My Quick and Easy Chicken Adobo

 
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, and for me, adobo is one of those dishes. There is no way to prevent the aroma of this dish from filling your home, and 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 it for at least 20 minutes and up to overnight. If I’m in a hurry, I’ll just let it sit on the stove. Then when the 20 minutes is up, I simply fire up stove to medium to medium-high heat and let it come to a boil. It goes from this:

 

 
To this:

 

 
And finally to this in about 40 minutes.

 
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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 oils are 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!

 

 
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Ivoryhut’s Quick and Easy Chicken Adobo
Serves 5

 
4 to 5 whole chicken leg quarters, divided into thighs and drumsticks, washed and cleaned, thighs skinned
6 to 8 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1/2 cup soy sauce (I don’t recommend using Kikkoman for this, but if you have to, use the low-sodium Kikkoman)
1/2 cup vinegar
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon sweet chili sauce (or an additional tablespoon of brown sugar)
1 teaspoon black peppercorns, half left whole, half cracked slightly
2 bay leaves

 
Using the same pot you’ll be cooking the chicken in, put all the ingredients. Let the chicken marinate for at least 20 minutes, and up to overnight.

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.

Note: I use Filipino soy sauce and cane vinegar when making this. Remember to taste the sauce after about 15 minutes or so of cooking and adjust the seasoning accordingly. Distilled vinegar tends to be sharper, which you can remedy with additional water and brown sugar. If it’s too salty, just add more water.

 
 
chicken adobo-9112 resized

 
I promise you: one bite of this and you’ll instantly know why almost every Filipino I know loves adobo.

 
 

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80 thoughts on “My Quick and Easy Chicken Adobo”

  1. I love chicken adobo and had no idea it could be this easy to make. I was introduced to this dish by my boyfriend. Unfortunately, he doesn’t love this dish like I do. I always want it whenever I see it. I’m going to try out this recipe. Thanks!

  2. Hi!

    Nice looking adobo. On my end, I take the whole day to make adobo since I drain the chicken pieces after the initial boil to de-fat the sauce (healthier that way). I also fry the chicken pieces and return them to the sauce and let that simmer down until it’s nice and thick. Just a few tips to make a healthier, tastier adobo.

    From a fellow Filipina cook,

    Doddie

    1. Good tip, Doddie! I do remove the skin from the thighs and leave only the drumsticks with the skin on. And I don’t add any oil, so the only oil in this comes from the chicken itself.
       
      I’m going to try your method one of these days, too. I’m sure the longer simmer will really deepen the flavor. Thanks!

  3. YUMMY!!! My recipe is exactly the same when I do measure. Most of the time I just throw all the stuff in a bowl, taste and then add the chicken.

    1. Lisa, I find that Kikkoman has a distinctly different taste from Filipino (or Chinese) soy sauce, which is what I’m used to in adobo. It’s probably a personal preference thing. I’m sure there are others who like the taste of Kikkoman in adobo.
       
      That said, in a pinch, I have used Kikkoman, and I find that the low-sodium kind has a more mellow flavor that’s not as distinct.

      1. When I was little I had a close friend who was Filipino and I used to love going to her house for dinner. Her mom would make chicken adobo and it was soooo good!

        I’m not too familiar with types of soy sauces. What kind do you recommend?

      2. Making your chicken adobo for a canoe club potluck tomorrow, thanks for the recipe! The Kikkoman thing makes me laugh – I grew up in Hawai’i and in the cupboard at home, my mom used to have a Kikkoman bottle that she kept filled with local favorite Aloha shoyu – and she felt strongly enough about the difference that she had taken a ball point pen, crossed out “Kikkoman” and written above it, “ALOHA, not Kikkoman!”

        I think the pour spout was better in the Kikkoman bottle, that’s why she kept using it.

  4. Hi Kirby, Blessing, and Lisa! Do let me know if you try this, ok?
     
    Jonah, the dangerous thing for me when tasting the marinade is that I start wanting to take some, pour it over rice, and eat it. I love the taste of soy sauce and vinegar.
     
    Jan, I think you mean mechado. I need to get my mom back in my kitchen. She makes great mechado! That’s definitely going to be a future post.

  5. Ivoryhut!

    I grew up eating my lola’s (grandmom) mechado. When she was in the states, she’d cook up a batch and my titas (aunts) wouild give it out to neighbors.

    Lola doesnt cook much now…but I relish eating mechado. You can actually use thick slices of sirloin as meat for the mechado. Its as flovorful and its easier to eat. :)

    1. Hi Therese! Isn’t there just something so heartwarming about eating something that makes you remember your lola? I haven’t had mechado in a long time, but I think that’s about to change soon. :)

  6. This recipe appeals to me in a serious way for a number of reasons. Love that it calls for legs and thighs, love that is has mega garlic going on and finally, I love sweet chili sauce. Oh yea and the brown sugar. One word for this recipe: NOMS! It’s bookmarked for our menu this week.

    1. Mags, I hope you do try it. It’ll give the curry a serious run for its money. If you like spicy stuff, feel free to throw in some Thai chili bird peppers! The sweet chili sauce doesn’t give it that much of a kick.

  7. Interesting that you use sweet chili sauce and brown sugar. I use ketchup as a glaze when I brown the chicken after stewing. Have you considered joining the Kulinarya Cooking Club? Go to my blog and click on the Kulinarya category to find out how to join. This month’s theme is polvoron.

    1. Ninete, hi! I first heard of Kulinarya from Divina, and I thought she was referring to the cookbook that was released last year. I’ll go check it out now. I love polvoron!

  8. Hello! I wanted to tell you how much I enjoy reading your blog, and I especially love it when you post Filipino recipes. I am a Pinay that was raised all my life in the USA (born in New York, raised in California), so when I got married 3 years ago to my husband who moved here from the Philippines at age 14, I was nervous about being able to cook for him all the foods that he enjoyed while growing up. I’ve learned stuff from my mom here and there, but adobo was the ONE dish that I could.not.get. Like you said, mine was always either too sour or too salty and it never turned out right so I gave up. I tried again 2 weeks ago and it was a disaster once again. That’s why I am so glad you posted this recipe – I am going to try it right now!!

    1. Angela, so glad you dropped by! Yes, adobo stumped me in the past, too. Then I just refused to accept that my younger brother was more adept at making it than I was. :) Hope it was a success for you!

  9. I have a stupid question. I blame it on being pregnant, I’m paranoid about this stuff. Is it safe to taste the sauce the chicken is cooking in as you go along? How long does it have to boil before all the nasties are killed?

  10. mmm this is a quick way to do it. Mine takes a long time, mostly because I brown the chicken pieces in butter after stewing it. That’s probably not very healthy to do. Sometimes I add beurre manié in the end when I’m lazy to brown the chicken. I’m definitely going to try your recipe too, especially now that summer is coming and being in the kitchen the whole day is just a headache.

  11. I never knew this was a Filipino dish! My mom used to make this when I was a kid, and it’s one of the first meals I ever learned how to make!

  12. I made this last night with legs only and it was delicious!!! My picky eater husband and my 4 year old ate it all up! My hubby even asked me to cook it again with chicken wings, so that will be dinner tonight!

  13. copied this chicken adobo recipe I have many friends who are Filipino & have always enjoyed their cooking…I am looking forward to the mechado recipe…I do love the pancit too….
    thank you

  14. I could go on for paragraphs about how wonderful this dish is – I’ve made it at least 4 times now. It’s easy and totally delicious. But I think instead of me telling you how fantastic it is, you should just try it yourself! Your family will LOVE this adobo chicken. Simple enough for a weeknight, but impressive enough for company.

  15. This looks absolutely fabulous! I’ve found that so many of the things that don’t turn out, don’t turn out because I stress too much, just like you mentioned!

  16. hey mariks, are plugs allowed in your blog? You mentioned you used Filipino soy sauce, wishing you used Datu Puti !

  17. I use this recipe all the time, so I’m surprised that I’ve never commented on it. Like you, I had so much trouble cooking adobo and getting the balance of flavors right. I tried recipe upon recipe never quite happy with the results.

    The reasons I love your version are:
    1) It doesn’t involve frying the chicken. There’s no added oil, just whatever comes from the chicken, which makes it a lot healthier than many recipes I’ve seen.
    2) The cleanup is easy! I love that you can make it in one pot.
    3) The balance of flavors is just perfect, and all you have to do is keep adding water as the sabaw reduces.

    Another thing I like to do is throw the chicken under the broiler for just a few minutes skin-side up so that it is nice and crispy, and the flavor really concentrates. While that’s going on, I peel and cut a few small potatoes into eighths and then throw them in the pot–it really stretches this dish a long way!

  18. Hi! I just stumbled upon your website and I love it! I’m half Filipina and grew up in the States. I now live in Paris and am trying to learn different cultures and their recipes… including Filipino recipes! I love your adobo recipe! It’s similar to mine, which I posted on my blog here:

    http://lardonmyfrench.blogspot.com/2010/07/chicken-adobo.html

    It’s one of my favorite Filipino dishes… and one of the only ones I know how to make! ;P

    I look forward to reading more of your recipes!

  19. Do you have any suggestions for the type of vinegar to use? I don’t know that my grocery store carries cane vinegar…how do you think it would turn out with rice or white wine vinegar?

    1. Hi Amanda! Red or white wine vinegar, or even regular white vinegar will do. Or even apple cider vinegar. It’s a flexible recipe! Let me know if you try it!

  20. Came across your recipe as I was searching for pork adobo recipe, tried this with pork and turned out very good! I would cut back on the soy sauce in the future as you suggested. I was using low sodium kikoman, but it still turned out a little too salty, so I diluted with water as you suggested. I will certainly use this adobo technique again…comes in handy when you have a 2 year old and have limited time to cook! Thanks for sharing this.

  21. Hi! I just used this recipe today and everything turned out great! It’s my first time to cook ANYTHING and it actually tasted GOOD! HAHAHA! Thank you so much for this! :)

  22. My adobo turned out so sour and salty, I have used the distilled vinegar from Smith’s and Kikoman Light Soy Sauce (no other soy sauce available).

    I’m really a novice in cooking and tried to follow every step but it turned into an EPIC Fail :(

    1. Sorry to hear that! I understand your disappointment. I, too, have had adobo failures before. The only thing I can think of is that the vinegar and soy may have been too potent. If you’re up to another attempt using those same brands of vinegar and soy, maybe try cutting down the amounts by half as a start. As the adobo cooks, just keep tasting and adjust accordingly. If it needs tartness, add a touch of vinegar, just a teaspoon at a time. If it lacks salt, add soy sauce, again just a teaspoon at a time. If it’s too much of both, add water and a teaspoon of brown sugar. Keep track of how much you’ve added so that, if it works this time, you’ll know the correct proportions for your ingredients. (If you lived closer, I’d gladly share my stash of Filipino vinegar and soy sauce with you. :))

  23. I tried this tonight with full strength Kikkoman (I’ve always used kikkoman and other soy sauces taste “weird” to me) and my family loved it. I used minced garlic and apple cider vinegar, because that’s what I have, and I left out the bay because my mom taught me never to use bay (she taught me never to use anything she didn’t like, so I’ve never had it, lol). The only thing is that the sauce never got very thick, and it wasn’t a very dark brown. I let it simmer for an extra 10 minutes, and followed the fluid amounts very carefully, never adding any more of anything. Still, very tasty!

  24. I was searching for something different to make with chicken and came across this recipe. As a child growing up, my aunt (who is Filipino) used to make this for our family at least 4 times a month and I loved it every time. Since she passed away 3 years ago, my mom has only made it once or twice. I cooked this for my family (mom included) and I have to say that the aroma brings back so many memories of my aunt. I used Kikkoman Soy Sauce and tasted at different times during cooking and it was just like my aunt used to make. I am interested in learning more Filipino recipes…I loved everything she used to cook for the family. Another favorite she used to make especially for me was rice pudding, made differently than recipes I came across. Thank you for the recipe Ivoryhut.

  25. Half way through throwing everything in the pot I realized that I didn’t have any brown sugar or sweet chili so I substituted maple agave and some cracked red peppers. Also, I’m using chicken breast halves that I pulled the skin off of, it’s marinating now, hope it comes out yummy!

  26. I just had adobo pork at a friends house, who is Filipino. They live in Seattle, I live in a small town and there is no Filipino soy sauce available to me. I did, however, find some ABC Sweet Soy Sauce. Would this be close to the Filipino ss? If not, any suggestions on how I can substitue for the real Filipino soy sauce?

    I did make this recipe with chicken, using Kikkomans ss, though it was good, it just wasn’t quite as good at my friends adobo. Thanks!

  27. So easy! So yummy! My mom was pinay, my dad of Irish descent. Mom did not do much cooking so I never learned how to make this dish. And, I don’t like Filipino food – with the exception of adobo (pork, chicken…either one). Until now, the only one who could make chicken adobo was my older sister. I must have asked her for her recipe 30 times and I still don’t have it (control issues?). Well! Now I DO have a recipe, and it beats hers all the way! Everyone loves mine, I mean YOURS more than hers! I am enjoying that!
    Thank you so much!

  28. I’ve been wanting to learn this for years and finally tried this recipe last week. This is easy but not only that it tastes amazing. Thank you!!

  29. I just tried thus recipe for the first time today!! Since I used Kikkoman low sodium soy sauce (as that was the only kind I had) I substituted the water for chicken stock and I used a little more brown sugar than what the original recipe called for. End result?? Absolutely delicious!!! Tastes almost like my tita’s :-) Thanks for the recipe…I never realized it could be so simple!

  30. I just made this for dinner, and my kids were pretty enthusiastic about it, so I said “I made a pretty good dinner then, eh?” and my 7 year old came back with “pretty good? It’s DELICIOUS!!!” Thanks!

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