The Instant Pot chicken adobo makes an easy weeknight dinner that's comforting and satisfying.
One of my favorite parts of working at the hospital is being exposed to different cultural food from the many potlucks we have. My coworker, JA, always brings his famous chicken adobo. It’s a potluck staple that we can’t get enough of but he’s keeping mum on the recipe. Browsing through my cookbook collection, I found a recipe for coconut milk chicken adobo from the Filipinx cookbook by Angela Dimayuga that caught my attention since I’ve never had adobo made with coconut milk. Using the instant pot, the chicken adobo was so tender and flavorful with a bit of zing from the vinegar mellowed out by the coconut milk.
What is Adobo
Adobo has an interesting history with its root in the Spanish word “adobar” which means marinade. This marinade technique originated during prehistoric times in which indigenous people utilized vinegar to store and preserve meat before modern technology like refrigeration became available. Spanish adobo combines raw protein in vinegar, spices, and aromatics along with wine and/or olive oil. The Spanish brought adobo to all the regions they colonized.
When they colonized the Carribeans in the 1490s, they brought along this technique but the Carribeans adapted the ingredients to a spice blend, consisting of paprika, oregano, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, and turmeric. It can be used as a spice rub or a marinade. A new marinade emerged when the Spanish conquered Mexico in 1519. The Mexican adobo is a vinegar-based marinade similar to the Spanish version but utilizing ingredients endemic to the region like ancho and guajillo chilies instead of pimentón.
In the Philippines, adobo existed much earlier than the Spanish’s arrival in 1521 where Filipinos used vinegar and salt to preserve proteins. When Chinese traders introduced soy sauce to the Philippines in the 9th century, people started using soy sauce and vinegar in adobo. Within the Philippines, many variations exist but two constants remain, soy sauce and vinegar. Adobo has become the national dish of the Philippines.
- Chicken: for the chicken adobo, I used a combination of thighs and drumsticks because they have the most flavor. You can use either one of them. People also make it with pork, fish, and squid.
- Vinegar: is an essential ingredient and used for its tangy flavor. You can use cane vinegar, rice wine, coconut, and apple cider vinegars. Adjust the vinegar based on how sour you like it.
- Soy sauce: is another essential ingredient. I prefer a low sodium soy sauce but use whatever you have in your pantry.
- Peppercorns: both freshly ground pepper and whole peppercorns are required for the recipe. The whole peppercorns bring a nice burst of flavor when you bite into them.
- Bay leaves: they are fragrant leaves from the laurel tree. Use fresh or dried ones but the latter is inexpensive.
- Garlic: use fresh garlic and not garlic powder. Smash them with your knife to bring out their oil. I use a whole head of garlic but feel free to add more.
- Coconut cream: for this recipe use coconut cream, not coconut milk. The flavor you get from coconut cream is much richer. My favorite brands are Savoy and Aroy-d.
Tips for Making Adobo in the Instant Pot
- Marinate the chicken fridge the night before for the most flavor. If you are short on time, marinate the chicken for 30 minutes.
- Press the “Sauté” function on your instant pot.
- Add oil to the inner pot. Brown the chicken on all sides. Cook them in batches to avoid overcrowding the pot.
- Transfer all the chicken back into the pot. Add the marinate and water.
- Cook the the broth on HIGH PRESSURE for 10 minutes. Let it naturally release for 15 minutes then manually release the rest.
- Once the chicken adobo is done cooking, taste and adjust your seasoning at the end with additional soy sauce, rice vinegar, or sugar.
How to Reduce the Sauce
This step is completely optional but I like my sauce a bit thicker. To reduce the sauce, remove the chicken. Press the “Sauté” function on your instant pot and let it cook on high for 15 minutes.
What to Serve Adobo With
I like pairing the chicken adobo with Jasmine rice and steamed vegetables like green beans, broccolli, or bok choy.
For more Instant Pot recipes try:
Instant Pot Chicken Adobo (recipe adapted from the Filipinx cookbook)
- 3 pounds chicken thighs and drumsticks, bone-in, skin on
- ½ cup soy sauce
- ⅓ cup coconut vinegar
- 2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 10 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
- 8 dried bay leaves
- 1 cup coconut cream
- ½ cup water
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- In a large bowl, combine vinegar, soy sauce, peppercorns, black pepper, garlic, and bay leaves.
- Add chicken and marinate for 30 minutes at room temperature or overnight in the fridge for the most flavor.
- Program an 8-quart programmable IP to Sauté. Add one tablespoon of oil making sure to coat the bottom. Arrange the chicken on the bottom of the pot in a single layer. Sear the chicken in two batches until all sides are brown, about 7 minutes, adding more oil between batches as needed.
- Add the marinate, coconut cream, water, and sugar to the pot scraping the bottom of the pot. Transfer all the chicken back to the pot.
- Press Cancel button to reset cooking program. Lock lid. Select Pressure Cook at high pressure for 10 minutes. Let the pressure natural release for 15 minutes then manually release the pressure. Skim any fat floating at the top.
- Remove the chicken from the pot. Adjust seasoning to your liking with vinegar, soy sauce, sugar, or water.
- IP to Sauté to high and let the sauce cook for 15 minutes until thickened.
- Transfer chicken and sauce to a serving dish. Serve immediately with steamed Jasmine rice and your favorite vegetables.