Chicken Adobo with Rice

By • February 11, 2014 41 Comments

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Author Notes: Adobo is comfort food for Filipinos: amazingly simple to whip up, with the ability to drop-kick the winter doldrums with the agility of a ninja. Vinegar and soy sauce work together in harmony to bring out the best in garlic and soften whole black peppercorns just enough to where when you bite down on one, its yields easily, filling your mouth with a welcome cheek-numbing spice that cuts through vinegar's tang. I learned this recipe from my friend Lidy Chan, who moved to the states over 20 years ago. It's one of her go-tos, and now one of mine. Jackie Varriano

Food52 Review: For such minimal effort and just a handful of humble ingredients, this dish knocked my socks off. As soon as I inhaled the intoxicating aroma of the garlic, soy sauce, and vinegar hitting the hot pan, I knew I was in for some zippy deliciousness. But the standout element is the black pepper; I was tempted to cut back on it, and I’m glad I didn’t. Softened into submission, the peppercorns are piquant surprises (pleasantly so) between bites of rich, tender chicken. Next time, I’ll pour off a little fat after searing the chicken thighs, but other than that I wouldn’t change a thing.Midge

Serves 4

  • 2 pounds bone-in chicken thighs or drumsticks
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup white or apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns
  • 3 dried bay leaves
  • 5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 bunch scallions, chopped (optional)
  1. Rinse chicken thighs and pat dry. In a large bowl, place chicken and sprinkle with salt, black pepper and garlic powder, turning to coat each piece thoroughly.
  2. In a Dutch oven or deep cast iron skillet over medium-high heat, heat the oil until it shimmers. Place the chicken thighs or drumsticks in a single layer in the skillet, working in batches if necessary, and fry for three minutes until golden brown. Turn, and fry another three minutes. Remove the chicken from the pan and turn the heat down to medium.
  3. Pour in the vinegar, soy sauce, water, peppercorns, bay leaves, and garlic. Bring to a boil. Add the chicken back into the pot and cook slowly, covered for 45 minutes or until so tender that the chicken meat falls off the bone.
  4. Pour over rice, garnish with scallions.
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Comments (41) Questions (0)

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about 1 month ago mike

if you dont finish all the chicken, you can try what i do. i get the leftovers out of the fridge in the morning, use a fork to debone meat, shred the meat , then using about 2 tablespoons of olive oil, i "re-fry" the chicken until all the juices dry up and the meat gets brown and crispy. Perfect with garlic fried rice and sunny side up eggs for breakfast.

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about 1 month ago Transcendancing

This was tangy and full of umami and delicious! I made a double batch for having people over for dinner, and didn't double the soy, added a little extra water and some extra garlic. It was delicious :)

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3 months ago BobM

Despite all other rave reviews, to me, this tasted like chicken braised in soy sauce, vinegar and water. I used skinless chicken breasts: could that variation have made all the difference between what others clearly love, and what I could barely eat?

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3 months ago Jordan

Possibly. Browning the chicken skin and then deglazing the pan not only creates deep flavors, but also adds extra fat content that helps emulsify the sauce.

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about 1 month ago Mark

Bob- I had exactly the same issue.

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about 1 month ago Transcendancing

Meat-on-bones or meat with a higher fat content is important for this dish :) That said, I didn't use all the soy sauce when I made a double batch last night. I also used some extra garlic. You might find that thigh cutlets are a better choice than breasts as they're a darker meat and on the bone with extra fat but still really fleshy too.

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6 months ago Bill Rosenblatt

Made this tonight. Excellent! We've added this to our list of go-to chicken recipes. I doubled the amount of chicken (8 whole legs, cut into thighs & drumsticks) and used 1.5x everything in the sauce. The one change I made to the technique was to pour out the fat after browning the chicken and deglaze the bottom of the pan with the sauce ingredients before adding the chicken back in.

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6 months ago ricksyap

You should also try another adobo variation, it is called "chicken-pork adobo". Use pork belly, also put boiled egg while simmering.

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9 months ago Robert Wilkanowski

I've tried this recipe twice...it's delicious but a little too much soy sauce for my taste. Second time around I reduced the soy sauce to 1/3 cup and 1/2'd the water with white wine. Much better flavor for my taste buds. Also, instead of browning the chicken first, I cooked all at once, removed chicken and crisped for about 10 minutes in a hot (400°) oven and then about 10 minutes more under the broiler. Much easier and less cleanup for weeknight dinner. Joseph and Mom loved it. Gonna try with pork shoulder next.

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10 months ago Jordan

Thank you, Jackie, for this great recipe! I made it last night and it was absolutely delicious! I used four chicken thighs with the skin on. Per the other comments, I did not salt the chicken ahead of time and still found the dish to be very well seasoned. I cooked the chicken in a covered dutch oven for 30 minutes, and then uncovered the dish and cooked for an additional 15 minutes. After removing the chicken from the pot, I let the sauce separate, skimmed off the fat and then brought the sauce up to a boil and allowed it to reduce for a couple of minutes. After the sauce had reduced, I strained it through a fine mesh strainer to remove the garlic and peppercorns and then poured it over the chicken. I served it with a side of farro and it was great. I will definitely be making it again!

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11 months ago ECMotherwell

Totally delicious! I made this with pieces of boneless chicken breast (it was what I had on hand). Also, I forgot the minced garlic, and have NO doubt it will be even better next time. One note: I love the saltiness, but think the salt on the chicken may make it a little saltier than need be. Will forego that next time, and will maybe add to taste at the end. Many thanks to Jackie V for such a great, FAST recipe!

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11 months ago oscea

This is a wonderful recipe - very tasty and easy. While I do like the concentrated flavor and sticky texture of other more traditional adobo recipes, this one is great because it leaves you with plenty of sauce to accompany the rice. When I put the chicken back in, I threw in 3 smallish-medium cubed eggplants, which melted into the dish nicely. Also, to pack some more vegetable matter into our diet, I layed a head of romanesco on top of everything and steamed in for the final 15-20 minutes of the total cooking time. Thanks for the wonderful recipe - I will try coconut vinegar next time!

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11 months ago Christine Hall

I did not like this at all. The vinegar taste was overpowering. Guess it's not my kind of dish.

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about 1 year ago oldkitcheninflatbush

A Filipino restaurant makes this but, they use rice vinegar, add coconut milk and reduce the sauce. I've made it that way. It's always a huge hit.

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about 1 year ago Perla Adams

made this all the time

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about 1 year ago Kevin French

2x this recipe (2.5x for chicken, or 5 lbs) and it was a huge hit. Used cider vinegar. For Rice, basmati. Wife and two kids (9 and 7) loved this. It is really quite easy and something that 1. will be added to the rotation and 2. a dish that is quite easy when guests come around.

Took a suggestion from a review and strained the solids from the broth. Made is simple to pour on top of the chicken and rice. Thanks for such a great recipe!

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about 1 year ago Jaxmccaff

I made this for dinner last night. Echoing what others have said, it was super simple and super delicious. I used boneless, skinless chicken thighs which cut the cooking time down to about 30 minutes. I served it with quinoa instead of rice. All in all, a keeper!

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about 1 year ago BakerK

This dish was absolutely fabulous! As other readers recommended, I omitted salt (It is still plenty salty) and let the dish cook uncovered for the final 15 minutes. I highly recommend for an easy and delicious weeknight meal.

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about 1 year ago klok

Just tried this..so easy, so simple..most importantly, SO GOOD! I love the recipe's simplicity, few ingredients, and big flavor.. The hubby is going to love this.

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over 1 year ago Dustin

Signed up just to review this. Fantastic. Made it tonight for the wife and I, both loved it. Used the legs and the wings, didn't have peppercorns so I subbed capers, added in some dried mushrooms, mixed it up on the vinegar by adding half white/half cider/ and a bit extra pomegranate vinegar. Skipped the salt, didn't miss it. I just crushed the garlic instead of chopping it. Super easy, super flavorful. This will be a standard.

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over 1 year ago amandawilkins

I made this for my husband, who is Filipino, and he said it had excellent flavor and was less greasy than traditional adobo. I made a few tweaks to cut down on the greasiness: I browned all the chicken with the skin on, and then removed the skin from half the pieces before adding them into the sauce. After the 45 minutes of stewing, I removed the chicken and poured the sauce through a strainer into a measuring cup, waited a few minutes for the sauce to separate and skimmed off the fat. This had the added bonus of straining out the bay leaves and peppercorns--an unpleasant surprise if you mistakenly bite into them! Next time, I may reduce the sauce further before staining, just to thicken the consistency, but it's not an essential step--it was excellent as is! I'll be adding this recipe to my regular repertoire.

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over 1 year ago Lorianna Giarrizzo

Made this a few nights ago using boneless chicken thighs, and it came out great! I will definitely be making it again. I also took the tip others mentioned about taking the lid off teh last 15 min (I just placed the lid ajar) and the sauce came out a great consistency. Next time, I may omit the salt since the soy sauce is plenty salty already.

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over 1 year ago Beverly Reyes

As a Filipina, I can say this is my favorite Filipino dish. I skip the pan frying & just put everything into a big pot. A couple of changes, no need for extra salt w/ soy sauce and rather than add olive oil, I leave the skins on the thighs (but remove half way so it isn't all greasy). I use white wine vinegar too for a milder taste. I use more water too to ensure that the chicken is well covered. It reduces quite a bit if you cook it long enough. Doesn't work well with chicken breasts & definitely needs to have the bones in. Also, it does make a great slow cooker dish but keep in mind not leaving the skins in the whole time - maybe if you just used half w/ skin on.