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Filipino-Style Chicken Adobo

5 stars based on 16 votes

Chicken-Adobo

When thinking of adobo, one generally thinks of spicy peppers in adobo sauce but in the Philippines, the term refers to the process of simmering meat in a tangy vinegar- and soy-based sauce flavored with garlic, bay leaves, and black pepper. The method was originally invented as a way to preserve meat before refrigeration but the dish has stood the test of time — Adobo is the hallmark dish of the Philippines and is popular throughout the world. I’ve tried many versions over the years but my favorite by far is a regional variation made with coconut milk inspired by Filipino Chef Rory Dorotan from Purple Yam in New York City. Coconut milk tames the vinegar and adds body to the sauce. It’s still quite tangy, like a good Adobo should be, but pleasantly so, with all of the flavors in balance. I love it with plain jasmine rice; the mild, fragrant rice is the perfect foil for the flavorful chicken and silky, golden sauce. 

ingredients

Begin by trimming the chicken thighs: cut off any excess fat or flaps of skin with kitchen shears (it’s much easier than using a knife). If you’d like to use a whole cut up chicken, go right ahead. Drumsticks would also work well, as would bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts.

trimming-chicken

Marinate the chicken in the soy sauce for about an hour.

marinating

Next, sear the chicken, skin side down, in a skillet for about ten minutes.

searing-skin

The skin will become crisp and turn a rich brown color. Set the chicken aside.

seared-skin

Whisk the coconut milk, vinegar, sugar and pepper into the soy sauce.

whisking-pepper

Discard the fat and wipe the pan clean. Then add the sauce to the pan.

sauce

Place the chicken in the sauce, skin side up, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, until the chicken is cooked through, about 35 minutes.

simmering-chicken

Transfer the chicken to a platter and reduce the sauce until thickened.

reducing-sauce

Place the chicken back into the sauce (or pour the sauce over the chicken on a platter) and scatter with scallions.

ready-to-serve

Serve with rice and enjoy.

Chicken-Adobo-1

Note: Versions of this Adobo recipe have appeared in Cooks Illustrated, The New York Times and Martha Stewart. My version is most similar to the Cooks Illustrated recipe, with several adjustments: I reduced the vinegar, increased the soy sauce, added a few tablespoons of sugar, decreased the black pepper, increased the scallions, and modified the cooking method a bit.

Chicken Adobo

Servings: 6
Prep Time: 10 Minutes
Cook Time: 45 Minutes
Total Time: 55 Minutes, plus 1 hour marinating time

Ingredients

  • 3-1/2 pounds bone-in chicken thighs (6-8), trimmed (see substitutions note below)
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1 (13.5 oz) can coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup rice or cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1-1/4 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 3 scallions, green parts only, thinly sliced
  • White rice, for serving

Instructions

  1. Toss the chicken with the soy sauce in a large, shallow bowl. Refrigerate for 1 hour.
  2. Remove the chicken from the soy sauce, allowing the excess to drip back into the bowl. Transfer the chicken, skin side down, to a cold 12-inch nonstick skillet. Set the soy sauce aside.
  3. Place the skillet over medium-high heat and cook until the skin is crisp and dark golden, 8-10 minutes. While the chicken is browning, whisk the coconut milk, vinegar, sugar and pepper into the soy sauce.
  4. Transfer the chicken to a plate and discard the fat in the skillet. Wipe the pan clean with a paper towel. Pour the soy sauce-coconut milk mixture into the pan; add the garlic and bay leaves. Return the chicken to the skillet, skin side up, and bring to a gentle boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for about 35 minutes, or until the chicken registers 175 degrees. Transfer the chicken to a platter and keep warm by tenting loosely with aluminum foil.
  5. Fish out the bay leaves and skim any noticeable fat off the surface of the sauce. Return the skillet to medium-high heat and cook until the sauce is slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary (if it is too assertive, add a few tablespoons of water and/or a bit more sugar). Pour the sauce over the chicken and sprinkle with the scallions. Serve with rice. (Note: if you'd like the skin to be extra crispy, place the chicken breasts on a baking sheet and broil for a few minutes before serving.)
  6. MAKE-AHEAD NOTE: This dish is wonderful prepared ahead of time. After reheating, transfer the chicken to a foil-lined baking sheet, skin side up, and quickly crisp the skin under the broiler.
  7. SUBSTITUTIONS: If you'd like to use white meat, use bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts. If you'd like to use boneless, skinless chicken thighs, skip the first cooking step of searing the skin, and reduce the simmering time to about 20 minutes.

Nutrition Information

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  • Per serving (6 servings)
  • Calories: 752g
  • Fat: 58g
  • Saturated fat: 24g
  • Carbohydrates: 10g
  • Sugar: 5g
  • Fiber: 1g
  • Protein: 47g
  • Sodium: 1392mg
  • Cholesterol: 259mg

Reviews & Comments

  • 5 stars

    Wonderful! I made it last night for my in- laws and everyone raved about it! I used boneless skinless thighs and added Thai chilis because we like our food hot. I will definitely try more of your recipes!

    - Erin on January 15, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    This was off the hook excellent. My 14 yo son who is becoming a real foodie said it was one of the best dinners I’d ever made! And husband agreed.

    - Tracy Mulroy on October 19, 2016 Reply
  • Absolutely scrumptious like everything else I’ve tried from your site!

    - Northern Belle on October 6, 2016 Reply
  • 4 stars

    I used boneless, skinless thighs which saved time and was delicious. It was too acidic for my taste though, so added honey to sweeten–tasting after each addition until I was happy with the balance. Made it for company and a foodie at the table pronounced it the best chicken adobo she had ever tasted! Served it with roasted broccoli and walnut pieces and brown rice.

    - leilani on October 6, 2016 Reply
  • Hi Jenn! Your recipes are just awesome! Plan on making this tonight and wanted to know : should the garlic cloves be fished out with the bay leaves since they are put in whole and not crushed or will they cook and mash on their own? Thanks!

    - Sarah on September 8, 2016 Reply
    • Hi Sarah, They almost dissolve into the sauce so no need to fish them out. Hope you enjoy it!

      - Jenn on September 8, 2016 Reply
  • Hi I don’t currently have any nonstick pans, only stainless steel & cast iron. Do I need to adjust how I sear the chicken at all? Thanks!

    - Melissa on July 14, 2016 Reply
    • Hi Melissa, you could go with either one; just add some oil to the pan before searing. Enjoy!

      - Jenn on July 15, 2016 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Best chicken EVER. Jen, I have made many recipes from your site and everything has been delicious. This, however, was the best of all. With every bite, we were all oohing and mmming. It was easy to make, and for me didn’t need any adjustments. I used organic chicken which I think makes a difference–less fat and the skin is thinner so it crisped perfectly. This is my new favorite dinner.

    - Abbie on May 30, 2016 Reply
  • 5 stars

    This is such a great recipe. I’ve made it 3 times in my slow cooker. I do brown the chicken first. I have the Cuisinart 3 in 1 slow cooker, so I brown it right in the pot, remove the chicken, drain the excess fat and then add the chicken and liquids and garlic back in. 4.5 hours on low was perfect.

    I ordered white vinegar and soy sauce from the Philippines last week. A batch using those is simmering away. Can’t wait until dinner tonight. I have to admit that this time, I added ginger, carrot and a few mushrooms because it was time to use them. Certainly not traditional, but I think it will be delicious.

    - Susan on January 30, 2016 Reply
  • 5 stars

    I just made this tonight and it was wonderful! It was very easy to make, tasted great and made the house smell amazing. Thank you for a new recipe that will be making repeat appearances.

    - Julie on January 27, 2016 Reply
  • 5 stars

    This recipe is exactly what every asian recipe should be, BALANCED and delicious. It was easy to make, easy to clean and I sat happy and rested once I finished and enjoyed every bite. My family was content. I have made several recipes from your amazing site Jenn and none has ever dissapointed. You are extremely gifted.

    - Sara MacMillan on January 26, 2016 Reply
  • For this recipe can I use “seasoned” rice vinegar or does it have to be unseasoned? Thanks!

    - Samantha on January 21, 2016 Reply
    • Hi Samantha, I prefer unseasoned, but it won’t make a huge difference. The seasoned will just be a bit sweeter.

      - Jenn on January 21, 2016 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Made this tonight and it was absolutely delicious, love trying new things. I will be making this again as we both enjoyed it. Thanks for another great recipe.

    - Ann on January 15, 2016 Reply
  • Need to make these immediately! My mouth is watering!

    - NJ-Cook4You on January 14, 2016 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Halved this recipe, made it for two. Used light coconut milk and added some red chili pepper flakes for heat.
    We really enjoyed this. The coconut was subtle and delicious. Thanks again for another great recipe!

    - Tori on January 12, 2016 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Absolutely delicious!

    - Beth Johns on January 11, 2016 Reply
    • 4 stars

      Loved it but thought the soy sauce was a bit too much. My first taste was skeptic and curious but somehow I kept tasting until I finished a whole plate!!!Then couldn’t wait to eat the leftovers the next day!

      - Alicia on January 12, 2016 Reply
      • Glad you enjoyed it, Alicia. It’s fine to reduce the soy sauce by a few tablespoons or use low-sodium next time.

        - Jenn on January 12, 2016 Reply
  • 5 stars

    I made this recipe yesterday, and the chicken was absolutely delicious. Another keeper from Chef Jenn!

    - GeeMissus on January 11, 2016 Reply
  • 5 stars

    My whole family loved it! Thanks!

    - Colleen on January 10, 2016 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Another amazing recipe! This is my go-to recipe site! Interestingly you would never believe there was coconut milk in this recipe. Such an interesting and unique flavor and an easy recipe! Thanks for another one Jenn!

    - Lori jones on January 9, 2016 Reply
  • 5 stars

    I just made this and it’s delicious! This dish has a ton of flavor and super easy to make! Thanks Jenn!

    - Vanisha on January 9, 2016 Reply
  • This recipe looks great! I’m planning on making it for dinner tomorrow night. Do you have any suggestions for what wine to pair with it?
    Thanks!

    - Ruthie on January 9, 2016 Reply
    • If you’d like a white wine, a Sauvignon Blanc would be nice; if you’d prefer red, this would pair nicely with a pinot noir. Hope you enjoy!

      - Jenn on January 9, 2016 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Seriously? Another amazing recipe, Jenn! My favorite thing to do is cook for my family and every single recipe you have shared is 10/10! I have made more then 25 of your recipes! I share you with whoever I can and tell them you have changed my life! Keep it up, can’t wait to bring more delicious food to my family. xx

    - Brooke Palmer on January 7, 2016 Reply
  • Recipe sounds great . What is the nutrition info?

    - RoseMarie on January 7, 2016 Reply
    • Hi RoseMarie, You can find the nutritional info immediately under the recipe. Hope you enjoy it!

      - Jenn on January 7, 2016 Reply

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