Alex Stupak

Empellón Cocina, Empellón Taqueria, and Empellón Al Pastor, NYC

Masa may be the bedrock of Mexican cuisine, but adobo is what makes it sing. The dried chile paste is a component in countless dishes, slathered on robust meats like the pork for Alex Stupak's al pastor tacos and the lamb for the lamb barbacoa tacos. The dried chile and aromatic spice flavors in this paste are versatile, so adobo is a useful thing to have around to add instant depth—try thinning it with oil and using it to dress a hearty vegetable, like asparagus. Adobo will last 1 week in the refrigerator, and 1 month in an airtight container in the freezer.

Recipe reprinted from Tacos: Recipes and Provocations by Alex Stupak and Jordana Rothman. Copyright ©2015 by Empellon Holdings LLC. Photos by Evan Sung. Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC


  • 8 ancho chiles
  • 8 guajillo chiles
  • 1 chipotle morita chile
  • One 2-inch stick of canela (Mexican cinnamon)
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 20 garlic cloves, skins on
  • 1 cup cider vinegar


Remove the stems from the chiles and tear the chiles open. Shake out and discard the seeds. Tear the chiles into small pieces.

Set a 12-inch cast-iron skillet over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add the canelas, cloves, black peppercorns, oregano, and cumin seeds. Toast the spices, shaking the pan, until fragrant, about 15 seconds. Remove the spices from the heat, transfer them to a spice grinder, and grind the mix to a fine powder.

Reheat the skillet over medium heat. Toast the ancho, guajillo, and chipotle morita chiles, turning them from time to time until you see the first wisp of smoke, about 30 seconds. Transfer the chiles to a bowl, cover them with hot tap water, and place a heavy plate over the chiles to keep them submerged. Set the chiles aside to soak for 30 minutes.

Add the garlic cloves to the skillet and roast them, turning them from time to time, until softened slightly and blackened in spots, about 6 minutes. Turn off the heat, remove the garlic from the skillet, and set it aside to cool at room temperature. Once the cloves are cool enough to handle, peel them and discard the skins.

Drain the chiles and place them in a blender along with the ground spices, roasted garlic, and vinegar, and purée to a paste. You may need to add a bit of water to the blender to help the chiles pass easily through the blades. Transfer the paste to a container and refrigerate it until ready to use.


about 2 1⁄3 cups