Filipino-Style 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.
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.
Marinate the chicken in the soy sauce for about an hour.
Next, sear the chicken, skin side down, in a skillet for about ten minutes.
The skin will become crisp and turn a rich brown color. Set the chicken aside.
Whisk the coconut milk, vinegar, sugar and pepper into the soy sauce.
Discard the fat and wipe the pan clean. Then add the sauce to the pan.
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.
Transfer the chicken to a platter and reduce the sauce until thickened.
Place the chicken back into the sauce (or pour the sauce over the chicken on a platter) and scatter with scallions.
Serve with rice and enjoy.
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.
- 3-1/2 pounds bone-in chicken thighs (6-8), trimmed (see substitutions note below)
- 1/2 cup soy sauce (use gluten-free if needed)
- 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
- Toss the chicken with the soy sauce in a large, shallow bowl. Refrigerate for 1 hour.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
Hungry for ?
Subscribe to my free weekly newsletter — where I share new recipes and seasonal menus for every occasion.
Your email address will never be used for any other purpose.
Curious? See a sample newsletter.