Cinco de Mayo – Homemade Adobo Steak Marinade

As I’ve said, I’ve made it a point to celebrate Thanksgiving and Cinco de Mayo no matter where I’m at in the world at the time.

The Thanksgiving part I’m sure any American can recognize– there’s something about that holiday and its traditions of family and comfort food that make it synonymous with “home.” And this “home” is so necessary for the soul when you’re being a global nomad. If you get to share it with fellow Americans, it’s a wonderful time of bonding and fast friendships. If you get to share it with non-Americans, it’s even more special, as you get to share a part of yourself that they would never get to see otherwise. Well, it’s the same with Cinco de Mayo, since growing up in Southern California it was almost as pervasive as Thanksgiving. And coming in at the start of May, when the month is still coming in like a lamb, it’s often the first time you get to break out the barbecue and lawn chairs.

Now, imagine you are living overseas, where it’s sad to say that most Mexican and Central American cuisine have not exactly taken by storm. Some ingredients are actually easy to find– like cilantro, since coriander is used in much of Thai cooking. Others, even as staple as tortillas, can be very hard to come by indeed. This is the third reason I make it a point to celebrate Thanksgiving and Cinco– it takes me on a treasure hunt to gather everything necessary. And sometimes it makes me get downright creative.

I really wanted to find chipotle peppers to repeat a marinade I whipped up last year– except after scouring the city, I came to realization that I only had them because a can of them were part of a care package from the States! Time for an alternative– making my own spicy jalapeño adobo sauce.


1 can crushed tomatoes
4 – 5 jalapeños, diced, with seeds
6 cloves of garlic, diced
1 tsp. crushed sea salt
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp. crushed black pepper
1/4 tsp. cumin
1/4 tsp. pimentón (smoked paprika)
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
1/8 tsp. oregano
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 bay leaves

Step One: Mix everything together. To save time on the dicing, run everything except the bay leaves through the blender.

Step Two: Remove about 3/4 cups and set aside. Mix that with half a can of tomato paste to create a thick basting and/or dipping sauce for the table.

Step Three: Pour the marinade into a plastic bag and add your flank steak that has been cut into thick strips (or chicken, or whatever.) Marinade overnight, or 3-4 hours in a pinch, and tote that bag to the barbecue picnic area in your local park!


I was almost ready to give up on chipotles after my treasure hunt was proving fruitless (pepper-less?) That’s when I remembered they were really just smoked jalapeños in the first place. My first instinct was to try searing some Thai red chili to try to replicate them but I stumbled upon some pimentón and the recipe idea just fell into place. Sure enough, I could find jalapeños, but they were the pickled kind. Thankfully, the smoked paprika compensated in flavor and make a smoky, richly spicy red sauce. In fact, my only problem was that it wasn’t spicy enough for me! When I try this again, I may have to consider the Thai red chili after all, or make sure a care package arrives in the nick of time!