No Reservations this week reminded me that I promised ya’ll my adobo recipe, so without further ado, here it is! Mind you, this is the first time I’ve ever tried to write up the recipe, so forgive me if it’s maddeningly un-precise. Hopefully the photo documentation will help you recreate it at home… and hey, remember what I said before? Adobo’s better when you play around with it yourself!

My ingredient list for this batch was as follows:

  • 8 chicken drumsticks, skin intact (Generally, I prefer a mix of bone-in thighs and drumsticks, not breasts. Breasts dry out, and I love that dark meat)
  • 2 yellow potatoes, skin on, chopped into large cubes (all I had left, I usually use at least five or six smallish yellow potatoes. NEVER Idaho, ick!)
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced (I love me some garlic. I usually estimate about 1 clove per 2 pieces chicken.)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tbs. whole black peppercorns
  • Silver Swan soy sauce (If this or no other Filipino soy sauce is available, try a Hawaiian soy sauce. Both have slightly sweeter flavor than Japanese soy sauce, but Kikkoman can be used in a pinch too)
  • Distilled white vinegar (nothing fancy, Heinz for me!)

My Cooking Process

1. Prep the garlic cloves and potatoes, and pop into a 6 quart sauce-pot. Add bay leaf and peppercorns, chicken. Stir together so evenly distributed- you don’t want the potatoes getting stuck on the bottom.


2. Add the liquids! I told you that I add based on sight and smell, not set measurements. But here’s my rough guide to adding the liquids:

First, I pour in the soy sauce so it covers a little more than 1/3 the chicken and potatoes:


Then, I pour in the vinegar until it nearly covers the ingredients, but not quite:


I stir and smell- is it too acidic (does it burn my nostrils too much when I inhale in?) If so, I add a touch more soy. Too sticky-sweet smelling? Add more vinegar, but not too much, because the next step is adding some water, which will dilute the soy anyway. When it’s pretty much right (better to be more acidic than not acidic enough– you want to smell a sharpness but you don’t want it to make your eyes water or make you cough too much!), I pour in just enough water to barely cover the ingredients.

Now, if you want to, you can omit water altogether, and just play around with the proportions of soy sauce and vinegar. At this point, I’ve made enough adobo to know when I’m ready to add water without diluting the flavor entirely. But if you’re worried you’ll water it down too much, certainly omit the water! Just make sure that you mostly cover your ingredients with whatever liquid mixture you come up with. (Note: If you omit the potatoes altogether, you don’t have to use as much liquid, perhaps only filling up liquids  2/3rds of the way. I’ve found that if I don’t cover with water when I use potatoes, that they suck up too much liquid and it’s a bit dry by the time the chicken is cooked)

3. Cover pot and bring to a near-boil, approx. 10 minutes. You don’t want it to be a rolling boil, but you do want to heat it up enough so it just begins to bubble.

4. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, on medium until cooked, approx. 1 1/2 to 2 hours. I’ve found that when I use 5-6 potatoes (or a # nearly equal to amount of chicken pieces using), that I know when the chicken is cooked by testing the potatoes. If potatoes are ready– meaning they are soft but not yet falling apart– then the chicken is usually perfect too. Really, it’s hard to f- up adobo since you’re cooking slowly over low heat. So, cook until chicken is tender- I like to wait til it comes easily off the bone with a fork.

A well-cooked adobo (like this batch, which was one of my better ones recently, I think!) should have the following qualities: meat falling off the bone, gelatinized fat that melts on the tongue, and a dark caramel color that permeates everything from the potatoes to the chicken. If you get all three, you’re in adobo heaven!

5. Serve over hot jasmine rice and ENJOY!

hot adobo = foggy camera

hot adobo = foggy camera



Posted on February 20, 2009, in adventures in home cooking and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Absolutely heavenly! I am so grateful for you as a resource for Filipino cuisine. Now I have an Adobo recipe that will rock the stars!

  2. I love Adobo. I will try your recipe. But I confess I like white meat. My Chinese friends mock me relentlessly for being such a white woman. Can’t help it. Guidance for any changes if I use breasts instead?

  3. Words and Steel

    Good question, LPC. I’ll confess to having used boneless breasts before out of sheer desperation and never feeling satisfied, as they tend to dry out quickly despite being cooked in copious amounts of liquid. I would say that do try to get bone-in breast if you can and perhaps lower the vinegar ratio, as it tends to suck out the moisture more quickly. You do want to cook slowly, the more you rush the worse it will be. Perhaps I’ll try to make a version with breast meat soon and report back with findings…

  4. Hi !

    This looks really yummy!

    I’m compiling a list of all the different ways to cook adobo in a quest to find what a true filipino adobo is today, and I’m happy to include your adobo recipe in my article at I hope you don’t mind the link from my site to yours =)

    Keep in touch!

  1. Pingback: question! « Words and Nosh

  2. Pingback: 1001 Adobo Recipes Recipe |

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