I first had Filipino chicken adobo when visiting Nick’s family and always thought it was good, but it wasn’t until I tried his own version that I truly fell in love with how flavorful AND simple this comfort dish is. Also, this is one of those dishes that gets even tastier as leftovers, so you might want to make more than what this recipe calls for!
If you’re new to Filipino food, adobo is a great first dish to try (along with this comforting arroz caldo). It’s savory, a little tangy, a little sweet, and will fill your kitchen with delicious aromas of garlic and onions. It’s also a crowd pleaser that’s super easy to make using staple pantry ingredients! Not to be confused with adobo seasoning used in some Spanish-speaking cultures, Filipino adobo typically uses chicken or pork, and every family seems to have their own recipe.
This version is based on my mother-in-law’s recipe but tweaked by Nick, and seeing how his parents scarfed down seconds the last time they visited, I’d say it earned their seal of approval! Using dark meat chicken, wings (our preference!), or a mix like drumsticks and wings adds a rich flavor, as does letting it simmer a little extra at the end to thicken the sauce. You’ll want some steamed rice to soak up this dish!
The best part is the ingredient ratios are easily adjustable to taste, whether you like it a little more peppery, tangy or sweet. Let me know in the comments if you’ve made adobo before, and if so, whether you add any special step or ingredient!
Nick's Chicken Adobo Recipe (Stovetop or Instantpot)
- 1.5 lbs chicken chicken wing sections, thighs, drumsticks or a mix
- 1/4 cup good soy sauce (see photo below)
- 1/4 cup vinegar apple cider or white vinegar (see photo below)
- 2 teaspoons brown sugar more to taste (or use a few chopped dates!)
- 6 cloves garlic minced
- 1 teaspoon black pepper freshly ground*
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 medium onion cut into slivers
- Optional marinade step: Put soy sauce, vinegar, chicken, and half the garlic in a large glass bowl to marinade. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes up to a few hours.
- Heat a little olive oil in a large pan, pot or dutch oven
- Sauteé garlic and sliced onions until fragrant, then push to side of pan
- Place the meat into the pan to lightly brown it, skin side down
- Pour the rest of the marinade in over the browned meat. If you didnt marinade, this is where you add in the soy sauce and vinegar.
- Add bay leaves, black pepper and sugar and stir gently
- Bring it to a low simmer, cover and continue simmering on low heat 20-25 minutes. Longer cooking time on low heat = the key to tender chicken here.
- Remove cover, then continue to simmer 10-15 minutes uncovered to let sauce reduce and thicken. We let it go a little longer on low heat to make them extra tender for our toddler.
- Optional: We like to stir in a bag of baby spinach leaves right at the end to get some greens in! Goes great with the sauce.
Tip: if you buy chicken that comes in a tray like this one below, we usually marinate it right in that tray to avoid having to wash one extra bowl.
Our preferred brands of soy sauce and vinegar for this dish (the white one is more traditional). Chinese light soy sauce is often used interchangeably with all-purpose soy sauce.
This girl LOVES her chicken adobo and doesn’t hesitate to help herself to more! I wasn’t sure how Nori would be with bone-in wings when I first introduced them, but since these are fall-off-the-bone tender they’ve been pretty easy for her to eat. She nibbles her wings clean while gleefully proclaiming that she’s a “pilipino baby” : )