Chicken Adobo in Coconut Milk

Chicken Adobo in Coconut Milk

Growing up in the Philippines, I was a really picky eater. There are foods that I absolutely would not touch and I was, quite frankly, a pain in the ass to cook for. Some things in the fairly long list are atchara (pickled shredded papaya), anything with ampalaya (bitter melon), tutong (the burnt rice at the bottom of the pot), and our embarrassingly hacked up interpretation of spaghetti, cloyingly sweet and studded with neon-red hotdog slices.

We do, indeed, put hotdogs instead of meatballs in our spaghetti.

It’s kind of funny how one ends up longing for foods avoided as a child. I still can’t get over the sugary spaghetti sauce, though. Like any good Filipino brat, I merely picked out the Purefoods Tender Juicy Hotdog slices, leaving the clumpy starch behind before running off with friends to play sipa.

Others things I wouldn’t touch fall under the category of “leftovers.” If it was cooked yesterday then I’m not having it. No exceptions. I couldn’t stand it when told that such-and-such is best made a day ahead. It didn’t make sense to me at all.

Now that I know better, it turns out that there was no conspiracy to use me as a means to get rid of leftovers.

This chicken adobo recipe, as is true of most braised or stewed dishes, is best made a day ahead. The use of coconut milk is not traditional but adds richness that plays well with the acidity in the sauce. From Amy Besa and Romy Dorotan of Cendrillon, a Filipino restaurant in New York, it’s slowly changing my perception of what adobo should be.

recipe adapted from Amy Besa and Romy Dorotan’s Memories of Philippine Kitchens

Chicken Adobo in Coconut Milk
Adobong Manok sa Gata

makes 6 servings

Coconut Milk Can

For the Marinade:

1 1/2 cups rice vinegar
1 cup coconut milk
1/4 cup soy sauce
12 whole garlic cloves, peeled
3 bay leaves
1 tablespoon whole peppercorns

6 chicken leg quarters, approximately 3 to 4 pounds

dried or fresh chiles, to taste (optional)


  • As with short ribs adobo, the original recipe calls for 1 1/2 teaspoons of ground pepper. I used whole berries and doubled the amount to reduce the grittiness of the broth.
  • I sometimes add habanero and chile de arbol chiles to the sauce for a spicier adobo.

Mix all of the marinade ingredients together. Add the chicken pieces and turn in the marinade to coat. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.

In a wide heavy pot or dutch oven, bring the marinade and chicken to a boil over high heat, arranging the chicken in a single layer if possible. Lower the heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Cover the pot with a tight lid and braise for 25 to 30 minutes, until cooked through and tender.

If serving the next day, let cool to room temperature while uncovered before storing in the refrigerator.

To Serve:

Prepare a grill or preheat a broiler. Transfer the chicken to a large plate, ensuring that the peppercorns and bay leaves stay in the pot. Add the chiles to the sauce (if using) and reduce over medium-high heat until thickened to the consistency of heavy cream. While the sauce is reducing, grill or broil the chicken until heated through and slightly charred.

Strain the sauce to remove the whole peppercorns and bay leaves. Pour the sauce over the grilled or broiled chicken and serve with rice.

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39 Responses to “Chicken Adobo in Coconut Milk”

  1. Mike says:

    This looks wonderful and looks so surprisingly simple. I’ll have to try this out. Also, lol, I never heard of the hotdogs in pasta in thing…

    last blog post: Creole Beer Battered Fish Fry

  2. Paula says:

    I like how you can cook this in the marinade! For the second cooking, I like to grill, so I’d most likely use that version. This sounds really good … I love all this prepared with coconut milk! YUM!

    last blog post: Somewhere Over The Rainbow …Trout

  3. Dragon says:

    I’m addicted to coconut milk but I’ve never really cooked with it myself. This maybe be the dish since it sounds so simple. Thanks!

    last blog post: Raspberry and Blackberry Galette

  4. bhags says:

    I love coconut milk in anything and everything….the chicken combo sounds great

    last blog post: The Panmarino

  5. [eatingclub] vancouver || js says:

    I’m the same way with leftovers and have always gotten flak from everybody because I don’t want the same meal again, in its reheated form. And I’m too lazy to cook something one day and finish the dish the next day. ;)

    Thank goodness for that confession about Philippine-style spaghetti! I’ve been harbouring the secret for so long, that I can’t stand the stuff. Growing up my favourite was the McDonald’s spaghetti, because at the very least, it was not sweet! Now, I’m sorry, but I can’t eat Pinoy-style spaghetti and always pass on it when served at gatherings. Now that the cat is out of the bag, I’m afraid, very afraid. . .

    last blog post: Blueberry Soup and Sandwich

  6. Nate says:

    I do mostly pork adobo, sometimes adding chicken. Will this recipe work well with pork?

    I wonder, is the use of canned coconut milk a new thing, or is it a modern adaptation of using real, fresh-pressed coconut milk and grated coconut?

    last blog post: Letting the NORCATT Out of the Bag

  7. Rosa says:

    That dish looks really flavorful and terribly scrumptious! I adore coconut milk and soy sauce…



    last blog post: WEEKEND CAT BLOGGING #165

  8. Y says:

    Yum. I haven’t had chicken adobo in years.. don’t think I even remember what it tastes like! I’m bookmarking this to make for dinner, hopefully soon :)

    last blog post: Brief life of the oyster, and a lemon

  9. mike – It’s one of the few Filipino foods I’m ashamed of. And I’m not ashamed of balut.

    paula – I’d rather grill it, too — if only there was a hot grill nearby at all times.

    dragon – it’s very easy to make even when busy. hope you try it.

    bhags – so good with hot rice.

    js – I still cringe when I think about that nasty spaghetti. I prefer Jollibee’s palabok but McDonald’s spaghetti isn’t bad at all.

    nate – might be a bit too rich for pork belly — maybe for pork butt? They used freshly grated coconut milk in the Martha Stewart video link. I use canned mainly for convenience but will try freshly grated once I figure out how to pick a good coconut.

    rosa – try it, you’ll like it.

    y – I’d foam at the mouth if I don’t have adobo in a week.

  10. Tom Aarons says:

    I love the idea of spaghetti with hot dogs in. It sounds like the ultimate comfort food!

    last blog post: Cambodian Sandwich Series (11) – Fish Sandwich

  11. giz says:

    I’m thrilled to get this recipe. I’ve heard so much about adobo and have a Filipina friend I’ve been wanting to cook for – how surprised will she be when I serve her a national food.

    last blog post: Tucson Cookout

  12. joey says:

    This was my grandfather’s favorite way to have adobo…in gata :)

    last blog post: Mushrooms in Cream

  13. Marvin says:

    Great story. I was the same way with leftovers when I was younger too. I’m gonna have to give this recipe one more try–mine turned out so drab looking the first time around, so I think I will definitely try to grill the chicken as a last step.

    last blog post: What the Duck?!!

  14. Jaime says:

    mmmm i love chicken adobo. have not tried it w/coconut milk yet though – sounds great

    last blog post: TWD: The Black and White Banana Loaf

  15. _ts of [eatingclub] vancouver says:

    Haha, I was going to mention JS and her “arte” of not eating leftovers… but I see she has a kakampi. ;P

    As for the Phil-style spaghetti: even when we were in the Philippines, the version we had at home wasn’t as sweet as others’… and we didn’t use the Purefoods type hotdog; hence, our hotdog wasn’t the RED-RED-RED type. Now, JS has converted everybody in the house to non-Phil spaghetti. Teehee.

    adobo: we usually don’t marinade our adobo, actually. Just straight into the pot.

    last blog post: Mama’s Fish Head Soup ("hee-tao tung")

  16. Ela says:

    i love chicken adobo sa gata! but we dont grill/broil it. i have to try your way of cooking…..

    last blog post: Ampalaya

  17. Carmel says:

    I have been to Cendillion….their chicken adobo is incredible! And the reason I have to try to make it. I usually don’t cook much, but I have to try. Won’t be back in NY til Feb!!

  18. Carmel says:

    I made my Chicken Adobo tonight. It was fabulous! Next time I will be -at least-doubling the marinade…I must have extra sauce!

  19. Leela says:

    I have had the “candied” spaghetti with red hot dogs in Manila. I’ve had the banana ketchup, too. But I’ve never had chicken adobo with coconut milk! This one is definitely a must try. Thanks a lot.

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  38. yum says:

    Made this a few times. I have to say, it has too much vinager for me. I only use 1/2 cup and it’s fantastic. When I use more than that, the sauce is too acidic for me to eat. Other than that, it’s a great tasting recipe. Use good chicken for maximum flavor. I love the broiling for the skin at the end!

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