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How to Cook Chicken Adobo: A Filipino Dish

Darius is a former high school literary and feature writer with a Bachelor of Science degree in Information and Communications Technology.

The Filipino Chicken Adobo cooked in a pot.

The Filipino Chicken Adobo cooked in a pot.

Adobo: A Dish Beloved by Everyone

When I was starting my first year of college, I asked my mom if she could teach me to cook at least one Filipino dish that doesn't involve frying or just leaving a food to boil until it's done. She would then recommend to prepare, cook, and make one easy dish — the Filipino Adobo.

If you're not from the Philippines but interested in how to cook this dish, you're in luck! With a little research on other people's recipes, plus my basic knowledge of preparing the dish, I'm sure you'll ace this even in your first try.

If you're a Filipino and ever wondered "that's not how you cook adobo," to tell you the truth - there isn't any exact way of cooking the fine dish. Every family, chef, or cook has their own way to prepare and cook the dish and I believe that it will always result in the same tastes and the same delicious output. I do think that the only difference would be the ingredients used and how it's prepared, and how it is cooked and prepared in different regions of the country.

Now, I'll also remind you of the tips, do's and don'ts, alternatives, and the processes in cooking this dish based on how I cook it. You can also check out a bunch of recipes online in you're hesitant, but I'll do my best to elaborate on each piece of this puzzle to teach how to cook such a delicious dish.

A Brief History of Adobo

According to various historical accounts, the word "adobo" comes from the Spanish word "adobar" which means marinade, sauce, or seasoning. During the Philippines' Pre-colonial period, the people's main ingredients for cooking are vinegar and salt. This is to keep food fresh and longer because of the tropical climate of the country.

When the Spanish Empire colonized the country in the late 16th century and early 17th century, they encountered the adobo cooking process. The Spanish also applied the term adobo to any native dish that was marinated before consumption. Dishes prepared with vinegar, garlic, salt (later soy sauce), and other spices eventually came to be known solely as adobo, with the original term for the dish now lost to history.

There are also historical accounts that adobo itself didn't come from the Spanish word, but was already a practice and recipe used by native Filipinos during the country's pre-colonial era. The cooking methods vary, though, but all accounted that the modern method of cooking is almost strikingly similar to that of our ancestors. This is due to the use of vinegar in cooking and preservation of food during those times, and soy sauce was later added to the dish during the country's colonial era.

The Differences Between Other Cultures' Adobos

Filipino Adobo (the food) vs Hispanic Adobo (Spanish, South American, or anyone that uses adobo as seasoning)

Main IngredientsSimilar IngredientsDoes not have or isn't cooked with

Soy Sauce

Vinegar

Chillis

Black Peppers

Garlic

Paprika

Bay Leaves

 

Oregano

 

 

Tomatoes

At home, whenever Chicken Adobo is the main course of the meal, I am in charge of cooking it. This recipe is based on how I cook and prepare it.

It's always better to have this paired with white, soft, cooked rice during meals. Since there are four people in our home, I'm going to make this for four people.

Ingredients for Chicken Adobo

  • 1 kilogram (2.2 lbs) chicken, cut or sliced to serving pieces
  • 30 to 50 mL (1 to 1.8 ounces) vinegar, around 3 to 5 tablespoons
  • 100 to 120 mL (3.5 to 4.2 ounces) soy sauce, around 8 to 9 tablespoons
  • 1 onion, chopped and sliced
  • 4 to 5 cloves of garlic, crushed and sliced
  • 1 piece ginger, sliced
  • 1 to 1 and 1/2 teaspoons sugar, white or brown
  • 1 1/2 to 2 cups water
  • 3 to 4 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper, crushed
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 to 1 tablespoon cooking oil, vegetable or olive
Chicken Adobo Ingredients

Chicken Adobo Ingredients

General Instructions for Cooking Chicken Adobo

  1. Clean the chicken pieces with water twice or thrice and let it dry. If you have limes, lemons, or calamansi, you can also use them to clean the chicken pieces. Put it in a large bowl and let it rest for a while.
  2. Heat a cooking pot or a deep frying pan on low to medium flame. Put the cooking oil and wait until it is hot enough.
  3. Put the crushed, sliced, or minced garlic, first, and have it sautéed. Wait for it to turn into an almost golden-brown color and don't over-toast. Wait until the garlic is almost golden brown or until you can smell a fragrance.
  4. Put the sliced onions to sautee it along with the garlic.
  5. Put the sliced ginger and stir fry them all of them together until they are ready or cooked enough.
  6. From the large bowl, gently put all of the sliced chicken and stir fry them for a short time. You can also braise it along with the sauteed ingredients. Leave them for at least five to ten minutes until the chicken pieces ooze their juices or stock, which will be used as the dish's sauce as well.
  7. Stir them a little bit, flip some of the pieces, and make sure that the sides of the chicken pieces are being cooked. Leave them for at least five minutes. Do this at least three times until you can see or smell the chicken boil in its own chicken stock. Reduce your flame, if required, and have them simmer for a few more minutes.
  8. Gently add all the water, along with the soy sauce, salt, black pepper, all-around or any kind of asian spice like Knorr cubes, and sugar. Leave them to simmer in a medium-high flame for at least 25 to 30 minutes or until the chicken is tender and cooked through. Add the bay leaves and have it simmer in a low-medium flame for another three to five minutes. Taste the sauce if needed.
  9. Gently add the vinegar all over the dish and have it simmer in a low flame for at least five to ten more minutes. Do not touch it or taste it once the vinegar is added.
  10. Turn off heat and have it cool off for at least five minutes. Bring a plate or a bowl, preferably with white rice and any citric fruit juice or soda as your drink.
  11. Serve and enjoy!

Filipino Adobo Alternatives and Variations

This chicken adobo is always best paired with cooked rice. You can also add hard boiled eggs to it. Chicken may be the most famous main ingredient, but the Filipino adobo can be cooked with pork, beef, shrimp, eggplants, bamboo shoots, and squid. In other regions of the country, mostly in the rural areas and provinces, adobo is cooked with frogs mole crickets (cleaned and fried) and the taste and deliciousness is almost the same as with chicken. For vegetarians, adobo can be cooked with eggplants, boiled potatoes, and legumes.

Important Notes for Cooking Chicken Adobo

Above is another recipe is from a chef on how to cook Chicken Adobo the "easy" way. To be honest, it is one of the simplest and easiest dish to cook. It can, though, require a bit of training for first timers.

Many Filipinos are often "competitive" when it comes to adobo, saying that their recipe is better than the others. There are different ways of cooking it per household, family, province, region, or wherever you may be. But all in all — after you have finished cooking and serving it and savor its seemingly perfect balance of saltiness, tanginess, sweetness, and sourness — it will make you feel as if you're visiting the, or you're in, Philippines yourself. (Make sure to turn the subtitles on).

Remember that I am not a professional chef, but my mom and dad are the "professionals" when it comes to cooking in the house. I just happen to learn how to cook from them. I still have a long way to go when it comes to cooking.

  1. Always check the taste of the sauce. If it's too salty, add just a bit more water. If it's too bland, add a little more soy sauce and sugar. Always have that balance of the taste.
  2. Always check if there's still sauce in the adobo. There are variations of adobo where you reduce the volume of the sauce but for me, the sauce is what makes Filipino adobo an adobo.
  3. If the sauce has been completely reduced, just add at least 1/4 cup of water and one to two tablespoon of soy sauce and sugar. If you think you added too much water or if you think that it has too much sauce, place the excess in a small bowl. It's a just-in-case if you're sauce is completely reduced.
  4. You can stir it while it's simmering or boiling. But, as for my father's words, do not stir it after you add the vinegar because "it may ruin the taste of the adobo."
  5. Bay leaves are quite optional to put when I cook my adobo. Salt is optional, too, because all the salty taste will be coming from the soy sauce.
  6. There are variations of Chicken adobo where you marinate the chicken first before actually cooking it. You can marinate it for at least one hour (or longer) in soy sauce, sugar, black pepper, salt, and garlic and you have to use that marinate as the dish's sauce as well.
  7. You can use red, chopped peppers if you want to spice up your adobo.

If you guys have any questions, do comment down and I'll try my best to answer them. If you're a Filipino and have your own way, tips, or tricks of cooking adobo, let me know it so I can try it myself (smile).

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2019 Darius Razzle Paciente

Comments

Ram Cortez on September 30, 2020:

Love this!

Darius Razzle Paciente (author) from Taguig City, Metro Manila, The Philippines on August 12, 2020:

Thanks! I also made one for pork, although I haven't really written it well enough.

asereht1970 from Philippines on August 10, 2020:

One of my favorite dish, although I prefer pork adobo. Well-written article.

Darius Razzle Paciente (author) from Taguig City, Metro Manila, The Philippines on May 28, 2020:

@Jack Burton

Personally, I'd like to have the thigh parts more in my Adobo, as well. They're just very juicy, especially when partnered with soft, white rice.

That's a fun story! I could imagine the happy scenarios that had happened on in that kitchen when your daughter was cooking adobo. I bet her dorm mates are still craving for it. :D

Jack Burton from The Midwest on May 27, 2020:

When our daughter was away at college she lived in a three-story, U-shaped dorm. The kitchen was in the basement, tucked away at the top of one of the wings. She would go down and cook a pot of adobo for herself, and by the time it was finished she would have girls from all over all three stories coming to see what that delicious odor was.

She converted dozens of Anglo girls into being adobo eaters that year.

We teased her that 50 years from now there would be hundreds of kids asking their mothers where they learned to make such a wonderful dish, and the answer would be, "Well, when your Grandma was back in college there was a Filipina classmate..."

Jack Burton from The Midwest on May 27, 2020:

We have found that chicken thighs are the best, as the white breasts can dry out too easily with the slightest bit of overcooking. Besides, the thighs just taste better naturally.

Darius Razzle Paciente (author) from Taguig City, Metro Manila, The Philippines on October 05, 2019:

Thanks @Peggy! There are Filipino restaurants and cuisines that offer Filipino adobo. Or, if by chance you visit the Philippines, this is an always must have.

Darius Razzle Paciente (author) from Taguig City, Metro Manila, The Philippines on October 05, 2019:

Thank you @Tashaney! It smells even appetising and better if someone is cooking this in your home. In our neighborhood, sometimes I could smell that they're cooking adobo and would just want to cook one myself, hahahah!

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on October 05, 2019:

This looks and sounds delicious. I wish I had some to eat right now. Thanks for your recipe.

Tashaney Hibbert-Jones from London on October 05, 2019:

I can legitimately smell this through the screen. It looks tantalizing...