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Philippine Cuisine: Filipino Adobo Recipes

Updated on February 21, 2012
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After living in the city for 30 years, EC moved to the countryside. He writes about life in the mountains, dogs, plants, and cooking.

Pork Adobo - pork meat cooked in spices, soy sauce and vinegar.
Pork Adobo - pork meat cooked in spices, soy sauce and vinegar.

Why Adobo Became the Most Popular Filipino Dish

‘Adobo’ is a Spanish word to a method of food preparation or preservation.

The Filipinos have different ways of cooking adobo: classic, basic, and diversified. Thankfully, only three will be discussed here. :)

The Classic method is similar to the pot stew because the meat is slowly cooked in its own marinating sauce. All the main ingredients for adobo recipe listed below are mixed together thoroughly to make the marinade. The pork meat is cut into large cubes and marinated overnight. This technique is originally intended to preserve the meat through vinegar and salt when refrigerator was not yet invented. One disadvantage of the classic adobo is its lackluster appearance. The meat is very tender, pale in color, and looked slightly mashed.

The Basic method of cooking adobo often resulted to chewier, tastier, and better looking meat chunks drenched in thick dark sauce. There is no need to marinate the meat. The compact texture of the meat is attained through stir-fry method before letting it simmer in sautéed garlic, onions, and other spices. Cooking is also slow and over very low heat to avoid burning.

The Diversified adobo has other ingredients similar to vinegar -- calamansi and lemon or even lime and tomato. Dried oregano and red or green hot chili are also added to further enhance the taste of this adventurous version of the adobo dish. Sometimes, the meat was marinated and fried or grilled first before cooking with the adobo sauce. The adobo dish had even found its way inside the oven or the turbo broiler and baked to produce the crispy edges or the dried and jerky texture of meat.

The Spanish adobo mainly consists of a marinade made of spices, salt and vinegar. One of the spices, paprika, comes from red peppers. It helps enhance the flavor and the color of the food during marinade.

In Mexico and Puerto Rico, the adobo refers to a seasoning mix consisting of spices and vinegar. It is often used as a marinade or a rub on meats before cooking. Instead of the paprika in the Spanish adobo, the Puerto Rican adobo uses chipotle (red jalapeño pepper). Other spices commonly added are ground cummin and dried oregano.

The Filipino adobo is a cooking technique that includes vinegar – but not exclusively used for meats like pork and chicken. Using the basic steps of adobo, even vegetables and seafoods can be the main ingredient to the adobo dish.

How to Cook Classic Adobo

  1. In a deep pan, arrange the pork meat to cover the surface evenly.
  2. Place the garlic, onions, boullion cubes, and bay leaves under and in-between the meat cubes.
  3. Sprinkle the peppercorn, sugar and salt on top. Pour the soy sauce, vinegar, and water all over.
  4. Cover the pan and cook over very low heat. DO NOT STIR until it began to boil.
  5. If thicker sauce is desired, remove the cover and let simmer.

Cooking Tips on Vinegar

  1. When vinegar is used in cooking, do not stir until the dish reaches boiling point. Otherwise, the food would taste and smell like raw vinegar.
  2. To avoid giving food a metallic taste, transfer the cooked adobo in a ceramic or plastic bowl right after cooking.

Classic Adobo Recipe


  • 1 kilo pork meat, washed and cut into large cubes
  • 1 whole garlic, crushed and peeled
  • 1 piece large red onion, peeled and quartered
  • 2 pieces dried bay leaf
  • 1 Tbsp whole black peppercorn
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 3 pieces boullion cubes
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 3/4 cup vinegar
  • 1/4 cup water

Optional: a couple of chili pepper

To Marinate: Except the meat, put all the ingredients in a deep bowl and mix thoroughly. Add the meat and make sure to coat each cube with the marinade. Cover and leave inside the refrigerator overnight.

Main Ingredients for Adobo Recipe

Garlic Cloves
Garlic Cloves
Red Onions
Red Onions
Laurel or Dried Bay Leaves
Laurel or Dried Bay Leaves
Whole Black Peppercorn
Whole Black Peppercorn
Boullion Cubes
Boullion Cubes
Soy Sauce
Soy Sauce

Spices on the Go from Amazon

Fortunately for all homemakers and kitchen enthusiasts, the fresh spices that the adobo recipe require are processed now. Both the garlic and the onion are in powder or dried flakes form. These are perfect alternative to freshly crushed garlic and chopped onions when cooking adobo. You can buy your spices from the supermarket or have them shipped direct to your home.

Find Spice Racks from eBay

Spices are not recommended to be bought in bulk because their essence usually has short shelf life. They often come in cute little jars or containers that look even cuter when organized in a spice rack.

Pork Adobo likes to be cooked slowly. Adding a slow cooker in your kitchen would be a wise investment when you love cooking adobo at home. A pan with cover would work just as perfect, of course.

Pork and Tokwa Adobo

Pork Adobo with Fried Tokwa (Soya Bean Cake)
Pork Adobo with Fried Tokwa (Soya Bean Cake)

How to Cook Simple Adobo

  1. Heat oil in a pan, stir-fry pork meat cubes until brown at the edges then push to one side of the pan.
  2. Sauté garlic until golden and onions until transparent. Add bay leaves, peppercorn, boullion cubes, sugar, salt, and soy sauce. Add chili pepper or chili flakes -- if the tongue craves for hotter taste.
  3. Stir until the meat cubes are covered with the other ingredients.
  4. Cover and let simmer for 5 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to avoid sticking.
  5. Add vinegar. DO NOT STIR. Cover to speed up boiling but still cooking low heat.

Pork Tokwa Adobo Recipe

Fry the soya bean cakes until brown all over. Drain well. Add the fried cakes when pork adobo has about 2 minutes of cooking time left.

Basic Adobo Recipe


  • 1 kilo pork cubes
  • 3 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 whole garlic, peeled and chopped coarsely
  • 1 piece large red onion, peeled and sliced thinly
  • 2 pieces dried bay leaf
  • 1 Tbsp whole black peppercorn
  • 3 pieces boullion cubes
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup vinegar
  • 1/4 cup water (optional - add if more sauce is desired)
  • 1 piece chili pepper, sliced (optional - hot)
  • 1 tsp dried chili flakes (optional - hotter)

Tokwa (or soya bean cake) is a good source of protein and tastes delicious when cooked the adobo way.
Tokwa (or soya bean cake) is a good source of protein and tastes delicious when cooked the adobo way.

How To Thicken Adobo Sauce Fast

Mix 1 Tbsp cornstarch in 2 Tbsp water and stir in to simmering adobo.

Other Adobo Recipes

Adobo is so versatile the list for alternative 'meat' ingredient is endless!

Different Kinds of Adobo:

  • Chicken Adobo - pork and chicken maybe combined
  • Beef Adobo - beef meat needs longer cooking time
  • Squid Adobo - small squids taste sweeter as adobo dish
  • Adobo Kangkong - leafy veggies with tube-like stems are crunchy
  • Adobo Sitaw - long string beans cut to inch-long strips and stir-fried with adobo sauce
  • Adobo Tokwa - soya bean cakes fried and sautéed in adobo sauce or combined with pork adobo
  • Adobo Bangus - slices of milkfish fried to a crisp and served on sautéed adobo sauce with large white onion rings on top


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