Chicken adobo is the quintessential Filipino dish. To be honest, it wasn’t really one of my favorites until I moved away from the Philippines. Back then, my favorites were bistek, fried bangus (milkfish), and sinigang (the Philippine equivalent of tom yum). But when you are away from home for so long, you develop heightened cravings for the dishes that easily assuage pangs of homesickness. For me, adobo is one of those dishes. There is no way to prevent the aroma of this dish from filling your home. And when I make this, all of a sudden, my house smells just like the one where I grew up, almost 10,000 miles away from many, many years ago.
I used to think chicken adobo was tricky to make, and in my earliest attempts, it was definitely finicky. It was easy to go from just right to tasting like pickled chicken, and it frustrated me that my younger brother was more adept at making this dish than I was.
Apparently, my problem was that I was stressing over it too much. I was tasting the sauce and adjusting it almost every other minute, terrified that it would somehow turn either too salty or too sour while I wasn’t looking. The thing is, adobo is really very simple—almost impossibly so—and it does best the less you disturb it while it’s cooking.
And when I say simple, I do mean simple. It’s a one-pot dish in the fullest sense, in that you marinate the chicken in the same pot that you cook it in. Dump the chicken in, throw some smashed garlic cloves, peppercorns, and a touch of brown sugar. Make a marinade that’s equal parts soy sauce, vinegar, and water. Pour it over the chicken, and you’re done.
Marinate the chicken for at least 20 minutes and up to overnight. I find the sweet spot to be between 2 to 4 hours. (You don’t want to let the chicken sit too long in a vinegary sauce.) If I’m in a hurry, I’ll just let it sit on the stove. When ready to cook, simply fire up stove to medium to medium-high heat and let it come to a boil. It goes from this:
And finally to this in about 40 minutes:
Once the chicken begins cooking on the stove, I start my rice cooker and make a salad. And in less than an hour, I have dinner on the table. The chicken only needs to be flipped two or three times. There’s no added oil except whatever is released by the chicken, and you hardly even stir the sauce around. The only adjusting you make is adding water, if necessary, every time you flip the chicken.
And that’s it! Quick and easy, and I guarantee you that your kitchen will smell lovely while this is cooking. Try it the next time you need a quick, no-fuss chicken dinner!
Ivoryhut’s Quick and Easy Chicken Adobo
Serves 5 to 8
When ready to cook, put the pot on the stovetop and bring to a boil over medium heat. Once boiling, lower the heat slightly and cook, covered, for about 15 minutes. Remove the cover. Flip the chicken pieces and continue to simmer, uncovered, to reduce the sauce, lowering the heat if necessary. If the sauce is too thick or too salty, add 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup of water. After about 8 minutes, flip the chicken again. Taste the sauce again and add more water if needed. Don’t worry if you accidentally add too much water—the simmering will take care of that.
Continue to simmer until chicken is fully cooked and has released its oils into the sauce, and the sauce has thickened slightly and taken on a rich, dark brown color.
Serve over jasmine rice, or, for a real Filipino treat, with garlic fried rice.
I promise you: one bite of this and you’ll instantly know why almost every Filipino I know loves adobo.