A traditional and authentic Filipino chicken adobo recipe that’s so delicious I’m you’ll make it again and again!
Adobo is a national dish of the Philippines that can be made with chicken, pork or seafood. Made from a simple marinade, it’s tasty, comforting and delicious served with steamed rice. There are many different versions of adobo, but personally, this recipe is my favourite version.
The best thing about cooking adobo is that you can adjust it to suit your taste. Some might prefer it with a thicker sauce, while some love a more runny sauce. You can also adjust the recipe depending on what you like. I remember my grandmother making this with potatoes and peas too. An authentic Filipino chicken adobo should be sweet and sour with a hint of spices that will leave you wanting more!
What is a Filipino Adobo?
Adobo or adobar comes from the Spanish word meaning to marinade or to season. For over 300 years the Philippines was under Spanish rule. So it’s not surprising that during this time the Spaniards has influenced many Filipino dishes that are still enjoyed today. In the Philippines you will find Spanish sounding food such as mechado, puchero and embutido are just some foods that Pinoys have adapted over the years.
I remember when I first met my husband and I made chicken adobo. He loved it so much that he insisted that we have a designated day during the week to have adobo. Of course we called it ‘adobo night’. Which was a Friday night if I can remember correctly. 😄 My kids also LOVE this dish that my youngest told me one day that he was so excited to hear that they were having adobo in school, only to be disappointed that it was not like my version.
What’s in the marinade?
The secret to a good adobo is the marinade. For best results, it’s better to marinate the meat overnight. However, if you do not have enough time to do this, I recommend soaking the meat for at least 30 minutes to an hour.
For this recipe, I use three large garlic cloves for the marinade and 3 additional garlic when frying. So if you are not too keen on the garlic you can always reduce the amount based on your preference.
You can use light soy sauce or regular soy sauce. I always have a large bottle of sauce that I use for everything. If you are cutting down on salt, then I would suggest to use half light and half regular soy sauce.
A traditional Filipino chicken adobo consist of coconut vinegar or palm vinegar which you can get in many Asian stores. Coconut vinegar is made from the sap of the flowers of coconut trees. This is fermented for at least 8-12 months and has a cloudy appearance and a lot milder than apple cider vinegar. If you cannot get hold of coconut vinegar it’s also OK to use rice wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar, but dilute it with a little bit of water.
The bay leaves give the adobo a subtle herby taste. I tend to use dry leaves but if available I also like to use fresh.
It’s OK to use ready grounded black pepper, but I much prefer grinding my own whole peppercorns. It adds a little more flavour to the adobo and ensures a real authentic taste, just like grandma use to make!
Adding brown sugar to the marinade is completely optional, but I find that it gives the chicken a better colour when frying.
What kind of meat can I use?
Adobo can also be made with pork, seafood, and fish. The method is the same, but adjust the cooking time depending on which meat you use.
If you are health conscious you can take the chicken skin off. You can also chicken breast which my husband prefers, but as a brown meat kinda girl I like my chicken on the bone.
I also use pork belly cut into squares and seafood if I am feeling a little bit adventurous. Whatever meat you choose, this adobo recipe always turns out great.
How To Make An Authentic Chicken Adobo
On this recipe, I use a whole chicken and divide it into small pieces. However, if you do not want to do that, then you can also use chicken thighs.
Prepare the marinade by combining the garlic, soy sauce, vinegar, bay leaves peppercorns and brown sugar. Pour over the chicken and mix to ensure the chicken is evenly coated with the sauce. Put cling film over the top of the bowl and marinate for at least an hour, overnight is even better!
Heat the oil in a large pan. Take the chicken from the marinade and shake off the excess liquid. Place the chicken in the pan and fry on medium heat until it starts to turn golden brown. Be careful not to have the heat too high as the sugar in the marinade can burn. The chicken does not need to cook fully at this stage, you just want a brown the skin and then set aside on a plate.
Once all the chicken has been browned, add a little bit more olive oil in the same pan and fry the onions for 3-5 minutes until it starts to look translucent. Once the onion is slightly cooked, add the garlic and cook for a further 2-3 minutes.
Pour in the leftover marinade and add 250ml of water into the pan. Allow the liquid to simmer for about 3-5 minutes. Add the sugar and peppercorns into the mix and stir. Simmer for another minute or so.
Add the chicken into the pan and turn down the heat. You want the liquid to reduce and coat the chicken with a syrupy type liquid. Do this by simmering the chicken in medium heat and keep an eye on it so it doesn’t burn. The chicken should be tender but not overcooked.
While you are waiting for the chicken to cook and reduce. Pour 3 cups of basmati or long-grain rice in a pot. Wash the rice until the water runs clear. Add 3 cups of water and cook on medium heat, until the water starts to boil. Allow the rice to boil without the lid for a minute or until you see the water reduce so you start to see the top layer of the rice. Reduce the heat to low, cover the rice and steam for 12-15 minutes.
Once the chicken is cooked and the juice resembles a syrupy consistency remove the bay leaves. Serve the adobo with the steamed rice. Spoon the sauce over the chicken and garnish with spring onions. Enjoy!
- 1 medium whole chicken cut into pieces (2 wings, 2 legs, 2 thighs and 2 breasts)
- 3 cloves of garlic minced
- 100ml soysauce
- 85ml coconut vinegar or rice wine vinegar
- 3 large bay leaves
- 1tsp ground black peppercorns
- 1tsp brown sugar
- 2tbsp olive oil
- 3 whole garlic cloves bruised
- 1 medium size onion sliced thinly
- 250ml water
- 5 whole peppercorns (optional)
- 1tsp brown sugar
- Cut the whole chicken in pieces so you have 2 wings, 2 thighs, 2 drumsticks and 2 breasts. Alternatively, you can use chicken thighs. Place in a large bowl.
- Combine the soy sauce, vinegar, minced garlic, ground peppercorns, bay leaves and brown sugar in a small bowl and stir.
- Pour over the chicken and stir to cover all the meat with the sauce.
- Cover the bowl with clingfilm and let it marinate for at least 1 hour.
- Add olive oil in a large pan and add the chicken to fry, shaking off any excess marinade.
- Brown the chicken on both sides on medium heat, taking care the skin does not burn. The chicken doesn't need to be cooked through.
- Once the chicken is browned, set aside on a plate.
- Use the same pan your fried the chicken from. Add some oil and fry the sliced onions for 3-5 minutes until it starts to look translucent.
- Once the onion is slightly cooked, add the bruised garlic and cook for a further 2-3 minutes.
- Pour in the leftover marinade and add 250ml of water into the pan. Allow the liquid to simmer for about 3-5 minutes.
- Add the sugar and peppercorns into the mix and stir. Simmer for another 1-2 minutes.
- Add the chicken into the pan and turn down the heat.
- Simmer the chicken on medium heat for 10-15 minutes to reduce the sauce. If the sauce starts to dry up, add a little bit more water to ensure that the chicken cooks evenly without burning.
- After 10-15 minutes, turn the chicken over. Simmer for another 10-15 minutes.
- Remove from the heat and take off the bay leaves.
- Garnish with spring onions and serve over steamed rice.
Alternatively, you can also use chicken thighs, pork, seafood or fish.
If you do not have coconut vinegar, use rice wine vinegar instead diluted with a little water.
If you like a lot of sauce, just add more water, and use salt and pepper to taste.
You can also add a couple of chopped chillies to give it a spicy kick.