What is Adobo?
Filipino adobo is a delicious stew or a simmer of meat and vegetables cooked with vinegar.
The most common versions use chicken or pork or even both, with soy sauce to flavour. Additionally, bay leaf, black pepper, and garlic are used as the pillars of adobo.
That being said, we also have versions using squid (adobong pusit), long beans (adobong sitaw), and water spinach (adobong kang kong). I have seen people use everything from baby back ribs to catfish in adobo.
I don’t think there is, or will ever be, a truly definitive recipe for Filipino adobo.
Ingredients for Adobo
- White cane vinegar
- Chicken (legs, drumsticks, thighs)
- Pork belly
- Black peppercorns
- Laurel leaves
I like my adobo dark, which is why I use soy sauce. Additionally, I like to mix pork and chicken, despite arguments to the contrary.
I may make adobo using only pork, but I will hardly ever make it using only chicken. The pork makes the whole dish, especially the sauce, more robust so I consider having to fish out of the chicken mid-way a step well worth it.
- Use pork belly that still has the bones attached and skin on – then make your butcher cut it into nice chunks (I like biggish pork chunks in my adobo).
- The bones and skin will work wonders towards giving your sauce more body. Frying the chicken and pork after they’ve been cooked is a messy affair, but it really does make a difference. The caramelized bits of fatty pork and chicken skin will make cleaning an oil spattered kitchen seem like a small price to pay.
- One of the oldest adobo adages is not to stir the sauce until the vinegar burns off most of its “acid”. Another bit of advice I’ve heard is to always leave the garlic skin on.
- Pop one star anise into the pot to give it a brilliant fragrance and a Chinese flavor.
- If you would like, add a peeled hardboiled egg towards the end of cooking.
- Add one peeled sweet potato to add a touch of sweetness.
- Experiment with different types of vinegars! I also make a version that uses red wine vinegar – and instead of chicken and pork I use lamb shanks and I add in some peeled pear quarters.
- Add a handful of peeled pearl/spring onions to the mix – they will get all melty as the adobo cooks and enrich the sauce.
- Slow cook your adobo in the oven while you do chores around the house.
- Use leftover adobo (flake the meat) for awesome fried rice!
What Dishes to Serve with this Recipe?
This dish is best served as the main entree. For a wholesome Filipino meal and easy weeknight dinner, I recommend the following recipes.
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- 1/2 cup white cane vinegar
- 1/4 cup toyo (our local soy sauce)
- 3/4 - 1 cup water (you may not use all of it)
- 3 chicken legs (drumstick and 3 chicken thighs (I like to use dark meat – this should come to about 600-650 g of chicken))
- 350-400 g pork belly (the part with the bone, skin on, cut into generous chunks (about 2 inches))
- 1 1/2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns
- 8-10 cloves garlic (just slightly bashed, skin still on (do not peel!))
- 2 bay (laurel leaves)
- Freshly cracked black pepper (a few twists)
- Put all the ingredients except for the water in a Dutch oven or any heavy duty pot and leave for about 30 minutes to marinate.
- Place the pot over medium heat, add 1/2 cup water, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and simmer without stirring until most of the vinegar’s acid has been cooked off – you will know when this is done because it won’t smell as sharp and “sting-y”.
- Keep simmering over low heat until the chicken is very tender - about 40 minutes to an hour. Taste the sauce. If it’s too salty or too sharp for your taste, add some of the remaining water. I usually end up using 3/4 cup total.
- When chicken is tender, remove the pieces from the pot and set aside. At this point, the garlic will be very tender as well – you can mash some (not all!) of the cloves against the sides of the pot to incorporate it into the sauce.
- Keep simmering on low heat a further 30 minutes to 1 hour, or until pork is meltingly tender.
- When pork is very tender, remove from pot and set aside.
- Keep simmering the sauce until reduced to your desired consistency. Taste the sauce and if you’d like a bit of sweetness, stir in a pinch of brown sugar – I like to do this, but you certainly don’t have to.
- Heat a skillet with some oil over high heat. When the oil is hot, fry the chicken and pork pieces to brown.
- When the sauce has reduced to your desired consistency, add the browned chicken and pork back to the pot. Toss gently and remove from heat.
- You can eat it at this point, but it gains depth of flavour if you let it rest for a day.
Notice: Nutrition is auto-calculated, using Spoonacular, for your convenience. Where relevant, we recommend using your own nutrition calculations.