chicken adobo over rice

Chicken adobo – a one pot wonder

9 September 2010

Main course recipes don’t get any easier than this classic Filipino dish. Throw chicken and simple seasonings in a cold pot, then stick it on the stove and simmer until you have a glossy brown succulent chicken to serve steaming hot over rice. The sauce is a piquant mix of soy sauce, apple cider vinegar, brown sugar, black pepper and fragrant bay leaves, and it cooks into a fall-off-the-bone tender delight that tastes delicious and pairs beautifully with any green vegetable.

This recipe has been a standby in my household since I got it years ago from my friend Lisa (she of banana bread Lisa), whose clever family got it from a clever Filipina friend. I contributed this recipe to a family cookbook my aunt-in-law put together years ago, and it’s been adopted into their clan sort of the way curry has become part of British national cuisine. Nowhere but in our family will you find so many Irish-American people cooking up Filipino chicken.

Usually I only have boneless skinless chicken breasts in the freezer. But the adobo sauce really does taste better when cooked with chicken on the bone. So today I’ve added a pack of chicken drumsticks (which is what Lisa’s recipe calls for) with some boneless skinless breasts for the best of both worlds. This is a stewed dish, and you really can’t overcook it, so having the white and dark meat together is no problem. I cut each breast crosswise into three or four pieces – this makes for more manageable serving pieces and allows for more surface area to absorb the sauce.

Add sliced onion and garlic.

Add brown sugar, finely ground black pepper and bay leaves.

Pour over a mix of equal parts soy sauce, apple cider vinegar and water. And that is all there is to it.

Bring to a boil on stovetop and turn pieces of chicken over.

Turn down to a gentle simmer and cover. Cook anywhere from 30 minutes to 1 1/2 hours – the recipe is really forgiving, so you don’t have to worry about cooking an exact amount of time. The longer you cook it, the softer the meat becomes. If you prefer a thicker sauce, leave the lid slightly ajar during cooking so that steam can escape, or simply take the cover off toward the end, raise heat and cook a few minutes until the liquid is reduced. This is what it looks like done.

Serve over rice, spooning adobo sauce over the chicken.

This is a great recipe to make ahead, as it only tastes better the next day. Note that if you make the adobo with chicken on the bone, the sauce will become solid when cooled due to the gelatin from the chicken bones. It will become liquid again when heated. Adobo sauce made with boneless chicken is thinner and does not have quite the depth of flavor as the bone-in version.

* * *

Chicken adobo
Tender, delicious stewed chicken. The easiest main dish you’ll ever make – everything in a pot and ready to cook.

Ingredients

  • 1 pack chicken drumsticks (5-6 drumsticks, around 2 lb) – or you can use 1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts, each cut crosswise into 3-4 pieces
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper, finely ground (yes, this is a lot of pepper; use less if you prefer, but I like the gentle kick)
  • 2-3 bay leaves (Turkish are the ones you want for cooking, not California)
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/3 cup water

Directions

  1. Rinse chicken.
  2. Put all ingredients in large pot or dutch oven. Bring to boil over medium heat.
  3. Turn chicken over. Reduce to gentle simmer and cover.
  4. Cook for 30 minutes to 1 1/2 hours, depending on how much time you have. The longer it cooks, the softer the chicken becomes.
  5. If you prefer a thicker sauce, leave the lid slightly ajar during cooking so that steam can escape, or simply take the cover off toward the end, raise heat and cook a few minutes until the liquid is reduced.
  6. Serve over rice.

Notes

  • Scaling up this recipe is easy. Double or triple ingredients, throw in bigger pot.
  • This is also a great leftover or make-ahead dish, as it tastes just as good or better the next day.
  • The vinegar does have a strong smell when cooking. Don’t be afraid, it tastes good in the end.

Serves 3-4.

Click below for a print version of the recipe:

Chicken adobo recipe for printing

This work, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

{ 36 comments… read them below or add one }

Anton 10 September 2010 at 5:46 am

I have had Chicken adobo in the past. It was so good, i named it ‘Super chicken’. I am a huge fan and highly recommend…

Reply

Renna 8 October 2010 at 8:32 pm

Salamat! for your portrayal of Chicken Adobo. It’s hard making Filipino food look good (all the brown sauces etc.) but it sure does have an amazing taste!

Reply

cg 8 October 2010 at 9:23 pm

thanks, renna! i’m converting all my friends into adobo lovers. so good and SO easy. asian comfort food!

Reply

MadAboutFood 9 October 2010 at 7:10 pm

Hello. I came across your website surfing for what to do with some frozen chicken drumsticks. What makes your recipes stand out are the photos! I’m from a Malaysian Chinese heritage now living in Australia. Congratulations for keeping the spirit of Asian comfort food alive!

Reply

cg 9 October 2010 at 8:01 pm

thanks for taking the time to comment! you made my night. lucky you, in australia – lovely country. =)

Reply

cc 19 June 2011 at 9:49 pm

Tried this over the weekend and it turned out beautifully! I’m usually not a big fan of onions, but I let the pot stew for about an hour and the onions came out so sweet and soft they were my favorite part of the dish! Love the mix of recipes you share on your blog, better than any cookbook I’ve ever had :) Thank you!

Reply

cg 20 June 2011 at 12:13 pm

hi cc – i don’t like too many onions either, but they do kind of melt away in this dish. i’ve also made it without onions when i haven’t had them, and the chicken is good without too. thanks for your sweet compliment on the recipes here – i just make what i like to eat. =)

Reply

Chris 19 July 2011 at 8:02 pm

I have been searching for a recipe long and hard that would duplicate the first time I had adobo… Decided to try yours out! I just put everything in the pot, waiting for it to simmer for about an hour, and it smells DELICIOUS!!! I will let you know how it turns out!

P.S. I like the tangy flavor so I left out the brown sugar, so we will see how that went, also I used 2 pounds worth of thighs rather than drumsticks since this was the type of chicken I had the first time I ate Adobo. Wish me luck!

Reply

cg 20 July 2011 at 11:44 am

hi chris – how’d it turn out? tell the truth, i can take it. =) it’s always tricky to reproduce a dish you love. hard to live up to memories!

Reply

Chris 22 July 2011 at 2:36 pm

It turned out amazing!!!! I’m making it again tonight and I’m making extra for a few co-workers who also like the dish haha… I’m cutting back on the pepper though, a little too much for me but it was still amazing… Thank you so much for your recipe!!!!

Also, I was told to put pickling spices in a tea ball and let it boil in the pot with the adobo. Have you done this before?

Reply

cg 22 July 2011 at 5:40 pm

never tried pickling spices! let me know if you do, sounds really good. glad it worked out and excited you are already back for round 2!

Reply

Chris 26 July 2011 at 3:32 pm

Yeah I will update you when I use the pickling spices! Thanks again for a great recipe!!!

Oh and one more question, since I’m very kitchen illiterate, I’m not sure about bonless chicken thighs versus bone-in chicken thighs. I know there will be a difference in flavor, but how about cook time? Would I boil and simmer boneless thighs for the same amount of time as I would regular chicken thighs (30 min to hour/hour and a half)? I have a friend who refuses to eat off the bone haha…

Thanks again!!!

Reply

cg 26 July 2011 at 4:24 pm

easy to cook on the bone too – and if you cook it long enough, the meat will be falling off and very easy to eat. i would say 45 min at a minimum with the bone in to cook it thoroughly. an extra half hour or so will get it falling-off-the-bone tender. good luck!

Reply

MM 27 October 2011 at 2:23 am

I love the sound of this recipe (a bit like Chinese soya chicken, but simpler!) I cook a lot of Asian food, but dislike frying of any kind, so this is perfect. What type of soy sauce do you use – dark or light? I’m looking forward to trying this with some drumsticks and boneless thighs.

Reply

cg 27 October 2011 at 9:53 pm

hmm, this is a good question. it seems funny that since i’m chinese i really don’t know much about dark vs light soy sauces, which are more chinese. but my mom always uses the japanese soy sauce kikkoman, which i think is generally considered the best quality soy sauce (naturally fermented, no msg).

kikkoman doesn’t really say if it’s light or dark. kikkoman has a description of their product vs chinese dark and light soy sauces, but i am still confused after reading it about how to advise you. the kikkoman UK site has a faq that says it’s suitable to be used as dark or light in recipes.

so maybe a mixture of both if you don’t have kikkoman? let me know how it goes.

Reply

MM 28 October 2011 at 3:59 am

Thanks for your reply, cg. I’m also Chinese, and usually use Kikkoman too. I’ll try making this dish with the dark (Clearspring do a good one) as, generally, we use this for stewed dishes – it is slightly sweeter and less salty than the light, so I’ll adjust the amount of brown sugar. Will let you know how it turns out!

Reply

MM 1 November 2011 at 3:15 am

This was delicious – I love the tanginess from the cider vinegar! I ended up using half light, half dark as you suggested. I can see this will become a favourite in our household.

Reply

cg 4 November 2011 at 5:22 pm

yay, it worked! thank you for reporting back, i’m sure others will appreciate knowing about the substitution too. =)

Reply

Marissa 4 February 2012 at 12:10 am

When I came across this recipe last weekend, I had to try it. I made a quick trip to the store to get some drumsticks, and started it when I got home. I added a half cup each of the soy sauce, vinegar and water, as I wanted the sauce a little soupier. You’re right, the vinegar smell is nearly over-powering, but the whole thing was perfection when done. I made four servings, so my husband and I could each have leftovers, but my husband had other plans, once he tried it. He ate three helpings and nearly made himself sick. I’ve never known him to have a third helping of anything, so I would definitely say this recipe is going in the rotation!

I’m thinking next time, I might throw in some stir fry type veggies a few minutes before I dish it out, to add some color and texture. Thank you very much for an easy and delicious recipe!

Reply

lbk 4 April 2012 at 1:41 pm

i’m working my way through your recipes. this is so, so easy and so, so yummy! thank you! keep the recipes coming.

Reply

cg 7 April 2012 at 7:32 am

hi lbk – thanks for taking the time to comment! so glad you liked the recipe – this one is especially easy and so good!

Reply

Smiley 9 May 2012 at 4:48 pm

I just want to say thank you! I just discovered your site a couple of days ago and was so excited. I want to eat healthy but become frozen in the kitchen. I dread dinner time every day in anticipation of what I’m going to feed my family – each one of us likes – or doesn’t like – different things. Your recipes look tasty and healthy. The step by step instructions with photos are what make me want to cry tears of joy. I didn’t know what to cook tonight, looked in the fridge, saw drumsticks and didn’t know what to do with them. Then I remembered seeing this chicken adobo recipe – it was on the stove cooking in 10 minutes! I can’t say thank you enough.

On a side note, I’m gluten free so I used GF tamari sauce – I hope that doesn’t mess with the flavor.

Also, my family just moved to Silicon Valley – gonna check out that donut shop for the kids!

Reply

Leo 5 July 2012 at 5:35 pm

Thank you for your site. My mom and dad past away many years ago and none of my sisters got the recipe from my dad who was a chef. Your version from what I read is the closest to his version. The brown sugar is a must. My dad was in the Coast Guard so we moved alot. No matter where we lived, Mass., Puerto Rico or Hawaii I always had many friends over to eat my dads adobo. Thanks for helping me out to rediscover alittle bit of home. Now I can cook it for some of my frenz.

Reply

cg 12 July 2012 at 8:59 am

hi leo – i was so touched by this comment. thank you so much for sharing. food is such a powerful connection to our histories and loved ones – i am so glad that this recipe has brought back good memories of your dad.

Reply

cg 31 August 2012 at 1:01 am

hi leo – thank you for one of the best comments ever. i loved hearing about your dad – those memories are forever. all best to you.

Reply

Tess 30 August 2012 at 10:41 am

Hi. I stumbled on your site while looking for one dish chicken recipes with an asian flair. I am Filipino and I do make adobo. The recipes vary depending on where you are from in the Philippines To lessen the overpowering vinegar smell inside the house, I sometimes make adobo outside in a crockpot. Low if I have a lot of time, high for 2 – 3 hours if I don’t. Or lessen the vinegar, soy sauce ratio.
As another variation, try CPA – chicken pork adobo. :-)

Reply

cg 31 August 2012 at 12:13 am

hi tess – awesome suggestions! this is one dish that doesn’t smell as fantastic as it tastes. and chicken pork sounds so good. thanks for taking the time to share back, i love it!

Reply

afracooking 9 December 2012 at 9:38 am

Such an amazing dish. It tasted fabulous and took me straight back to the Philippines. It was so lovely I posted it on my blog. Thank you so much for sharing!!

Reply

cg 11 December 2012 at 2:18 pm

thanks you! i am so glad you enjoyed it, and i appreciate the shout out on your blog. =)

Reply

Jon 1 January 2013 at 9:02 pm

Super easy and super good! I tossed in 5 drumsticks and 5 thighs; the only problem is that it wasn’t enough!

Thanks!

Reply

cg 1 January 2013 at 9:34 pm

hi jon – the good news is it’s easy to make a double or triple batch. =) wonderful that you enjoyed it, and thanks so much for sharing back!

Reply

Michelle 31 January 2013 at 7:14 pm

Hi Lilian,
I am just about to serve this now….I snuck a taste…delicious! I didn’t have apple cider vinegar so I used rice wine. Still delicious!
I looked up some other recipes because I wanted to see if others use rice wine vinegar (some do) and I came across some that seared the chicken first or seared it after or one that broiled the chicken in the oven while reducing the sauce. Do you have any thoughts regarding browning the chicken either before or after and how it might affect (perhaps, deepen?) the flavor? Clearly, your way works and tastes delicious for very minimal work and I certainly don’t want to make this recipe more complicated…I am more just curious if you’ve tried making it while browning the chicken before or after either in a skillet or in the oven.

Reply

cg 1 February 2013 at 4:32 pm

hi michelle – i agree, many recipes do start by browning first. i remember i was skeptical of the all-in-the-pot method when lisa first gave me the recipe, and i was surprised to find it didn’t make a noticeable difference either way. so we go for ease. =)

thanks for sharing the feedback on rice wine vinegar! i’m sure another adobo-maker will be grateful for it one day.

Reply

Charlotte 16 August 2013 at 10:59 am

Looks delicious! I am a Filipino but don’t cook much Filipino food because they are too much work. Your recipe here reminds me that there are a lot of easy recipes. My version skips the sugar but I add a little bit of coconut milk until it turns light brown. It adds a nice dimension. My husband loves potatoes so I add some large diced potatoes. It doesn’t hurt the flavor but makes him happy.
Now I know what to make for dinner tonight :-)

Reply

cg 21 August 2013 at 10:35 am

hi charlotte – i hope it worked out for you! i totally agree – so much of what my mom makes is too time-consuming for me. i love your addition of coconut milk – yum.

Reply

cg 21 November 2010 at 7:27 am

if you’ve never had chicken adobo…it is tangy. this one recipe is moderated by the brown sugar. many classic recipes don’t have it – just soy sauce and vinegar in equal parts.

Reply

Leave a Comment

{ 4 trackbacks }

Previous post:

Next post: