Filipino-Style Chicken Adobo

Tested & Perfected Recipes

Tender chicken simmered in a tangy sauce made from soy sauce, rice vinegar and coconut milk, chicken adobo is the hallmark dish of the Philippines.

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. This chicken adobo brings the flavors of the Philippines to your kitchen.

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.

What you’ll need to make chicken adobo

ingredients

How to make chicken adobo

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.

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Chicken Adobo

Tender chicken simmered in a tangy sauce made from soy sauce, rice vinegar and coconut milk, chicken adobo is the hallmark dish of the Philippines.

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 (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

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.

Pair with

Nutrition Information

Powered by Edamam

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

This website is written and produced for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and the nutritional data on this site has not been evaluated or approved by a nutritionist or the Food and Drug Administration. Nutritional information is offered as a courtesy and should not be construed as a guarantee. The data is calculated through an online nutritional calculator, Edamam.com. Although I do my best to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures should be considered estimates only. Varying factors such as product types or brands purchased, natural fluctuations in fresh produce, and the way ingredients are processed change the effective nutritional information in any given recipe. Furthermore, different online calculators provide different results depending on their own nutrition fact sources and algorithms. To obtain the most accurate nutritional information in a given recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe, using your preferred nutrition calculator.

Gluten-Free Adaptable Note

To the best of my knowledge, all of the ingredients used in this recipe are gluten-free or widely available in gluten-free versions. There is hidden gluten in many foods; if you're following a gluten-free diet or cooking for someone with gluten allergies, always read the labels of your ingredients to verify that they are gluten-free.

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Reviews & Comments

  • Yummmmmm! Wish I had tried this recipe sooner! Used boneless skinless thighs and cooked in sauce for 20 mins and it was perfectly cooked. Can’t wait to make this again.

    • — Erin on February 10, 2021
    • Reply
  • Super Yummy! This is one of my go to recipes for chicken. I use skinless boneless thighs to cut down on the fat. The sauce is A-ma-zing! Double the sauce. You won’t be disappointed. Another winner winner chicken dinner!!

    • — Janice Torelli on January 28, 2021
    • Reply
  • Delicious! Definitely adding it to the rotation! In the future, I might use 3 or 4 garlic smashed garlic cloves instead of 8 whole ones (do they impart enough flavor if they aren’t smashed or minced?) and pull the smashed garlic out when I take out the bay leaves (I worried that someone would bite into a whole clove if I didn’t take them out before eating!)

    • — Linda on January 26, 2021
    • Reply
  • I have tried Adobo chicken before and was never crazy about it, but we all loved this recipe! Made it exactly as written and thought it had the perfect balance of tangy, savory sweetness. My kids all had seconds and asked if we could make it again tonight.

    • — Cheryl on December 6, 2020
    • Reply
  • Made for my family tonight for the first time. Used apple cider vinegar instead of rice vinegar as I didn’t have any. It was great. Thanks for another great recipe!!

    • — Lynn on November 14, 2020
    • Reply
  • Delicious! But, my chicken thighs took over twice as long to cook. I had them simmering on medium. They were worth the wait, but I’m wondering if I did something wrong. I cooked them until they reached 165 degrees, according to food safety guidelines. Would there have been a difference in the texture had I cooked them to 175, as your recipe prescribed?

    • — Erica on October 1, 2020
    • Reply
    • Hi Erica, Glad you liked it! I suspect the heat on your stove was probably a little too low if it took that long to cook. I’d assume the texture would’ve been the same had you cooked it to 175 degrees.

      • — Jenn on October 2, 2020
      • Reply
  • I didn’t quite follow the recipe (skipped the marinading, used boneless skinless thighs, threw it all in my staub and let it cook until the meat fell apart), but it was easy and delicious. We served over rice noodles instead of rice, and I think all it needed was a little more of a kick – we used sriracha, but I might add red pepper flakes next time. Because I’ll definitely make it again.

    • — Bethany on September 24, 2020
    • Reply
  • Hi Jenn,
    Would white wine vinegar work? I’ve learned to follow your recipes to a tee so just wanted make sure it wouldn’t change the flavor. Thank you!

    • — Oya on August 2, 2020
    • Reply
    • Sure, Oya, that should work. Feel free to taste the sauce and add a pinch more sugar if you think it’s necessary. Hope you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on August 3, 2020
      • Reply
      • It was absolutely wonderful and didn’t need any adjustments. Not only I cooked this dish for the first time, we actually had it first time! Definitely will make it again!
        Thank for being so courteous with your time and answering all of our questions – very generous of you!
        Can’t wait for your upcoming book!

        • — OYA on August 14, 2020
        • Reply
        • 💗

          • — Jenn on August 14, 2020
          • Reply
  • Oh my, the sauce is addictive and the chicken moist and tender and just a tad spicy when the sauce is spooned over it. I used a whole chicken and four legs and followed the recipe exactly.

    • — Marilyn Segal on July 28, 2020
    • Reply
  • I’ve had a lot of versions of chicken adobo. This was very delicious. I used skinless leg meat and it worked well.

    • — Kathleen hauck on June 18, 2020
    • Reply
  • I am a Filipino American so I grew up with chicken adobo. It’s definitely a staple in every Filipino home and it’s always better when a grandma, auntie, or mom makes it for ya! However as I got older, I wanted to find the perfect recipe that had the right balance but wasn’t greasy. Plus I love to broil the skin on the chicken because it adds more depth of flavor. I thought I found a recipe that I was happy with, until I tried this one. At first I was skeptical of the coconut milk, but it really brings it all together and mellows out the tanginess from the vinegar. This recipe will be my forever adobo recipe that I hope my kids will eventually learn and keep in their Arsenal. Thank you so much for this perfect balance of flavors that bring me back to my roots! People, if you haven’t tried this recipe yet please do! And prepare with TONS of white rice because you will want to sip up all of the delicious sauce with it!

    • — Karen on May 26, 2020
    • Reply
  • I am learning to follow your recipes excactly. I am learning a lot from you. I made this last night and it turned our wonderful! Such an easy recipe with simple ingredients! I am trying to make a new recipe of yours at least once a week since I go to work (In a seniors home) and after work, self-isolate…what a great way to discover and try new recipes. My sons are ever grateful! This one goes into our family favourites cooking binder!
    Thank you!

    • — Louise on May 7, 2020
    • Reply
  • Hi Jenn — can’t wait to try this! Can I use APPLE cider vinegar instead of rice vinegar?
    Thanks!

    • — Eve on April 21, 2020
    • Reply
    • Sure, Eve – that should work.

      • — Jenn on April 22, 2020
      • Reply
  • Followed this almost exactly – I used skin-on, bone-in breasts and cut the soy soaking time by half because I was in a hurry. It was perfect! Delicious and easy. Everyone loved it and will definitely add to our meal rotation. Thanks Jenn!

    • — kenda macfadyen on October 29, 2019
    • Reply
  • Holy Moly, that was sooo good! Followed the directions to the letter and it turned out perfect.

    • — nora on April 25, 2019
    • Reply
  • By far the best and easiest recipe that everyone loves. Jenn, your recipes are the only ones I use now and I have learned to follow them exactly. No substitutes, just perfection!
    So many to choose from that it is hard to pick just one. I now have a folder with all my favorites readily available. Keep em coming!

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