Filipino Adobo

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Filipino Adobo, often called “Adobo,” has deep roots in Philippine history and culture. Below is a brief introduction to this iconic dish.

Brief History

The history of Adobo dates back to the pre-colonial Philippines. Indigenous people used to stew meat in vinegar for flavor and preservation. The Spanish colonizers, arriving in the late 16th century, noticed this cooking method and named it “Adobo,” from the Spanish word “adobar,” meaning to marinate.

Over centuries, the dish evolved, absorbing influences from various colonizers and traders, including Chinese, Americans, and Mexicans. Today, people make Adobo using different proteins like chicken, pork, beef, and seafood, stewed with vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, bay leaves, and black pepper.

Importance in Filipino Culture

Adobo occupies a special place in Filipino hearts for several reasons:

  1. National Dish: Many consider Adobo the unofficial national dish of the Philippines due to its popularity and historical significance.
  2. Culinary Identity: The dish symbolizes Filipino culinary identity, with its unique flavors and cooking techniques. Its simplicity and versatility make it accessible and enjoyable for everyone.
  3. Home and Comfort: Adobo is more than a dish for Filipinos; it represents home and comfort. It’s a household staple and a favorite during celebrations.
  4. Global Recognition: The global Filipino diaspora has introduced Adobo to people around the world, making it a beloved introduction to Filipino food and culture for many.

Adobo is not just a tasty dish; it’s a symbol of Filipino history and culture. Its savory, tangy, and hearty flavors offer more than just a delightful culinary experience; they tell the story of a nation’s journey through time.

Understanding Filipino Adobo

Basic Ingredients:

Filipino Adobo, distinct from Spanish and Latin American versions, primarily uses ingredients native to Southeast Asia. The main ingredients include:

  • Vinegar
  • Soy sauce or patis (fish sauce)
  • Black peppercorns
  • Bay leaves from the Cinnamomum plant

Unlike the Spanish and Latin American versions, Filipino Adobo does not traditionally use chilis, paprika, oregano, or tomatoes.

Variations of Adobo:

  1. Adobong Puti (White Adobo): This variation is prepared with salt instead of soy sauce, giving it a different color and flavor profile.
  2. Adobong Tuyo (Dry Adobo): As the name suggests, this version is drier than the typical Adobo dish.
  3. Vegetable Adobo: Some variations of the dish are made with vegetables like kangkong (water spinach) or sitaw (green beans) instead of or in addition to meat.

The dish is often cooked with pork or chicken, but there are also versions with solely vegetables. The Filipino Adobo has a characteristically salty, sour, and sometimes sweet taste, which is different from the spicier or oregano-infused flavors found in Spanish and Mexican adobos.

Thought-Provoking Insights:

  1. Cultural Significance: Filipino Adobo is not just a dish but a significant part of the Philippines’ culinary identity, reflecting the country’s history and the amalgamation of different cultural influences.
  2. Variety in Preparation: The variations in Adobo recipes highlight the diversity and flexibility of Filipino cuisine, accommodating different taste preferences and dietary restrictions.
  3. Global Recognition: With its unique and tantalizing flavors, Filipino Adobo has garnered international recognition, becoming a beloved dish not just in its home country but also among global audiences who appreciate its rich taste and cultural significance.

Filipino Adobo: A Unique Flavor Profile

Taste and Texture:

Filipino Adobo is a beloved dish known for its savory, slightly tangy, and sweet flavor profile. The dish primarily consists of meat (often chicken or pork), vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, and spices. The vinegar imparts a tangy taste, while the soy sauce adds a salty and umami dimension to the dish. Garlic and bay leaves are also commonly used, providing additional layers of flavor.

The meat in Adobo is marinated and then braised until tender, resulting in a texture that is succulent and soft. The sauce, which is reduced during the cooking process, becomes thick and rich, coating the meat with its complex flavors. Some variations of Adobo may also include coconut milk, which adds a creamy texture and subtle sweetness to the dish.

Health Benefits:

  1. Protein-Rich: As Adobo is often made with chicken or pork, it is a good source of high-quality protein, essential for muscle repair and maintenance.
  2. Low in Carbohydrates: Traditional Adobo recipes are low in carbs, making it suitable for individuals following a low-carbohydrate or ketogenic diet.
  3. Garlic Benefits: Garlic, a key ingredient in Adobo, is known for its potential health benefits, including its ability to support immune function and cardiovascular health. Garlic has been found to have antiviral properties, which may help prevent viruses from entering host cells or replicating within your cells. It may also help reduce blood pressure and cholesterol levels, as well as provide protection against cognitive decline related to cell damage and aging (source).
  4. Antioxidant Properties: The spices and vinegar used in Adobo have antioxidant properties, which can help protect the body’s cells from damage caused by free radicals.
  5. Versatile: Adobo can be made with various meats, tofu, or vegetables, allowing for flexibility in dietary choices and preferences.


While Adobo has several health benefits, it is also important to consume it in moderation due to its sodium content from the soy sauce. Individuals with dietary restrictions or health conditions should consider adjusting the recipe to meet their specific nutritional needs.

Filipino Adobo offers a unique and delightful combination of flavors and textures, making it a favorite among many. Its ingredients not only contribute to its distinctive taste but also provide various health benefits. However, mindful consumption is advised to enjoy the dish’s flavors without compromising health.

Cooking Filipino Adobo at Home

Necessary Kitchen Equipment:

  1. Large Pot or Dutch Oven: A large pot or Dutch oven is essential for cooking Adobo as it provides enough space for the meat and sauce to simmer together.
  2. Knife and Cutting Board: You’ll need a sharp knife and a sturdy cutting board for chopping the ingredients.
  3. Measuring Cups and Spoons: These are necessary for measuring out the various ingredients accurately.
  4. Wooden Spoon or Spatula: For stirring the Adobo while it’s cooking.
  5. Bowl: A bowl is needed for marinating the meat.

Preparing Ingredients:

  1. Meat (Chicken or Pork):
    • Choose bone-in, skin-on chicken pieces or pork belly for the best flavor.
    • Cut the meat into serving-size pieces.
    • Wash and pat dry with paper towels.
  2. Soy Sauce & Vinegar:
    • Measure out the soy sauce and vinegar. The typical ratio is 1:1, but you can adjust according to your taste preference.
  3. Garlic:
    • Peel and finely chop or mince the garlic cloves. The amount of garlic can be adjusted based on your preference.
  4. Bay Leaves & Black Peppercorns:
    • Prepare a few bay leaves and whole black peppercorns. These add depth and complexity to the Adobo’s flavor.
  5. Optional Ingredients:
    • Some variations of Adobo include coconut milk, hard-boiled eggs, or potatoes. Prepare these optional ingredients if you wish to include them in your recipe.

Marinating the Meat:

  1. In a large bowl, combine the meat, soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, bay leaves, and black peppercorns.
  2. Mix well, ensuring the meat is well-coated with the marinade.
  3. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it marinate in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour or overnight for best results.

Cooking Procedure:

  • After marinating, transfer the meat and marinade to the large pot or Dutch oven.
  • If you’re using optional ingredients, add them to the pot as well.
  • Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to low and let it simmer until the meat is tender and the sauce has thickened.
  • Stir occasionally to prevent the Adobo from sticking to the bottom of the pot.
  • Once the Adobo is done, serve it hot with steamed rice.


  • Adjust the amount of soy sauce, vinegar, and garlic to suit your taste.
  • You can also use beef or seafood as alternatives to chicken or pork.
  • For a spicier version, add some chopped red or green chili peppers to the Adobo.

Enjoy your delicious homemade Filipino Adobo!

Step-by-Step Adobo Recipe

Marinating Process

The recipe doesn’t provide specific marinating steps, but you can start by marinating the chicken pieces with soy sauce, vinegar, garlic powder, and black pepper. Allow the chicken to marinate for at least 1-2 hours or overnight in the refrigerator for the best flavor.

Cooking Procedure

  1. Heat vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
  2. Cook the marinated chicken pieces until golden brown, which should take about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Then, transfer the chicken to a plate and set it aside.
  3. In the same skillet, add onion and garlic; cook until they are softened and brown, which will take approximately 6 minutes.
  4. Pour in additional soy sauce and vinegar to the skillet, and season the mixture with garlic powder, black pepper, and a bay leaf.
  5. Return the chicken to the pan, increase the heat to high, and bring the mixture to a boil.
  6. Once boiling, reduce the heat to medium-low, cover the skillet, and let it simmer. Allow the chicken to cook until it is tender and cooked through, which should take about 35 to 40 minutes.

Serving Suggestions

  • Serve the Chicken Adobo over steamed rice to enjoy a complete meal.
  • You can also pair it with your favorite vegetables or a fresh salad on the side.

Filipino Adobo FAQS

What does Filipino adobo consist of?

Filipino adobo consists of vinegar, soy sauce or fish sauce (patis), black peppercorns, and bay leaves from the Cinnamomum species. It is typically cooked with pork or chicken, and sometimes with vegetables like water spinach (kangkong) or green beans (sitaw).

Is Filipino adobo the same as Mexican adobo?

No, Filipino adobo is different from Mexican adobo. Filipino adobo refers to a method of stewing with vinegar, while Mexican adobo is a marinade or cooking sauce with a base containing chilies, particularly Chipotle and Ancho peppers, used to add a smoky, spicy flavor to dishes.

What country is Filipino adobo from?

Filipino adobo is from the Philippines. It is a cooking process indigenous to the country, encountered by the Spanish in the late 16th century.

What’s so special about Filipino adobo?

Filipino adobo is special due to its unique combination of ingredients native to Southeast Asia and its distinct salty, sour (and often sweet) taste. It is a versatile dish with various proteins and vegetables, and it has different variations, offering a unique flavor profile different from the spicier or oregano-infused adobos of Spanish and Mexican cuisines.

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