Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Chicken Adobo Recipe or Chicken Cooked in Soy Sauce and Vinegar (Low-Carb, Gluten-Free)

Authentic Chicken Adobo would use bone-in chicken thighs, but this version with chicken breasts was still very tasty.

Chicken Adobo (Chicken Cooked in Soy Sauce and Vinegar) found on

Chicken Adobo is the national dish of the Philipines, and it's traditionally made with a whole chicken or bone-in chicken legs and thighs.  The chicken is simmered in the Adobo mixture of soy sauce, vinegar, water, garlic, bay leaves, onions, and pepper, and then usually broiled or pan-fried. Back in 2005 I tried my hand at making Chicken Adobo, using the recipe from Mark Bittman's The Best Recipes in the World and some advice I'd gotten from other food bloggers.

That recipe was long overdue for a photo make-over, and I wanted to see if I could make this dish a little more diet legal for South Beach Dieters, so I tried making it with skinless, boneless chicken breasts. If you make this with chicken breasts, definitely you need to be careful not to cook it too long or use heat that's too high, but the new version was really quite tasty.

(Chicken Adobo was updated September 2011 with better photos and instructions.)  

Since I didn't want the chicken breasts to dry out, I barely browned it in a pan rather than broiling it like my old recipe called for.  I'll leave the printer friendly recipe link here for the original recipe in case someone has it bookmarked, but here's my new version of Chicken Adobo.

I used four chicken breasts, and cut each one in half into two same-size pieces.

Use a pan where all the chicken pieces will fit tightly in a single layer.

Combine the soy sauce, white wine vinegar, water, garlic puree, bay leaves, sliced onion, black pepper, and pinch of Chipotle chile pepper (if using). (Be sure to use gluten-free soy sauce if needed.)

Pour the adobe mixture over the chicken and cook at the very lowest possible simmer about 10 minutes.

Then turn chicken pieces over in the liquid and cook 10-15 minutes longer (just until the chicken is barely done.)

Strain the sauce mixture and put it on a small saucepan and boil until it's reduced enough to barely coat your spoon.  (Taste to see if it's getting too strong.

Heat the olive oil in a heavy pan, add chicken and quickly brown it on one side.  Serve chicken with some of the sauce spooned over and possibly with rice to soak up the extra sauce.

And here's the original photo from 2005 when I made the dish with bone-in and skin-on chicken thighs, just so you can see how badly this recipe really did need a new photo.

Chicken Adobo (Chicken cooked in soy sauce and vinegar)
(Makes 4 main dish servings, adapted from The Best Recipes in the World.

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, each cut in half into two equal pieces
1 cup soy sauce (low-sodium soy sauce or Tamari is best, since the sauce gets reduced)
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
1 1/4 cup water
2 tsp. garlic puree
3 bay leaves
1 small onion, sliced in large slices
fresh ground black pepper to taste
pinch of ground Chipotle chile pepper (optional)

Trim fat and any unwanted parts from chicken breasts, then cut each in half diagonally to make two same-size pieces.  Combine the soy sauce, vinegar, water, garlic, bay leaves, onion, pepper, and ground Chipotle pepper (if using) to make the Adobo mixture. 

Put chicken in single layer in heavy frying pan just large enough to hold all the chicken.  Pour the Adobo mixture over and cook 10 minutes at the lowest possible simmer.  Then turn chicken pieces over and cook 10-15 minutes more (just until the chicken is barely cooked through.)

Strain liquid to remove onion pieces and bay leaves. I used a fat separator (like a pitcher where the spout comes from the bottom) with a yogurt strainer on top.  Put the strained sauce in a small pan and boil to reduce it until the sauce is thick enough to barely coat your spoon.  (Taste to see when it tastes good so it doesn't get too strong.)

Heat the olive oil in a heavy frying pan, add the chicken pieces and very quickly brown on one side (again being careful not to cook too long.)  Serve the browned chicken with some of the sauce spooned over.

South Beach Suggestions:
This newer version made with leaner chicken breasts would be much more South Beach Diet friendly, and you could eat this for any phase of the diet.  I'd serve it with something like Amazing Asian Green Salad and Roasted Broccoli with Soy Sauce and Sesame Seeds for phase one.   For phase two or three you could add a side dish like Greek Pilafi.

More Tasty Ways to Cook Chicken with Soy Sauce: 
(Recipes from other blogs not always South Beach Diet friendly; check ingredients.)

Low-Sugar (or Sugar-Free) Teriyaki Chicken from Kalyn's Kitchen

Forbidden City Chicken from Kalyn's Kitchen

Slow Cooker Filipino Chicken Adobo from The Perfect Pantry

Chinese Soy Sauce Chicken from Use Real Butter

Peruvian Grilled Chicken from Andrea Meyers

(Want even more recipes? I find these recipes from other blogs using Food Blog Search.)

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  1. I have tried to make chicken adobo many, many times and mine always tastes like vinegar and nothing else. I'm going to try this recipe, since you loved it so much. Thanks!

  2. It's great to see a Filipino dish showcased on your kitchen, Kalyn...

    As you know, i love adobo - adobo of everything, chicken, pork, beef, even long beans, morning glory (kangkong) and so on... the variations are endless.

    Thank you!

  3. Hi Kalyns,

    I happen to check Mae's link so I'm visiting your site! Your chicken adobo looks beautiful and appetizing. That’s the good thing about adobo, same ingredients but different way of cooking it! I will try yours next time.

  4. looks good, kalyn!! adobo is really what *you* make it, even among us filipinos we can't really agree which version is the best:)

  5. I know this is a blast from the past, but I found it via the Phase One collection you recently compiled.

    I just make this last night and it was absolutely delicious! My ONE thought was that the sauce, once reduced, was very, very salty. Not inedibly so (we chowed down happily anyway), but perhaps using a low-sodium soy sauce/tamari would yield an even better result?

    This was so good I plan to make it again soon, so I'll get some low-sodium tamari and report back!

    -- Anne

  6. Anne, thanks for the suggestion, which I think is brilliant. I'm going to edit the post and add it. (And quite honestly, I haven't made this for so long that I don't remember if it seemed salty to me!)

  7. This sounds really yummy and great to see a dish with so much flavor done quite a bit lighter!

  8. Great update of your original recipe! Thanks so much for linking to my slow cooker version. I adore chicken adobo and I'm looking forward to trying your new recipe.

  9. Hi Kalyn,

    I am a regular reader and I find your South Beach suggestions to be particularly helpful.

    Some suggestions on the adobo recipe...if you want your adobo to be closer in taste to the traditional one, use cider vinegar as the Filipino adobo uses palm vinegar which is very sour. However, the sourness dissipates after cooking it for sometime. Also, the traditional adobo does not use soy sauce and the addition of soy sauce is a recent innovation. Without the soy sauce, the adobo sauce turns brown from the frying of the meat. The soy sauce is used basically just for the color and for a touch of saltiness. I suggest decreasing the proportion to about 1/2 soy sauce for every unit of vinegar. I am sorry I cannot be precise as I never measure my ingredients when I prepare this dish. Also, you may want to omit the onions as these can alter the taste from the traditional.

  10. Great recipe. I love these flavors in my chicken stirfry recipes but never tried such an elaborate thing with it. Would love to do soon , thanks for sharing this time tested recipe.

  11. Looks really yummy. I've just gotten a new saucier pan which would be perfect for cooking this.

  12. Kalyn, this chicken dish looks incredible! I've always been amazed at what either vinegar (I have a vinegar, oil, and seasonings slow cooked turkey/chicken recipe we crave) or soy can do with recipes. But together? Intrigued to say the least. I've only heard of Adobo seasoning before, not an Adobo recipe, but sometimes I'm not up on all the classic dishes. ;-) Can't wait to make this one and will share it with others, too!


  13. Becki and Lydia, glad you liked it.

    cwid, I did realize that this wasn't an authentic Adobo recipe but it was tasty. Interesting to hear your comments about how it could be made more authentic. From what I've read, even among Filipinos there are many variations of the dish.

    Sangeeta, hope you enjoy it!

    TW, how fun getting a new pan! I have a LeCreuset saucier that I love!

    Shirley now I'm going to your blog to look for that slow cooker recipe.

  14. I have been seeing these on Pinterest and I am so glad I clicked over! They look great and I always need more chicken recipes to file away!

  15. Maris, aren't you just loving Pinterest!!

  16. Will try this recipe out for sure! Looks delicious!

  17. I'm such a dork. I thought that Adobo sauce was Adobe sauce and that it was a Mexican dish. Now that I write this down, It really sounds stupid. The recipe looks great and I need more chicken recipes so I will be making this soon. Thanks.

  18. Chigy, there is a spice and a sauce called Adobo in Mexican cooking, so you're not a dork at all!

  19. My mom grew up in the Philippines and made adobo chicken when we were growing up. I haven't tried it with chicken breasts, but I like the idea of a healthier version of this national dish.

  20. Jeanette, as long as you're careful not to overcook I think it's very tasty with chicken breasts. Wish I could try your mom's version!

  21. My grandfather was Filipino, and this has always been one of my favorite meals! My grandmother and mom always used chicken thighs, but I have been using chicken breasts for years when I make mine. The pictures look so yummy--I can almost taste it!

  22. So good to know that I'm not completely out there in left field when I make it with chicken breasts!

  23. So nice to see a Filipino dish here Kalyn! Adobo is great in such that you can really adapt it to different tastes and can even do it with vegetables (long beans and kang kong/water spinach are typical ones) :) This one looks great...and healthier too!

  24. Hi ChicaJo, Glad you like my nontraditional version!

  25. Thank you! It was delicious!!
    Saludos from Merida Yucatan, Mexico!!

  26. So glad you enjoyed it, and how fun to hear from someone from Mexico!

  27. I plan on making this tonight - but - because of the picture it reminded me of 'buffalo' chicken wings. So I plan to use the chicken in a salad, like a buffalo chicken salad.

  28. SCIllionis, sounds interesting!

  29. I am making this recipe tonight for the first time and I have a question about the step where you "simmer it for 10 minutes" after pouring the sauce on the chicken. You have to bring it to a boil first, right? Then lower to a simmer for 10 minutes?

    Thanks a bunch!

  30. Sue, yes heat so it's barely starting to simmer (not a full boil) and then cook for ten minutes. A few minutes more or less won't matter that much.


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