Adobo Chicken With Coconut Milk

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This time, we’re in the mood for Filipino food. But this is a special Filipino recipe, a classic dish with a twist. The Adobo Chicken With Coconut Milk recipe combines two classic dishes – adobo and pinakbet – and produces an exquisite meal, much like how you would cook them in your own kitchen. <> I strongly encourage you to try these recipes out – they are incredibly delicious and great on saving calories (your mouth will thank me). <>

Coconut Milk Chicken Adobo

  • YIELD6 to 8 servings
  • TIME1 3/4 hours

Christopher Testani for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Simon Andrews. Prop Stylist: Carla Gonzalez-Hart.

When I left home, adobo was a dish I could cook off the top of my head. The name was bestowed by Spanish colonizers, referring to the use of vinegar and seasonings to preserve meat, but the stew existed long before their arrival. It is always made with vinegar, and often soy sauce, but there are as many adobo recipes as there are Filipino cooks. In this version, coconut — present in three forms: milk, oil and vinegar — brings silkiness and a hint of elegance. Every ingredient announces itself; none are shy. The braised whole peppercorns pop in your mouth.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 15 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns, plus 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon red-pepper flakes
  • 4 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken drumsticks and thighs
  • 1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
  • ½ cup coconut vinegar
  • ½ cup soy sauce
  • 8 fresh bay leaves
  •  Cooked rice, for serving

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PREPARATION

  1. In a large pot, heat the coconut oil over medium-high until shimmering. Add the garlic, whole peppercorns, freshly ground pepper and red-pepper flakes, drop the temperature to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, until garlic is toasted and softened and mixture is fragrant, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the chicken, skin-side down, and cook over medium-high, undisturbed, until fat starts to render, about 5 minutes.
  3. Stir in the coconut milk, coconut vinegar, soy sauce, bay leaves and 1 cup water, and let the mixture come to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until the chicken feels loosened and just about falling off the bone, stirring halfway through, about 1 hour.
  4. Increase the temperature to medium-high and cook, stirring occasionally, until sauce is thickened to a velvety gravy, about 15 minutes. Serve chicken and sauce over rice.

Coconut Chicken Adobo

The addition of coconut milk, while not part of every adobo recipe, softens the bright vinegar in this version, inspired by Master Sommelier June Rodil, who adds just enough to make the dish super wine-friendly. “I was born in the Philippines, and this is the staple there. Like, if you can’t make it, we’re talking disinheritance,” Rodil says. After braising chicken thighs in creamy coconut milk, soy sauce, and vinegar, the braising liquid gets cooked down into a rich sauce. Pat down the chicken thighs before they finish cooking under the broiler to ensure deliciously crispy skin.

Gallery

Read the full recipe after the video.

Recipe Summary

Total:

1 hr 45 mins

Active:

20 mins

Yield:

4

Coconut Chicken Adobo

Ingredients

Ingredient Checklist

  • 1 (13 1/2-ounces) can coconut milk, well shaken and stirred
  • 1/2 cup lower-sodium soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
  • 8 fresh bay leaves
  • 5 dried chiles de árbol or other dried small hot red chiles
  • 1 garlic head, halved crosswise
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 4 bone-in, skin-on chicken leg quarters (about 2 pounds)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • Steamed rice and thinly sliced scallions, for serving

Directions

Instructions Checklist

  • Step 1Whisk together coconut milk, soy sauce, and vinegar in a high-sided non-reactive Dutch oven. Stir in bay leaves, chiles, garlic, and black pepper. Nestle chicken leg quarters in mixture; add a splash of water, if needed, to submerge chicken. Bring to a gentle simmer over medium. Cover and reduce heat to low to maintain a gentle simmer; cook until chicken is very tender, about 1 hour. Remove from heat; let stand 15 minutes.
  • Step 2Remove chicken from Dutch oven; arrange chicken, skin side up, on a broiler-safe rimmed baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Pour sauce through a fine wire-mesh strainer into a bowl. Reserve bay leaves and chiles; discard solids, and return sauce, bay leaves, and chiles to Dutch oven. Bring sauce to a simmer over medium-low. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until sauce is thickened and coats the back of a spoon, 12 to 15 minutes. Season with salt to taste. Remove from heat.
  • Step 3Preheat oven to broil with oven rack 6 inches from heat source. Pat chicken dry with paper towels; sprinkle all over with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Broil in preheated oven until chicken skin is sizzling and dark brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Serve with steamed rice, sliced scallions, and sauce.

Make Ahead

Chicken can be braised 1 day ahead and broiled just before serving.

This Twist on Classic Chicken Adobo Is Extra Luxurious (but Just as Easy)

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When I first started writing adobo recipes awhile back, I learned that the dish is a great starting point for Western cooks interested in cooking Filipinx food. Many Americans I spoke to would say, “Oh my mom had a Filipino coworker/friend/ex that would always make this for potlucks.” I consider it the gateway drug to what will surely be your Filipinx food infatuation. Adobo in its most commonly known form is meat or vegetables stewed in a combination of vinegar, soy sauce, and aromatics. I have also seen this combination used in a sort of stir-fry, but the stew is the iteration I am the most familiar with.

The earliest adobos came about before colonization. The Indigenous people of the Philippines would preserve meat in vinegar to protect it from the tropical climate. When the Spanish arrived, they called it adobo because of a similar dish they had that uses a vinegar-based marinade (adobo is derived from the Spanish word adobar, meaning “marinade”). Original iterations of adobo did not have soy sauce and are now called white adobo.

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The Many Ways to Make Adobo

I have witnessed many online conversations — or rather, heated discussions — about what is the “right way” to make adobo. Perhaps this is an unpopular opinion, but I don’t believe there’s a right or wrong way — and honestly, those discussions would always prove that theory correct. For every comment that says “ginger doesn’t belong in adobo,” there’s another arguing it does. The Philippines is a vast island nation with different topography and food availability. Why wouldn’t the “official dish of the Philippines” have different variants based on where the person lives? 

In my life, I’ve enjoyed adobo many ways. I’ve made it vegetarian, I’ve added chiles, I’ve even used apple cider vinegar in a pinch, which I know makes some diehard adobo traditionalists cringe. But I grew up in the U.S., and sometimes you have to use what’s available. Adobo doesn’t just come in the chicken variety, either; beef, pork, and shrimp are other ways to enjoy it. One of my favorite versions is adobo made with squid.

One of my favorite ways to have adobo that I didn’t grow up eating is adobo infused with coconut milk. There are coconuts all over the Philippines, and in this recipe coconut milk adds a luxurious texture to the broth.

Chicken Adobo with Coconut Milk (Adobo sa Gatâ)

Chicken Adobo with Coconut Milk (Adobo sa Gatâ)

We added coconut milk to the iconic Filipinx dish, making it the most luxurious version yet.

YIELDServes 4

PREP TIME5 minutes

COOK TIME1 hourShow Nutrition

INGREDIENTS

  • 8 cloves garlic
  • 1 red Fresno chile, or 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 pounds bone-in chicken drumsticks and thighs
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon soy sauce, preferably Silver Swan, divided
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons coarsely ground black pepper, divided
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup cane vinegar, such as Datu Puti
  • 1/2 cup full-fat coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons raw, coarse sugar, such as demerara
  • 4 bay leaves
  • Cooked rice, for serving
  • Thinly sliced scallions, green parts only, for garnish

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Coarsely chop 8 garlic cloves. Holding 1 Fresno chile by the stem end, thinly slice the lower half into rounds. Trim, seed, and finely chop the remaining half of the chile. Pat 2 pounds bone-in chicken dry with paper towels. Season with 1 tablespoon of the soy sauce and 1/2 teaspoon of the black pepper.
  2. Heat 2 tablespoons vegetable oil in a small Dutch or heavy-bottomed pot oven over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the chicken skin-side down and cook until the skin starts to brown and caramelize, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the garlic, chopped chile or 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, 1/2 cup cane vinegar, 1/2 cup coconut milk, 1/2 cup water, 2 tablespoons raw sugar, 4 bay leaves, remaining 1/2 cup soy sauce, and remaining 2 teaspoons black pepper. Bring to a gentle boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer, partially cover the pot and gently simmer for 35 minutes.
  4. Uncover and flip the chicken so it is skin-side up. Gently simmer uncovered, adjusting the heat as needed, until the chicken is very tender, pulling away from the bone, and the liquid is reduced and starting to thicken slightly, about 25 minutes more. Serve the chicken over cooked rice. Spoon the sauce over the chicken and rice and garnish with the scallions and sliced chiles if using.

RECIPE NOTES

Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container for 2 days.

Chicken Adobo with Coconut Milk

Delicious chicken adobo with coconut milk, and served with optional cilantro lime rice. A great easy weeknight or anytime dinner!

chicken adobo in bowl with rice

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.

Key Ingredients

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

photo collage of steps to make chicken adobo 1

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.

photo collage of steps to make chicken adobo 2

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.

Cook’s Notes

  • 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.

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