Chicken Adobo

Chicken adobo; not the witch's brew version.

Chicken adobo; not the witch’s brew version.

“I’m not sure it’s suppose to look like that…”

My brother and I stared at the pot of chicken bones bubbling in a tan, creamy, gravy like sauce with bits of chicken pieces floating about.  We had spent over an hour on this dish and had no idea how or what it had turned into.

“It doesn’t look like the Filipino Chicken Adobo we get at the restaurant. It’s suppose to have the look of braised chicken.”  Instead it looked like something only mentioned in fairy tales when describing the witch’s brew.  We tried it, and I continued to question the tough, rubbery texture and flavor of the sauce.  It was a “first time cooking Chicken Adobo” failure, it was also one of the first times that my brother and I cooked together.  Before this, it was rare for my brother and I to ever be able to cook together.  We are 7 years apart which translates to me being home as a kid while he is in college and then us being in separate parts of the country while I was in college and he was being an adult.  Luckily I found my way to New York which has made the two of us even closer as well as many more days of cooking together and more successful attempts.

A few days after the adobo attempt, my brother figured out that what we had made was basically soy mayo with chicken in it.  If it sounds gross, you are right.  It  looked gross too.  The vinegar, soy sauce, and sugar mixed with the protein from the rendered chicken was basically the foundation of a mayonnaise or aioli.  At the time of attempting this dish, my culinary techniques where a little lacking.  I thought that turning something on high meant you where hungry and it would cook faster and that braising was for people with patience.  However, the rolling boil of the liquid  was enough to agitate the protein and fat and essentially mimicked the whisking or shaking that produces mayonnaise.  Oh, so that’s one of the reasons we braise things.

A couple of years later, I asked my friend Holly how her mom made the dish.   She gave me the list of ingredients and the family secret.  Her mom finishes the chicken off in the oven to ensure that it develops a crispy skin and slight glaze.   So with my knowledge of braising and the importance of a slow low heat and now with some insider secret from new Tita, I was able to recreate the Chicken Adobo with my brother.   The flavor was sweet, salty, and tangy.  The vinegar and slow braise allowed the chicken to become extremely tender and juicy.  The best part was the crisp skin that came from the few minutes that chicken was  in the oven.  To add more sauce, you can reduce the braising liquid down to give it a thicker consistency while the chicken is finishing, or you can skip the oven step all together.

If you have access to cane vinegar, I recommend it.  You can get it from most Asian stores.  It has a slightly sweet quality to it, but white vinegar is a good substitute.


2 lb chicken (I like to mix wings and drumsticks)

1 tbs vegetable, peanut, or canola oil

4 large garlic cloves

2 dried chili crushed, or 1 tsp red chili flakes (to taste)

2 bay leaves

3/4 cup soy sauce

3/4 cup white vinegar

1/8 cup sugar

1 stalk of scallions, minced


sear chicken on high in a large dutch oven or heavy based pot with oil and remove chicken

add chili flakes, bay leaves, and garlic to the pot and sauté until garlic is fragrant and slightly toasted

return chicken and pour soy sauce, vinegar, and sugar and stir to coat

turn down heat to medium low and let simmer for 45 to 60 minutes, until chicken is cooked through.

remove chicken, put onto baking dish and broil on high until chicken is slightly crispy (4-5 minutes)

reduce the braising liquid and pour over the chicken

garnish with green onions (optional)

 -serves 6-



6 Responses to “Chicken Adobo”

  1. 1 Tim
    January 29, 2009 at 5:33 pm

    Yummmmm! Yay I am so glad you started this!!! Totally going on my favorites. 🙂 Now where are the dumpling recipes. 😉

  2. 2 pg
    January 30, 2009 at 12:37 pm

    ok the word “gross” in a recipe is really off-putting. :-p
    but i’m still coming over for dinner.

  3. 3 Lee
    February 2, 2009 at 9:09 am

    These were a big hit at my super bowl party! They were not quite as delicate as yours, but they were very tasty. I used rice vinegar instead of white vinegar, which I don’t think I would repeat, as it kind of overpowered the chili flavor. Also, I broiled it for about 7 minutes instead of putting in at 400, and I think that was a pretty good call, at least for the purposes of making wings at a super bowl party: they were perfectly crispy. Great recipe!!!

  4. April 30, 2009 at 12:09 pm

    Suhweet! We’ve got a filipino themed dinner next weekend, and we’re making chicken adobo as the main dish. How funny that we literally stumbled upon your recipe!

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