Chicken Adobo

September 5, 2019

Flavorful Chicken Adobo made with incredibly tender chicken thighs and a tangy vinegar and rich soy based sauce. The chicken is browned then cooks right in the sauce for plenty of time to absorb all those delicious flavors. It’s the perfect easy chicken dinner recipe!

Chicken adobo chicken thigh on a plate over rice garnished with green onions.

What is Chicken Adobo?

Chicken adobo is one of the most popular Filipino dishes, and it seems as though everyone has their own way of making it. Bone-in skin-on chicken pieces are braised in a super simple sauce made up of minimal ingredients yet it packs a flavorful punch.

You’ll always find soy sauce and vinegar in the dish. Then in authentic adobo there’s usually garlic, bay leaves and black peppercorns. Then not always standard is sugar. I personally think the sugar is a must to balance the salt and acidity of the sauce. I’ve made it without and it’s not near as good.

What About Marinating or Browning?

Sometimes chicken is marinated in the sauce, other times that step is skipped. I skip it because I think it has enough time to soak up flavor while cooking. Frequently you’ll find chicken is browned first in adobo, other recipes just add raw thighs right to the sauce mixture and simmer. But why not brown it to add more flavor?

Then you’ll find variations on the ingredients used for example the type of vinegar can vary from cane vinegar, to coconut vinegar or palm vinegar. And some people like to add a vegetable right to the dish while simmering such as potatoes and onions.

And as far as the soy sauce goes, for me I find full strength soy sauce to be overwhelmingly salty so I like to use half regular and half low-sodium.

The great thing about this dish is that it’s pretty forgiving so ingredients can be adjusted to taste. I the idea is to stick to the staple ingredients and to have plenty of sauce so the chicken ends up nicely seasoned and then there’s extra sauce to serve over rice.

I highly recommend this recipe, not only will the whole family enjoy it but it’s a breeze to prepare! Then just serve it with white or brown rice and a steamed vegetable to complete the easy meal.

Chicken adobo ingredients

Chicken Adobo Ingredients:

  • Cane vinegar – this is a popular filipino vinegar made from sugar cane (though it is not sweet). Keep in mind the strong acidic punch will tone down as the sauce simmers.
  • Soy sauce – standard soy sauce or low-sodium soy sauce can be used based on personal preference. I prefer half of each or just low-sodium or it’s too salty for me.
  • Brown sugar or palm sugar – this can be adjusted to taste. You can add more for a slightly sweeter sauce. If you don’t have either on hand white sugar works great too.
  • Black peppercorns – if preferred you can use ground black pepper – but use freshly ground for best flavor.
  • Vegetable oil – this is used for browning so you only need 1 Tbsp.
  • Chicken thighs – use bone-in skin-on thighs, chicken legs or drumsticks will work great here too.
  • Garlic cloves – only use fresh garlic, no substitutes. If preferred you can slice the cloves into a couple slices instead of crushing.
  • Bay leaves – I use dried but fresh will work great too.

browning three chicken thighs in vegetable oil in a pot. Showing how to make chicken adobo.How to Make Chicken Adobo:

  • Make sauce: In a glass measuring cup whisk together vinegar, soy sauce, brown sugar, and peppercorns. Set aside.
  • Brown chicken thighs: Heat oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Dab skin on chicken dry with paper towels then add 3 thighs to pot, skin side down. Let sear until golden brown on bottom, about 4 – 6 minutes.
  • Transfer chicken to a plate then repeat with remaining 3 thighs, while adding garlic to pan with chicken during the last 30 seconds to saute briefly to remove harsh bite.

Pouring soy sauce and vinegar mixture into pot with chicken thighs, garlic and peppercorn.

  • Add sauce mixture and simmer: Remove pan from heat and carefully pour in vinegar mixture, return 3 chicken pieces to the pot, skin side down. Nestle in bay leaves. Bring sauce just to a boil then reduce heat and, cover and simmer over low heat 20 minutes.
  • Turn chicken halfway through cooking (for even cooking and flavor on both sides): Flip chicken to opposite side, continue to simmer until chicken is cooked through and tender, about 20 minutes longer.
  • Remove bay leaves. Serve chicken warm over rice with some of the sauce spooned over**.

Six chicken thighs in adobo sauce before cooked.

Where Can I Find Cane Vinegar?

Cane vinegar can be found online, stores such as Amazon. Or you can usually find it at a local Asian grocery store. It’s not a must though, I’ve also made this with rice vinegar and it’s equally as delicious.

Finished chicken adobo in a pot.

Tips for the Best Filipino Chicken Adobo:

  • Brown the chicken first for best flavor, and brown in 2 batches or it’s will be overcrowded and won’t brown.
  • Use bone-in, skin-on chicken for added flavor.
  • Simmer over low heat for the most tender end result.
  • For a thicker sauce to serve with rice simmer with a little cornstarch slurry, don’t try reducing! Some recipes do this but sauce ends up way too salty in my opinion.
  • Optionally you can trim excess skin and visible fat from chicken so sauce isn’t overly greasy.

Overhead image of chicken adobo in a white pot.

More Asian Recipes You’ll Love:

Two servings of chicken adobo on turquoise serving plates with white rice.

Chicken Adobo

5 from 1 vote

Made with incredibly tender chicken thighs and a tangy vinegar and rich soy based sauce. The chicken is browned then cooks right in the sauce for plenty of time to absorb all those delicious flavors. It's the perfect easy chicken dinner recipe!

Servings: 6
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 5 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup cane vinegar or rice vinegar
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce (see notes*)
  • 1 Tbsp brown sugar or palm sugar
  • 1 tsp black peppercorns
  • 1 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 6 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (about 2 1/2 lbs) , trimmed of excess skin and fat
  • 5 medium garlic cloves, crushed slightly and peeled
  • 3 bay leaves

Instructions

  1. In a glass measuring cup whisk together vinegar, soy sauce, brown sugar, and peppercorns. Set aside.

  2. Heat oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Dab skin on chicken dry with paper towels then add 3 thighs to pot, skin side down. Let sear until golden brown on bottom, about 4 - 6 minutes.

  3. Transfer chicken to a plate then repeat with remaining 3 thighs, while adding garlic to pan with chicken during the last 30 seconds to saute briefly to remove harsh bite.

  4. Remove pan from heat and carefully pour in vinegar mixture, return 3 chicken pieces to the pot, skin side down. Nestle in bay leaves. Return to heat, bring sauce just to a boil then reduce heat to low, cover and simmer 20 minutes.

  5. Flip chicken to opposite side, continue to simmer, uncovered, until chicken is cooked through and about 20 minutes longer.

  6. Remove bay leaves. Serve chicken warm over rice with some of the sauce spooned over**.

Recipe Notes

  • *I've found I like the blend of 1/4 cup regular soy sauce and 1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce. If you like things salty you can use 1/2 cup regular soy sauce, if you like things less salty use 1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce.
  • **To thicken the sauce I don't recommend simmering longer after chicken has been removed to reduce further - sauce will be too salty. Instead if you'd prefer it thicker I recommend whisking together 2 tsp cornstarch with 1 Tbsp water then adding to the pot with the sauce and simmering about 30 - 60 seconds, stirring constantly, just until thickened slightly.
  • Other variations on this recipe include adding 1 small yellow onion (sliced), 1/2 cup coconut milk, or adding 1 sliced Thai chili for heat. You can also make it sweeter if desired by adding more palm or brown sugar.
  • Nutrition estimate based on using low-sodium soy sauce.
Nutrition Facts
Chicken Adobo
Amount Per Serving
Calories 400 Calories from Fat 261
% Daily Value*
Fat 29g45%
Saturated Fat 9g56%
Cholesterol 157mg52%
Sodium 834mg36%
Potassium 387mg11%
Carbohydrates 6g2%
Fiber 1g4%
Sugar 2g2%
Protein 27g54%
Vitamin A 125IU3%
Vitamin C 1mg1%
Calcium 24mg2%
Iron 2mg11%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Filipino
Keyword: Chicken Adobo
Author: Jaclyn
This post contains affiliate links.

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6 Comments

  • Jocelyn

    Is it possible to make this with chicken breasts? If so, what modifications would you recommend? Thank you!

    • Jaclyn

      Jaclyn Bell

      Yes, I’d recommend using 4 fairly small bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts and they’ll be done sooner just keep an eye on the temp so they don’t end up overcooked.

  • Christine Musial

    Ok. So Step 4 says to add only 3 of the 6 chicken thighs . Huh? I think you should have just noted to ” add the chicken thighs” . It sounds kind of weird, but if you are going to publish a recipe, make sure you get it right. Dont leave anything g to question.

    • Jaclyn

      Jaclyn Bell

      You’re just returning the 3 chicken thighs that aren’t already in the pot.

    • Kay

      “Hi! Thanks so much for the delicious recipes you provide for free for complete strangers. I really appreciate all the hard work you put into your blog and how kind you are to everyone who stops by, even ungrateful people who make rude, judgmental comments about how you should make sure you get things right while they themselves are getting things very, very wrong. I didn’t read the instructions thoroughly the first time, but I went back and re-read them instead of just skimming them and now everything makes sense. Thanks again and have a wonderful day!” There – fixed it for you, Christine.