Recipe Review

I Tried These Adobo Chocolate Chip Cookies and They’re Salty-Sweet Bliss

published May 12, 2023
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Adobo chocolate chip cookies on wax paper.
Credit: Justine Lee

In the past, my Asian pantry staples were only used for Asian cooking. This was part and parcel of how I went about life as a Korean American. I would code switch between my two cultural identities, compartmentalizing my Koreanness and only letting it out during specific times and places where I felt no fear of judgment. Swirling gochujang, doenjang, and mochiko flour into classic American baked goods was one of the moves that helped me bridge the gap between my two cultures. And it helped me gain confidence as a Korean American cook. 

From the moment I saw this recipe for adobo chocolate chip cookies in baker and Kitchn contributor Abi Balingit’s new cookbook, Mayumu: Filipino American Desserts Remixed, I was instantly intrigued by the concept. With an ingredient list that featured some of the most amazing Filipino pantry staples, it was truly unlike any other cookie recipe out there. For instance, a generous quarter-cup of soy sauce replaces the salt as the driving force behind the cookie’s umami-rich saltiness. Plus, it looked super easy to bring together. I knew I couldn’t waste one more second and ran to the kitchen to give it a go. 

How to Make Adobo Chocolate Chip Cookies 

The first step is to add butter and bay leaves (fresh or dried) into a saucepan over medium-low heat and cook to make brown butter. Transfer the infused brown butter into a large bowl, removing the bay leaves, and let it cool. Meanwhile, whisk flour and baking soda in a medium bowl until evenly combined and set aside. Add dark brown and granulated sugars to the bowl with the cooled brown butter and stir until well-combined. Next, add in the egg, egg yolk, some soy sauce, vanilla extract, and apple cider vinegar. Add the wet mixture to the flour mixture and gently mix until no streaks of flour remain. Toss in chopped chocolate and stir to evenly distribute. Cover the bowl of cookie dough and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. If you have the time, an overnight rest for the cookie dough is highly recommended. Prep two to three baking sheets with parchment paper and preheat the oven to 350°F degrees. 

Step away from the cookie dough for a moment to toast whole pink peppercorns in a small skillet over low heat. You’ll know they’re ready when they start to smell fragrant. Using a mortar and pestle, coarsely crush the peppercorns. Don’t have a mortar and pestle? You can crush the pink peppercorns with a heavy skillet pressed against a cutting board

When ready, use a scoop to portion the cookie dough into 3-tablespoon-sized balls. Place six balls on a lined baking sheet, leaving at least two inches of space between each dough ball. Repeat with remaining dough and trays. Take some of the crushed pink peppercorns and flaky sea salt and sprinkle onto each of the dough balls before baking in the oven for about 10 to 12 minutes. If not all of your cookie trays can fit in the oven at once, place the remaining cookie dough back into the refrigerator until your first batch of cookies have finished baking.  

If you love a good Sarah Kieffer cookie, then you’ll be delighted by the final step. Abi says to drop each tray against the oven rack (or another hard, flat surface) from about five inches above. This helps to create a crinkly top with beautiful ripples. Let the cookies cool completely before serving. 

Credit: Justine Lee

My Honest Review of Adobo Chocolate Chip Cookies 

From the very first lick of the sultry butter-sugar-soy mixture, I knew this cookie was onto something good. It tasted like the most nuanced caramel sauce, truly a cut above the cloying orange-amber goop that has graced my ice cream sundaes since I could remember. 

When it came time for the cookie itself, I wasn’t let down. Each step in the cookie-making process — from steeping the bay leaves in butter, to splashing in soy sauce and vanilla extract, to aging the dough — translated into layers of flavor that you can sink your teeth into. The touch of vinegar adds a distinct sour pop that I never knew to long for in a baked good. Abi was truly able to imbue the flavors of adobo and the story of her Filipino heritage into one delicious cookie. 

The cookie also happens to be a textural landscape, with its crispy-laced, crater-like shell that gives way to a tidal wave of chocolate on the inside. Topping the cookies with flaky sea salt and crushed toasted pink peppercorns confirmed that Abi is indeed some sort of a baking genius. Not only did the garnishes add texture, but the cookie also had a little touch of extra personality that may have otherwise been canceled out in a dough that already has a lot going for it. 

The best part of these amazing cookies: You don’t need an electric mixer! It also gives you a lot of cookies, and each cookie is big. It’s safe to say this won’t be the last time I make these! 

If You’re Making Adobo Chocolate Chip Cookies, a Few Tips 

  • Go hard with the pan-banging. In return, you’ll get gorgeous ripples and the most heavenly chew. 
  • Try different types of chocolate. The daringly savory edge of this cookie could be dressed with an array of different chocolate varieties and it would remain amazing and unlike any other chocolate chip cookie you’d had before. Try mixing in semisweet chocolate, white chocolate, or mix either one with dark chocolate.