Chicken Adobo recipe made with pantry friendly ingredients in one pot and bursting with flavor!
This Filipino Chicken Adobo is the ultimate EASY chicken dinner that your entire family will love! It’s tangy, salty, savory, sweet, and spicy with a delectable sticky glaze that will make you swoon. You will love that it’s made with everyday ingredients, the marinade does all the heavy lifting and everything gets cooked in one pot! The Chicken Adobo is made by first marinating the chicken in a few simple ingredients – soy sauce, vinegar, Asian sweet chili sauce, brown sugar, garlic and spices and then simmering the chicken in the marinade – how easy is that?! The marinade reduces to a delectable sticky sauce that envelops the chicken as your home fills with the intoxicating aroma of anticipation. The resulting Filipino Chicken Adobo is incredibly juicy, tender and exploding with flavor in every bite. Serve this effortless Chicken Adobo recipe with rice and veggies and watch everyone clamor for more.
Filipino Chicken Adobo
If you’ve never experienced Filipino Chicken Adobo, you are in for a treat! Not only is it SO easy to make with just a handful of ingredients but it’s incredibly flavorful with a bold, sticky, savory-sweet lick-your-plate glaze. If you’re looking for more easy and delicious one pot chicken recipes, try my Teriyaki Chicken with Pineapple Rice, Arroz Con Pollo, Lemon Pepper Chicken and Asparagus and Honey Mustard Chicken with Green Beans and Potatoes.
What is Chicken Adobo?
Chicken Adobo is the national dish of the Philippines due to it’s intoxicating flavor and ease. There are many versions of Filipino Chicken Adobo due to the diversity of the islands; the Philippines are comprised of 175 ethnicities, speaking 182 languages. The most common version of Chicken Adobo, however, begins by marinating bone-in chicken thighs and drumsticks in soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, bay leaves and quintessential black peppercorns. In authentic Chicken Adobo, brown sugar is optional, but I find just a couple tablespoons necessary to balance the salt and acidity.
The chicken is then removed from the marinade, seared until golden, then the marinade plus water are added back to the pot. Everything simmers together until the chicken is fall-off-the-bone tender and bathed in the immensely flavorful, rich, savory, slightly sweet sauce with a balancing tang with little pops of heat from peppercorns. In short, it’s a flavor of bomb of epic proportions – one you don’t want to miss!
Where did Filipino Chicken Adobo Come From?
Filipino Chicken Adobo originated in the Philippines, not to be confused with Mexican or Spanish adobo (see section below). The Philippines consists of over 7,000 tropical islands with hot climates. In the early days without refrigeration, food was prone to spoiling but the people learned that the combination of soy sauce, vinegar, and spices preserved the meat. The acid in the vinegar and high salt content of soy sauce prolonged the shelf life of the food by deterring the growth of bacteria. This style of cooking is referred to as “inadobo,” meaning cooking chicken, meat or seafood with vinegar and mostly soy sauce.
Where did Chicken Adobo Get its name?
The Filipino people had been cooking Chicken Adobo long before it came to be known by the Spanish name. Spain conquered the Philippines in the 1500s. It is likely that the Spaniards saw how the Filipino people persevered their food with combination of soy sauce and vinegar which reminded them of their Spanish adobo – the marinade they used to preserve meat with vinegar and spices so it wouldn’t rot, and thus called it by the same name.
Is Adobo Mexican or Filipino?
You have likely heard of “Chicken Adobo” but may be confused there are two distinct dishes – one from the Philippines and one from Mexico. In Filipino Chicken Adobo, the name refers to the whole dish, whereas Mexican adobo refers to the marinade. Mexican adobo is used as a marinade on all sorts of meats, poultry and pork.
The flavor profiles are distinctly different as well. Filipino Chicken Adobo is characterized by soy sauce, vinegar, garlic and peppercorns, whereas, Mexican adobo is characterized by crushed chilies, ground cumin, paprika, oregano, salt, garlic, vinegar and tomatoes.
Chicken Adobo Recipe
I am more than slightly obsessed with this Chicken Adobo recipe. The layers of aromatic flavors are out of this world and it’s SO easy, it’s destined to become a weeknight staple. I just love that it’s made with minimal ingredients in one pot. The fact that the end result is utterly divine almost seems too good to be true – but it’s not.
Before I jump into my version of Filipino Chicken Adobo, let me say that it is NOT 100% authentic. I started with the traditional ingredients but then added more seasonings so it packs an intoxicatingly flavorful punch. Sometimes mixing old recipes with new ideas results is the best of both worlds – or the best Chicken Adobo you will ever sink your teeth into with maximum flavor.
Here is why you’ll love this Chicken Adobo recipe:
- Pantry friendly. This Filipino Chicken Adobo uses pantry friendly ingredients I can practically guarantee you already have.
- Easy. The marinade does practically all the work. Marinate the chicken, brown the chicken, simmer the chicken in the marinade – easy peasy!
- Flavorful. Not only does this Chicken Adobo recipe include traditional ingredients of soy sauce, vinegar, garlic peppercorns and bay leaves, but I’ve amped it up with Asian Sweet Chili Sauce, onion powder, ginger powder and yellow curry powder – drool. The marinade seeps into the chicken and then reduces to a tantalizing glaze that bathes the chicken as it cooks.
- Juicy and tender. The dark meat of bone-in chicken thighs and drumstick is already juicy and flavorful but the marinade further tenderizes the chicken to drool worthy.
- Not greasy. The skin is removed before cooking (optional) so the resulting chicken is juicy, succulent, fall apart tender without being greasy or coated in soggy skin.
- Versatile. If chicken isn’t your thing, feel free to swap in pork or beef.
What does Chicken Adobo taste like?
Filipino Chicken Adobo is a satisfying balancing act of soy sauce, vinegar, black peppercorns and sugar to create a sticky glaze that’s tangy, salty, savory, garlicy, slightly sweet, and spicy. I used a 1:1 ratio of vinegar to soy sauce, which provides the vinegar tang with pronounced umami from the soy and then added a bit of brown sugar and Asian Chili Sauce to balance out the puckeringly tart vinegar and salty soy sauce.
By substituting some of the sugar with Asian Sweet Chili Sauce, we not only get sweet but we get sweet heat infused with red chilies, garlic and ginger – a depth of flavor that can’t be beat. The brown sugar and Asian sweet chili sauce won’t make your Chicken Adobo sweet, but smooth out the harsh edges, resulting in a well-balanced flavor profile.
The chicken is further seasoned with garlic, onion powder, ginger powder, yellow curry powder and black peppercorns for a complex warm, earthy, zingy, pungent depth. Please don’t be afraid of using whole peppercorns in this Chicken Adobo recipe. Their spiciness is tempered by the cooking time resulting in subtle pops of heat that are a highlight in the rich glaze.
The chicken itself is incredibly tender both from being marinated and from braising in the marinade. Furthermore, by simmering the chicken for an extended period of time on the stove, the thighs and drumsticks pull away from the bone with hardly any coaxing, as if they’ve been slow cooked for hours.
WHAT CHICKEN IS BEST FOR Chicken ADOBO recipe?
This Chicken Adobo recipe is made with bone-in chicken thighs and drumsticks which emerge crazy tender and juicy. I like to use 4 bone-in chicken thighs and 4 chicken drumsticks, but you can use all chicken thighs or all drumsticks. If you use all drumsticks, you will want to use 10 instead of 8 because they are smaller than thighs.
I prefer to remove the skin from my chicken because I like the texture better and feel less guilty about devouring multiple servings without it. I also find the chicken is just as flavorful without the skin.
CAN I LEAVE THE SKIN ON MY CHICKEN?
That being said, you can absolutely leave the skin on your chicken if you prefer. You will want to sear the chicken for a decent amount of time to render the fat.
CAN I USE BONELESS CHICKEN THIGHS?
You may use boneless, skinless chicken thighs but I prefer bone-in thighs for their flavor and tenderness. If using boneless chicken things, reduce the water to 1 ½ cups. Sear the thighs, and simmer UNCOVERD for 20 to 25 minutes, flipping chicken over at 15 minutes.
CAN I USE CHICKEN BREASTS?
Please do NOT use chicken breasts. The fat in the drumsticks and thighs break down into the sauce, enriching the flavor and allowing it to reduce down to a glaze. If you must use chicken breasts, make sure to pound them to an even thickness and add 2 tablespoons oil to the sauce. Simmer covered, just until the chicken is cooked through, then remove the chicken and continue to simmer the sauce without the chicken until it reduces.
Ingredients for chicken adobo recipe
This Chicken Adobo recipe uses pantry friendly ingredients. Many recipes call for more exotic ingredients such as cane vinegar, coconut vinegar, palm vinegar or palm sugar but this recipe is wonderfully simple and equally fabulous. You will need:
- Soy sauce: use reduced sodium soy sauce or your Chicken Adobo will be too salty as the sauce reduces into a glaze. Also, please don’t use dark soy sauce as it will be too strong once reduced.
- Brown sugar: use packed brown sugar to balance the salty soy and tangy vinegar.
- White vinegar: everyday vinegar provides the tangy balance to the soy sauce. You may substitute with apple cider vinegar or cane vinegar.
- Garlic: 4-5 minced garlic cloves or 2 teaspoons garlic powder. Use more or less depending on your garlic love.
- Asian sweet chili sauce: this might be my favorite Asian condiment. It is sweet and spicy and packed with flavor from a combination of red chilies, onion, garlic, brown sugar and fish sauce. It can be found in the Asian section of your grocery store.
- Black peppercorns: add pops of sweet heat. You may use freshly cracked pepper if you prefer, but I promise the pops of heat are delightful. You will need 1 1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked pepper- more or less to taste.
- Seasonings: just 1 teaspoon each of onion powder, ginger powder, and yellow curry powder round out the flavor profile without overwhelming the dish.
- Bay leaves: dried bay leaves if you keep them stocked, otherwise it’s okay to skip.
What kind of vinegar can I use?
For a more authentic Filipino Chicken Adobo, use cane vinegar “Sukang Maasim”. Cane vinegar is popular in the Philippines because it is made from sugar cane. It has smoother, slightly milder flavor than white vinegar so you may need to increase the vinegar in this recipe by a tablespoon or two. I skipped hunting for this ingredient, however, as I find widely accessible white vinegar just as effective when used in proper proportions.
WHAT POT DO I NEED FOR CHICKEN ADOBO?
I use a 3 ½ quart cast-iron enamel braiser that measures 11 1/2″ in diameter by 2 1/2″ high. You will want to use a similar dish with a tight-fitting lid. You may also use a large Dutch oven that will comfortably fit all of the chicken in a single layer.
How to make Filipino Chicken Adobo
You will LOVE how easy it is to make Filipino Chick Adobo! You will marinate the chicken, briefly brown the chicken then simmer the chicken in the marinade. Here’s how:
Marinate chicken. Whisk together the marinade ingredients in a large bowl or freezer bag. Add chicken and turn to coat. Marinate in the refrigerator 4-24 hours.
Sear chicken. Heat oil in large heavy bottom skillet (with a tight-fitting lid) or Dutch oven over medium high heat. Once hot, remove chicken from marinade (don’t discard marinade) and pat dry as you add chicken to the skillet. Brown chicken on each side.
Simmer. Stir in reserved marinade, water and bay leaves. Bring the chicken to a boil, then cover and reduce to LOW. Simmer, covered, for 25 minutes, stirring twice and replacing lid.
Reduce sauce. After 25 minutes, remove the lid and simmer until the chicken is cooked through and the sauce is reduced, about 10- 20 more minutes depending on the size of your chicken. Be prepared to stir in additional water if the sauce evaporates too much. Serve Filipino Chicken Adobo with hot steamed rice and vegetables.
How long to marinate Filipino chicken adobo?
Chicken Adobo should be marinated for an extended period of time for optimal flavor and to fully experience more authentic Filipino Chicken Adobo. The minimum amount of time I would marinate it is 4 hours and maximum is 24 hour IF using bone-in chicken things and drumsticks. If you are marinating boneless chicken thighs or breasts, then I wouldn’t marinate longer than 12 hours.
HOW DO I KNOW WHEN MY CHICKEN ADOBO IS DONE?
Your Chicken Adobo is done when your chicken thighs register 175 degrees on an instant read thermometer. Note this is higher than the 165 degrees required for chicken breasts because dark chicken meat contains higher amounts of connective tissue. Cooking dark meat to only 165 F will yield chewy, rubbery meat, but cooking it to 175 F, will yield tender, juicy meat as the collagen melts and turns to gelatin.
I highly recommend investing in a meat thermometer otherwise there is no accurate way to check and see when your chicken is cooked without slicing it open and loosing valuable juices.
If your chicken reaches 175 F but your sauce isn’t thick enough, remove the cooked chicken to a plate and continue to simmer the sauce until thickened. Return chicken and turn to coat.
Tips for the Best Filipino Chicken Adobo:
- Use whole black peppercorns. Don’t shy away as their pops of mild heat make this dish!
- Use bone-in chicken. Use bone-in, chicken thighs and/or drumsticks for the best flavor and juiciest chicken.
- Skin on or off. This comes down to personally preference. I prefer to remove the skin so my sauce is guilt free and not overly greasy or blanketed in soggy skin.
- Use the correct pan. Use a pan with a tight-fitting lid that comfortably fits all the chicken in a single layer.
- Sear chicken. Browning the chicken first results in deep complex flavor – those browned bits are gold!
- Don’t sear at too high heat. If you notice black instead of brown bits when searing your chicken, the heat is too high. You don’t want black bits because this will make your sauce taste burnt. Remove any black bits before adding the marinade.
- Simmer over low heat. Simmer the chicken low and slow for the most tender chicken. Dark meat should be cooked to 175 degrees F as opposed to chicken breasts’ 165 degrees F because it has more connective tissue.
- Use a meat thermometer. This ensures your chicken is cooked to the correct temperature and never overcooked.
- Reduce sauce. The sauce will not be “saucy” but more of a thick glaze. Reduce the sauce until it is almost completely evaporated.
- Add water. Be prepared to stir in additional water if the sauce evaporates too much before the chicken is cooked through.
- Remove chicken and reduce. Alternatively (but not likely), if the glaze isn’t thick enough, remove the cooked chicken to a plate and continue to simmer until thickened. Return chicken and turn to coat.
- More glaze. If you want saucier Chicken Adobo, add additional water and reduce.
Chicken Adobo Recipe Variations
- Make it sweeter: add additional brown sugar
- Make it spicier: add additional peppercorns, red pepper flakes or Asian chili paste
- Add sweet heat: add additional Asian sweet chili sauce
- Make it tangier: add additional vinegar
- Make it saucier: add additional water
- Add onions: sauté onions after you sear the chicken, then add chicken back to the pan with the sauce.
- Add vegetables. You can add virtually any veggies to simmer with the chicken although I prefer the veggies cooked on the side so they offer a fresh new flavor.
What should I serve with Chicken Adobo?
Jasmine rice is the quintessential side to serve with Chicken Adobo. The rice soaks up the sticky glaze and offers a neutral, textural counterpart to the flavorful chicken. You can also serve it with brown rice, quinoa, cauliflower rice, broccoli rice or Pineapple Rice.
Here are some more delicious sides to serve with Filipino Chicken Adobo:
- Stir Fry Veggies. You can stir fry any veggies from broccoli, to bell peppers, to mushrooms, to carrots, etc.
- Roasted Veggies. You can also pop a pan of veggies in the oven to roast while your chicken simmers such as Roasted Broccoli, Roasted Broccolini, Roasted Cauliflower, Roasted Carrots, Sautéed Brussels Sprouts, or Roasted Squash.
- Shortcut Veggies. You can purchase pre-chopped veggies perfect for stir fries or use a frozen stir-fry blend or steam-in-the-bag microwavable frozen veggies.
- Fruit: Bright, refreshing fruit is a must-have side to balance the robust chicken. Go simple with pineapple, melon or grapes or serve with Grilled Pineapple, Summer Fruit Salad, Perfect Fruit Salad, Creamy Grape Salad, Pina Colada Fruit Salad
- Salad. Chicken Adobo is so flavorful it pairs well with a simple green salad or go more exotic with Crunchy Asian Salad, Chinese Salad or Asian Pineapple Salad.
- Soups. Chicken Adobo also pairs well Asian soups, even if they’re not Filipino such as Egg Drop Soup, Wonton Soup, or Miso Soup.
- Appetizers. For a feast, Chicken Adobo is delicious with Asian inspired appetizers such as Wontons, Potstickers, Crab Rangoons, Homemade Egg Rolls, Sesame Chicken Egg Rolls or Sweet and Sour Chicken Egg Rolls (my husband is obsessed with all of them!).
How to Serve Chicken Adobo
Chicken Adobo is traditionally served with plain white rice but you can also get creative! Chop it up and add it fried rice, Buddha bowls, wraps, lettuce wraps and even tacos with a mango salsa or pineapple salsa.
HOW TO STORE & REHEAT FILIPINO CHICKEN ADOBO
This Filipino Chicken Adobo reheats wonderfully for lunches or dinners because the dark meat stays juicy.
- How to store: Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
- How to reheat in microwave: transfer small portions to a microwave safe dish, heat for one minute, test, then heat at 30 second intervals as needed.
- How to reheat on the stove: For larger portions, rewarm gently in a large skillet, flipping occasionally. You may want to add a splash of water to thin the glaze.
- Pan fry: leftover Chicken Adobo is also fantastic to pan fry when it’s not as saucy. Simply shred the chicken and pan fry in some oil until you get hot, crispy strands. Add the chicken to anything!
CAN I FREEZE CHICKEN Adobo?
Yes! You can freeze the marinade, the chicken in the marinade or the cooked Chicken Adobo.
- Marinade: whisk together, add to a freezer bag or freezer safe container, label and freeze for up to 3 months.
- Chicken in marinade. Add the chicken to the marinade in a freezer bag or freezer safe container. Squeeze out any excess air and seal. Freeze for 2 to 3 months. The chicken will marinate as it’s defrosting.
- Cooked chicken: After you have cooked the chicken, let it cool completely then transfer it to an airtight container or plastic freezer bag along with the glaze. Squeeze out any excess air and seal. Freeze for 2 to 3 months.
- To defrost: thaw chicken in the refrigerator overnight. Don’t microwave or the chicken can become rubbery.
HELPFUL TOOLS TO MAKE CHICKEN ADOBO Recipe
- Braiser: This Le Creuset Braiser is one of my favorite pans and the pan you see in these Chicken Adobo photos. It is wide and shallow, perfect for evenly cooking chicken or other protein with its superior heat distribution and retention. It’s also ideal for stove to oven recipes or for large one-skillet dinners. The domed lid continuously circulates steam to lock in moisture and flavor.
- Dutch oven: If you don’t have a braiser then a Dutch oven will also work great. I have both a more expensive Le Creuset (keep in mind the price varies by color) and a less expensive Cuisinart (not sold on Amazon) which both work excellent. This less expensive AmazonBasics also has excellent reviews.
- Instant-read thermometer: you need an instant-read thermometer for the juiciest, PERFECTLY cooked chicken, steak and pork. It allows you to cook/grill any protein to the perfect temperature every time without any of the guess work.
- Garlic press: I use this every single day! It is the ultimate garlic press- it is easy-to-use, easy-to-clean and minces garlic with one squeeze. Unlike other presses, this garlic press has beveled holes that finely cut the clove rather than bruising it, bringing out the best flavor.
- Quality Knives: a chef’s knife will be your most used kitchen tool by far!Quality knives make prep time much quicker and are important for safety as well. If you’re concerned about moola, please remember that your best chef knives, depending on how hard you use them and how well you take care of them, can easily last 25 years or more. I love my Wusthofbut there are hundreds of less expensive knives with great reviews such as this one.
- Cutting Board: I use my big solid cutting board daily so it’s worth the investment. This extra-large cutting board allows you to prep all your veggies on one surface and the bamboo is easier on knives than plastic.
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