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Grilled Thick Pork Chops with Adobo Spice Paste

I’m an obsessive cook. I was reminded of this in a recent chat with a friend I haven’t seen in a while. He does some of the cooking for his family, but isn’t as obsessive about it as I am. He said:

“I love your blog, but the recipes…I read until I get to the ingredient I don’t have, then I stop.”

I understand this – while I am usually a “live to eat” kind of person, there are nights where you have to cook a “eat to live” kind of meal. In general, weeknights can’t be elaborate, gourmet meals – there just isn’t enough time.

*And…I know I have a weakness for some unusual ingredients; Spanish smoked paprika, dried lemon peel, chipotles en adobo. But really – they’re all available in your local grocery store! Just go look in the “international” aisle, or poke around in the spices. You’ll be amazed at what you find.

Today I’m going to try to straddle the “live to eat, eat to live” fence. This is a recipe I cook both ways – one way when I’m going all out, the other when I’m in a hurry. The adobo spice paste gives a complex, savory depth to a simple grilled pork chop. It tastes great if it has a couple of hours to soak into the pork, but it also works well if you spread it on just before you start to grill. The heat of the grill turns the paste into a wonderful, spicy crust outside the sweet, tender chop.

Recipe: Grilled Thick Pork Chops with Adobo Spice Paste


  • Grill (I used a Weber Summit 650. Here it is.)
  • Mortar and pestle or coffee grinder (for the “do it right” version of the recipe)


  • 4 thick cut pork loin chops, bone in (1 1/4″ to 1 1/2″ thick)

Adobo paste ingredients, do it right version

  • 1 tsp coriander seed
  • 1 tsp cumin seed
  • 2 tbsp orange zest (zest of 1/2 an orange, or substitute lemon zest, or substitute dried orange peel and dried lemon peel)
  • 1 tsp dried oregano (preferably Mexican oregano)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed with a garlic press
  • 2 tbsp ancho powder
  • 2 tsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp olive oil

Adobo paste ingredients, quick weeknight version

  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed with a garlic press (or substitute 2 tsp garlic powder)
  • 1 tsp dried oregano (preferably Mexican oregano)
  • 2 tbsp chili powder (grocery store blend is fine)
  • 2 tsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp olive oil

1. Prepare the adobo paste: Up to a day before grilling, make the adobo paste.
For the “do it right” version: First, grind the cumin and coriander seeds to a powder, using a mortar and pestle (or a coffee grinder as the spice grinder). Put the coriander and cumin, along with all the other dry ingredients in a small bowl, and stir until evenly mixed. Add the olive oil, and stir until it is a thick paste.
For the “quick weeknight” version: Put the dry ingredients in a small bowl, and stir until evenly mixed. Add the olive oil, and stir until it is a thick paste.

Adobo paste ready to go
On the chops
“rub the paste evenly on the pork”

2. Rub the paste on the pork: Before pre-heating the grill, and up to two hours ahead of time, rub the paste evenly on the pork chops, using roughly two teaspoons of paste per chop. Let the chops rest at room temperature until the grill is ready.

3. Prepare the grill: Set the grill up for cooking at direct medium-high heat, with a section set up for indirect heat. For my Weber Summit, this means turning all the burners to high, and letting the grill preheat for fifteen minutes. Then I turn the burners down to medium-high, brush the grates clean, and wipe them with a paper towel dipped in vegetable oil. Finally, I turn off half the burners – I leave burners 1 through 3 lit, and turn off burners 4 through 6. This gives me half of my grill for direct medium-high heat, and half of my grill for indirect heat.

4. Grill the chops: Put the chops on the grill over the direct heat. If cooking on a gas grill, keep the lid closed while cooking; if using charcoal, keep the lid open. Grill the chops for 2-3 minutes, or until they have good grill marks on the bottom, and release easily from the grate. Rotate the chops 90 degrees, and cook for another 2-3 minutes, until the bottom side is well browned. Flip the chops, and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes, then rotate 90 degrees and cook for 2-3 more minutes. At this point, the chops should have a nice, brown crust on them, but they will not be cooked through in the middle. Move them to the indirect heat side of the grill, over the unlit burners. Cook with the lid closed for 5 to 10 more minutes, depending on the thickness of the chops.  Cook the chops over indirect heat until they reach an internal temperature of 140*F, measured in the thickest part of the chop with an instant read thermometer.

5. Rest and serve: Remove the chops from the grill, and let them rest for ten minutes before serving.

*Rick Bayless “Everyday” adobo paste: See his recipe here: Adobo Marinade.

*Add some heat: There isn’t much heat in this adobo sauce, in spite of all the spices. If you want to add some kick to the adobo paste, add a teaspoon of pureed chipotle en adobo, or chipotle powder.

*I like the brown sugar in this recipe; it adds a hint of sweetness that goes well with pork. That said, it makes the pork chops go from browned to burnt rather quickly. That’s why I cook this recipe on medium-high, and if you have a really hot grill you should consider cooking it at medium. Either way, keep an eye on the chops, and move them to the indirect section of the grill as soon as they are well browned.

*You can, of course, go somewhere between “do it right” and “weeknight” with this recipe. You get the best flavor with recently crushed whole spices, and the quickest results with powdered spices and a limited set of ingredients. The key to cooking is showing adaptability – use what you have in the time you have, and don’t apologize for what you can and can’t do.

What do you think? Questions? Other ideas? Leave them in the comments section below.

Related Posts:
Grilled boneless pork chops, brined and honey glazed
Grilled thin pork chops, soy brinerated

Adapted from:
John Willoughby and Chris Schlesinger: Spice Pastes (Gourmet magazine,

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Filed under: Grilling


Hi! I’m Mike Vrobel. I’m a dad and an enthusiastic home cook; an indie cookbook author and food blogger with a day job, a patient spouse, and three kids who would rather have hamburgers for dinner.


  1. Gregg Hoffman ...Dr "G" says

    Hey “Dad”,

    Stumbled across you tonight while looking for inspiration from Rick Bayless.

    You’re doing a great job. Site is clear, concise, and a pleasure to read.

    I’ve spent years trying to help clients/patients understand that you can have fabulous food and keep a healthy consciousness about it.

    From one nightly cooking dude to another.

    Thank you!


  2. @Mike:

    You’ve got it – I trusted the paste to replace the flavor that a brine would provide. Now, if you have the time, brining the chops first, patting them dry, then covering them with the adobo paste would be even better…

  3. Mike,

    I just discovered your blog and find it to be very interesting and motivating. Grilling and cooking for my large family is a passion of mine as well.

    Curious why you didn’t brine these chops given your other posts? Is it because of the intense flavors provided by the paste?

    Thank you and I look for to giving this one a try very soon.

  4. Dennis says


    I want to thank you for the inspiration you provide. Since discovering your blog, I’ve had great pleasure wandering through your posts.

    In one entry, you stated that one of your best restaurant meals was Grilled Ribeye en Adobo from Rick Bayless’ Frontera restaurant.

    Have you tried recreating that meal? I’m wondering if the adobo sauce in this recipe (or the one from Bayless that you provide a link to) would work with ribeye.

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