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.

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


  • 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


  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.


  • 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

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