Filipino Chicken Adobo Recipe

Have you ever eaten Filipino food?  I hadn’t until I started testing recipes for this post.  I tried googling Filipino restaurants in Massachusetts and there’s only one!  More research and it seems that there aren’t a lot of Filipino restaurants in America, yet according to the Census Bureau, Filipinos are the second-largest Asian group in the USA, totaling 3.4 million people (based on 2010 estimates). The Philippines is an archipelago of over 7,000 islands in southeast Asia, not far from Thailand, whose cuisine we all know well and love.  I can’t say why Filipino food isn’t more prominent in the culinary scene here, but I will tell you that If this adobo chicken is any indication, Filipino food rocks, and we should all be enjoying it!

It’s still snowy and cold in Boston and I’m still craving big pots of flavorful, falling-apart stew. So it’s been great to have an excuse to stay in and play in the kitchen.  When I’m figuring out what recipe to do next, I love to read about different countries and their indigenous dishes.  The Filipino “adobo” technique grabbed me – it’s a process of stewing foods – chicken, meat or vegetables –  in a garlicky, peppery vinegar sauce.  By the way, it has nothing to do with the other adobo – the Spanish one with chipotles.

I knew I would love this dish.  It’s loaded with a bunch of my favorites ingredients – garlic, vinegar, soy sauce, and black pepper.  Slow simmering causes the sauce to thicken and intensify and the chicken gets tender to the point of almost falling apart.


A whole head of garlic is easy to peel when you use the flattening-with-a-knife technique.  Put one clove at a time under the side of the blade of a large heavy knife.  Use the heel of your hand to pound the knife once or twice until the clove is flattened a bit.  That loosens the papery skin so you can easily pull it off.


The cloves are left bruised and tender and easy to chop.


The chicken is briefly marinated in vinegar and garlic, then browned, then simmered with onions, garlic, vinegar, soy, and a good amount of black pepper.  By the way – during every step of this recipe, the smell is intoxicating – even my 16-year-old was lured downstairs to ask ‘what’s cooking?’


The adobo cooking method was originally invented as a way to preserve meat before there was refrigeration.  Harmful bacteria can’t survive in an acid environment so vinegar was, and still is, a perfect natural preservative for foods.  But adobo has stood the test of time and the advent of refrigeration – it remains extremely popular in Filipino cuisine – some call adobo chicken the national dish of the Philippines.



Serve the chicken adobo with fluffy rice.  If you want a green garnish, chopped cilantro would be great.  Enjoy!

Recipe type: Main Course
Cuisine: Filippino
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 5-6
Tender chicken in a tangy flavorful sauce, best served over rice.
  • 4 pounds chicken thighs (with bones and skin)
  • 1½ cups distilled white vinegar
  • ½ cup soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil or other cooking oil
  • 1 medium onion, halved and thinly sliced (1½ cups)
  • 1 head of garlic, cloves separated, flattened, peeled, and roughly chopped. (about 6 tablespoons chopped)
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon Thai fish sauce or Filipino fish sauce
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  1. Marinate Chicken: Put chicken in a non-reactive bowl or casserole. Combine the vinegar and 1 tablespoon of the chopped garlic. Pour over chicken and turn to coat. Marinate in the fridge or in a cool place for 30 minutes. Remove chicken from the marinade, allowing excess to drip back into the bowl and transfer chicken to a clean plate. Reserve the marinade.
  2. Brown Chicken & Aromatics: Heat oil over medium heat in a large dutch oven or another heavy pot with a lid. Pat chicken lightly with a paper towel to dry. Brown in batches (4-5 pieces at a time), starting skin side down for 3-4 minutes. Turn and brown for just a minute on the other side. Transfer to a clean plate. Repeat with all the chicken. Pour out all but 2 tablespoons fat from the pot. (hint: It's easier if you pour it all out, into a small bowl or coffee cup, and then add back the 2 tablespoons) Set the heat to medium-low, add onions and the rest of the garlic to the pot and sauté, stirring occasionally, for about 10 mintutes, until the onions are softened.
  3. Simmer Chicken: Return the chicken to the pot along with any accumulated juices, vinegar-garlic marinade, soy sauce, fish sauce, black pepper, bay leaves and ¼ cup of water. Toss chicken with onions and sauce to coat. Bring to a boil. Lower to a simmer. Cover and cook at a low steady simmer for 30 minutes.
  4. De-fat the sauce before continuing (I don't like a lot of unnecessary fat in my food so this is a step I often do when I'm cooking a soup or stew, though it's not required.) Turn off heat for 5 minutes to let the fat rise to the surface. Use a teaspoon to carefully skim off several spoonfuls of fat. The fat will be clear vs the sauce, which is brown. No need to get all the fat. You can always skim more when the dish is done, if you like.
  5. Finish: Return the pot to a simmer. Toss chicken to coat with sauce. Cover and simmer gently for 30 more minutes, until the chicken is tender and the sauce is a rich brown color. Serve over rice.
If you like tender chicken cooked with vinegar, here’s another good one from the archives: Smothered Chicken with Vinegar.


  1. says

    I was once invited to a love dinner at someone’s home featuring food from the
    Philippines. This chicken dish was one of the main dishes. Awesome! How wonderful to have a recipe right under my nose. The sauce is to die for.

  2. says

    wow, so simple! Will add this to my list of recipes to do! I thought this dish is a lot more complicated! Love your website by the way:-)

  3. Shane says

    Great recipe.

    I make this pretty often, a few of the additions, I have made are an onion or two chopped up (great in the reduced sauce).

    1 Star Anise is also a great way to mix it up and traditional to lots of the Philippines. I haven’t reduced my sauce in the past but am going to now.

    Great site – I’m going to try the peanut stew once it cools off.

  4. Marnie says

    Thanks for sharing this recipe. There are many variations to making filipino-style adobo, and I found that yours comes closest to the version my mom made for me!

    • Di says

      I have my own very different twist. I use about 3 inches of fresh ginger grated, 5 cloves of garlic grated, rice vinegar. I cook it all together in chicken broth until it falls off the bones. take the skins bones and grissle out and mash it up to like pulled chicken then cook the sauce down but leave lots of sauce. it is still sticky sauce but oh so good. and very ready to just dive in. no cutting or anything once in the bowl over rice. so much easier to eat this way. I learned from someone in the Navy as well. but he slow cooked his for about 10 hours. and yes I did 15 in the Navy

  5. Ruben says

    Thanks for your take on a classic Filipino dish! Your version is mmm mmm Yummy. I find that using white vinegar is too assertive for me. For pork adobo, apple cider vinegar is my acid of choice (with a bit of the white for some bite). For chicken adobo, I like to use a more mellow acid like white wine vinegar or cane vinegar. I’ve had friends use all lemon or all lime juice and those, too, were tasty twists to the dish.

  6. says

    How I miss my Grandma. She cooks Filipino Food and Adobo is my favorite! We live in Boston and JnJ Turo-Turo is the nearest Filipino Restaurant and sometimes I went there to eat Adobo. But now that I discover this recipe I can make my own Adobo and eat anytime I want. Thanks!


  1. […] CHICKEN ADOBO FROM THE PHILIPPINES Tender chicken in a tangy, flavorful sauce: This dish is loaded with a bunch of my favorites ingredients – garlic, vinegar, soy sauce, and black pepper.  Slow simmering causes the sauce to thicken and intensify and the chicken gets tender to the point of almost falling apart. […]

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