Chicken Thigh Adobo

I lived in San Francisco in the early 2000s, at the height of the first DotCom boom. At that time, Chicken Adobo was a frequent favorite at the lunch counter next to our disturbingly stereotypical dot-com startup, brick and board, dog-friendly, open-plan, bean bag chair- and pinball machine-outfitted, software development shop.

American cookery boasts an array of elements referred to as ‘adobo’ – the sauce that comes with canned chipotle peppers, for example, or the ubiquitous flavoring that may or may not be on every single protein sold by a certain fast-casual Mexican joint.


The Chicken Adobo presented here is different. It is essentially the national dish of the Philippines.

The San Francisco Bay area, in particular the peninsula to the south of the city, is home to one of the largest Filipino communities anywhere in the United States.

During my time there, I learned that there are a thousand family and regional variations of the dish, but in essence it is chicken stewed in vinegar and soy sauce, with black pepper, bay leaves, ginger, and garlic. Some versions add additional spices, others (like this one) add coconut milk. The end product is a tender, wonderfully tangy, salty, and rich dish that keeps well for days and can easily scale to feed a huge crowd.

This version is simple and easy to make with ingredients that can be readily found in most U.S. grocery stores.

Chicken Thigh Adobo

Recipe by DrewCourse: MainCuisine: FilipinoDifficulty: Medium


Prep time


Cooking time





A simplified chicken adobo.


  • 4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs

  • ½ cup soy sauce

  • ½ cup rice wine vinegar

  • 1 cup Asian-style chicken stock

  • 1 13½ oz can coconut milk

  • 8 cloves garlic, peeled

  • 1 4-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced into coins

  • 4 bay leaves

  • 1 tbsp whole black peppercorn

  • 2 tbsp brown sugar


  • Choose a pan that will fit all ingredients and allow the chicken to remain covered with liquid during the cooking process, or use a slow cooker.
  • Brown the chicken well, starting skin-side down.
  • Add all remaining ingredients and bring to a simmer.
  • Cook for 90 minutes or more, until the chicken is falling off the bone and the sauce has turned a uniform brown (the milkiness of the coconut milk will disappear).
  • Serve with steamed rice or coconut rice.


  • You can substitute Coconut Vinegar or White Vinegar for the Rice Vinegar.
  • Whatever myth you’ve heard, Bay Leaves have flavor. Don’t leave them out.

Be sure to check out my other food project, The Weekly Menu!

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