Filipino Chicken Adobo is the national dish of the Philippines and may well become your new favourite Asian chicken dish! Just a few everyday ingredients I can practically guarantee you already have, it’s an effortless recipe that yields juicy, tender chicken coated in a sweet savoury glaze with little pops of heat from peppercorns.
This is a chicken thigh recipe and it MUST be made with thighs – no substituting with chicken breast!
Filipino Chicken Adobo
Filipino Chicken Adobo is one of the first chicken thigh recipes I shared way back in 2015 when I started this website. Back then, I boldly stated that this was my new favourite Asian chicken recipe even it was thoroughly disloyal of me to say that, being of Japanese background and all (which basically means I’m expected to put Teriyaki Chicken, Karaage and Yakitori above all other chicken dishes in the world).
To be honest, I may have embellished a wee bit. Blinded by the excitement of discovering Chicken Adobo, how unbelievably easy it is for a dish that yields such incredible flavour,
Check out how sticky the sauce is! It truly tastes as incredible as it looks. And it’s SO EASY with just a HANDFUL of ingredients!
What you need
Filipino Chicken Adobo is the national dish of the Philippines and like all traditional dishes, there are many variations. Fundamentally though, the key ingredients are the right balance of soy sauce, vinegar, black pepper and sugar that create an incredibly sticky glaze that has a depth of flavour like it’s been slow cooked – but it’s not!
- boneless skinless chicken thighs – cannot substitute with breast, need the fat to transform sauce into a glaze;
- soy sauce – all purpose or light soy sauce. NOT dark soy sauce (bottle will be labelled as such if it’s dark soy sauce);
- white vinegar – just everyday, plain white vinegar. Sub with any clear vinegar, including rice wine, apple cider, sherry vinegar;
- onion and garlic;
- peppercorns – or coarse cracked pepper;
- sugar – brown best, white ok;
- bay leaves – fresh or dried, not the end of the world if you don’t have; and
- green onion – optional garnish
How to make Filipino Chicken Adobo
And here’s how to make it. Basically, you marinate the chicken briefly, sear the chicken, then simmer it in the pan with the marinade for 25 minutes. It will look watery right up until the last few minutes, then all of a sudden, the liquid transforms magically into a syrupy glaze!
What Chicken Adobo tastes like
The glaze of Filipino Chicken Adobo is savoury and sweet with a hint of tang, with a distinct soy flavour. The garlic and onion creates a savoury base along with the bay leaves, and the peppercorns add little subtle pops of heat.
Don’t be afraid of the peppercorns in this! The spiciness is tempered from both the cooking time and the strength of the flavour of the sauce so it becomes a flavour enhancer rather than fiery spiciness.
And finally, the chicken itself. It’s incredibly tender, owing to the cook time. Chicken thighs only take about 6 to 8 minutes to cook on the stove, so simmering them in sauce for 25 minutes yields thighs that are so tender inside, it’s like you’ve slow cooked them for hours.
You may not use all the sauce this Filipino Chicken Adobo recipe makes. It is quite strong, so have a taste before dousing your entire plate with it.
As you can see in the photos, I do not hold back. 😂 – Nagi x
PS If you do have leftover sauce, don’t throw it out! That stuff is GOLD. I use it to make Filipino Chicken Adobo fried rice – just fry up cooked rice with chopped up pieces of this chicken, some chopped Asian greens and the sauce. The sauce is so flavoursome that you don’t need anything else!
Watch how to make it
Filipino Chicken Adobo (Flavour Kapow!)
Recipe videos. One of the most amazing Asian chicken thigh recipes I have ever come across. Intense in flavour, but so fast and easy to prepare! Chicken is so tender, it’s like it’s been slow cooked.
Chicken and Marinade
- 750g / 1.5 lb chicken thigh fillets (, boneless and skinless (5 – 6 pieces) (Note 1))
- 6 garlic cloves (, minced)
- 1/3 cup (85ml) soy sauce (, ordinary all purpose or light (not dark soy sauce, Note 2))
- 1/3 cup + 2 tbsp white vinegar
- 4 bay leaves, fresh, or 3 dried
- 2 tbsp oil (, separated (vegetable, canola or peanut))
- 1 small brown onion (, diced)
- 1 1/2 cups (375 ml) water
- 2 tbsp brown sugar
- 1 tbsp whole black pepper ((sub 2 tsp coarse cracked pepper))
- 2 green onions/scallions (, sliced (garnish))
Combine Chicken and Marinade ingredients in a bowl. Marinate for at least 20 minutes, or up to overnight.
Heat 1 tbsp oil in a skillet over high heat. Remove chicken from marinade (reserve marinade) and place in the pan. Sear both sides until browned – about 1 minute on each side. Do not cook the chicken all the way through.
Remove chicken skillet and set aside.
Heat the remaining oil in skillet. Add garlic and onion, cook 1 1/2 minutes.
Add the reserved marinade, water, sugar and black pepper. Bring it to a simmer then turn heat down to medium high. Simmer 5 minutes.
Add chicken smooth side down. Simmer uncovered for 20 to 25 minutes (no need to stir), turning chicken at around 15 minutes, until the sauce reduces down to a thick jam-like syrup.
If the sauce isn’t thick enough, remove chicken onto a plate and let the sauce simmer by itself – it will thicken much quicker – then return chicken to the skillet to coat in the glaze.
1. Chicken thighs – do NOT substitute with breast. You need the fat in thighs in order for the sauce to reduce down to a glaze. Can also use bone in thighs, wings or drumsticks (add 3/4 cup water and simmer 30 minutes).
The best way to achieve the closest result with chicken breast is to add 2 tbsp of any oil to the sauce, take the chicken out once cooked and reduce the sauce right down to become jammy, then smear it on the breast.
2. Soy sauce – use all purpose or light soy sauce. Do not use dark soy sauce – bottle will be labelled as such if it is. Dark soy is too intense for this sauce once reduced.
You probably won’t need all the sauce because it is very strong in flavour. Save the leftovers and use it to make fried rice! It is perfect because it is so strong in flavour so a little bit goes a long way. I used it to make a fried rice with leftover Filipino Chicken Adobo and chopped Asian greens. No other flavourings required!
3. Cauliflower rice – for a low carb side, ideal for soaking up that delicious sauce! Break cauliflower into florets, then use grater blade in food processor and feed florets through tube OR grate by hand using normal box grater. Microwave on high in container with lid for 4 minutes, or saute with touch of oil in skillet for 3 minutes until just cooked.
4. Nutrition per serving, chicken only and assumes all sauce consumed which is unlikely as it’s quite strong. Reduce sodium by using low sodium soy.
Make a low calorie dinner plate with a side of Cauliflower Rice (Note 3) and Smashed Cucumbers – total 415 calories for dinner plate (first photo in post)
Originally published February 2015. Updated January 2019 with brand new photos, step photos, video and most importantly, Life of Dozer section added!!
Life of Dozer
Dozer started 2019 the same way as he finished it – in the POOL!!