Adobo is the unofficial national dish of the Philippines: it’s a great way to learn about our cuisine along with its sour, salty, and sweet notes.
My recipe is an echo to my grandmother Flor's version, as I never learned it, but always helped her make it in the kitchen when I was little. My take on it uses as many coconut elements as possible via coconut oil, vinegar, milk and aminos, acting as an homage to the defunct family coconut farm in the Philippines and an imagining of the recipe prior to Spanish colonization.
6-8x Chicken thighs, skin-on or 1x can young green jackfruit in brine
8x Garlic cloves
1x Shallot, small
1x Ginger, 1in piece*
2x Bird’s eye chili or 1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tbsp Black peppercorns
3-5x Bay leaves
1/2 cup Coconut aminos or soy sauce
3/4 cup Coconut or white vinegar
1-1 1/2 cup Water
1/2 can Coconut milk*
1 tbsp Coconut oil or other neutral oil
1-2 handfuls of Kale, bok choy or other leafy green*
1-2 scallions, for garnish*
Step 1. Peel ginger with spoon. Mince garlic, shallot and ginger. Smash chilies with flat side of knife.
Step 2. Turn stove on to medium-high. Melt coconut oil in large pot. When oil is shiny, turn to medium heat and add garlic, shallot, ginger, chilies/red pepper flakes, black peppercorns, bay leaves. Let garlic, shallot and ginger become translucent, about 2 to 3 minutes.
Step 3. Add chicken to pot, skin side down. Let the skin fat render then get crispy, about 10-12 minutes. Turn over and cook skin-side up, about 5 minutes. After both sides have been browned, remove from pot.
Step 4. Turn up heat to medium high. Add soy sauce and vinegar, then scrape browned bits at bottom of pot. Add 1 to 1 1/2 cups of water and coconut milk, stir well and let boil.
Step 5. Once the sauce is boiling, turn down heat to medium and add chicken back in. The flavors here should feel super vinegary. Make sure to get sauce on all sides of the chicken and let cook for an hour to 90 minutes, or until the sauce thickens to a dark brown and meat starts to loosen off the bone. If you want meat to completely fall off the bone, cook chicken for 3 hours. Check on Adobo once in a while to stir up sauce and baste chicken.
Step 6. Make the rice and chop up your greens. I like to de-stem kale or collard greens, roll into a cigar, then chop thin. For bok choy, I like to cut in half, then into 1/2 inch pieces.
Step 7. You’ll know the Adobo is done when the sauce is thick, has a slower bubble, and has turned a rich brown. The flavors should have melded into one harmonious taste! Turn off heat, move pot from burner, drop in leafy greens and mix. Top with scallions and serve with rice. Enjoy!
Notes + Tips
Adobo is a versatile recipe, one to make your own! Experiment with different types of proteins, vinegars, peppercorns, and leafy greens. The base ingredients are a protein, garlic, soy sauce, vinegar, peppercorns and bay leaf. Everything else can be omitted or substituted. Ginger, coconut milk and leafy greens are all things I’ve added to make the recipe my own.
The flavors in Adobo are even more harmonious when you eat it the next day after cooking. Sometimes it’s a 3-day affair: Marinate on Day 1, cook on Day 2, warm up and eat Day 3!
Vinegars: I like to use Coconut, however white, apple cider, rice, or cane vinegar works well too.
Do ahead: Marinate overnight to tenderize the protein. To make marinade: Mince garlic, shallot, ginger; crush chilies. Throw all in a container or baggie with peppercorns, bay leaves, protein and seal. Mix all the goodies so they coat the protein. Add soy sauce, vinegar, and enough of water so protein is submerged. Throw in the fridge and marinate until ready to cook. During the cook: Take protein out of marinade, warm up coconut oil in the pot, then brown protein the same way as Step 3. Add marinade into pot along with coconut milk, mix, then scrape browned bits at bottom of pot. Continue Steps 5 to 7.
Make it VEGAN: Sub protein with 1x can of young jackfruit in brine (Make sure it’s not the sweet can— it’ll be close to the canned bamboo shoots at the Asian supermarket). You can also do a mix of kabocha squash, sweet potato, green beans, kale or collards. To prep jackfruit: Wash jackfruit through water to lessen brine; remove seeds (if you want); and shred into small pieces. During the cook: You’ll also want to add at least 1-2tbsp of brown sugar, and equal parts soy sauce and vinegar at 1/2 cup each. Cooking jackfruit cuts the simmer time in half to about 30 to 45 minutes.
Make it GLUTEN FREE: Sub soy sauce with coconut aminos.