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Filipino-Style Chicken Adobo

5 stars based on 25 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 (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.

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

    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 Reply
  • 5 stars

    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 Reply
  • 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
  • 5 stars

    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 Reply
  • 5 stars

    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
        • 5 stars

          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
  • 4 stars

    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
  • 4 stars

    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
  • 5 stars

    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 Reply
  • 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
      • 5 stars

        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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