Best Filipino Chicken Adobo
Filipino Chicken Adobo, the national dish of the Philippines, features chicken simmered in a tangy and savory soy sauce-vinegar marinade. With common pantry staples, this easy chicken recipe lets you taste juicy, tender savory Filipino adobo.
Chicken Adobo Filipino Style
The first time I ever tasted chicken adobo was when I resided in Singapore two decades ago. Our family had a live-in helper from the Philippines who delighted in preparing meals, especially filipino dishes, for us.
When she presented her traditional filipino chicken adobo for us to sample, it was an instant infatuation. She simmered chicken thighs in a mixture of soy sauce and vinegar. Who would have guessed that such a simple combination could yield such a delightful flavor?
Even my picky-eating three-year-old at the time enjoyed it. From then on, this authentic Filipino chicken stew recipe became a regular part of our meals.
It was straightforward enough for someone like me, who was new to traditional Filipino cuisine, to replicate the authentic Pinoy chicken taste. Try this easy recipe to make the best chicken adobo, Filipino style.
Origin of Filipino chicken adobo
It dates back to before Spanish times when local Filipinos used vinegar and salt to preserve and flavor their meat. The Spanish called this cooking method ‘adobo’, and over time, it took on new tastes, including soy sauce from Chinese influence, becoming the beloved dish we know today.
Difference Between Adobo and Filipino Adobo
“Adobo” can mean a variety of things around the world, typically involving a seasoning blend or marinade used for flavoring and preserving food. However, in the Philippines, “Filipino adobo” refers to a beloved national dish where chicken or pork is simmered in a distinctive adobo sauce made from vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, bay leaves, and black pepper.
This combo gives Filipino adobo its signature tangy and savory taste. This makes it tangy and a bit salty, perfect for eating with a big scoop of rice.
On the other hand, the word “adobo” outside of the Philippines usually means a mix of spices or a marinade used in different Spanish or Mexican adobo dishes. These can be dry spices or a liquid sauce that’s brushed onto food before cooking it.
- Chicken: Use bone-in chicken pieces (chicken thighs and drumsticks) for the best flavor and tender texture. You can use boneless chicken thighs or drumsticks as substitutes, but adjust the cooking time accordingly. Otherwise the sauce can dry out boneless chicken easily.
- Avoid using boneless chicken breasts, as they don’t absorb the sauce as well.
- In this recipe, a whole chicken is cut into small pieces for convenient cooking.
- Green onion (optional): Used as a garnish. It contributes vibrant color contrast and provides a mild onion flavor that complements the overall flavors of the adobo.
Filipino Adobo Sauce
Filipino Adobo sauce is a flavorful and aromatic blend that forms the heart of the classic Filipino adobo dish. Some variations of the sauce might include additional ingredients like coconut milk for richness, sugar for sweetness, or chili for heat. At its core, the adobo sauce is made of handful of ingredients:
- Soy sauce: This key ingredient provides the savory and umami base for the adobo sauce. It adds depth and richness to the dish.
- Vinegar: The tangy element in the adobo sauce, vinegar balances the flavors and adds a delightful acidic note.
- You can use white vinegar or a combination of white and apple cider vinegar for a nuanced taste.
- Garlic: A crucial flavor enhancer, garlic infuses the dish with its aromatic and pungent taste. It adds a distinct savory character to the adobo sauce.
- Sugar: Whether white or brown, sugar balances the flavors and add a touch of sweetness. It helps to round out the tanginess and savory profile of the adobo sauce.
- Whole peppercorns: These little powerhouses bring a hint of heat and spice to the dish. Black peppercorns provide subtle pops of flavor throughout.
- Bay leaves: These fragrant leaves contribute a subtle and earthy flavor to the dish. They provide a gentle herbal note that complements the other ingredients.
How to make Filipino Chicken Adobo
The adobo preparation is easy. You give the chicken a quick marinade, then brown it in the pan. After that, let the chicken simmer in the same marinade for around 20 minutes. It’ll seem quite soupy for the most part, but then, in the final moments, you will be surprised how braising liquid quickly thickens into a rich, syrupy coating!
Step 1. Prepare adobo sauce and marinate chicken
- In a sizable zip-top bag, whisk together soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, garlic, and peppercorns until well mixed.
- Place the chicken pieces and bay leaves into the bag, then shake and turn to fully coat the chicken in the marinade.
- Allow the chicken to soak up the flavors for a minimum of 20 minutes, or leave it in the fridge to marinate overnight for best results.
Step 2. Sear the chicken
- Heat some oil in a large pan or pot over medium-high heat. Take the chicken out of the marinade, letting the excess drip off into the bag (but don’t throw the marinade away, keep it for later).
- Put the chicken pieces, skin side down first, in the pan and let them cook without moving them for 2 minutes, or until they start to turn a golden brown color.
Step 3. Simmer with adobo marinade
- Add the reserved marinade and bay leaves to the pan. Cover the chicken with water, bring to a boil, then lower to medium heat. Simmer for 10-15 minutes until the sauce thickens into a glaze, flipping the chicken once.
- If the sauce is too thin, remove the chicken and let the sauce reduce further. Once thickened, return the chicken to the pan to coat with the glaze. Garnish with green onions.
What Does Filipino Chicken Adobo Tastes Like?
Chicken adobo has a glaze that’s a delightful combination of savory and sweet, with a subtle tang that keeps things interesting. The distinct soy flavor shines through, complemented by the aromatic presence of garlic, which form the savory base of the dish.
Bay leaves add their unique touch, while the peppercorns provide little bursts of subtle heat, adding that extra layer of flavor to the whole experience.
What to serve with chicken adobo?
Serving chicken adobo is best with steamed white rice or brown rice, which soaks up the flavorful sauce. Egg fried rice is another tasty option that adds a hint of garlic. You can also try with cauliflower rice for healthier option.
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Best Filipino Chicken Adobo
- 2 lb (900 g) bone-in chicken pieces, or chicken thighs and drumsticks
- 1/2 cup (120 ml) soy sauce
- 1/4 cup (60 ml) white vinegar, or apple cider vinegar
- 1 tbsp sugar, or brown sugar
- 1 tbsp minced garlic
- 1 tsp whole peppercorn
- 5 bay leaves
- 2 tbsp oil
- 1/2 cup (120 ml) water
- 1 green onion, chopped, optional garnish
- In a large zip bag, combine soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, garlic, peppercorns, and mix well. Add chicken pieces and bay leaves, then toss to ensure they are coated with the marinade. Let the chicken marinate for at least 20 minutes or up to overnight.
- Heat oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet or pot. Remove the chicken from the marinade, allowing most of the marinade to drip back into the bag (reserve the marinade). Place the chicken in the hot pan and cook undisturbed for 2 minutes, until it becomes slightly brown and golden. Flip the chicken and cook for an additional 2 minutes.
- Add the reserved marinade, including the bay leaves, to the skillet. Pour water over the chicken, and bring it to a boil. Then, reduce the heat to medium and let it simmer for 10-15 minutes uncovered until the sauce reduces down to a thick glaze. Flip the chicken to the other side while simmering.
- If the sauce isn't thick enough, remove the chicken onto a plate and let the sauce simmer on its own—it will thicken more quickly. Then, return the chicken to the skillet and coat it with the glaze.
- Serve the adobo chicken over fluffy white rice, and garnish with chopped green onions.