we are most often referring to a specific dry/powdered seasoning that is essentially a dry spice mix.

Being such a specialized type of spice, it can sometimes be hard to come by in regular grocery stores. so today we have prepared a list of the best marinade substitutes that you can use. So you will never lack a good dry seasoning to spice up your dish.

The best substitute for Adobo seasoning is homemade Adobo seasoning. Alternatively, you can also substitute Cajun Seasoning, Greek Seasoning, or Caribbean Jerk Seasoning for the Adobo Seasoning. Finally, in case you need a specific texture, you can substitute chili powder, Adobo sauce, and Caribbean curry for the Adobo seasoning.

The Best Adobo Seasoning Substitutes

The exact content of this spice mix can vary greatly from manufacturer to manufacturer. But the general idea is that it is a ground mixture of garlic, onion, pepper and oregano. It can also contain some other things to personalize and make the taste a little more special.

Being such a flavorful spice that helps give your food that all-important Latin flair, it works well in many types of dishes. You can sprinkle it over meat while searing it, or add it to stews, sauces, and soups.

Due to the liberal use of ingredients, it means that the core flavor of the Adobo is not as rigid, leaving us free to take some liberties with the flavours. This makes it very easy to achieve similar qualities and flavor profiles using alternatives.

Also, all the ingredients that go together to create the “whole” that is the marinade are very common and readily available. So here are your best options as far as some alternatives.

1. Homemade Adobo Dressing, do it yourself

Making your own “homemade” version of something is not always a viable option; the reason we need a substitute is that the ingredients weren’t easily accessible in the first place.

Marinade seasoning does not fall into this category. Since it’s made up of all the pretty standard individual seasonings that are then combined to make adobo seasoning, making it yourself isn’t actually that hard!

Now, the exact ingredients you use can vary, as Adobo seasoning is not a 100% “fixed” seasoning, so you may have to do some research on your own to find out exactly what you want in yours.

But as a general rule, it is made up of salt, paprika, ground black pepper, onion powder, oregano, cumin, garlic powder, and chili powder.

As you can see, these ingredients are, individually, quite common. You can just combine them all, give them a good mix, and hey presto, your own homemade Adobo seasoning!

2. Pasta or Adobo Sauce

We have already said that not all variants of marinade paste are dry and powdery.

It also comes in a wet form, which is used in various dishes, such as soups. Using essentially the same spices, it tastes very similar and is a great substitute for powdered seasoning.

However, it cannot be used across the board for every recipe. Due to the water content, it is not always going to provide the correct texture for the dish you are cooking.

It still works great for things like grilled meats, where that extra liquid and oil will only help tenderness and juiciness.

But for other dishes, especially if they use some type of oil or watery ingredients, you might consider reducing them slightly to offset the added moisture from the Adobo sauce.

Marinade paste may also have additional ingredients, such as added vinegar or sugar, depending on the brand you buy, so be sure to read the ingredient list to ensure you get one that is as close to the potentized form as possible in terms of flavor.

3. Chili powder

As long as you can find the right brand, chili powder is a very good substitute because it contains many of the same ingredients that you’ll find in Adobo seasoning.

This includes things like black pepper, garlic, cumin, and oregano, which will give it a remarkably similar flavor to Adobo seasoning.

Not only that, but it’s also one of the most accessible suggestions on this list, you shouldn’t have a problem finding chili powder at any local supermarket, no matter what country you’re from.

The main thing that will set it apart is the color, Adobo seasoning tends to be bright and yellowish in color, while chili powder tends to lean more towards deep orange and reddish colors.

As long as you can forgive the look, taste, and texture, it’s an excellent choice.

4. Cajun seasoning

For similar reasons as chili powder, the right Cajun mix can also be used as a very respectable substitute for Adobo.

This is because it shares many of the same ingredients. Including things like black pepper, garlic, and oregano.

Of course, Cajun seasoning has a few additional ingredients as well, so it will have its own uniqueness, but who’s to say that’s a bad thing?

Cajun seasoning works best especially on any type of savory food and can simply be used as a 1:1 substitute. In particular, for any type of grilled or smoked meat, you will be very satisfied with it!

5. Greek seasoning

Greek seasoning, also known as “Greek Spice,” is a blend of Mediterranean spices that uses elements such as marjoram, oregano, basil, dill, and thyme.

Obviously, these ingredients are quite different from those in Adobo and will taste even more different than Cajun Seasoning.

But don’t let that put you off, as it still contains many of the same base ingredients as the marinade, including black pepper and garlic.

So feel free to use it as another 1:1 substitute if that’s all you have on hand.

6. Caribbean Curry

This can be a little hit or miss. First of all, you must take into account if it is powdered or in cubes that dissolve in water, since this will determine what type of food it is appropriate for.

But it’s an especially good option if you like milder, more subdued flavors. Use additional spices like coriander, ginger, turmeric, and even some cayenne if you’re into heat.

It features a really rich palette of flavors that works fantastically on most foods that you would use Adobo seasoning on.

Feel free to use it as a dry seasoning for your meats, or if you only have it in liquid form it can also act as a really good marinade.

7. Caribbean Jerk Seasoning

It’s not the most affordable substitute on this list because it’s only really widespread and available in the Caribbean. If you see any at your local store be sure to pick it up because it works as a great seasoning.

With ingredients like thyme, allspice, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, and black pepper, it does a great job of seasoning your food similar to Adobo seasoning.

It adds a bit of heat to whatever you use, and also gives it a slightly smoky quality. But this isn’t a bad thing, as it provides a slightly more unique flavor compared to Adobo seasoning and actually works great on things like chicken or pork.

8. Chipotle in Adobo Sauce

We are not trying to include Adobo sauce here as a substitute, chipotle chiles in adobo sauce are a real thing and are considered a separate type of product.

Now of course the use of chipotle peppers makes it significantly hotter than adobo seasoning, so as long as it’s appropriate for the type of food you’re making it’s a very good option.

But the added use of smoked jalapenos is really delicious and worth trying instead of the adobo seasoning.

How to choose the best marinade substitute

While many of these substitutes can come pretty close, there are definitely some options that are more appropriate than others depending on the type of food you’re preparing.

It depends on whether you want a wet or dry seasoning, and how much heat and spice is appropriate for your guests.

So here’s a quick rundown of which substitutes are the best options, based on a wide range of criteria so you can make the most informed choice when deciding which substitute is best for you.


Hands down, the best flavor is going to be “Homemade Adobo Seasoning”. Not only is it going to contain all of the same spices that are used in the real, store-bought version. If there is something you don’t like, you can simply use less of that particular ingredient.

So not only can you match the flavor exactly, but you could beat it if you know what you want out of it.

Of course, this means you have to have access to all the ingredients, but luckily, they’re all common enough that you can already have most of them in your spice rack.


We have provided a number of substitutes that come in both powdered and wet form.

But if the texture of the seasoning is very important to you, for example, if it is to be used as a dry seasoning for meat or as a liquid marinade, then we recommend Adobo Homemade Seasoning or Chili Powder for a dry substitute, and Pasta of Adobo if you need a wet substitute.

The key is to identify what kind of texture is best suited for your food, and then choose accordingly.


For those on a budget, chili powder is going to be your cheapest option simply because it’s so common. It’s in every grocery store and is produced in large quantities, which means the price is much lower than specialty seasonings like Cajun or Caribbean jerk seasonings.


Once again, chili powder is the best option, since it is so common, you can easily find it anywhere.

Our best choice

If you need a single, reliable substitute that’s as close as possible in every way, from taste to texture, Adobo Homemade Seasoning is your best bet.

It is made with readily available ingredients and keeps for a long time, making it an ideal condiment to prepare in bulk and keep in your spice rack for a long time.