By Vanessa Greaves

It's been called the unofficial national dish of the Philippines. But ask anyone of Filipino heritage how to make their beloved chicken adobo, and everyone will give you a different answer.

Photo by Snacking in the Kitchen

Recipe shown: Slow Cooker Adobo Chicken

The Process Is the Recipe

My Filipino mom taught me how to make tangy, savory chicken adobo, passing on to me the recipe her mother taught her. So naturally I thought hers was the one true way. Then I found out that everyone makes it a little differently, and everyone swears theirs is authentic. So now that I'm teaching my son how to make it, I'm curious to know who's right. Turns out we all are.

The dictionary defines adobo as "a spicy dish or sauce." In the Philippines, adobo refers to a centuries-old process of preserving food by stewing it in vinegar and salt. It was Spanish colonialists in the 16th and 17th century who gave the native dish its current name, and Chinese traders who introduced soy sauce to replace the salt. To this day, all Filipino adobo recipes have vinegar in common, but the other ingredients depend on region, town, and even family. Garlic, bay leaves, peppercorns, and other spices might go into the mix, and even the type of vinegar can vary.

Bottom line: Adobo is a cooking method rather than a specific recipe. Kind of like how barbeque in America is a cooking method with its passionate sauce-or-no-sauce supporters. The difference is, Filipinos politely acknowledge each other's adobo, while secretly knowing their own recipe is the one true way.

The Meat of the Matter

Chicken, pork, beef, fish, and vegetables—they can all be cooked in the adobo method. But since we're talking specifically about chicken adobo here, I recommend using bone-in pieces of dark meat, like wings, legs, and thighs. The dark meat holds up to stewing without drying out, and the bones add flavor and richness to the sauce.

Chicken Adobo Variations

Check out all the different ways to make Filipino chicken adobo, then put on a pot of rice. Heck, while you're at it, try this Filipino method for getting the perfect water-to-rice ratio using your finger as a measuring stick. I swear it works.

Happy cooking!


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