Chicken Adobo is a popular dish in the Philippines and very easy to cook at home. Chicken is braised, low and slow, in tangy, vinegary garlic sauce until it is meltingly tender and falling off the bone. It calls out for a side of mashed potatoes or rice to soak up all the amazing sauce.
Have you ever eaten Filipino food? I hadn’t until I started testing recipes for this post. I Googled Filipino restaurants in Massachusetts and there’s only one. After more research I discovered that there aren’t many 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. We all know and love Thai food. I can’t say why Filipino food isn’t more prominent in the culinary scene here, but I will tell you that If this chicken adobo is any indication, Filipino food rocks, and we should all be enjoying it!
WHAT IS ADOBO?
- Adobo is many things.
- Adobo is a popular Caribbean spice mix.
- Adobo is a Mexican paste or sauce, which you may be familiar with if you’ve ever used canned chipotles in adobo.
- Adobe is a popular Filipino dish named after a cooking technique that entails stewing meat, chicken or vegetables in garlicky, peppery vinegar sauce.
- Want to know more details? Here’s a good article on the subject from Food and Wine: What is Adobo?
HOW TO MAKE THE BEST CHICKEN ADOBO:
Here are a few things to know before you start.
- Filipino Chicken adobo is a very simple dish to cook at home. There are only 6 main ingredients: chicken thighs, onions, garlic, vinegar, soy sauce and fish sauce – plus oil, salt and pepper.
- The key to making this wonderful, richly flavored fork-tender chicken is in the braising technique. Bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs are perfect for braising. When you brown chicken thighs over high heat, you create a delicious layer of flavor in the skin and you seal in the juices. Plus you get lots of tasty browned bits on the bottom of the pan, which will flavor the sauce.
- You’ll need a large heavy pot or Dutch oven, with a lid.
- First you marinate the chicken in a bowl for 30 minutes, with vinegar and garlic.
- Next, brown the chicken pieces in your dutch over, over high heat. Transfer chicken to a plate and add onions and garlic to the pot. Sauté the aromatics until tender.
- Add the chicken back to the pot, along with the reserved vinegar-garlic marinade, soy sauce, fish sauce, black pepper, bay leaves and 1/4 cup of water.
- Simmer, covered, for about an hour or until the chicken is falling off the bone and the sauce is rich and dark.
HOW TO PEEL GARLIC THE EASY WAY
There’s a whole head of garlic in this recipe.
Peeling garlic can be tedious but there’s a technique I’m going to tell you about that makes it easy to get the papery skins off.
You’ll be amazed at how easy is it to peel a whole head of garlic when you use this technique. It changed my life when I learned this!
Here’s how to do it. Place a clove of garlic on your work surface. Lay the flat side of the blade of a large heavy knife over the garlic clove. Use the heel of your hand, CAREFULLY, to pound the knife once or twice until the clove is flattened a bit. That will loosen the papery skin so you can easily pull it off.
Another benefit of this technique is that the garlic cloves are left bruised and tender, so they’re easier to chop.
I just have to mention that during every step of making this chicken adobo 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 not survive in an acid environment so vinegar was, and still is, a perfect natural preservative for foods.
Adobo has stood the test of time. Despite the invention of refrigeration, adobe remains extremely popular in Filipino cuisine. Many call chicken adobo the national dish of the Philippines.
I knew I would love chicken adobo. It’s loaded with a bunch of my favorites ingredients.
I have a thing for super tender chicken braised in vinegar sauce.
Suggested Accompaniments For Chicken Adobo
- A side of rice or mashed potatoes – something starchy to soak up the delicious sauce
- A simple citrusy green salad
- chopped cilantro or chopped scallions to sprinkle on top
Here’s the recipe for Filipino Chicken Adobo. If you try this recipe, I hope you’ll come back to leave a rating and comment. I’d love to know what you think!Print
Chicken Adobo from the Philippines
Tender braised chicken in a tangy flavorful vinegar sauce.
- Prep Time: 30 mins
- Cook Time: 1 hour 15 mins
- Total Time: 1 hour 45 mins
- Yield: 5-6 1x
- Category: Main Course
- Method: stovetop
- Cuisine: Filipino
- 4 pounds chicken thighs (with bones and skin)
- 1 1/2 cups distilled white vinegar
- 1/2 cup soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons olive oil or other cooking oil
- 1 medium onion, halved and thinly sliced (1 1/2 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
- 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.
- 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 minutes, until the onions are softened.
- 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 1/4 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. The next step is optional. If you skip it, keep simmering the chicken for 30 minutes longer (see step 5)
- Optional step: 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.
- Finish: Return the pot to a simmer. Toss chicken to coat with sauce. Cover and simmer gently for 30 more minutes, or until the chicken is tender and the sauce is a rich brown color. Serve over rice.
[First published March 2014. Updated Jan 2019 with added nutritional information and tweaks to the written post]