Chicken slowly braised in vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, and bay leaves until fall-off-the-bone tender. This classic chicken adobo is totally delicious!
If there is a dish that the Philippines is known for it’s got to be Adobo. While the word “Adobo” certainly has Spanish origins (the Philippines has been colonized by Spain for nearly 400 years), this particular cooking method and dish is indigenous to the Philippines.
The word “Adobo” means marinade, sauce or seasoning in Spanish. Since the Filipino Adobo
requires stewing/braising the meat in Vinegar (like marinating), the term adobo eventually became the household name for the dish or this style of cooking.
Naturally, everyone has their own version of Adobo. I have mine, too. My husband loves this version of classic adobo. I prefer the sweeter Adobo, he prefers the more savory kind of adobo. Feel free to adjust the measurements to your taste.
This is how we like it exactly (see measurements below) but you can add more vinegar or soy sauce to accommodate your taste preference. If one day you want a darker sauce, then add more soy sauce.
If you wish to make it completely gluten-free then make sure that the soy sauce you are using is wheat-free.
You can also choose to make the adobo with a lot of sauce or turn it into a drier adobo – either way it’s truly flavorful. As you can see in the photo below, the chicken pieces are quite a golden brown.
I do fry my adobo after they have been cooked – just a little oil (and a bit of the sauce) and not deep-fried – to give it a little color and extra flavor. But this last step is optional. The extra sauce that’s left on the pan I use to drizzle on my rice.
And if you don’t know yet, Adobo tastes even better the next day or days (if you can prevent yourself from gobbling it up the first day.). Of course, you can also marinate the Adobo in its sauce the night before and cook it the next day to ensure that the chicken has fully absorbed all the flavor.
By the way, I have to mention that the technique of cooking the vinegar first (boiling it initially so adobo doesn’t get too sour) was something I learned from my friend Monette.
I have failed so many times in making adobo but thanks to her teaching me how to do it properly, I have become confident in making my adobo, and many who have tasted it have loved the dish.
Try this Classic Chicken Adobo which made the Philippines famous in the culinary world! Enjoy!
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NOTES ON INGREDIENTS
- Chicken pieces (or one whole chicken, cut-up) – a combo of chicken and pork, or mainly pork may be used too.
- White Vinegar – rice vinegar or cider vinegar may be used, too.
- Soy Sauce – the amount may be adjusted to taste (I usually just use about 1/3 cup).
- Whole Garlic – the garlic adds a lot of flavor but doesn’t overwhelm so don;’t be afraid to use the entire bulb
- Peppercorns – whole peppercorns may be used or crushed if preferred.
- Bay leaves – fresh or dried may be used
- Brown Sugar – this enhances and balances the flavor (not sweeten it) so don’t omit unless you wish to make it completely sugar-free
Love to see more Filipino recipes? Try some of these!
Classic Chicken Adobo
- 3 lbs (1.5 kilos) pieces of chicken or one whole chicken, cut-up
- ½ cup white vinegar
- ⅓ cup water
- ⅓ (up to 1/2) cup soy sauce
- 1 whole garlic, cloves separated, crushed, but left unpeeled (see notes)
- 2 tsp whole black peppercorns
- 3 by leaves
- 1 tbsp brown sugar optional especially if you are doing low-carb – if not, add the sugar because it enhances the flavor and doesn't really sweeten it.
Place the meat and the rest of the ingredients in a large pan like a Dutch oven. You can also marinate the meat overnight prior to cooking.
Using medium heat, bring to a boil. Adjust the heat to the lowest setting and cook uncovered for 20 minutes. This helps mellow the taste of the vinegar.
Cover and then continue to simmer on low until the chicken (and pork) pieces are tender about 30-40 minutes. When the meat is already tender, sprinkle the brown sugar on top. Gently stir to allow sugar to be absorbed by the meat. Cover and cook for another 2-3 minutes. This will not really sweeten the adobo but just help enhance the flavor and add a little caramel glaze to the meat. The adobo is already yummy at this time but its taste improves as it ages. And don’t forget the rice – lots of rice as this is a particulary more-ish dish.
For a “dry adobo” you can simply reduce the sauce until it has almost evaporated. The chicken and pork pieces will then begin to fry on their own fat left in the pan. My family in the Philippines like it this way. Or, you can just take out the cooked adobo meat and fry them separately in another pan with a little oil and some of fat from the sauce and then use the remaining sauce (which you can reduce to thicken it slightly) to drizzle on your rice. The sauce is also great for making fried rice so don’t throw it away. Anyway, enjoy!
TIPS & TRICKS
You may use a combo of chicken and pork if you like. That works well, too.
If you can wait, make this ahead as chicken adobo tastes even better the next day. So yummy!
If you prefer to fully peel the garlic, that's perfectly fine, too.
Whole black peppercorns are traditionally used in making chicken adobo but feel free to crush them ahead if preferred. Adjust to taste, it shouldn't be too peppery.