Filipino Chicken Adobo

Chicken adobo is a Filipino dish that I’ve had my eye on for quite a while. I worked with a girl who would bring chicken adobo leftovers for lunch and then rave about how it was her favorite thing ever, so naturally my interest was piqued. I did a few internet searches and discovered that adobo just means vinegary sauce (hence “chipotles in adobo” is essentially smoked jalapenos in vinegar), and that there are as many versions of chicken adobo as there are people making it (which is to say, a lot!). The main ingredients in Filipino adobo are soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, black pepper corns, bay leaves, and sometimes coconut milk, and the meat can be either chicken or pork or both.

I found an awesome-sounding chicken adobo recipe and sort of had it in mind to make one of these days, when the other day I was browsing through the latest issue of Cook’s Illustrated and lo-and-behold, there was a chicken adobo recipe! Cook’s Illustrated does some pretty serious recipe testing so I was quite sure this one would be good – and it is. Tangy and salty but not too much of either, it also has coconut milk in the sauce – which doesn’t make it taste coconutty, but rather cuts the sourness of the sauce and gives it some nice body. One of the drawbacks to most of the recipes I looked at was that they required a long marinating time, whereas this one can be done in an hour, including marinating, and manages to taste dang good. And it only requires basic pantry items. Make this for dinner – you will thank yourself!

Filipino Chicken Adobo

Adapted from the March/April 2012 issue of Cook’s Illustrated. Serves 2 and can easily be doubled.

In a ziplock bag or bowl, combine:

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

3 scant tbsp soy sauce

Marinate in the fridge for 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Remove the chicken from the soy sauce, let the excess drip off, and place the chicken, skin side down, in a cold 8″ skillet (non-stick is recommended!). Reserve the soy sauce in a bowl.

Place the skillet over medium-high heat and cook until the chicken skin is browned and the fat under the skin has rendered out, 5 to 7 minutes.

Meanwhile, mix the reserved soy sauce with:

1/2 a can of coconut milk

6 tbsp apple cider vinegar

4 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped

1 tsp freshly ground black pepper (or 1/2 tsp ground and 1/2 tsp whole pepper corns)

2-3 bay leaves

When the chicken has browned, remove it to a plate and pour the fat out of the pan. Return the chicken to the pan, skin side down, and pour in the soy-coconut-vinegar mixture.

Bring it to a boil, then lower the heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, for about 20 minutes.

Turn the chicken over and simmer for another 15 minutes, or until the chicken reaches 175˚F on a thermometer.

Put the chicken on a plate and cover it lightly with foil. Skim any fat out of the sauce left in the pan and remove the bay leaves. Return the sauce to medium-high heat and simmer to thicken if needed – or you can add a few tablespoons of water if it is too thick already (in my case!).

Pour the sauce over the chicken and serve with steamed rice.

(10 points if you can figure out what colour shirt I was wearing when I took the first photo in this post!)


  1. says

    Yes, PINK!
    I made Chicken and Pork Adobo one day after googling recipes with these ingredients. I had never heard of it but took a chance. Wow, it is so good. The recipe I used doesn’t have coconut milk but what dish is not made better by coconut milk! If my family enjoyed my version they are going to go nuts over your version!

    • says

      I had never really seen it with coconut milk either, but I feel the same way about coconut milk as you do, so I didn’t argue πŸ™‚ But now I want to try a non-coconut version to compare… Anyway, I hope your family likes it!

  2. says

    I made a whole chicken in to chicken adobo once, but I like the creamyness of the coconut milk. I was away sunday and just making my meal plan today…we’re going to have this at one point this week!!

  3. says

    Korena, we made this tonight and it was ah-mazing. Seriously, best thing I’ve made in a long time. Thank you so much for posting! (I’m having fun discovering I like vinegar-based foods. I’m not a huge fan of things like pickles, but Alex and I recently became obsessed with German red cabbage… yummm.)

    I just wanted to add a thought regarding the advice to go non-stick (I can’t remember if we’ve had this discussion before): we recently got rid of most of our nonstick cookware and I’ve been having fun discovering that stainless steel IS nonstick! Just a splash of oil in a hot pan, and don’t disturb anything for a few minutes until the surface is cooked. For us this isn’t any different, as we always used oil in our nonstick cookware anyway. But I’ve read that cooking on stainless actually browns food differently (and better) than a nonstick surface does.

    • says

      Also: I have no idea if this is officially a complimentary dish, but we served it with roasted cauliflower as we had some to use up, and it went together really well!

    • says

      I was just going to add that using a stainless steel pan would also probably have contributed to a darker sauce, but if you also used stainless then that probably wasn’t much of a factor!

      You are right though – stainless steel (and cast iron), when preheated properly and used with a bit of oil, is essentially non-stick. The original recipe suggested non-stick, I think because a) there is no oil added to the pan when cooking the chicken, and b) the pan is not preheated – the chicken is placed in the cold pan, and then heated. This is supposed to render the fat from under the skin and prevent the final sauce from being greasy and fatty… so I think in this application, non-stick would be best, but stainless steel can do the job too! I did have a bit of a sticking issue with the stainless, though.

      (The thing about Cook’s Illustrated recipes is that they always have an essay accompanying the recipe that explains the process and reasoning behind every single detail in the recipe, which makes it kind of… challenging to give enough necessary details when sharing the recipe!)

      • says

        Ah, I almost asked why it had said specifically to use a cold pan but then didn’t – I’m glad to know! I did have a fair amount of fat to skim off, which I assumed might have been because I used oil, but that makes sense. I’ll try it as directed next time… skimming it wasn’t an issue really, although it did separate more as it cooled (meaning we probably ate more oil than we needed to). Then again, I’m not generally too concerned about dietary fat and it didn’t seem too greasy so… basically it’s probably delicious both ways, lol.

        That’s kind of awesome about C.I. I wish more cookbooks did that. I’m a mediocre cook at best, and honestly that’s due to not being nerdy/precise enough about it and seeking out information. I don’t really learn practical things well from books – I keep telling Alex that eventually I’d really like to take cooking classes. The kind that are more like workshops that help you understand the how and why of basic techniques and methods (as opposed to the sort of school board, “learn to make an Italian dinner!” type of classes).

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