Delicious chicken adobo with coconut milk, and served with optional cilantro lime rice. A great easy weeknight or anytime dinner!
About this Chicken Adobo recipe
This classic Filipino Chicken Adobo with coconut milk (Adobong Manok sa Gata) is simmered slowly with soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, pepper and bay leaves until the chicken is super flavourful and falling off the bone, all in a delicious sauce. The addition of coconut milk to the sauce adds an extra layer of flavour and just a touch of creaminess to the sauce.
You’ll love that this dish is totally hands off after you sear the chicken and add the sauce. And you can start with just about any type of chicken.
I love to serve it with an easy Cilantro Lime rice, for an easy and delicious dinner.
Chicken – you can use any chicken, though bone-in chicken makes the most flavourful dish. I’ve used bone-in/skin-on chicken thighs here, but bone-in breasts or drumsticks are also nice, or a combination.
You can also use boneless/skinless chicken breasts or thighs, if you like.
Soy Sauce – low-sodium soy sauce is highly recommended, to avoid an overly salty finished dish. If you only have regular soy, use a touch less.
Vinegar – traditionally coconut vinegar would be used for Chicken Adobo, but it is not easy to find. Alternately, you can use Rice Vinegar, White Vinegar or Cider Vinegar. I prefer the flavour of Rice Vinegar, but it’s really a matter of taste. Experiment and see which you prefer.
Coconut Milk – I usually opt for full-fat coconut milk, but lower fat coconut milk will also work here. You’ll need one of the small, mini cans of coconut milk. If you only have a large one, be sure to stir together the cream and water before measuring out the required amount. You can freeze the extra for another time.
Garlic, Pepper and Bay Leaves – Finally, you’ll need a heads worth of garlic cloves, ideally some whole peppercorns that you crush up yourself, a bit of red pepper flakes and some bay leaves.
Chicken Adobo: Step-by-Step
First Steps: Brown the chicken in a bit of oil until golden, then remove to a plate. Briefly heat the garlic, red pepper flakes and pepper in the skillet, then add the coconut milk, soy sauce, vinegar and water mixture to the pan. Stir until the coconut milk melts and then bring to a boil.
Return the chicken to the pan, add the bay leaves and cover. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer, partially covered, for 30 minutes.
To Finish: Remove the lid completely and continue simmering another 20-30 minutes, flipping the chicken regularly, until the sauce has greatly reduced and thickened nicely. Remove and discard the bay leaves.
Meanwhile, cook some rice and when ready, stir in lime juice and zest and a handful of fresh, chopped cilantro. Serve the chicken over the rice, with lime wedges and chopped green onion.
- Don’t even think about salting your chicken! There will be plenty of saltiness from the soy sauce used here, so you can just skip any usual pre-salting here.
- Stop cooking when there is still a nice bit of sauce in the pan, that has thickened up a bit. If you cook it too far, the sauce will split and be greasy.
- Speaking of fat, cooking the chicken with the skin on will introduce some fat to the sauce. If you prefer, you can remove the skin at the start of simmering or at any point during the cooking process. I suggest browning the chicken with the skin on though, to add the extra flavour to the pan.
Making ahead, storage and freezing
Chicken Adobo re-heats well, so it’s fine to make ahead and re-heat or to enjoy as left-overs.
Left-overs will keep in the fridge for about 2-3 days or you can freeze up to 2 months.
You might also like …
If you are an adobo fan, you might want to try my Pork Adobo recipe, too! It’s made with pork shoulder.
Get the Recipe: Chicken Adobo with Coconut Milk
- 1 Tablespoon coconut oil or vegetable oil, or other cooking oil
- 8 cloves garlic, lightly smashed
- 1 teaspoon crushed black peppercorns, or about 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- Pinch red chili pepper flakes
- 5-6 bone-in/skin-on chicken thighs, or See Note 1 below for other options
- 1/3 cup coconut vinegar, white vinegar, unseasoned rice vinegar or cider vinegar *See Note 2 below
- 1/3 cup soy sauce, low sodium highly recommended *See Note 3 below
- 2/3 cup water
- 2/3 cup coconut milk, (small 160ml/5.5oz can)
- 5 bay leaves, fresh or dried
Optional Cilantro Rice:
- 1 cup basmati or long grain rice
- 2 cups water
- Juice and zest of 1/2 lime
- 1/4-1/3 cup chopped cilantro
- Chopped green onion, scallions
- Lime wedges, for drizzling
- Pat chicken dry, but do not salt! Heat oil in a large skillet, pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat, then add chicken, skin-side down and cook until golden. Flip and brown the other side. Remove the browned chicken to a plate.
- Meanwhile, in a medium bowl or large measuring cup, stir together the vinegar, soy sauce, water and coconut milk and set aside.
- If you have excess fat in the pan, you can spoon off and discard all but 1 Tablespoon of it. Reduce heat under pan to medium heat. Add the garlic cloves, crushed peppercorns and red pepper flakes to the skillet and cook briefly, stirring, until the garlic is fragrant. Be sure not to burn the garlic, as it will introduce a bitter flavour to the dish.
- Add the coconut milk mixture to the pan and stir until coconut milk melts. Bring to a boil. Return the chicken pieces to the pan and tuck the bay leaves in between the chicken. Reduce heat to medium-low, partially cover the pan (leaving about 1/3 open) and allow to gently simmer for 30 minutes. *If your skillet doesn't have a lid, simply lay a piece of foil over the top, leaving it about 1/3 uncovered.
- *If making the Cilantro Lime rice, cook the rice with the water in a covered saucepan or rice cooker. Remove to a bowl and add lime zest, lime juice and cilantro. Stir together and serve warm.
- After 30 minutes, remove the lid or cover completely and continue simmering and additional 15-20 minutes, flipping the chicken a couple of times. Cook until the liquid is reduced and slightly thickened. Don't reduce the sauce too much tough, as it will split at some point and be greasy. Stop cooking when there is still a good amount of sauce in the pan. If it is not quite as thick as you'd like, you can mix equal parts cornstarch and cold water together into a paste and add a bit at a time to the pan use it to thicken the sauce, as desired.
- Remove from heat and remove and discard the bay leaves. Serve over rice, garlic rice or the optional Cilantro Lime Rice.
2. Coconut vinegar is most classic in Adobo, but can be hard to find. White vinegar is a decent substitution or unseasoned Rice Vinegar. I tend to prefer Rice Vinegar as it has a smoother vinegar taste. Experiment with different vinegars to find your favourite.
3. Low-Sodium soy sauce is highly recommended, to avoid an overly salty dish. If you only have regular soy sauce, use a touch less. You can remove the chicken skin after browning the chicken, if you prefer, to reduce the fat in the sauce. You'll find more tips and substitution suggestion above this recipe card, as well as Step-by-Step photos!
Adapted from a NYT recipe