This is your ultimate guide to making the best Filipino chicken adobo, THE EASY WAY! With simple cooking techniques, you can make a tender, fall-of-the-bone chicken with flavorful, rich and garlicky, adobo sauce. Lots of tips and simple, techniques are included.
- What is Filipino Chicken Adobo?
- Why you'll love this recipe
- Chicken Adobo Ingredients
- How to Make Chicken Adobo
- What to Serve with Chicken Adobo?
- Shelf-life and Storage
- Can I cook chicken adobo in an Instant Pot?
- Frequently asked questions
- Watch the Chicken Adobo Recipe Video
- Complete Recipe
What is Filipino Chicken Adobo?
Adobo is a Filipino dish primarily made with chicken or pork slowly braised in vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, bay leaves, and black peppercorns.
Like many other Filipino dishes, adobo has many variations. Some like it with lots of sauce while others like it on the dry side. Others like it on the sweet-savory side while others prefer a vinegary sauce.
For me, personally, a perfect chicken adobo should have the perfect balance of all the components–savory, and slightly tangy with a hint of sweetness. The chicken must be tender but not overcooked and the sauce should be rich, fatty (yep!), and thick yet saucy enough to be poured over rice (yum!).
Why you'll love this recipe
- No marination–yes you read it right. Authentic adobo calls for marinating the chicken for a few hours up to overnight. But we are skipping that step to save time. Worried about the flavor? Don't worry. See the next point.
- Incredibly flavorful–this recipe yields the most flavorful chicken adobo thanks to a simple cooking technique that allows the meat to easily absorb the flavor of the sauce.
- A perfect balance of flavors–not too salty, not too vinegary. The secret? Using the right ratio of soy sauce and vinegar.
Chicken Adobo Ingredients
Here's what you need to make the best chicken adobo at home:
Bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs and drumsticks are the best part of the chicken for adobo. They make the most flavorful sauce with tender and juicy meat. The fat makes a thick and rich sauce that you won't get if using chicken breast.
To get that authentic adobo flavor, use Filipino soy sauce. You can buy this in most Asian supermarkets and online stores like amazon. It can be substituted with regular soy sauce like Kikkoman but you will need to increase the amount as it's less salty compared to Filipino soy sauce.
What I don’t recommend are light soy sauce/ low sodium and premium dark soy sauce. The former doesn’t have enough flavor and color, while the latter is too dark and thick and less salty.
I prefer using white rice vinegar (not seasoned) as it's less acidic and mild in flavor. You can also use any white vinegar, including coconut vinegar, white wine vinegar, and distilled vinegar.
Fresh cloves of garlic, onion, dried bay leaf, and black peppercorn are essential ingredients when making chicken adobo. The unique combination is what gives the dish the familiar Filipino flavor.
Balances the saltiness of the soy sauce and the tanginess of the vinegar. You can use either brown sugar or white sugar. You only need a small amount.
How to Make Chicken Adobo
And here's how to make the best Filipino chicken adobo:
These are the key steps:
- Saute the garlic and onion to bring out their flavor. Make sure the oil is hot enough. It's ready once it becomes fragrant and the onion becomes translucent. Sometimes, I brown them a little bit more for a deeper flavor.
- Brown the chicken skin side down first–push the onion and garlic to the side of the pan. Add the chicken skin-side down and sear until it turns brown. This step helps render the fat of the meat making the most delicious adobo sauce!
- Simmer the vinegar (don't skip this step!)–once the chicken is no longer pink, pour the vinegar and simmer for a few minutes. This is my secret tip for making adobo taste like it's on its second day. The vinegar breaks down the meat making it easy to absorb all the flavors of other ingredients.
- Partially cover with a lid after adding the rest of the ingredients–boil the chicken over medium-high heat until tender and cooked through. Note that without the lid, the liquid will evaporate too quickly.
- Thicken the sauce–remove the lid and simmer until the sauce becomes thick and rich. Remember the sauce gets saltier as the sauce reduces i.e. water evaporates. Do a taste test before adding more soy sauce BEFORE your adobo finishes cooking.
What to Serve with Chicken Adobo?
Adobo is best served with warm rice or garlic-fried rice. I love pairing it with boiled eggs and often atchara (Filipino pickled papaya).
To make this dish, even more, interesting you can try these variations:
- Add potatoes - preferably Yukon gold or white and yellow potatoes. Pan-fry in hot oil to give it a firm texture then add it to the pot when the chicken is halfway through cooking.
- Make it spicy - add chopped red chilies or dried chili flakes.
- Add ginger - for another layer of flavor. Saute with the garlic and onion.
- Add toppings - sprinkle fried onions, toasted garlic, and fresh green onions just before serving.
A shallow pot or a saute pan with a lid is ideal for cooking adobo as it can be used for both browning and simmering. The height of the side walls is just enough to hold in the heat and minimize evaporation. The result is succulently tender meat and thick rich sauce.
Shelf-life and Storage
Leftover chicken adobo can last in the fridge for up to 1 week, stored in an air-tight container. To further extend the shelf life, freeze in an airtight container or heavy-duty freezer bag. Thaw before reheating on the stove or microwave.
Can I cook chicken adobo in an Instant Pot?
Definitely! Here's the recipe.
Frequently asked questions
Use equal amounts of soy sauce and vinegar to start with. Taste the sauce halfway through cooking then add more soy sauce or vinegar depending on your preference. For the amount, a good rule of thumb to follow is to use ¼ cup of soy sauce and vinegar for every pound of meat. If I need to make a big batch, just double the amount.
Watch the Chicken Adobo Recipe Video
More chicken recipes
More Filipino recipes for your weekly menu!
- Sweet and Sour Whole Fish
- Chicken Kare Kare
- Stir-fried Mung Bean Sprouts with Tofu (Togue Guisado)
- Pork Belly Sisig
- Chicken Tinola
- Beef Caldereta
- Filipino Pork BBQ Skewers
- Chicken Sotanghon (Glass Noodle Soup)
Chicken Adobo Recipe
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil (add more as needed)
- 6 cloves garlic (chopped)
- 1 piece onion
- 4 pieces / 600 grams chicken thighs or legs (bone-in, and skin-on, note 1)
- ⅓ cup vinegar (I used rice vinegar, see note 3)
- ⅓ cup soy sauce (note 1)
- 3 teaspoon brown sugar (or white)
- 1 cup water (add more as needed)
- 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorn
- 2 pcs bay leaf
- 4 pieces soft boiled eggs (optional)
- Heat oil in a deep saute pan or shallow pot. Add garlic and onion, and cook until fragrant and translucent.
- Move the garlic and onions to the side. Add more oil if needed. Place chicken, (skin side down first) and sear on both sides until browned–about 2 minutes on each side. Do not cook the chicken all the way through.
- Pour vinegar and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes until it's slightly absorbed by the chicken. Do not stir or move the ingredients around.
- Add soy sauce, black peppercorn, bay leaves, water, and brown sugar. Stir to combine all ingredients. Partially cover with a lid and cook for 20 minutes until the chicken is tender.
- Remove the lid. Taste and add more sugar or soy sauce, if preferred. Let the sauce reduce to desired consistency.
- Add softboiled eggs and coat with the sauce. Remove from heat. Serve and enjoy!
Recipe Notes and Tips:
- Chicken - chicken breast is not recommended unless combined with chicken thighs.
- Soy sauce - Use Filipino soy sauce to get that authentic adobo flavor. It can be substituted with regular soy sauce like Kikkoman. Don't use light soy sauce or dark soy sauce.
- Vinegar - I use white rice vinegar (not seasoned). Cane vinegar, coconut vinegar, and white wine vinegar work well too.
- Remember the sauce gets saltier as the sauce reduces i.e. water evaporates. Do a taste test before adding more salt or soy sauce BEFORE your adobo finishes cooking. If you add too much soy, balance it with more sugar, or add a small amount of water.
- Nutrition - eggs are not included in the calculation.
Originally published March 2020. Updated with new photos, video, and a streamlined recipe after further testing.Riverten Kitchen is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.