Chicken Adobo

by Jen on November 23, 2012

Why do I love this chicken adobo recipe? Because it has a secret. And I’m going to reveal it to you. No, it’s not the ratio of soy sauce to vinegar because that is a matter of taste (I like mine 2:1). The secret is in the method: it’s adding the vinegar at the end of the cooking time, instead of letting the meat cook in it.

Harsh acids, like lemon or vinegar, interact with the meat’s protein by causing molecules to pack closely together and to squeeze out their juices. As a result, the meat becomes dry and tough when marinated or cooked in harsh acids for long periods of time. And nobody likes a dry piece of meat.

Since we slow simmer the chicken for 30 to 45 minutes to achieve a tender end-product, it is best to add the vinegar during the last 10 minutes of cooking. This yields a fall-off-the-bone (but not fall-apart mushy) chicken that is neither too sour nor salty. If you follow this recipe, you are already on your way to making an authentic Filipino dish.

Not to be confused with Mexican-style adobo, the Filipino adobo is, simply, meat stewed in a mixture of soy sauce and vinegar. Garlic, whole peppercorns, and bay leaves are most commonly added to give the stew its characteristic taste, and the rest are just frills.

If there was a dish that’s emblematic of the Filipino culture, it’s – hands down – the adobo. Filipinos go so far as to proclaim this their national dish, but of course, this is all unofficial. Sources indicate that tribal Filipinos were said to have been cooking “in adobo” even before the Spanish arrived. However, it was the Spanish colonizers who supplied the term “adobo” (meaning marinade in Spanish) to describe this indigenous cooking method. Later on, with the arrival of Chinese immigrants, soy sauce was introduced to local cooking, and thus became an essential component in making this Filipino dish.

For my non-Filipino or non-Asian friends, you might not consider this recipe of interest at all, but I hope you deem it worthwhile to give it a try, at least once. Hey, if Michelin-star British chef and author, April Bloomfield (of The Spotted Pig, The Breslin, and The John Dory), deemed Filipino-style adobo worthy to be included in her “A Girl and Her Pig” cookbook, then there’s something to be said about this dish! (I did find her version a bit stronger and too gingery for my taste, though).

So, go steam some white rice – preferably of the Milagrosa type – and let’s dig in!

Chicken Adobo
4.9 from 17 reviews
Print
Recipe Type: Main, Chicken
Prep time: 15 mins
Cook time: 40 mins
Total time: 55 mins
Serves: 4
An authentic heirloom Filipino recipe.
Ingredients
  • 2 pounds chicken, preferably thighs (but can be made with legs)
  • 8 tablespoons soy sauce, preferably a Filipino brand (or Kikkoman will do)
  • 6 cloves garlic, mashed
  • 1 to 2 cups water
  • 1/4 cooking oil (vegetable or grapeseed is fine)
  • 6 pieces fresh or dried bay leaves
  • a handful of whole peppercorns (give about 3 per piece of thigh)
  • 4 tablespoons vinegar, preferably Filipino kind, like cane or coconut vinegar
Preparation
  1. In a large container, combine soy sauce and garlic, then marinade the chicken for at least 3 hours or up to 24 hours.
  2. Heat the oil in a large sauté pan on medium heat.
  3. When the oil is hot, place the chicken on the pan and brown all sides, about 2 minutes per side. You might have to work in batches for this, as you do not want to over crowd your pan. Set aside browned chicken.
  4. Pour in the remaining marinade of soy sauce and garlic into the pan. Add the water one cup at a time and bring to a boil. Taste and adjust by adding the rest of the water.
  5. Add the bay leaves and whole peppercorns. Add the chicken back and simmer on medium-low to low for 30 minutes, or until tender. Do not let it come to a hard boil.
  6. Stir in vinegar and shake the pan around to disperse it. Simmer for another 10 minutes, or until tender.
  7. Serve hot.

 

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{ 53 comments… read them below or add one }

Krizia November 23, 2012 at 2:33 am

Hi Jen! I was so surprised to see this recipe this morning as I normally look forward to a more French style recipe on your blog (which I love!). There are so many Filipino Adobo recipes out there, and I’m so pleased by your classic take and gorgeous photos! This is just how my great-grandmother, grandmother, mom and I have been making adobo for years; including adding in the vinegar only during the last 10 minutes of cooking. The only difference is that we usually use either a sweet vinegar or add in a Tablespoon or so of brown sugar to the marinade to deepen the flavor just a bit. I hope you’ll give it a try and let me know what you think :)

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Sandra's Easy Cooking November 23, 2012 at 9:39 am

I wanted to make delicious authentic Filipino chicken adobo for a while and I think this is the time especially after looking at your amazing pictures. Great recipe, and truly mouthwatering pictures….I want this for my breakfast now LOL! Looks so darn good! :)
Thank you for sharing your yummy recipes and have a lovely weekend with your family! xo

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Anna @ Crunchy Creamy Sweet November 23, 2012 at 10:52 am

OMG, this looks incredible! I have never made chicken adobo but now I can’t wait to try it! Love your explanation on adding vinegar in the end of cooking – I do the same. Love the fall-of-the-bone meat! Hope you had a fabulous Thanksgiving!

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amy @ fearless homemaker November 23, 2012 at 12:17 pm

Ooh, this looks + sounds just wonderful + I love your tip about the vinegar – that’s great to know!

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Laura (Tutti Dolci) November 23, 2012 at 1:05 pm

I’ve never tried chicken adobo but this looks incredible! Now I just wish I had you around to make it for me :) .

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Valerie November 23, 2012 at 1:26 pm

Even though I ate my weight in food yesterday, I could easily enjoy a healthy serving of this chicken adobo! It is possible that I can smell the aroma of garlic, soy sauce and vinegar through the screen, or is that just my already-hungry stomach playing tricks on me? :D

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Choc Chip Uru November 23, 2012 at 1:35 pm

This chicken looks positively succulent :)

Cheers
Choc Chip Uru

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Tessa November 23, 2012 at 5:40 pm

What a lovely recipe! I am a complete fan of using soy sauce and vinegar with chicken. It’s an absolutely delicious combination. Great photos!

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Patty November 23, 2012 at 5:56 pm

Hi Jen! Your photos and recipe are making me hungry again after a day of overeating, lol! My appetite has returned ;-) I will have to look out for the vinegar that you recommend to finish your dish- it really does look so very tempting;-)

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The Kitchen Boudoir November 23, 2012 at 6:21 pm

I will be dreaming tonight about how I imagine the skin tastes with this recipe – can’t wait to try it!

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The Café Sucré Farine November 23, 2012 at 6:56 pm

Wow, this stuff just GLOWS with deliciousness! Thanks for sharing your secret too! Would it work with chicken breasts?

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Eha November 23, 2012 at 8:48 pm

Love the ‘deliciousness’ of the photos and make adobos of various kinds rather often these days: had NEVER thought about the time of addition of the vinegar. Have just learnt!! Just as I did from dear husband #2 regarding adding garlic late in the piece as this to get proper flavour!

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Lora @cakeduchess November 23, 2012 at 10:20 pm

Such wonderful flavors in these spices. It’s great to share the tip about marinating in the acids and the moisture. I love adding vinegar to my dishes and this is one that I can’t wait to try-looks so good, Jen!

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Amy (Savory Moments) November 24, 2012 at 8:58 am

What a lovely chicken dish. It looks so flavorful and sticky-yummy!

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Jean | Lemons and Anchovies November 24, 2012 at 10:59 am

Always so happy to see adobo posts. :) I’m so picky about the way it’s prepared (isn’t every filipino?) but I can tell I’d like yours a lot. I’ll have to try your secret method next time. :)

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Lisa {AuthenticSuburbanGourmet} November 24, 2012 at 2:08 pm

Love your post! Love the tip about adding acid at the end – brilliant! Need to make your chicken adobo – sounds amazing. Delish!!

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Karen (Back Road Journal) November 24, 2012 at 4:53 pm

Just looking at your beautiful photos makes me want to prepare your recipe. It sounds delicious.

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Magic of Spice November 24, 2012 at 9:22 pm

That looks amazing! I’m a vegetarian and I even want a taste :)
Gorgeous dish and great tip!

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Raymund November 25, 2012 at 2:45 am

Actually our process is nearly the same as I add vinegar and soy sauce at the last part but I do add them as well on the beginning. I let them dry out on the cooking process then rehydrate them back with water, vinegar and soy sauce when they are frying on its own oil/sauce.

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Suzanne November 25, 2012 at 8:54 pm

Hi Jen, what a great dish, I can’t wait to try it out. Thanks for the secret too. I didn’t know Filipino’s had their own adobo, I thought this was going to be a Spanish dish from the name. Photos and presentation are lovely!

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mjskit November 25, 2012 at 11:32 pm

I really need to try Filipino adobo! This chicken looks fabulous and flavors sound delicious! Thanks for the information on the vinegar. I always wondered why it was added at the end. Beautiful chicken dish!

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Kiran @ KiranTarun.com November 25, 2012 at 11:44 pm

Everything about this dish is so inviting — from the list of ingredients to the styling :)

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MizzJ November 26, 2012 at 2:18 am

I’ve never actually tried adobo before, but no matter, I’m saving this recipe on sheer looks alone!

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Sommer@ASpicyPerspective November 26, 2012 at 10:28 am

Oh I’ve heard such great things about this dish–can’t wait to try it!

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wok with ray November 26, 2012 at 10:29 am

Your chicken adobo is a big WOW, Jen! I begun to salivate when I saw this on my reader. I do reverse braising of my adobo as I fry it after but I will definitely try that method of adding the vinegar at the end when I cook the adobo in a more traditional way. Thank you for sharing the info and this is definitely a must share on my fb page. Have a great week, Jen! :)

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Erin @ Dinners, Dishes and Desserts November 26, 2012 at 4:47 pm

This chicken looks so delicious! I am going to make it soon, love the flavors together!

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Maureen Stevens November 27, 2012 at 11:22 am

You have the best looking Chicken Adobo…ever!

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Nami | Just One Cookbook November 27, 2012 at 6:22 pm

I made adobo using someone’s recipe many times, and I really enjoy it. But now after reading your post, I know I can have even more tasty adobo with your recipe! Thank you for this recipe and I’ll definitely cook this one when I start cooking soon (have to go grocery shopping first!). I am so looking forward to this!!!

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The Squishy Monster November 28, 2012 at 1:35 am

Great tip—and you can just see how juicy and succulent your meat came out!

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Mark Wiens November 28, 2012 at 9:49 am

That looks marvelous! Just a few weeks ago I went with a Filipino friend of mine to one of the only Filipino restaurants in Bangkok. The adobo was pretty good, but I know it was nothing in comparison to what you cooked up!

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Laura December 2, 2012 at 2:31 am

I want to lick my computer screen. Seriously. Pinning now.

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Jessica | Portuguese Girl Cooks December 6, 2012 at 7:22 am

This is a dish I’ve been wanting to make/try for a long time now! Your version is by far one of the best I’ve seen, so I can’t wait to give it a try!

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Rowena @ Apron and Sneakers December 9, 2012 at 6:55 pm

Adobo is probably one of the few Filipino words my family reacts to. Adobo is something very good eaten with rice and fresh tomato salad in my house. Adding the vinegar at the end seems like a smart idea. I should try it. I long abandoned adding vinegar to my adobo because I prefer lemons and hubby doesn’t like vinegar. It’s not really the authentic one but it’s what we all love.

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Tina Ong (@PhenomenalMama) December 13, 2012 at 8:38 pm

I always cooking mine with more vinegar than soy sauce, the ratio inverse with yours. But I haven’t tried adding the vinegar during the last 10 minutes. Will do that next time, and let you know how we like it. Your photos are incredible, as always. You should do a year-ender summary post with just photos… that would be such a good treat!

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jack January 29, 2013 at 4:40 pm

wok w/ Ray, I am a big adobo fan but I do the entire operation in the oven via braising. Yep–this is a departure from the traditional way (stovetop) but what is good cooking after all but a series of refinements? The only variance form true braising is that I start frying the pieces and then the low boil of the liquid in a very heavy roasting pan on the stovetop and then xfer to the pan to the oven to braise. I use the broiler for the last 10 mins to crisp the skin. Also, I add some onions to add water (they have a lot of water) and the carmelization influence they add. I never thought to add the vinegar at the end, but it makes perfect sense and I will try this on my next batch of adoboe.
So I am curious, can you describe your “reverse braising” technique in a little detail?

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Belinda February 4, 2013 at 4:05 pm

Confused? Do you add the chicken to the soy sauce and garlic? Are you marinating the chicken with that mixture or just trying to infuse the garlic with the soy. The instruction part is confusing.

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Jen February 5, 2013 at 9:16 pm

Hi, I made the correction, Belinda. Sorry about the confusion: the recipe should indicate to marinate the chicken in the soy and garlic mixture. Thanks for the head’s up!

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John February 18, 2013 at 1:47 pm

My beautiful filipina wife makes this dish all the time. The same base can be used for pork and even beef.
Only one thing to add. To make this truly Filipino you have to use equal parts ginger to garlic. Cut in short sticks, or shaved.

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Casey February 19, 2013 at 8:57 pm

I was browsing the web today and found your blog, and saw an adobo recipe. I’m filipino, born in America and I have learned adobo from my dad and my grandpa. Anyway, I always added the vinegar very early in the process and I decided to do it at the end today because of your recipe. You were right, the chicken was more juicy and tender this way. I think i’ll cook it this way from now on.

thanks.

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Kasey Brooks February 27, 2013 at 1:34 am

Followed the recipe to the “T” & my dish came out bomb.com Thanks for sharing.

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Christine Jordan March 18, 2013 at 5:21 am

Where do you purchase coconut vinegar? The recipe was delicious ……I use rice vinegar and added brown sugar to cut the tango ness.

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Jen March 18, 2013 at 7:28 am

Hi, Christine! You can find coconut vinegar in Asian stores in the vinegar / condiment section. Sometimes, they are are to come by because of limited production for imports, but you can use cane vinegar as well, which is more available. Also, I know some people who use apple cidre vinegar, as well, and with perfectly good results by adding palm sugar or brown sugar like you did!

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Louise April 24, 2013 at 11:11 am

I tried this last night and loved your pictures and information. My husband is filipino and he liked it even though his folks make it different (sweeter with thicker juice). I so appreciated your explanations! And bright happy pictures.

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karol May 12, 2013 at 6:11 pm

Awesome recipe! I was wondering, say I only need to cook a pound of chicken. Would the cooking time be the same or half of what was instructed? Thank you!

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Jen May 12, 2013 at 7:06 pm

Hi, Karol.
I’d cook the chicken, more or less, for the same amount of time. Perhaps 10 minutes shorter. Let me know how it turns out for you!

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Jay May 17, 2013 at 12:32 am

You forgot the dipping sauce for the meat. :) We use 2 parts soy sauce, 1 part vinegar and some chopped raw onion. I’m trying your variation on adobong manok (adding the vinegar last) tonight. Hope I don’t screw it up!

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Chung-Ah | Damn Delicious May 21, 2013 at 2:40 am

I love chicken adobo! I can’t wait to give your version a try with your secret method!

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Paulie July 29, 2013 at 5:46 pm

Now I understand why my adobo is not tender, despite cooking it over a longer period. And I can’t seem to get the ratio of soy to vinegar right.

Adding the vinegar at the end, can also help in controlling the flavor of it. In the past, I always get it too sour or too salty.

I will post again after I try this. :)

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Jay August 12, 2013 at 11:19 pm

OK, I made my adobo your way, adding the vinegar last, and it was absolutely terrific! The meat was soft, tender and juicy; not all dried out like it normally gets. Kudos, o great chef! :) I’m going to do the same thing with pork adobo next time I cook it.

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Garden Correspondent September 13, 2013 at 6:31 am

I had chickens in the freezer and am making adobo using this recipe right this minute. Who can resist a recipe with a secret?

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James October 28, 2013 at 4:17 pm

Superb, great recipe, well written, easy to follow and great result. Thank you!

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Denise January 9, 2014 at 9:53 pm

I grew up eating adobo -both pork and chicken – and it’s one of my favorite comfort foods. Over the years I have adapted my parents’ recipe and now use balsamic vinegar and only dark meat chicken on the bone. I’ll try adding the vinegar at the end and look forward to seeing how it changes the texture. I also like to reduce the sauce after removing the cooked chicken. It’s great over pasta!

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Tim February 5, 2014 at 2:41 pm

Wow I am making adobo tonight and I usually check the web for any secrets that I can inpart inot my dish. Looks like adding the vinegar at the end is my new twist tonight. For those looking for that sweet/lemon taste, try subbing sprite for the water!!! You won’t regret it. Tim

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