Pinay Lifestyle: Adobo, Philippine National Dish, Recipe And History by Sony Robles-Florendo (U.S. FWN100™ '07)

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Adobo, a popular dish in Philippine cuisine. You may use chicken, pork, seafood, or vegetables marinated in vinegar, soy sauce, and garlic and slowly simmered until yummy! Many Filipinos consider adobo, the national dish of the Philippines. The perfect adobo lies in the delicate balance of soy sauce, vinegar, garlic and spices (bay leaves and fresh ground peppercorns).  Others use salt or patis (fish sauce) to enhance flavors. Recipes vary from different regions in the Philippines.  The best way to start the preparation of adobo is to marinate all ingredients for at least an hour or the longer, the better.  This is followed by gently stewing the mixture until the meat is tender, and the marinade is reduced to a small amount of gravy.

Cooking adobo is quite challenging. Put too much vinegar, and the adobo will taste like paksiw (sour stew); put a little vinegar and it will taste like nilaga (boiled meat). When to cover the pot is also important. The pot containing the simmering adobo should be left uncovered for the first 10 minutes of cooking, then covered until the dish is done. 

There are as many ways of cooking adobo as there are many regions in the Philippines.  Manila adobo is a dark saucy dish because of the use of soy sauce, the resulting gravy is thickened with flour. Adobo from Nueva Ecija, my favorite and cooked best by my mother, is dry; the meat is tender, browned and almost crispy with just the right amount of sauce. Sometimes a small amount of light soy is added to correct the taste. Served with newly cooked steamed rice and a side dish of pinakbet, or a dipping sauce of chopped tomatoes and onions, green mangoes or tamarind blossoms and patis, makes for a heavenly meal.

Caviteño Adobo, thickened with ground liver, previously cooked with the rest of the meat and marinade, is grilled or sauted with plenty of garlic.  In Southern Luzon, adobo is cooked with the addition of coconut milk and hot chili.  Vegetables and seafood can also be cooked adobo style.

I chose Chicken Adobo as a Signature Dish because best imbibes the delicate taste of adobo sauce. Another signature adobo recipe is Prawns or Shrimp Adobo. 

Chicken Adobo Recipe

Serves 6-8

3 lbs of chicken (or pork), cleaned and cut into serving pieces

Adobo Marinade

  • 1/3 cup vinegar, cider or white
  • 1 tsp  crushed peppercorn
  • 2 tbsp fresh, crushed garlic
  • 2 pcs bay leaves, crushed
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp oil

Place chicken in a bowl.  Marinade with vinegar, soy sauce, crushed garlic, bay leaves, peppercorn and water about one hour.

Transfer chicken and marinade to a saucepan. Gently stew, uncover for the first 10 minutes, then cover and cook for another 10 minutes or until meat is tender. Fish out the garlic from the adobo sauce and fry in a little oil. Remove chicken from sauce and add to fried garlic. Brown chicken. Add adobo sauce to browned chicken.  Continue cooking until meat is tender (about 3 - 5 minutes).


  1. You may want to use specific chicken parts. Chicken thigh and legs are excellent because their meat remains juicy after cooking.
  2. Chicken Adobo or any of the adobo variations may be eaten with steamed rice, dinner or hard rolls.
  3. Steamed vegetables or a vegetable salad make an adobo meal complete.

This recipe can be found on Sony Robles-Florendo's Second Edition of Signature Dishes of the Philippines. Sony has been an advocate for the international recognition of Philippine cuisine. To order Sony's book, email her at