Do you love quick easy recipes that taste like you’ve spent the better part of the day cooking? Me too! Well, Chicken Adobo is definitely at the top of that list. I’m always amazed that this recipe requires so little effort and so few ingredients, but yields such incredible flavor. The sauce is one you are going to want to bathe in, or at the very least serve with rice to soak up. When my husband, who grew up in the Philippines, is in a particularly good mood, he will whip this up for staff meal at the restaurants. There’s always a stampede!
Adobo hails from the Philippines and is widely considered a Filipino national dish. Though I’m using chicken here, it is also commonly made with pork. While Latin American and Spanish cultures also have a similar vinegar based dish called adobo, the Filipino version doesn’t have any tomatoes or chilies. It solely relies on the vinegar and soy sauce to create its fragrant tangy sauce.
After 300 years of colonial rule, the Philippines absorbed significant Spanish influence on its cuisine, and this dish exemplifies that East meets West fusion. As you can imagine, there are many regional versions of adobo. One memorable version I tried had the sauce cooked down to almost a glaze and the fat from the meat completely rendered, creating a luscious, but definitely not heart healthy, pool. My version is not as rich but it’s equally scrumptious.
Let’s Get Cooking!
Vinegar is Key
Chicken Adobo is the ultimate weeknight meal, since it relies on common pantry items like onions, vinegar, bay leaves, peppercorns, and sugar. This thankfully is not a dish that should require a last minute trip to the store. Vinegar is one of the most important staples in Filipino cuisine, with varieties ranging from coconut to palm vinegar. And if you happen to have a bottle of authentic cane vinegar from the Philippines, by all means use it. But I use regular old white distilled vinegar and it works beautifully.
Zesty Black Peppercorns
The peppercorns give this dish a little bite that contrasts with the tart vinegar. I don’t mind having them scattered throughout the dish since I like the look and the pepperiness. If you’re bothered by them, you could either put them in a piece of cheesecloth (although the flavor will be a little muted) or scrape them to the side as you eat.
Bone-In Chicken Thighs
I use skinless, bone-in thighs in my chicken adobo. Their rich meatiness is the perfect match with the vibrantly tangy sauce, and they stay nice and juicy as they cook down. You can use boneless thighs too, but I find the bones give oomph and body to the sauce. The vinegar helps to tenderize the meat as well, so you won’t need to cut the meat off the bone; it will pretty much fall apart with a fork.
First I brown the thighs for both color and flavor. Be careful here not to crowd the pan, I usually find this takes two batches. After the thighs are browned, I add the sliced onions and sauté them in the chicken drippings. I use the onion to scrape up any browned bits in the pot, and then when they are softened, the chicken gets added back in.
Now the chicken adobo comes together quickly. Just add all the other sauce ingredients, save for the vinegar, and bring to a simmer. Lastly pour in the vinegar, partially cover, and cook for about a half hour. At that point the chicken should be cooked through.
Reduce the Sauce
After the chicken is cooked through, it’s time to reduce the sauce. Reducing it will concentrate the amazing flavor and turn it into an addictive, finger licking sauce. Just let it simmer until it is reduced to about a cup of syrupy liquid.
Then Now it is time to devour! Pour the sauce over the chicken, and hopefully you have a pot of my perfect rice ready to go with it. Because adobo sauce and rice is like Asian crack. It’s amazing with brown rice too, so this is not the time to skimp on the carbs! If you love the bright tangy flavors of this chicken adobo you should also try Sinigang Shrimp Soup, another classic Filipino dish that combines savory and sweet.
Chicken Adobo has been a family and restaurant favorite for years. I hope you love it as much as we do. Scroll down to leave a comment below, and be sure to tag us in your beautiful insta pics @funkyasiankitchen-show us the goods!
- 8 skinless bone- in chicken thighs
- 2–3 Tablespoons neutral oil, divided
- 1 ½ large spanish onions, peeled, cut in half lengthwise and sliced into ½ inch rings
- 4 bay leaves
- 4 garlic cloves minced
- 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
- ½ cup soy sauce (you can use low sodium if you prefer)
- ½ cup water
- 3 Tablespoon light brown sugar
- ½ cup white vinegar
- Heat a large deep pan or a dutch oven over medium high heat. Add 1 Tablespoon of oil and 4 pieces of chicken. Let the chicken sear undisturbed for 2-3 minutes, until browned. Then flip the chicken and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes. Place the chicken onto a plate and continue browning the rest of the chicken. Set the plate of chicken aside.
- Return the pan back to medium high heat. (There should be enough oil from browning the chicken but if the pan is very dry, add 1 tablespoon of oil). Add the onions.
- Stir the onions to separate them and then stir-fry them for 3-4 mins until the onions are starting to soften and brown. Add the chicken back to the pot on top of the onions. Add the bay leaves, garlic, peppercorns, soy sauce, water, vinegar, and light brown sugar to the pot.
- Bring the pot to a simmer and then reduce the heat to medium low. Mix the sauce at the bottom to make sure the sugar is mixed in, and partially cover the pot with a lid. Cook for 25-30 until the chicken is cooked through and fork tender .
- Remove the chicken and place on a serving dish.
- Skim any excessive oil from the sauce in the pot (a little bit is fine as it will add flavor) and then return the pot to the stove and reduce the sauce over medium-high heat for 5-10 minutes. The sauce should be slightly thickened with about a cup and a half of liquid.
- Pour the sauce over the chicken and serve immediately.
* I do not find the sauce particularly salty but if you are watching your sodium intake, feel free to use low sodium soy sauce.
*Some adobo dishes do not add sugar but I find the sauce to be almost too tart to enjoy. You can decrease the amount of sugar and adjust it at the end, once the sauce has reduced, to suit your taste.
*Black peppercorns are vital to this dish. It is not the same to add some ground black pepper as the flavor will be very different. However, if you find yourself stuck, you can substitute 1/4 teaspoon of ground black pepper.
Keywords: adobo, filipino food, chicken adobo