Chicken Adobo Recipe

The author of this issue’s Filipino food feature shares her version of the Philippines’ signature dish.

About the Author

Hannah Serrano is a food and beverage marketing professional, passionate home cook and writer. Born in the Philippines and raised in Virginia Beach, she is currently the Chief Experience Officer at TASTE, a Coastal Virginia-based specialty food business. She lives in Newport News with her husband, two sons and dog. Here, she is pictured with a boodle or communal Filipino feast.

Recipe by Hannah Serrano

Adobo starts with five things: soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, bay leaves and pepper. From there, you make it your own. Chicken and pork are classic ingredients, as are green beans and potatoes. Mushrooms, cauliflower, shrimp and squid each make for excellent variations. You can punch up the sauce with turmeric, ginger or lemongrass. I add coconut milk and chilis for a silkier, kickier version and finish the chicken off by broiling, grilling, or frying (the latter of which I picked up from one of my aunts). For a simpler process, opt for boneless, skinless thighs, skip the marinating time, simmer the chicken for 30 minutes and skip step 4.

  • 3-4 pounds of skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs/drums/wings
  • ½ cup low-sodium, all-purpose soy sauce
  • ½ cup vinegar (Datu Puti cane vinegar is best; rice/apple cider vinegar are good substitutes)
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3-4 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper (whole peppercorns are traditional, but a bit of a nuisance)
  • 2 whole bird’s-eye or other fiery chilies (optional)
  • 2 cups coconut milk, divided
  • 1 cup of water
  • 2 tablespoons neutral oil (optional, if frying)
  • Thinly sliced serrano peppers and scallions for garnish (optional)

Combine the first seven ingredients and a cup of the coconut milk in a large pot. Cover and refrigerate for one hour to overnight.

  1. Add cup of water, bring pot to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Remove the chicken from the liquid.
  2. Add the remaining cup of coconut milk and reduce the sauce at high heat until it is the consistency of a syrupy glaze. Discard the bay leaves and whole chilies.
  3. To make the chicken crispy, first blot it with paper towels. One method is to heat oil in a skillet at medium-high heat and fry the chicken for 5-7 minutes on each side, skin-side down first. Or place skin-side up on a cooling rack fitted onto a foil-lined baking sheet 4 inches under a hot broiler for around 10-15 minutes. (If you don’t have the cooling rack, place directly on foil-lined sheet and broil for around 5-7 minutes on each side.) Or grill the chicken on a charcoal or gas grill for 5-7 minutes on each side, skin-side down first.
  4. Arrange the chicken on a bed of warm steamed rice and drizzle the sauce overtop. Serve the extra sauce in a gravy boat or serving bowl alongside. When serving this dish to company, garnish with thinly sliced serrano chilies and scallions.
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Hannah Serrano
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Hannah Serrano is director of sales & marketing at the TASTE Family of Businesses and former marketing director at O'Connor Brewing Co. Hannah is a passionate foodie and beer nerd. Her advocacy for local culture developed as an arts editor at Port Folio Weekly, culture contributor at WVEC-13, owner of, and co-organizer of Norfolk's NEON District.

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