On this post I will introduce you to Philippine Chicken Adobo, probably the most popular dish in the Philippines.
A Bit of History
The Philippines was colonized by Spain starting in the late 16th century and going on for the next 300 years. The name ‘adobo’ implies that this dish came from Spain but from early recorded accounts, it looks like precolonial Filipinos have been cooking meat and vegetables this way before the Spaniards came.
It was believed that cooking in vinegar (particularly coconut vinegar), was a way to preserve foods back when there were no refrigerators. The Spaniards came and recorded this method of cooking and called it ‘adobo’. The word comes from ‘adobar’ which means marinade or sauce. Adding the soy sauce happened when the Chinese immigrants came to the Philippines around the 16th century. The salt in soy sauce contributed to preserving the dish. It was the preferred dish for mountaineers and road travelers because of this.
In the olden times, Filipinos cooked this in ‘palayok’ (clay pots). Nowadays, metal pots or pans are used. You can cook it in a cast iron wok like this. Or you can use a non-stick wok like this one. You can even cook it in 15 minutes using an Instapot. See my InstaPot reviews here.
This is a very easy dish to prepare and it can be done in under an hour. If you can read, you can make adobo.
Filipino Chicken Adobo
Adobo is the most popular Filipino dish. It is quick and easy to make and uses just a few ingredients.
- 2 lbs Chicken cut into serving pieces
- 3 cloves Garlic
- 2 Bay leaves
- 1/4 cup Vinegar coconut or rice is best
- 1/4 cup Soy sauce
- Black peppercorns
- 1/2 tbsp white sugar
- 1/4 cup cooking oil
- 1 to 2 cups water
In a large bowl, combine soy sauce, garlic and chicken and marinate for at least 1 hour.
Put the chicken mixture in a pan and add water. Turn up heat to medium and bring to a boil.
Add the bay leaves and peppercorn. Let simmer on medium heat for about 20 to 30 minutes. Test if the chicken is tender enough.
Add vinegar and cook for 10 more minutes. Add sugar and a little salt, stir and turn the heat off.
Serve with steaming rice.
Variants of Adobo
My picture of adobo above is pork and chicken with portabella mushroom. We usually use chicken parts with bones but chicken breasts are also good if you want to eat healthier.
Pork can be used instead of chicken. Cuts with a little fat like pork shoulder or pork butt tend to be more tasty but fat free cuts like tenderloin are also good.
Vegetables can be added. I personally add mushrooms like portabella towards the end of cooking. Yellow squash or zucchini can be added without changing the taste too radically.
Apple cider vinegar or cane vinegar can be used. Some prefer to cook white adobo which uses salt instead of soy sauce.
A variant of cooking is frying the chicken or pork before simmering in sauce.
You can also simmer as above and remove the sauce to fry the meat to brown it. Then you can add back the sauce and let it reduce a little so the sauce is a little thick.
You can adjust the sugar and vinegar and soy sauce if you prefer it a little sweeter (Chinese style) or more salty or sour.
In some parts of the Philippines, this dish is cooked with coconut milk. Green chilies can be added to make it spicy.
Instead of meat, seafood like catfish, squid or shrimp can also be used.
Boiled quail eggs can be added. Pineapple chunks can also be used for a more tropical flavor.
It is hard to get this dish wrong. Experiment with it and make a note of what you like.
How To Serve Adobo
It is best eaten with rice. You can also serve with quinoa or other grains to make it healthier. It can be eaten with a side of salad or sauteed vegetables. You can cook it dry (almost like fried chicken) or with a lot of sauce. Adobo will last several hours without refrigeration. It is a good dish to bring outdoors for a picnic.
On my last visit to the Philippines,, there was a new variation of adobo called Crispy Adobo Flakes. It is left-over adobo shredded and fried until it is crispy. So you see, there is no such thing as left-over adobo, it just gets recycled and enjoyed again.
My Best Memories of Adobo
When I was in elementary school, my mom would pack rice and adobo for me when we go on school field trips. She wrapped the whole thing in banana leaves tied with string. This kept it warm and imparted a fragrant aroma from the leaves. A lot better than Tupperware!
Adobo was a staple at our house. When we anticipate storms which usually meant power outages, we always prepare a pot of adobo and a pot of rice and we know we will not go hungry.
What do you think?
I hope you will try to cook this authentic Filipino recipe. It is my go-to dish at home when I am in a hurry and do not have much time to cook. Needless to say, I always have soy sauce and vinegar on hand. I use Silver Swan soy sauce and Datu Puti vinegar but you can use whatever is available at your local grocery.
This is a dish that is readily accepted by non-Filipinos so I have brought it to office potluck lunches, to neighborhood get-togethers and other events where there is a mix of Filipinos and people of other heritage.
The use of garlic makes this dish an anti-cancer dish because garlic has a lot of healing properties. For a list of other anti-cancer foods, see my post Best Anti-Cncer Foods.
For Filipinos abroad, this is a taste of home and it is easy to make and need only a few ingredients. I hope you like it too. If you have any questions or comments, please reach out to me. ‘Kain na!‘ (Let’s eat!).