Classic Chicken Adobo from 'The Adobo Road Cookbook'

[Photograph: Marvin Gapultos]

Google the word "adobo" and you'll end up with links to everything from chipotles to Mexican restaurants. But today we're cooking Filipino adobo, which is a cooking technique unto itself. In The Adobo Road Cookbook, Marvin Gapultos shares more than a few recipes for adobo, each showcasing a different meat or vegetable. According to Gapultos, adobo must contain vinegar, bay, garlic, black pepper, and plenty of salt or soy sauce. While many of his recipes stretch further than this basic lineup, his classic chicken adobo is the perfect example of the simplicity of this potent combination of ingredients. Meaty chicken thighs are braised in just those basic five components (with soy sauce instead of salt) to emerge tender, tangy, salty, and slicked with their own fat. This is Filipino cooking at its finest.

Why I picked this recipe: I couldn't cook from a Filipino cookbook without trying an adobo. This classic recipe seemed the best place to start.

What worked: It is amazing how good the simple mixture of soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, and chicken fat can be. I was slurping up this sauce with a spoon.

What didn't: By the time I had the sauce reduced by half, the chicken was a little overcooked (granted, these are thighs, so they still taste good when a bit overdone). Next time, I'll pull them out while reducing the sauce and then return them to the pot for a final glaze before serving.

Suggested tweaks: This simple braise could work for just about any protein or even hearty vegetable. Keep in mind that tougher cuts of meat will take longer to braise, while more tender items like carrots or other root veggies may take less time.

Excerpted with permission from The Adobo Road Cookbook: A Filipino Food Journey--From Food Blog, to Food Truck, and Beyond, copyright 2013 by Marvin Gapultos. Published by Tuttle Publishing, a division of Periplus Editions (HK) Ltd. All rights reserved. Available wherever books are sold.

Classic Chicken Adobo from 'The Adobo Road Cookbook'

About This Recipe

Yield:serves 4 to 6 as part of a multi-course meal
Active time:15 minutes
Total time:45 minutes
This recipe appears in: Classic Chicken Adobo from The Adobo Road Cookbook


  • 1/4 cup (65 ml) soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) white Filipino cane vinegar, or distilled white vinegar
  • 6–8 cloves garlic, smashed with the side of a knife and peeled
  • 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 6 skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs


  1. 1

    Place the soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, black peppercorns, and bay leaves in a large, nonreactive sauté pan, and then nestle the chicken thighs, skin side down, into the pan. Bring the liquid to a boil over high heat, and then cover and simmer over low heat for 20 minutes. Turn the chicken over, and then cover and simmer for another 10 minutes.

  2. 2

    Uncover the pan, and then increase the heat to high and return the sauce to a boil. While occasionally turning and basting the chicken, continue boiling the sauce, uncovered, until it is reduced by half and thickens slightly, 5–7 minutes. Serve with steamed white rice.

  3. 3

    Variations: While the sauce is reducing, transfer the chicken thighs, skin side up, to a foil-lined sheet pan. Brown the chicken thighs underneath the broiler for 3–5 minutes.

    Use freshly ground black pepper instead of whole peppercorns.

    For a “drier” chicken adobo, you can reduce the sauce until it is almost completely evaporated. The chicken will then begin to fry in its own fat that is still left in the pan. This is how my grandmother finishes her adobo.

    For a saucier adobo, double the amount of soy sauce and vinegar.

    To make this adobo as an appetizer, use 2 lbs (1 kg) of chicken wings instead of thighs.


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