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Filipino Chicken Adobo in Coconut Milk

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AsianInAmericaAdoboChickenBlueBowlTopSept“The chicken adobo you made for my lunchboxes were so good, I sold it to my classmates, when I was in grade school,” my grown up son laughingly confessed to me recently.

And he just spilled it out, Tim’s “tales of the lunchbox barter”. As young adults, my sons now freely tell me stories of what they did when they were little kids. They openly admitted that the lunches I prepared – adobo, embutido, lumpia, menudo, roast chicken, and the sandwiches on pan de sal, the Filipino bun – these were all fair game for their classmates. Once word got around of how delicious Tim’s “baon” was (say “bah-on”), the Tagalog term for the meal brought to school or work – my boys realized they had good currency on their hands. Of course, Tim ate half of his lunch, then sold the other half for a good amount of money. I could only shake my head in disbelief, hearing the lunchboxes I prepared commanded a high price in the grade school circle.

AsianInAmericaAdoboChickenFriedJadeBowlTopI grew up on lunches sent with us to school, or “baon” which were homemade. In high school, my mom  prepared me a lunchbox filled with fried chicken, rice and a tall tumbler of dayap juice, made from dayap that grew in our yard back in the Philippines (the equivalent of American limes). Later in my college years, mom  sent me adobo during my dorm days. It was so highly coveted, too, that mom’s adobo, sent from home got stolen in my college dorm’s refrigerator. (See previous post). Who knew that the Filipino homemade adobo could fetch a king’s ransom from highly vulnerable, extremely hungry college kids?
We had adobo every week during my childhood. Without fail, a huge cauldron simmered in my mom’s kitchen, filled with chicken pieces, its garlic- vinegar broth deep and bottomless.

School lunches? Adobo was our favorite. If we went on a picnic, adobo was popular. Dinner any night ? Adobo was on the menu. If mom brought food on a long trip, she made adobo . Even for breakfast at home, my dad enjoyed it with eggs, sinangag (say “see-na-ngag”) which was garlic fried rice and adobo.

AsianInAmericaAdoboChickenBlueBowl2I just cooked chicken adobo tonight. There is a reason why it is the Filipino national dish. No matter where you are in the world, if you can find meat, vinegar, soy sauce, garlic and black peppers, then you’ll have an amazing adobo. It’s so easy to make, there’s no room to mess up.

Tonight’s version had soy sauce, vinegar, coconut milk, garlic, bay leaves, black pepper which all came together on a huge saucepan simmered stove top. The garlic- vinegar broth defied all confines of the rooms in our house with its hynoptic aromas.

” When did you last cook adobo?” I asked my sons over the phone. Toby replied ” I just did”. I told him I made adobo with coconut milk and he said “Oh that makes it really good!”.

Filipino Chicken Adobo in Coconut Milk

Our classic Filipino chicken adobo is a simple stew. I marinated it first, then simmered it low and slow in coconut milk, vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, bay leaf, black pepper. The chicken cooked till it was tender, tasted tangy, salty and garlicky. Our senses soared with the vinegary aroma all over the house. I scooped a thick thigh while its dark creamy broth descended on the mound of fragrant jasmine rice. It was sheer comfort food, Filipino style. This chicken adobo recipe was adapted from “Memories of Philippine Kitchens” by Amy Besa & Romy Dorotan. This recipe serves 4.
Course: Dinner, Lunch, Main Course
Cuisine: Asian, Filipino
Keyword: Chicken Adobo Coconut Milk
Servings: 4 people
Calories: 35kcal


  • 1 1/2 cup rice vinegar
  • 1 cup coconut milk (canned)
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 12 pieces garlic cloves peeled, crushed
  • 3 pieces bay leaves
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper
  • 1 3 to 4 pounds whole chicken quartered, cut into serving pieces
  • 1 cup organic chicken broth
  • for serving: boiled rice


  • In a large nonreactive bowl, combine the marinade ingredients : rice vinegar, coconut milk, soy sauce, garlic cloves, bay leaves, ground black pepper. Add the chicken and coat the pieces with the marinade. Refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight.
  • In a large saucepan, over high heat place the chicken, the marinade and broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, stirring now and then, to make sure the chicken is covered in the liquid, until the chicken is cooked till tender. This will cook for 40 to 45 minutes, over a slow simmer.
  • Then transfer the chicken pieces to a large bowl and set aside for a few minutes. Meanwhile, raise the heat to medium  and continue cooking the sauce, until it is reduced to the consistency of heavy cream. This should take 5 minutes.
  • Return the chicken pieces to the sauce and cook a few minutes more, about 8 to 10 minutes or till chicken is warmed through.
  • RECIPE NOTES: In the cookbook, the authors used 3 whole birds eye chilies in the recipe. I omitted it this time. Feel free to add if chilies are your preference.
  • Copyright Notice: Hello, Friends! All the images and content on this blog are COPYRIGHT PROTECTED and owned by my media company Besa-Quirino LLC. This means BY LAW you are NOT allowed to copy, scrape, lift, frame, plagiarize or use my photos and  recipe content I wrote, on your website, films or videos  without my permission. If you want to republish this recipe or content on another website, video or news article, please ASK my permission, re-write it in your own words and simply link back to this blog to give proper attribution. It’s the legal thing to do. Thank you. Email me at [email protected]


Serving: 1g | Calories: 35kcal | Carbohydrates: 3g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 1mg | Sodium: 813mg | Potassium: 53mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 46IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 24mg | Iron: 1mg

Nutrition Notes: The nutrition information provided is an estimate and will vary based on brands of ingredients and cooking methods used.

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    1. Thanks, Helene! So kind of you to say such nice things. Homemade lunches brought to school have always been a way of life for us. Rice vinegar is easy to find in major supermarkets nowadays. Enjoy:-)

  1. I’ve never cooked adobo in coconut milk. Sounds delicious and I need to remember this recipe for a try! I’d be drooling over your son’s lunch and will be kind to him hoping he’d “share” your home cooked lunch with me. 🙂

    1. Thanks, Nami. You are so sweet. I had no idea my son was selling half of his lunch when he was in grade school. He’s full grown now,so we all just laugh about it. Yes, this chicken adobo cooked in coconut milk is so delish, esp. on rice!

  2. This is absolutely hysterical! So different for today’s kids at the elementary level–sharing food is a BIG no-no (because of food allergies mostly, I suspect). What a great story though! And I am pinning the adobo…

    1. Thanks,Laura! I was speechless when I heard this story from my now grown up son, “after all these years”. Yes, I share in your concern about those food allergies. Oh well, haven’t heard from any parents yet and it’s been 20+ years, LOL. No news is good news. Glad you stopped by. All that aside, this Chicken Adobo in coconut milk is amazing. Hope you try it 🙂

  3. This looks so yummy and I have my chicken marinating now! My son is a very picky eater, but is having trouble resisting the aromas my kitchen has been filled with, since finding your blog. My husband is Filipino, but prefers typical American food. I however love what Lola always cooks for me so I am learning. It is my hope that my son will spread his taste bud wings.

    1. Hi Christina. Thank you for your kind comments! It makes my day when I get such heartwarming feedback from readers and friends like you about the recipes on my blog. This is a great adobo recipe! Enjoy it. Please come back and tell how it turns out. If you can take a photo, show it to me via the Facebook page of ‘Asian In America’. Thanks again & come visit the blog again soon 🙂

      1. Oh Elizabeth!!! It was so good. My parents could smell it cooking all the way next door at their house. They ended up joining me for dinner! No picture because it’s all gone!

        1. Hi Christina! How nice of you to stop by to let me know how the Chicken Adobo turned out. So glad your family and your parents enjoyed it. That’s what food is all about – to bring families together. Keep cooking and enjoying our delicious food, there’s nothing like it! Best regards 🙂

    1. Thanks, Kalyn. If you’re going to make adobo for the first time, this is an awesome recipe. The New York Times did a write up on the authors of the cookbook and this particular adobo 🙂

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