In this paper, we present a finite element method with a residual-based artificial viscosity for simulation of turbulent compressible flow, with adaptive mesh refinement based on a posteriori error estimation with sensitivity information from an associated dual problem. The artificial viscosity acts as a numerical stabilization, as shock capturing, and as turbulence capturing for large eddy simulation of turbulent flow. The adaptive method resolves parts of the flow indicated by the a posteriori error estimates but leaves shocks and turbulence under-resolved in a large eddy simulation. The method is tested for examples in 2D and 3D and is validated against experimental data. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.