Stroke is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality in the United States. Despite intensive research into the development of treatments that lessen the severity of cerebrovascular injury, no major therapies exist. Though the potential use of adenosine as a neuroprotective agent in the context of stroke has long been realized, there are currently no adenosine-based therapies for the treatment of cerebral ischemia and reperfusion. One of the major obstacles to developing adenosine-based therapies for the treatment of stroke is the prevalence of functional adenosine receptors outside the central nervous system. The activities of peripheral immune and vascular endothelial cells are particularly vulnerable to modulation via adenosine receptors. Many of the pathophysiological processes in stroke are a direct result of peripheral immune infiltration into the brain. Ischemic preconditioning, which can be induced by a number of stimuli, has emerged as a promising area of focus in the development of stroke therapeutics. Reprogramming of the brain and immune responses to adenosine signaling may be an underlying principle of tolerance to cerebral ischemia. Insight into the role of adenosine in various preconditioning paradigms may lead to new uses for adenosine as both an acute and prophylactic neuroprotectant.