Cast Iron

Chicken Adobo with Rice

February 11, 2014
7 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Prep time 10 minutes
  • Cook time 1 hour
  • Serves 4
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

Test Kitchen Notes

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

What You'll Need
  • 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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52 Reviews

currybradshaw April 15, 2020
I think either the salt or the soy sauce, otherwise, it's too salty. I've revised this recipe with one of either but not both. Ruins the taste if the chicken is way too salty. Broth generated is amazing though.
marilu September 30, 2018
I second Jimmy J.'s helpful comments. Used his recommendations and the chicken adobo turned out deliciously. I can't stop slurping up that sauce...
Jimmy J. October 1, 2018
Cheers. You can use pork to make this dish.
jstew52 May 24, 2018
Really tasty. I've not had this before. Cooked the thighs like duck - start in cold pan skin side down for about 30 mins. Best crispy skin ever! Ate that separately from rest of the dish.
Linda D. April 22, 2018
Thank you, Jackie, we loved this simple and savory dish. I did not change a thing.
Jimmy J. January 5, 2018
I live in the Philippines and this traditional recipe sucks. It's too salty and acidic, but for filipinos, they will eat it with tons of white rice. I use 1/3 cup of soy sauce and a 1/4 cup of vinegar. Then I throw in a can of coconut milk to balance it out. My filipina GF loves my adobo.
maam January 22, 2017
Loved this... so easy and very inexpensive. The 2 different kinds of black pepper really made the dish. I used low sodium soy sauce and it wasn't too salty. I added a chopped green pepper to the rice in the last 5 minutes of cooking to add some vegetables with ease. Great combo will definitely make again.
HalfPint February 25, 2016
Just wanted to comment on the saltiness of this dish. A lot of dishes from this area of the world (Southeast Asia-ish) are purposely more salty than they need to be because they tend to be served with rice. A lot of rice. It stretches the dish to generously feed a lot of people with a small amount of meat. In the end, the sauce is diluted when mixed with a bowl of rice and the saltiness is just right. Just my two cents.
hemptonv November 30, 2015
Suuuuuper salty. I wouldn't recommend salting chicken beforehand. I will say this however, it's much better after a day or two in the fridge. Next time, I would only do 1/4 c. Soy. Thinking I would add the other 1/4c with balsamic. Just a thought.
Idalu October 28, 2015
Delicious super easy recipe. There is no need to add salt, the peppercorn adds a je ne sais quoi so be generous.
chocolat August 1, 2015
Made this just now for lunch. This is my first major chicken dish. It's amazing! Thanks :*
mike May 29, 2015
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.
Transcendancing May 23, 2015
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 :)
BobM March 25, 2015
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?
Jordan March 25, 2015
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.
Mark May 10, 2015
Bob- I had exactly the same issue.
Transcendancing May 23, 2015
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.
Vinod February 7, 2017
There is no reason to use breasts in a braised chicken dish, and I would say that skin is an essential ingredient for braising.
Bill R. January 4, 2015
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.
ricksyap January 2, 2015
You should also try another adobo variation, it is called "chicken-pork adobo". Use pork belly, also put boiled egg while simmering.
Robert W. October 3, 2014
I've tried this recipe'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.
Jordan August 26, 2014
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!
ECMotherwell August 13, 2014
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!
oscea August 12, 2014
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!
Christine H. August 2, 2014
I did not like this at all. The vinegar taste was overpowering. Guess it's not my kind of dish.