This Twist on Classic Chicken Adobo Is Extra Luxurious (but Just as Easy)

updated Jun 28, 2021
Chicken Adobo with Coconut Milk (Adobo sa Gatâ)

We added coconut milk to the iconic Filipinx dish, making it the most luxurious version yet.


Prep5 minutes

Cook1 hour

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Credit: Photo: Neal Santos; Food Styling: Amelia Rampe

When I first started writing adobo recipes awhile back, I learned that the dish is a great starting point for Western cooks interested in cooking Filipinx food. Many Americans I spoke to would say, “Oh my mom had a Filipino coworker/friend/ex that would always make this for potlucks.” I consider it the gateway drug to what will surely be your Filipinx food infatuation. Adobo in its most commonly known form is meat or vegetables stewed in a combination of vinegar, soy sauce, and aromatics. I have also seen this combination used in a sort of stir-fry, but the stew is the iteration I am the most familiar with.

The earliest adobos came about before colonization. The Indigenous people of the Philippines would preserve meat in vinegar to protect it from the tropical climate. When the Spanish arrived, they called it adobo because of a similar dish they had that uses a vinegar-based marinade (adobo is derived from the Spanish word adobar, meaning “marinade”). Original iterations of adobo did not have soy sauce and are now called white adobo.

Credit: Photo: Neal Santos; Food Styling: Amelia Rampe

The Many Ways to Make Adobo

I have witnessed many online conversations — or rather, heated discussions — about what is the “right way” to make adobo. Perhaps this is an unpopular opinion, but I don’t believe there’s a right or wrong way — and honestly, those discussions would always prove that theory correct. For every comment that says “ginger doesn’t belong in adobo,” there’s another arguing it does. The Philippines is a vast island nation with different topography and food availability. Why wouldn’t the “official dish of the Philippines” have different variants based on where the person lives? 

In my life, I’ve enjoyed adobo many ways. I’ve made it vegetarian, I’ve added chiles, I’ve even used apple cider vinegar in a pinch, which I know makes some diehard adobo traditionalists cringe. But I grew up in the U.S., and sometimes you have to use what’s available. Adobo doesn’t just come in the chicken variety, either; beef, pork, and shrimp are other ways to enjoy it. One of my favorite versions is adobo made with squid.

One of my favorite ways to have adobo that I didn’t grow up eating is adobo infused with coconut milk. There are coconuts all over the Philippines, and in this recipe coconut milk adds a luxurious texture to the broth.

Chicken Adobo with Coconut Milk (Adobo sa Gatâ)

We added coconut milk to the iconic Filipinx dish, making it the most luxurious version yet.

Prep time 5 minutes

Cook time 1 hour

Serves 4

Nutritional Info


  • 8 cloves


  • 1

    red Fresno chile, or 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

  • 2 pounds

    bone-in chicken drumsticks and thighs

  • 1/2 cup

    plus 1 tablespoon soy sauce, preferably Silver Swan, divided

  • 2 1/2 teaspoons

    coarsely ground black pepper, divided

  • 2 tablespoons

    vegetable oil

  • 1/2 cup

    cane vinegar, such as Datu Puti

  • 1/2 cup

    full-fat coconut milk

  • 1/2 cup


  • 2 tablespoons

    raw, coarse sugar, such as demerara

  • 4

    bay leaves

  • Cooked rice, for serving

  • Thinly sliced scallions, green parts only, for garnish


  1. Coarsely chop 8 garlic cloves. Holding 1 Fresno chile by the stem end, thinly slice the lower half into rounds. Trim, seed, and finely chop the remaining half of the chile. Pat 2 pounds bone-in chicken dry with paper towels. Season with 1 tablespoon of the soy sauce and 1/2 teaspoon of the black pepper.

  2. Heat 2 tablespoons vegetable oil in a small Dutch or heavy-bottomed pot oven over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the chicken skin-side down and cook until the skin starts to brown and caramelize, about 5 minutes.

  3. Add the garlic, chopped chile or 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, 1/2 cup cane vinegar, 1/2 cup coconut milk, 1/2 cup water, 2 tablespoons raw sugar, 4 bay leaves, remaining 1/2 cup soy sauce, and remaining 2 teaspoons black pepper. Bring to a gentle boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer, partially cover the pot and gently simmer for 35 minutes.

  4. Uncover and flip the chicken so it is skin-side up. Gently simmer uncovered, adjusting the heat as needed, until the chicken is very tender, pulling away from the bone, and the liquid is reduced and starting to thicken slightly, about 25 minutes more. Serve the chicken over cooked rice. Spoon the sauce over the chicken and rice and garnish with the scallions and sliced chiles if using.

Recipe Notes

Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container for 2 days.

Amelia Rampe’s Weeknight Filipinx Guide

This recipe is part of our weeknight Filipinx cooking guide, designed to bring the diverse cuisine of the Philippines into your kitchen. Head to the intro piece to read more from Amelia, and check out all of the recipes below.

1 / 5
How to Make Lugaw
For me and many Filipinx, lugaw is the ultimate comfort food. It’s often served on rainy days and when you’re sick. And even though it’s mostly considered a breakfast food, I’m happy to eat lugaw morning, noon, and night!
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2 / 5
Gising-Gising (Pork Simmered in Coconut Milk and Shrimp Paste)
Gising-gising, which literally translates to “wake-up wake-up,” is not a dish I grew up eating, but I wish I did! It’s packed with spice from chiles and deeply savory bagoong, so it definitely wakes up the senses. It’s part of a family of dishes called ginataan, which translates to food cooked in coconut milk.
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3 / 5
Shrimp and Fish Sinigang (Tamarind Stew)
Sinigang is a tamarind-based stew that really showcases the Flipinx love of sour. I love the broth so much, I always used to go back for seconds of more broth on rice. It’s a comforting feeling to this day.
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4 / 5
Chicken Adobo with Coconut Milk (Adobo sa Gatâ)
In my life, I’ve enjoyed adobo many ways. One of my favorites is adobo infused with coconut milk. There are coconuts all over the Philippines, and in this recipe coconut milk adds a luxurious texture to the broth.
Go to Recipe
5 / 5
In the Philippines, we love the taste of sour, and bistek is the ultimate celebration of that flavor profile. It’s beef marinated in calamansi juice (or citrus juice, if you can’t find calamansi), soy sauce, chopped garlic, thick sliced onions, and bay leaves, and it really packs a punch.
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Credit: Kitchn