Filipino Chicken Adobo may be the national dish of the Philippines, but the variations on adobo are endless. This is my beloved family recipe for authentic chicken adobo, braised in vinegar, soy sauce, and a generous portion of garlic.
My daughter was rummaging through our video collection, looking for a movie we could all agree on. She called out title after title, each one getting shot down. “Nooo, too scary.” “Nah, we’ve seen that a hundred times!” “Ugh, again!?” At the rate we were going, family movie night was not quite happening.
She pulled out a nondescript case from the drawer. “Mom, what’s this one? Family movies?”
I completely forgot. My dad had sent a dvd of converted home movies, where he captured moments from the time I was six until my graduation from high school, all on one vhs tape. (Incidentally, I laugh, because autocorrect doesn’t even recognize “vhs” anymore.)
We started watching, and my life flashed before my very eyes. Dresses I haven’t seen in years, Christmas memories that were tucked away, my mother’s voice, piano duets, birthday parties, my little sister’s birth, our little house in New York where the neighborhood seemed so green, and whatever became of all the neighbor kids I used to play with?
For me, it was nostalgia overload.
For the kids, it was amusing…eye-opening — to see me at their age — and younger — and acting like a total goof. Exactly like them.
I guess that was eye opening for me, too.
I found myself craving the flavors of home.
For anyone who grows up in a Filipino household, I’m willing to bet that the very first Filipino dish they learn to cook is adobo, and for me, that was certainly the case. It was the first dish that reminded me of home when I left for college; the first dish I cooked for my family after my mother passed away soon after. Filipino Chicken Adobo is the dish I cooked when I moved to Chicago, and it’s the dish I can make with my eyes closed, to remind me of home.
I’ve shared iterations of adobo here with you before. My dad is partial to chicken and pork adobo, and I’ve shared adobo-style pulled pork and burgers, and I even shared this classic recipe with my friend Gina years ago — a slow-cooker version of this recipe even ended up in her recent cookbook.
But why haven’t I shared it with you? The one I make the most, when all I want is tender, juicy, deeply flavored chicken adobo, on a bed of rice with lots of sauce?
As many islands there are in the Philippine archipelago, there are just as many versions of adobo — the national dish of the Philippines; some have coconut milk, some have chilies. This may or may not be like yours. But this Filipino Chicken Adobo is mine, as I was taught by my Tita Leah and continue to make at home, preserving it in my children’s tastebuds, for it is theirs now, too.
Loved this Filipino Chicken Adobo? Try more of our favorite family recipes:
Filipino Chicken Adobo
- 8 chicken thighs on the bone skin on or off, to taste
- 1/3 cup soy sauce I prefer Silver Swan for this recipe
- 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 small head of garlic mashed or finely minced
- freshly ground black pepper
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 tablespoon canola oil
- 1 thai chili pepper optional
- Marinate the chicken in soy sauce, vinegar, garlic and pepper in a non-reactive bowl, for 30 minutes to 1 hour, rotating at least once. If you can marinate overnight, even better.
- Place the chicken, marinade, bay leaves and chili (if using) in a deep sided sauté pan and place over medium heat.
- When the sauce begins to bubble, turn the chicken and cook until the meat is nearly cooked through, about 15 minutes.
- Transfer the sauce to a bowl, add oil to the pan, and brown the chicken on all sides, working in batches.
- Return the sauce to the pan, bring to a boil and lower heat to a simmer. Cover and simmer for about 20-30 minutes, or until the chicken is tender and the sauce a thick and deep color. If you lose track of time and/or find that the sauce has reduced too much, add a touch of water to the sauce.
- Serve hot over rice.