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Ask Dr. Gourmet

How long can I store chipotles in adobo in my refrigerator?

I love a nice sauce or marinade made with canned chipotles in adobo sauce occasionally. Since I do not use the entire can at once, I store them in a small plastic container with lid in the refrigerator. I recently tossed some out which had been in the fridge about two months because I did not know how long they may safely be stored. I know that the peppers and spices are probably safely stored for quite some time, but because the adobo contains tomatoes and I have heard some horror tales about tomato sauces stored too long, I want to make sure. Please advise.

Dr. Gourmet Says...

top view of a can of chipotles in adobo sauce

This is a tough question to answer and basically no one will. I have written and called two different companies that produce chipotle in adobo and neither will commit to an exact amount of time.

Dean at Contadina foods has told me that tomato sauce should only be kept for 2 - 3 days after opening. Wow! That's not very long. Like you, I have kept my chipotles in adobo sauce for much longer. Because of the vinegar and acidity, one of my microbiology colleagues says that 3 months would be reasonable.

In short, no one will commit to being quoted for this answer because there's no great research about this. I would suggest that if you choose to use chipotle in adobo that is much older than about a month, make sure that it is cooked in a sauce that's heated to over 160°F for at least 10 minutes.

A reader has suggested the following:

Chipotles have been among my favourite things for a long time, and I have found that the chipotles in adobo freeze VERY well. Since most recipes only call for one or two chipotles, I put two chipotles, plus a little bit of the adobo sauce, into each compartment of an ice-cube tray, then freeze them. Once they are frozen, I remove them from the tray and place them into a Ziploc bag in the freezer for easy, convenient use.

If you do that, you don't have to worry about chipotles going bad, and you'll always have the typical recipe amount handy for quick access.

I have in fact adopted a similar strategy: the last time I opened a can of chipotles and adobo, I used "snack size" Ziploc bags and put one chipotle in each bag, sealed it, then put all of the smaller bags into one larger Ziploc bag, labeling it with the contents and date.

Thanks for writing,

Timothy S. Harlan, MD, FACP, CCMS
Dr. Gourmet