Filipino Chicken Adobo
Sometimes I wonder if I married my husband for the chicken adobo. I mean, yes, he's a wonderful man and I love him... but marrying him also promised a life full of chicken adobo.
His mom's side of the family is Filipino — all of them amazing cooks. We rarely have a family gathering without adobo on the table, along with probably four other proteins and at least two rice-cookers full of rice. Sometimes lumpia, if we're lucky.
What is chicken adobo?
At it's most basic, chicken adobo is a marinated, vinegar-braised chicken that is so flavorful and so tender it practically falls off the bone.
Chicken adobo is the unofficial national dish of the Philippines. Because vinegar and salt helped preserve food way back when, it's been a staple of Filipino food since long before the Spanish came and lent them the word "adobo."
Adobo means "marinade," so chicken adobo literally just means "marinated chicken." And those Mexican chipotles in adobo sauce (you know those Mexican canned peppers you first thought of when you heard the word "adobo")? I think that translates to "chipotle peppers in marinade sauce." Which is totally redundant (kind of like when people say "chai tea," SMH).
Nobody at Goya or Oregon Chai asked me to translate their labels for them, so here we are in this editor's nightmare.
But we press on. And also neither chipotle peppers nor chai concentrate have anything to do with this dish.
Chicken Adobo Essentials
Traditional, authentic chicken adobo almost always involves just a handful of ingredients. Five of them, to be exact.
2. soy sauce
4. black peppercorns
5. bay leaves
The ratios of these five ingredients change from region to region and person to person. Sometimes you'll see a bit of sugar, different types of vinegar or various other spices and flavors added (even coconut milk in the South).
Because it's such a popular dish all over the country, every Filipino has their own way of making chicken adobo and every way is the right way. I'm not here to be the authority on chicken adobo, but do promise my recipe is delicious.
The methods of cooking vary a bit too, so there'll be some recipes you'll see that broil the chicken at the end to crisp the skin. In this recipe, I brown the chicken in the pan at the beginning because my broiler kinda creeps me out when it involves very oily (read: potentially flammable) sauces. Others skip the browning entirely. You do you.
Filipino Chicken Adobo
gluten-free recipe |serves 7-8
- 3.5 lbs bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
- 1 cup unseasoned rice vinegar, white vinegar or cane vinegar
- 3/4 cup gluten-free soy sauce
- 15 cloves of garlic, peeled (approximately one bulb)
- 2 T black peppercorns
- 3 large bay leaves
- 3 T cooking oil
- Aside from the cooking oil, combine all ingredients together and marinate in the fridge for 8-24 hours. (I have made this without marinating the chicken at all and it totally tastes great, so don't fret if you didn't plan ahead.)
- Using a large Dutch oven, heat a bit of oil on medium-high heat. Place the chicken thighs skin-side-down in a single layer to brown the skin before adding the rest of the marinade to the pot too. Add a little bit of water if the marinade doesn't just barely cover the chicken.
- Bring the pot to a boil, turn down the heat a bit and simmer the chicken for about 30 minutes, uncovered.
- Flip the chicken over and simmer for another 30 minutes, uncovered. The sauce will reduce, but it'll still be fairly thin when it's finished. (If you didn't marinate the chicken overnight, you might want to simmer for a little while longer, but up to you!)
- Serve with white rice, always. The only acceptable way to eat chicken adobo is by spooning that savory, oily sauce all over a fluffy pile of rice. Cauliflower rice will stand in for paleo pals if absolutely necessary, but even that's pushing it. :)
- Quadruple this recipe if you are a member of my family.
- Eat all the melty garlic cloves yourself before anyone else has a chance, because they are so fucking good.
- Avoid crunching down on a peppercorn or a bay leaf. You can strain them out before serving to be safe, which I'd definitely recommend if you are serving kiddos.
- Chicken adobo is even better the second day once the flavors all sink in and the sauce distills even more. It's an easy make-ahead meal to prepare on a Sunday and then save the leftovers for lunches.
- If you're avoiding soy sauce for the soy, a bottle of coconut aminos (paleo, Whole30-approved and gluten-free) is a substitute, but the flavor will be very different. Because the soy sauce is such a major player in the flavor profile of this dish, I always use the real thing. If you try coconut aminos, please let me know if it's good or terrible in the comments.