Chicken Adobo

published Oct 23, 2022
Chicken Adobo Recipe

The quinessential Filipino dish of chicken and stewed with vinegar, soy sauce, sugar, black peppercorns, and bay leaves.

Serves3 to 4

Prep20 minutes

Cook1 hour

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Chicken Adobo in a Dutch Oven.
Credit: Maria Do

The quintessential, yet most controversial, Filipino dish is adobo. Someone may be able to identify where you’re from depending on how you make adobo. But just like any other Filipino dish, each region and household has something different that makes their adobo stand out from the rest. One will often hear, “my mom (or lola or tita), has the best adobo.” It’s what makes the dish so contentious — everyone has a version of adobo they stand by.

At the end of the day, adobo is not just a dish — it is our identity. This recipe is not by any means, the “end-all, be-all” of adobo. Take it as a foundational recipe that can be altered, remixed, and jazzed up. Don’t be afraid to make adobo your own. 

Credit: Maria Do

The Importance of Vinegar

Adobo is the pre-colonial cooking technique of marinating and braising in vinegar. The name was derived from the Spanish term adobar and adobado, meaning in sauce or in marinade, coined by a Spanish friar in his book Vocabulario de la Lengua Tagala back in 1613. However, the process of making adobo is inherently indigenous to the Philippines.

The heart of adobo lies in vinegar. Vinegar was a very important ingredient back in the pre-colonial Philippines and was commonly used to cook, cure, and preserve meats. Vinegar was derived from sugar cane, coconut sap, or nipa or kaong palm. Many Filipino indigenous cooking methods relied on the use of these different vinegars. Adobo is just one of them.

For this recipe, I recommend using a Filipino spiced vinegar, such as Datu Puti, but white distilled, coconut, apple cider, or plain cane vinegar can be substituted.

Credit: Maria Do

Different Types of Adobo

There are as many versions of adobo as there are the many regions and islands in the Philippine archipelago. Before the introduction of soy sauce by the Chinese, the OG adobo was made with vinegar, salt, garlic, and pepper and was called Adobong Puti (white adobo). Of this pre-colonial adobo, there are different variations, with additions such as turmeric, coconut milk, and even bananas and pineapples. The adobo that most people are familiar with today is Adobong Itim (black adobo) and includes soy sauce.

Chicken Adobo Recipe

The quinessential Filipino dish of chicken and stewed with vinegar, soy sauce, sugar, black peppercorns, and bay leaves.

Prep time 20 minutes

Cook time 1 hour

Serves 3 to 4

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 1/4

    large red onion

  • 1/2 head

    garlic

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons

    whole black peppercorns

  • 1

    medium scallion

  • 2 ounces

    fresh shiitake mushrooms

  • 3 pounds

    chicken drumsticks and/or bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs

  • 2 tablespoons

    canola or coconut oil

  • 3/4 cup

    Filipino spiced vinegar, such as Datu Puti (see Recipe Notes)

  • 1/2 cup

    soy sauce

  • 1/4 cup

    plus 2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar

  • 4

    dried bay leaves

  • 1 tablespoon

    fried garlic

  • Cooked rice, for serving

Instructions

  1. Prepare the following, adding each to the same small bowl as it is completed: Dice 1/4 large red onion (about 3/4 cup). Peel and mince 1/2 head garlic (about 2 tablespoons). Add 1 1/2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns to the bowl.

  2. Thinly slice 1 medium scallion and reserve for garnish. Trim the stems from 2 ounces fresh shiitake mushrooms.

  3. Heat 2 tablespoons canola or coconut oil in a Dutch oven or large heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat until shimmering. Meanwhile, line a wire rack with a paper towel. Pat 3 pounds chicken drumsticks or thighs dry with paper towels.

  4. Working in 2 batches, add the chicken to the pan and sear until browned on both sides, 5 to 7 minutes per batch. Transfer to the paper towel. Use a fork to poke holes in the meaty parts and a paring knife to make slits in the skin of the seared chicken.

  5. Add the onion mixture to the pot (no need to drain the fat) and cook over medium heat until browned, about 3 minutes. Add 3/4 cup spiced vinegar and scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon. Add 1/2 cup soy sauce, 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar, and 4 dried bay leaves. Stir until the sugar is dissolved and bring to a simmer.

  6. Return the chicken skin-side up to the pot, arranging it in an even layer. Arrange the mushrooms on top, wedging them in between the chicken. Bring back to a simmer.

  7. Cover and reduce the heat as needed to maintain a simmer. Cook until the meat is pulling away from the bones and the thickest part of the chicken registers at least 165ºF, rotating the chicken on top to the bottom of the pot halfway through if not in a single layer, about 30 minutes total.

  8. Taste and season the sauce with more vinegar, soy sauce, or brown sugar as needed - it should be vinegary, salty, and have a hint of sweetness. (Adobo tastes better made a day ahead and reheated.) Garnish with the scallions and 1 tablespoon fried garlic. Serve the chicken and sauce over rice, discarding the bay leaves as you come across them.

Recipe Notes

Double batch: To double the recipe, cook in a 7-quart or larger Dutch oven and use 3 tablespoons vegetable or coconut oil. Sear the chicken in 4 batches.

Vinegar substitutes: White distilled, coconut, apple cider, or plain cane vinegar can be substituted for the spiced vinegar.

Soy sauce substitutes: Tamari or liquid aminos can be substituted for the soy sauce, but taste and adjust the final sauce as needed, as tamari tends to be sweeter.

Make ahead: The adobo can be made up to 1 day ahead and actually tastes better made a day ahead. Reheat covered on the stovetop over low heat until warmed through.

Storage: The adobo can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 5 days or frozen for up to 2 months. Thaw in the refrigerator or microwave and reheat in a covered pot over low heat until heated through.