Chicken Adobo. A delicious tender braised chicken dish with a garlicky soy vinegar sauce that is savory and tangy made with everyday ingredients. Great as a main dish. Ready in 30 minutes!
What is Chicken Adobo?
Chicken adobo is a delicious tangy, savoury Filipino chicken dish. The tender chicken is cooked in a soy vinegar sauce with aromatics and I love serving it over steamed rice with veggies. The dish originates from the Philippines. The word "adobo" is derived from the Spanish word "adobar", which means "marinade" or "sauce" in English. When the Spanish came to the Philippines in 1521, they observed the Filipinos preserving and marinating their meat in vinegar in claypots and they decided to call this technique "adobo". Hence the name "chicken adobo". It's now an iconic dish in the Philippines. I absolutely adore this Filipino dish as it pairs so amazingly with steamed rice, especially with that tangy savory sauce. I often make this when I have some bone-in skin on chicken thighs.
Please scroll down to below recipe card for exact measurements.
- Skin-on Bone-in Chicken thighs: I highly recommend dark meat bone-in chicken with skin on. This yields tender chicken pieces.
- You may also use boneless skinless chicken thighs or bone-in chicken like chicken drumsticks or chicken legs.
- If you use chicken breasts, please only cook until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 160 F and allow the residual heat to carryover the cooking process.
- Neutral oil: any flavorless oil like avocado oil, peanut oil, grapeseed oil, vegetable oil or canola oil. I would avoid using olive oil due to its heavier scent.
- Yellow onion, white onion, or red onion
- Regular soy sauce: or substitute with low sodium soy sauce or light soy sauce. If you’re gluten-free, substitute with tamari sauce, coconut aminos or a gluten-free soy sauce of your choice.
- White vinegar, cane vinegar or coconut vinegar for a more authentic taste: You may also substitute with rice vinegar, apple cider vinegar as a last resort.
- Garlic: Filipinos like to add lots of garlic to this dish for flavorful chicken.
- Black whole peppercorns: This is one of the key flavoring ingredients for this simple recipe. It is iconic to Filipino Adobo.
- Bay leaves: Adding a bay leaf is another signature ingredient to this dish. It adds a subtle bitter flavor to help prevent a dish from tasting too heavy.
How to make Chicken Adobo
On your stove top bring a large skillet or large dutch oven to medium heat, add oil. Followed by sliced onions and cook until translucent.
Brown the Chicken
Move the onions aside and place chicken thighs skin side down. Allow the skin to sear until golden brown, about 3-5 minutes. The best way to brown chicken is to not touch it after you place it in the pan. If you constantly move the chicken around, it won't brown well.
Pour in soy sauce, garlic, black peppercorns, bay leaves and lastly white vinegar. For best results, do not stir the sauce as this prevents the acid from fully evaporating. This is a tip that I learned.
Simmer the Chicken
Bring to a boil on medium-high heat. Then cover and reduce to a rolling simmer or low-medium heat for 10 minutes.
Flip Chicken Over
Uncover the lid and flip the chicken over so the skin is facing up.
Finish Cooking the Chicken & Simmer Sauce
Cover and simmer for another 10 minutes.
Uncover the lid and continue to simmer for 3-5 minutes so the sauce can thicken a little bit. Remove off heat to serve & enjoy!
Storage & Reheating
This dish will last up to 4 days stored in an airtight container in the fridge. Leftovers taste even better the next day as the sauce really soaks into the meat.
To reheat this dish, reheat on the stove top in a pan over medium heat until the chicken is hot through. You may add some water to help loosen the sauce. Or you can microwave the dish for 2-3 minutes until hot.
Below are tips on making the best chicken adobo recipe:
- Use bone-in skin-on chicken thighs. This will offer the best and deepest flavor to this dish, thanks to the skin and bone. Also, dark meat is often juicier and more tender than white breast meat.
- Brown the chicken skin first. When you brown the chicken first, this gives the chicken skin more flavor especially when it’s cooked with the onions. To ensure you get a nice browning on the skin, after placing the thighs skin side down, do not move it around. Moving it around will prevent your skin from browning properly.
- Do not mix the sauce. After pouring in the vinegar, do not stir the vinegar into the soy sauce. The bubbling action will do the job for you. In fact, many Filipino households advise this tip as it helps to burn off the acid in the vinegar in the bottom of the pot. If you mix the sauce, it could create different results.
FAQ & Substitutions
Can I marinate the chicken beforehand?
Yes, if you wish, marinate the meat night before in the soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, and black peppercorns for additional flavor. When you go to cook the chicken, brown the chicken first as instructed and then pour the reserved marinade into the pan and add the remaining ingredients.
Substitutes for Soy Sauce
If you're gluten-free or prefer not to use soy sauce, feel free to use other alternatives such as tamari sauce, coconut aminos or a gluten-free soy sauce of your choice. I would not suggest substituting with fish sauce as it has a different profile and it's fishier.
Substitutes for White Vinegar
If you don't have white vinegar, these other vinegars can work as a replacement:
- cane vinegar
- coconut vinegar
- apple cider vinegar
- rice vinegar
I would not suggest replacing with balsamic, red or black vinegar.
Can I make this dish spicy?
Yes, this can be a spicy dish by adding some red pepper flakes, red chili flakes or chili peppers. I would suggest starting with ½ teaspoon and add more as needed at the end after your sauce has simmered.
Quick & Easy Tender Chicken Adobo
- In a medium size pan, around 8-inches, on medium heat, add oil. Once oil is hot, add onions and cook until translucent.
- Move the onions aside and place chicken thighs skin side down. Allow the skin to brown for a few minutes. Do not move the chicken after it hits the pan, this will prevent your chicken from properly browning.
- Pour in soy sauce, garlic, black peppercorns, bay leaves and lastly white vinegar. For best results, do not stir the sauce as this prevents the acid from fully evaporating. (At this point, the sauce will taste very tangy due to the vinegar, but be patient and allow the following simmering process create a tasty well balanced sauce).
- Bring to a boil. Then cover and reduce low-medium heat or a rolling simmer for 10 minutes.
- Uncover the lid and flip the chicken over so the skin is facing up. Cover and simmer for another 10 minutes.
- Uncover the lid and continue to simmer for 3-5 minutes so the sauce can thicken a bit. Remove off heat to serve & enjoy!
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