Filipino-Style Chicken Adobo

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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.

My Recipe Videos

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 (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.

Reviews & Comments

  • Absolutely delicious! Thank you!!!

    • — Catrice Elms on December 4, 2018
    • Reply
  • I made this exactly as written, following the make-ahead instructions. It turned out absolutely perfect. All my dinner guests raved and went back for seconds. The instructions are so good and so helpful. I honestly never thought I could pull off a dish like this for company–Jenn–you and your great instructions, patience and advice over the years along with that of your reader’s have helped me learn so much and you have truly helped me face my fears and just go for it–all to wonderful results. I’m always so impressed and so deeply thankful!!!

    • — Diane on November 8, 2018
    • Reply
    • ❤️

      • — Jenn on November 8, 2018
      • Reply
  • I’ve made this so many times now. It really is one of my favorite chicken recipes!

    • — Nicole on August 30, 2018
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  • We have made this recipe twice with no modifications and loved it! My question is, would this work in a crockpot too? What changes would I need to make? Thanks!
    Fae

    • — Fae on April 27, 2018
    • Reply
    • So glad you like this, Fae! I don’t have a slow cooker, so I can’t say for sure how this would turn out in one; that said, one reader commented that she prepared it in a slow cooker and was happy with the results. I would still brown the chicken on the stovetop before putting it in the slow cooker. Here are some conversion tips that may help as well. I’d love to hear how it turns out this way!

      • — Jenn on April 27, 2018
      • Reply
  • Made recipe as is – really fantastic! Just two notes: first, I cooked the Adobo one day ahead to deepen the flavor, then refrigerated it, and next day easily lifted the hardened chicken fat from the top. I saved the fat and used it later to sauté onions and also to flavor some garlic fried rice. Yum! Secondly, I didn’t have any green onions so when serving the Adobo, I put a dollop of store-bought Tabouli on the side. Lovely combo of two culinary traditions!

    • — Lynn Ellen López on April 25, 2018
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  • Made as is and wouldn’t change a thing. Delish. Can’t wait to get your new book. Congratulations. You rock!

    • — Deborah Garner on April 7, 2018
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  • This is the second time I’ve made this recipe and both times I forgot to add the scallions, but it’s easy and delicious–even my 8 year old niece liked it. I did add a small amount of sugar (about 1/2 t. ) to the sauce at the end.

    • — Kim on March 8, 2018
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  • Some Questions: Should I put any oil in the cold pan before I add the chicken skin side down or is that not necessary here? Also, do you recommend a nonstick skillet like you used in picture rather than a regular–All Clad type of thing? Sorry–new to cooking and am nervous I will screw this up. If I make ahead for guests–definitely crisp skin under broiler–any idea how long? And does it splatter everywhere? I think they may only like white meat and wonder if I leave the skin on/bone in if it will still be pretty dry compared to thighs? Overall it sounds FANTASTIC. Thrilled to think about trying this. Thanks, Jenn.

    • — Diane E. Sorensen on March 2, 2018
    • Reply
    • Hi Diane, No oil is needed if you use a nonstick skillet. It’s fine to use stainless steel but you’ll likely need a tablespoon or so of vegetable oil to prevent sticking. As for crisping the skin, every broiler is different but it should take longer than a few minutes. I don’t recommend using this recipe for white meat as I think it would dry out. You might check out this chicken recipe – it’s great for company and you can do most of it ahead. Hope that helps!

      • — Jenn on March 2, 2018
      • Reply
      • Thanks a million for this tip–so great to know. Can’t wait to try it out on people who like thighs. I’ve made it with boneless skinless breasts simmered in the sauce before and everyone raved. Look forward to trying the recipe as written for people who will appreciate it. Fantastic combination of flavors. Another huge hit, Jenn.

        • — Diane on March 6, 2018
        • Reply
  • Can i marinate the chicken with soysauce overnight, and wake up early in the morning to cook them for lunch gathering, or will it make the chicken too salty?
    And i have reduced sodium soy sauce, will it work or i should add a bit of salt?

    Thank you and i love your recipes,
    Julia!

    • — Julia on January 20, 2018
    • Reply
    • Hi Julia, I wouldn’t recommend it; even with reduced sodium soy sauce, I think it may make the chicken too salty. Sorry!

      • — Jenn on January 23, 2018
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  • Can I use heavy cream instead of coconut milk? If so do i need to add anything to it?

    • — Judi on January 1, 2018
    • Reply
    • Sure, that should work. Hope you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on January 2, 2018
      • Reply
  • This dish is so tasty, and most amazing, all of us loved it. It can be hard, with kids and adults, to fin something everyone likes. This one is it! The first time, I followed the directions exactly and it was wonderful. The second time, I tried to make it faster on a weeknight by using boneless, skinless breasts and just cooking them in the sauce. Not so great, the chicken was a little dry. So now I do it as directed and it’s perfect every time.

    • — Robin Peate on November 30, 2017
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  • Hi there,
    I have tried at least 10 of your recipes and will give all of them 5 stars. The flavors are just on-point! Excited for your cookbook – will be pre-ordering it 🙂

    • — Archana on October 31, 2017
    • Reply
  • Made this 4 times! It’s now in our permanent weekly rotation in our home. The recipe is genius because it’s all done in one pan = less clean up. The chicken is tender and so flavorful, we are all practically licking the pan clean! The very best part is that it’s not greasy at all. It’s a winner with pasta or rice, YUM!!

    • — Stephanie Ronen on September 18, 2017
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  • I have tried many chicken adobo recipes over the years, and this one is my favorite. I did not mke any changes to the recipe, and it turned out perfectly. Timing to make the dish was also accurate as well. This is now a staple in my household.

    • — Rebecca on September 16, 2017
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  • This is one of my absolute favorite recipes! So easy to make, yet surprisingly full of flavor. I have lost over 100 lbs on a low carb diet and with a minor tweak, I am able to enjoy your recipe anytime I want! Thank you for making my journey delicious!

    • — Liz Heyer on September 14, 2017
    • Reply
  • I want to substitute boneless, skinless chicken breasts but not lose the moist texture. Can you advise and upgrade my cooking technique? I’m still trying to break my hubby of his bias against thighs! You’re a terrific Chef and first on my go to list.
    Mahalo, Susan

    • — Susan on June 27, 2017
    • Reply
    • Thanks for the nice words, Susan — so glad you enjoy the recipes :). This recipe really is best as written with the thighs. Would your husband be open to bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts? (Because they would work much better than boneless breasts.)

      • — Jenn on June 27, 2017
      • Reply
  • Outstanding recipe! After watching me make many recipes from this site, my nephew decided he would cook us dinner tonight. A Monday night. He made this recipe tonight, and it absolutely rocked! He found the recipe straight forward and well described. Everything came together perfectly. The taste? Absolutely awesome.
    Well balanced, not to sweet, not too salty. Very flavorful!! Thank you for all the hard work to make your recipes so easy for so many!

    • — Libby on May 1, 2017
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  • Such a delicious and EASY weeknight dinner! The whole family loved it. I will definitely be making this Chicken adobo again and again!

    • — Elizabeth on April 3, 2017
    • Reply
  • Dear Jen,
    2 Questions: (1) Would it be possible to marinate boneless, skinless chicken breasts in the sauce mixture overnight and then cover and bake it all in the oven (350 degrees until done). Or will this not allow some of the pungency of the ingredients to properly cook off? (2) Alternatively, could I use boneless, skinless chicken breasts–skip the searing of the meat–go right to preparing and putting the sauce in the saucepan, heating it through, add chicken breasts and cook all as further directed…then refrigerate overnight, reheating before guests arrive? I realize this will skip the entire “skin” experience, but was wondering your thoughts on these two ideas and if one or the other would be possible and which might yield the most moist chicken. Thanks so much for any thoughts!

    • — Diane on March 6, 2017
    • Reply
    • Hi Diane, this recipe truly is best as written as the dark meat and skin add so much taste and moisture. That said, if you want to go about it differently, I definitely would go with the second option. I’d love to hear how it turns out!

      • — Jenn on March 6, 2017
      • Reply
    • Thanks, Jen. This is so helpful! I’d like to do this second option for a group (using apx. 6 lbs boneless/skinless chicken breasts). Can I double the sauce and do the whole thing as discussed but in a dutch oven (or similarly large pot) on the stove, remove chicken when done and reduce the sauce from there or will the sauce not reduce properly unless in a more shallow, skillet type of pan? Sorry to be a pain but I’m new to cooking and want to make sure I reduce the sauce in the an appropriate manner so it tastes good. Realize again, this is not how recipe was intended, etc. Thanks for your patience any thoughts you may have. Very appreciated!

      • — Diane Sorensen on March 8, 2017
      • Reply
      • No problem Diane! Yes, I think what you plan to do will work– reducing it just may take a little longer.

        • — Jenn on March 10, 2017
        • Reply
        • Dear Jenn–Reporting back: I did this method (day ahead: doubled sauce, simmered lots of boneless skinless breasts which were cut into more manageable and even pieces, low fat coconut milk) for a dinner party last weekend. Reheated before eating. Upon tasting it literally everyone at the table said: “This is so good!” Everyone went back for seconds. Served with your Warm Couscous with Apricot Vinaigrette and again, huge hit–people loved it and thought it went really well with the chicken. Thanks so much!!!

          • — Diane on May 25, 2017
          • Reply
          • So glad you were happy with the results- thanks for reporting back!

            • — Jenn on May 26, 2017
  • So good and so simple. Searing the chicken seemed like an extra step but makes all the difference. Loved the scallions!

    • — Owen on March 2, 2017
    • Reply
  • This was delicious, but maybe a little too strong. As written it’s probably a 5-star recipe, but I needed to put it in a slow-cooker, and that may have concentrated the flavors since they cooked together longer. After marinating boneless/skinless thighs in Soy Sauce for 1 hr, I threw them on the gas grill for 3 minutes per side, then cooled that overnight. In the morning I put all the rest of the ingredients in the slow cooker, added the chicken and cooked on low for 4 1/2 hrs. The chicken was fall-apart tender, and delicious, but a little too strong.

    But Jen, I have so much confidence in your recipe’s that I am willing to make anything on your site for guests even without trying it out first. All my guests (11) enjoyed it and many were happy to take leftovers along for lunch the next day.

    • — Lisa S. on February 14, 2017
    • Reply
  • I just had this and it was amazing! So easy to make also. We used boneless skinless thighs. I’ll be making this one again soon!

    • — Libb on February 8, 2017
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  • 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
  • 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
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  • Absolutely scrumptious like everything else I’ve tried from your site!

    • — Northern Belle on October 6, 2016
    • Reply
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
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  • Need to make these immediately! My mouth is watering!

  • 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
  • Absolutely delicious!

    • — Beth Johns on January 11, 2016
    • Reply
    • 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
  • I made this recipe yesterday, and the chicken was absolutely delicious. Another keeper from Chef Jenn!

    • — GeeMissus on January 11, 2016
    • Reply
  • My whole family loved it! Thanks!

    • — Colleen on January 10, 2016
    • Reply
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
      • This was excellent! I used legs, bone-in thighs and party wings. Those little wings browned up so nicely, really got crisp. Lovely dish and I did a bit of fusion here and served this with your Mexican Rice and Thai, onion and cucumbers! We loved it all.

        • — Karen Calanchini on May 9, 2017
        • Reply

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