Smoked Paprika and Chipotle Sauce | Lemons in Salt

Update: We have since found that storing this sauce in a squeeze bottle makes applying it to foods much easier. If you plan on using it as a dip, it’s still handy to have in a jar, but for putting on tacos, tostadas, sandwiches, pretzel sticks and finger tips, the squeeze bottle is your best friend!

Have you ever read a recipe and thought, “I must go make that this very instant!”? That’s what happened when I read about Smoked Paprika and Chipotle Sauce and Lemons in Salt made by her friend on Shauna Ahern’s glorious blog, Gluten Free Girl. Creamy dip/dressing/perfume -whatever you want to call it- it delivered on every high hope I had for it. But first…

Oh first…

Let me tell you a little story about delayed gratification.

There are three key ingredients in the recipe that I thought I might hold me up on getting the sauce in my mouth A.S.A.P.: smoked paprika, chipotles in adobo, and lemons in salt.

I mail ordered the smoked paprikawith no hesitation. I knew there was zero chance that any of our local places would carry it. Hello Amazon. You’re so good to me.

I grabbed a couple lemons at the little corner store in town and salted them the very day I read Shauna’s recipe. No problemo. We were on our way.

Now herein lies the rub.

You all know I don’t live in a teeming metropolis. I don’t even live near a sleepy urban center. The closest thing I have is a pretty well-stocked limited grocery store in a town off the expressway twenty five minutes away. This store has an exceptional selection of health foods, produce, micro-brew and imported beers, hispanic foods and other goodies. I figured it was my “in” to get the sauce made. There was no way they couldn’t have chipotles in adobo, right?*

*Grammar Law #1. You will always fail when you think in double negatives.

As soon as I could reasonably conjure up a reason to go to that town (chicken feed? drop off a check at the bank? stop by the other Amish store for canning lids?) I hopped on over and hit the grocer’s feeling confident that I would be leaving the store with a couple cans of chipotles in adobo. I didn’t see them on the shelf, but I still had faith. When the clerk said, “Did you find everything alright today?” I answered with a chipper, “No, but I’m sure I overlooked it. Could you tell me where the chipotles in adobo are?”

My first clue that my dreams for that evening were in trouble came when she looked at me and said, “Our what?”

Me: “Chipotles in adobo.”

Her: “I have NO idea what you mean, ma’am.”

She called me ma’am.

Me: “They’re usually in the Mexican foods section in most stores.”

Her: “I could ask the manager if you’d like!”

Me, salvaging a little hope: “Oh yes, please!”

Her to manager: “This lady would like something in something. What was that ma’am?”

Again with the ma’am.

Me: “Chipotles in adobo?”

Manager: “I have NO idea what you mean, ma’am.”

I left with my head and heart low and a firm resolution to check Amazon for chipotles in adobo and wrinkle cream as soon as I got home.

I ordered my stuff from and waited patiently (if you call panting at the door waiting patiently) for UPS to deliver the goods. Two days later, the man in brown dusted himself of the grass clippings that somehow stuck to his uniform when I accidentally tackled him to grab my parcel. I had everything.

And in what you might think would be a anticlimactic moment, I had the sauce made in less than five minutes. I’m here to tell you the real excitement, even with all that build up, was the first moment I tasted the sauce. I decided to be genteel and forgo dragging my finger through the blender jar. I used a very classy pretzel stick for the dunking. Then I tried another one. And a few more. Next I tried carrot sticks and the little corner of a tortilla.


It is creamy, thick, smooth, smoky, lemony, garlicky and then at the back of it, it’s just spicy enough to make it worth eating. In the coming days, I served it as a sauce on grilled chicken, tossed with pasta, spread on hamburgers, thinned out as salad dressing, and as a chip  and French fry dip. Every single way I served it blew my mind.

This is now a regular part of our condiment repertoire. In fact, I have a designated container for “The Sauce” as it is known in our household. When “The Sauce” gets low, a chorus of voices reminds me that I need to make more.

It is that good.

If you need help locating the good stuff for this recipe you can follow the links below to my beloved Amazon. They never let me down.

Disclosure: Amazon did not pay me to say this. They didn’t even send me a free can of chipotles in adobo. I do, however, have a little agreement with them. If you click on either of the links to order through Amazon, I get a teensy commission. It’s about enough over the course of the year to purchase said chipotles in adobo.
La Moreno Chipotle Peppers in Adobo Sauce, 7-Ounce Tins (Pack of 6)McCormick Smoked Paprika (Paprika Ahumada), 8.5 oz Size

Smoked Paprika and Chipotle Sauce | Lemons in Salt
This is creamy, thick, smooth, smoky, lemony, garlicky and then at the back of it, it's just spicy enough to make it worth eating. In the coming days, I served it as a sauce on grilled chicken, tossed with pasta, spread on hamburgers, thinned out as salad dressing, and as a chip and French fry dip. Recipe used courtesy of Shauna Ahern of Gluten Free Girl
  • 2 cups mayonnaise (16 ounces)
  • 1 to 3 chipotles in adobo (from a can, use a bit of the sauce, too.)
  • 3 tablespoons smoked paprika
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled, coarsely chopped
  • ½-2 teaspoons preserved lemon peel in salt, to taste, minced (See recipe below)
IMPORTANT NOTE: It IS possible to overprocess this sauce. If you let it go too long in the blender, the mayonnaise will 'break' and separate. You don't want that to happen, so only process 'til smooth! Oh, and I find that little tiny bits of chipotle in the sauce are quite pleasant!
  1. Combine all ingredients in the blender jar and let it run on high until smooth. Scrape into a bowl and refrigerate until ready to serve. This stores very well in the refrigerator in a tightly sealed jar.

So let me talk about Lemons in Salt for a moment. Make this. Make it now. Today. And make a lot of it, because once you have it in your kitchen you’ll wonder what you did without it. The salt draws moisture from the lemons and makes them mellow and soft and deep in flavour. The salt is a bonus. When you make the lemons preserved in salt you automatically have lemon finishing salt for meals and dishes, too.

I’ve stuffed these lemon peels in the cavities of roasting chickens, chopped it up and added it to marinated salads, and my mom ate the salty lemon peels like a snack. Yes she did. Repeatedly. But we’ll talk about that later. Just make some.

Smoked Paprika and Chipotle Sauce | Lemons in Salt
Unbelievably simple and adding incredible depth of flavour to whatever they're added, lemon peels preserved in salt are something every kitchen should have in abundance. Recipe used courtesy of Shauna Ahern of Gluten Free Girl.
  • Lemon peels that have been juiced and trimmed of most pulp
  • kosher salt
  1. Cut the lemon peel into slices. The size and shape is unimportant, it's just to make it take up less room in a mason jar.
  2. Add the lemon peels to a mason jar and cover with a great deal of kosher salt.
  3. Add the lid to the jar and shake well.
  4. Pour more salt in if necessary to cover the lemon peels. Let set at room temperature and use as needed.
  5. Replenish the lemon peels whenever you juice more lemons.


  1. says

    Too funny! I had about the same reaction as soon as Shauna posted that recipe.!I did find the chipotle in adobo locally – but it took a couple of stores to find the gluten free kind! After my initial first try, Amazon provided the bulk container of lovely smoked paprika that is now needed to keep this family in dip, because since then, we have never been without a jar of this dip in the fridge! It has become a daily staple! YUMM!

  2. TiffH says

    Mmmmm…. yummy. I wondered where people who do not live close to a big city get there cooking goods…. Amazon, I had not thought to check there. My closest Wal-mart (its a smaller one) does carry chipotles in adobo, but do they carry garam masala so I can make your yummy recipe….well of course not, why would they carry that? I’m sure you know this, and you probably use a whole can of the chipotles quickly, but I do not, I blend mine (with sauce) and then freeze them in 1 Tablespoon increments. I wrap cling wrap around measured amount and put all of those in a freezer bag, tada ready to use chipotles with adobo sauce at my finger tips.

  3. Michelle W says

    I NEEED to make this soon. I can get smoked paprika and chipotles in adobo at the grocery store (one of the benefits of bigger city living I guess), I just need to know how long my lemon rinds need to sit in the salt. Is this a “days” or “hours” type thing?

    I can’t wait to try it!

  4. Tamara says

    I made both of these tonight..I love them! The sauce reminds me very much of a sauce I used to buy by Old El Paso. BTW, I buy the chipotles in adobo all the time, and I get them from Walmart. Your store probably carried them in the international section.

    I am so looking forward to using the lemon salt. My daughter is too, she said it would be really good on her fish. Thanks so much for sharing!

    • says

      The nearest Walmart is a good forty five minutes from me and it’s hard to justify going that far for one thing. Not impossible, just hard :-) But I’ll tell you what, I was close to driving an hour and a half for them! If that UPS guy had been 15 minutes later I probably would have.

      Lemon salt on fish would be outstanding.

      • Tamara says

        I feel your pain about the Walmart situation. I live in KY now. Every WM is at least 45 minutes from my house. Back home in FL, it took about a minute to get to 3 different WMs. I go to town once a month. My hubs can’t get his food hot enough and so those handy little chipotles are a staple in my home.

        We used the lemon salt tonight on grilled fajitas. It was very good. My 3 year old keeps eating it by itself. (She has salt issues I think)

        Thanks again =)

  5. Sam says

    This stuff is awesome! After making it with mayonnaise, which we all loved, I decided to sub. softened unsalted butter for the mayo and that too was outstanding! We’ve been using it on roasted sweet potatoes and cornbread. My nephew melted some down and tossed it on his popcorn. Then we grilled some salmon basted with it, and served it on buns with the mayo version (I’m going to diet Hell….). With 2 versions of this addicting stuff–you really started something around here! Now I’ve been thinking about what would happen if we tried using cream cheese…..

  6. Deborah Jennings says

    On the Lemons in Salt . . . Do you think that you could do oranges this same way? Or do you have another suggestion for the Oranges and other citrus peels? Can’t have grapefruit. =(

    Debbie J

  7. Danielle says

    I just made this – had all the ingredients including lemons in salt – and it tastes great, but the consistency is very runny. What did I do wrong? I even weighed the maynaise (16 oz). I added more mayo in hopes to thicken it a bit but it is still very runny and it looks like it’s separating, not at all creamy. I’m sure we will still enjoy it, but I was hoping to use it as a spread for sandwiches.

    • says

      Danielle- At first I had no idea what could have possibly gone wrong. I’ve made the sauce countless times and had it turn out perfectly every single time. THEN, I walked away from my blender one day and it overprocessed (which I didn’t even realize WAS possible) and it looked as you described it. It was runny and separated. I realized that I ‘broke’ the mayo with overprocessing it. I have a pretty powerful blender that you can actually cook food in if you desire, and I’m certain that’s what happened. I’d say try again, but pay close attention, as soon as it looks like what’s in the photo above (smooth), shut it off!

      • KarenJ says

        One suggestion: Try blending/processing all the ingredients except the mayonnaise first to the desired consistency (I’m thinking of the chipotles.) Then a quick blending in of the mayo , either in the machine or in bowl with a whisk at the end will avoid “breaking” down the sauce.

        • KarenJ says

          Forgot to add that I’m dying to try this but it will have to wait until I make a trip home to the States next spring. While I have lemons on my tree all year round and plan to try salting the lemon peels, chipotles in adobo just aren’t happening here in Portugal, or even in nearby Spain!

  8. MotorCityMich says

    I’m thinking of trying this without the lemons. I love lemon, but my hubby won’t eat lemon in any form.

    Do you think it would work without it?

  9. Sheri says

    MotorcityMike I just made it without since I couldn’t wait for the lemons and it is insanely good! I’m wondering what to use to thin it for salad dressing…

  10. Robby says

    This looks like exactly what we need at our house. Just to make sure I understand, when preparing the lemons, is it the whole lemon rind cut in strips, or just strips of zest only? It looks like more than the zest, but I wanted to make sure. Thanks for the help, and the recipe!

  11. Jenny says

    This looks insanely delicious! Currently at college but I can’t wait to go home for summer break and whip up a batch of this stuff. Funnily enough, Shauna and her husband Danny rent our garage (practically a commercial kitchen at this point) as a test kitchen! Small world that this version of ‘The Sauce’ originated on my beloved little island.

  12. Louise says

    This looks delicious and I have all these ingredients in my pantry. Quick question – I presume you used store bought mayo? Like Hellmans or S&W? I’m in Australia and can get both so just wanted to check what you used.

  13. Christina says

    Wow, I live in southern California and we have chipotles in adobo at like every store. I’m more worried about about those lemons. You mean the whole white peel? Or just the very outer layer like zest? I do hope to try this, sounds yummy.

  14. Renate Kasper says

    This is one of the most intriguing sauces I’ve ever made! It was a big hit on the bean fritters, but like you say, it’s great on any number of other things. I found that the little chunks of chiles and lemons get stuck in the squeeze bottle though, so I now ‘overprocess’ them together separately from the mayo, so that doesn’t break down. Thank you for posting such a delicious appetizer!

  15. Serena says

    I am in awe of you and this sauce! Just made it last night. Preserved lemons last year and never thought this is what I’d be using them for. My newest addiction! Along with your candied jalapenos of course…

    Quick question: How long does this keep in the fridge?

    • says

      Thank you so much, Serena! I keep mine in the refrigerator for up to two weeks in a squeeze bottle. Food safety rules would dictate less time than that (a max of 5 days, I believe), but we don’t have compromised immunities and I am scrupulously clean and careful when I cook.

      • Serena says

        Thank you Rebecca! I doubt that it will last that long anyway. PS. there is a famous taco place that has a secret sauce everyone raves about. Doesn’t hold a candle to this one!!

        • Serena Lau says

          Rebecca, making this sauce – AGAIN – and wanted to know if you have ever tried making it less caloric? Thinking low fat sour cream, yogurt…

          • says

            I’ve never tried lowering the calorie count on it. :) I like yogurt, but I’m not a big fan of low fat sour cream. I think it has way too many binders and chemicals in it for my liking. If you were to try, I’d suggest going with the yogurt!

  16. Scottsdale Bubbe says

    Now that you all have discovered and know where to purchase chipotles in adobo sauce, you can use them for many dishes of many ethnicities. I use a mini processor to make them into a smooth sauce and keep them in a container in the refrigerator to use whenever. I add it (quantity depending on use and taste — they are powerful) to a big pot of marina sauce, tom kha gai, teriyaki sauce, cream sauces, chile, homemade tartar sauce, homemade barbecue sauce, heated at low temp for a pasta sauce with crushed garlic in olive oil and tossed w/basil and parmesan, stir-fry, posole, etc. I like it better than Siracha or Tabasco because it has a depth of flavor and the smokiness adds something special. When you are browning meat or sauteeing aromatics, once browned or softened, mix in the sauce and let the heat bring out the flavor before you add any liquid. If you are gluten sensitive or diabetic, be sure to read the label and buy the brand(s) that do not contain flour (wheat starch) or sugar in any form. The taste is better anyway without. You might want to try the sauce recipe on this page on corn on the cob — almost like Mexico City street food.

  17. Scottsdale Bubbe says

    Oh, yes — Use chipotles in adobo sauce in deviled eggs, scrambled eggs, hummus, bean dip, sauces, gravies, perks up mashed potatoes, macaroni & cheese. VERY versatile and yummy.

    Next stop: our neighbor’s lemon tree. We juice and freeze the juice in ice cube trays and store in ziploc bags to use whenever. Now we will have a use for the peels.


  1. […] to taste. This is way on the mild side. I had these around from making this excellent dip : Smoked Paprika and Chipotle Sauce | Lemons in Salt 1 jar veganaise (or 16 ounces mayonnaise) I use a shaft mixer and mix right in the mayo jar.. 1 to […]

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