This easy Adobo Sauce really wowed us with its one-two punch of vinegar and soy sauce.
It only has a few ingredients, so I was determined to find out the best ways to make adobo sauce.
Note that this is a Filipino-style Adobo Sauce recipe, so it doesn’t have ancho chiles, chipotle peppers or chili peppers, which tend to be of the Mexican or Puerto Rican style adobo.
This adobo recipe doesn’t have a smoky flavor, either.
As you may know, there are a lot of ways to make Adobo Sauce, and you can even find it already made in the Latin Foods aisle of most supermarkets.
But this Filipino cuisine Adobo Sauce is remarkably easy, with just a handful of ingredients.
At first, I was astounded at how utterly eye-watering it was to cook down this sauce.
I started out thinking this would make an excellent dipping sauce for dumplings, so I pulled out our bag of frozen pork dumplings.
Do you love vinegar? I hope so, because it’s got a sour bite to it.
It didn’t quite hit the spot as a thin dip because it was SO SOUR, but I wasn’t ready to give up. I’d had Filipino style adobo before.
So I marinated some chicken pieces in it and then cooked it on the stove. It’s delicious!
I was on a roll, so I cooked it down a bit more to make a thicker sauce and added a teaspoon of cornstarch and a bit of water.
Wow! The soft black pepper corns added a lovely warm (but not overpowering) layer of flavor, and that super sour vinegar bite was GONE!
This easy adobo sauce, spooned over small pieces of chicken in the frying pan, was absolutely incredible.
So we found ourselves with a three-in-one staple sauce that could become nearly anything you might want:
- Sour and garlic-heavy dipping sauce for Asian appetizers
- Flavorful chicken marinade — 30 minutes for the best infusion of flavor!
- A luscious, savory sauce to toss wings or chicken thighs in…
- A spoon-over braising sauce over chicken tenderloins, white rice, and vegetables
- Even a cooking sauce in the slow-cooker. Triple the recipe so you have plenty.
This simple adobo sauce just kept surprising us as we used it in different ways.
Adobo Sauce means different things to different people, but ultimately it’s a flavorful type of sauce created to accompany chicken and pork.
And, is it a sauce or a spice? It can be both.
The rich flavor of adobo sauce depends on the original use and cuisine: Filipino Adobo doesn’t traditionally have peppers or tomatoes, like it might in Mexican cooking.
Some recipes have cane sugar, and I added a small amount to this recipe to balance the sour and salt of the soy sauce.
The word Adobo is a catch-all term that is defined by the Spanish word “adobar” – to marinate.
It’s both a seasoning and a sauce.
So you may want to clarify when you are in the kitchen and you say to someone, “Hey, will you hand me that adobo?”
But there are so many different flavor varieties, even off the shelf you can find adobo seasoning recipe blends that all say “adobo.”
Huh. Well, then.
So for this authentic adobo sauce recipe (which is not a hot sauce, by the way), we’re going to fire up the stovetop and add just six or seven basic ingredients to make an easy Filipino Adobo Sauce:
- Soy sauce (it may seem alarming to use so much at once, but it is a big part of the flavor profile)
- Vinegar (white vinegar and coconut vinegar are the go-to, but I used apple cider vinegar)
- Black Peppercorns (they become soft and delicious, not overpoweringly peppery)
- Bay Leaf (always remove and discard whole bay leaves before serving or eating)
- A touch of sugar (brown sugar is great, but I used simple white sugar)
- Freshly minced garlic cloves (none on hand? Use ½ t garlic powder)
- Optional: If you want this thickened even more for wing sauce or braising sauce, have a bit of cornstarch and water on hand
And that’s it!
Supplies to gather
I never used to get out my tools and ingredients before starting and would get them out as I go.
Now I find having them pulled out and ready to measure and use beforehand is super helpful for focus and not getting frustrated when I need to watch a pot or something.
I highly recommend preparing your space before you turn on the heat.
- Paring knife
- Cutting board
- Medium saucepan
- Measuring cup
- Measuring spoon
- Small bowl for cornstarch slurry
- Soy sauce
- White, apple cider or coconut vinegar
- Whole black peppercorns
- Fresh garlic
- Bay leaf
- Cornstarch and water, for thickening
How to make Easy Adobo Sauce
With just a handful of simple pantry ingredients, you’ll have a great way to kick start dinner!
I’ll start out by saying to open the windows if you’re sensitive to the tang of cooking vinegar!
While I was cooking this homemade adobo sauce, the bite of vinegar in the air was almost too much to handle!
Is it worth it, though? Heck, yeah.
This recipe cooks down to about 1.25 cups of flavorful but not hot spicy sauce.
- Finely mince the 4 cloves of fresh garlic with your cutting knife and cutting board. (You can use a mincer or press if you want, but I find them a pain to clean.) Set aside.
- Into a small or medium saucepan, add half cup of soy sauce, one cup of vinegar (apple cider vinegar, white vinegar, or coconut vinegar) together with a bay leaf, a teaspoon of whole peppercorns, the minced garlic and a teaspoon of sugar.
- Stir often to make sure it doesn’t stick, about 6 minutes until a third of it has evaporated. Keep an eye on it because it cooks quickly.
- Remove from the heat.
- If using some or all as thickened sauce, divide and allow one half to cool. Set aside.
- In your small bowl, whisk together a slurry of ½ t of cornstarch with 1 T of cold water.
- Add slurry to the remaining adobo sauce in the saucepan and heat on medium, whisking continuously.
- When slightly thickened, remove from heat.
- While still warm, spoon over plated chicken and sides or toss wings with sauce in a large stainless steel bowl.
- Store in an airtight, covered container (glass is best since this is very acidic). I used mine up right away, but this should keep for two weeks if chilled continuously and not contaminated by food particles. Never reuse marinades, especially meat marinades.
For an Adobo Marinade:
If you want to use it as a great marinade, let it cool completely then add chicken chunks or tenderloins.
- Cover and refrigerate the marinated chicken for up to 30 minutes. The smaller the cuts of chicken, the more flavorful they will be.
- Remove from marinade and cook as usual.
- Grill, bake, stir fry or cook as usual with a side of rice and vegetables.
- This easy adobo sauce would help make an amazing pork chops meal or on grilled shrimp also!
For an Adobo Dipping Sauce:
Use it straight off the stove, if you like.
Try it with dumplings, crab rangoon, and other Asian foods.
If you are using it as a dipping sauce, serve at room temp or warm.
I found it to be flavorful, garlicky and very sour, a very vinegar-forward punch of flavor.
You can keep it thin or thicken it some before using as a dipping sauce. See above for tips on making this a bit thicker.
The continued heating and cornstarch also mellows out the sour tang.
For an Adobo Wing Sauce:
Toss your hot, fully cooked chicken wings (boneless or traditional) into a large stainless steel bowl with the Adobo Sauce.
Keep tossing to fully coat, then serve warm, or set coated wings on a cooling rack so the extra sauce runs off before serving.
For an Adobo Braising Sauce:
If turning it into a braising sauce, add the saucepan with sauce back to low heat.
- Then in a separate small bowl, whisk together 2 T of cold water with a ½ t of cornstarch
- Add the cornstarch slurry to the hot adobo sauce as you whisk continuously. Heat for two minutes until it bubbles. Remove from heat.
- Place either marinated chicken in pan (for double the flavor!) or fresh, raw cuts of chicken to a frying pan or stovetop dutch oven with a little olive oil.
- Cook for three minutes on one side. Then turn chicken, and spoon the braising sauce over each piece, coating completely in Adobo Braising Sauce.
For an Adobo Slow Cooker Sauce:
- Double or triple this recipe and add to a crockpot with raw chicken. Stir to fully coat and turn the chicken a couple times while cooking.
- Cook on high for three hours (if using boneless chicken) and four hours for bone-in.
- When the chicken is fully cooked, remove from the slow-cooker and serve or set aside while you thicken the sauce.
- For a thicker sauce, you can add the cornstarch slurry to the sauce left in the crock and cook on high for an additional 20 minutes, stirring often.
- Spoon the thickened sauce over the chicken at plating.
Ways to serve Easy Adobo Sauce
- Make it a meatless Monday and use this adobo sauce marinade for whole peppers or mop it over large vegetable chunks while grilling
- Since this isn’t a Mexican adobo sauce, you won’t find the tomato or chili pepper flavors here. Even after cooking, it’s a thin sauce that mellows out to a very slightly sweet flavor (thank goodness for that spoonful of sugar!)
- Make a chicken adobo sauce recipe. Separate your adobo sauce, then with one cup, add any cut of chicken as a marinade. Then thicken the other cup with a slurry of cornstarch and water and heat on low. Toss your chicken in this thickened, warm adobo sauce, or spoon it over on the serving dish. Simple ingredients make this sauce truly easy.
- Make it a filipino feast! Adobo sauce goes on and with everything savory. I recommend adding the cornstarch slurry to thicken it up and continue cooking to temper bite of vinegar and bring out its sweetness.
- You can also add some chopped chili peppers or a pinch of red pepper flakes to the sauce if you like a bit of heat. The longer your sauce cooks with it, the more robust the heat will be.
- You can use this adobo sauce as a marinade for chicken, pork, or beef, or as a dipping sauce for dumplings or spring rolls.
The bottom line
While I’ve eaten and enjoyed adobo sauce before, I had never made it myself.
I really wanted to come up with something easy, almost TOO easy, to see if I would enjoy eating our own pinoy-style adobo sauce.
At first, I really didn’t think I would. Cooking it smelled so bitter—the vinegar was overpowering.
But pop open a window or turn on the vent hood and get through this first stage.
If you love a real sour bite to your foods, dip anything and everything into this.
If you love teriyaki but it is too sweet for you, this is your sauce, and you can slather it on everything.
If you love soy-garlic marinade, this has the spirit of soy and garlic, considering it contains both, but the heavy-handed vinegar turns this wild.
But the marinated chicken is scrumptious after sitting in the soaking sauce for 30 minutes AND EVEN BETTER as a thickened spoon-over sauce.
Today I learned that some food transforms from wild to mild and there’s no telling how or why.
I think you will love this sauce. Remember, if it starts way too sour, don’t dip anything until you cook it again with the cornstarch slurry.
- 1 c vinegar
- 1/2 c soy sauce
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 t whole black peppercorns
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 t sugar
- Optional: For spice-heat, include a T of chopped chilis or pinch of red pepper flakes.
- 1 t cornstarch
- 1 T water
- Mince the fresh garlic and set aside.
- To a medium saucepan on low heat, add the soy sauce and vinegar with bay leaf, whole peppercorns, minced garlic and sugar.
- Optional: You can also add a T of chopped chili peppers or a pinch of red pepper flakes to the sauce if you like a bit of heat.
- Keep heat on low and stir often to make sure it doesn’t stick.
- Cook about 6 to 10 minutes until a third of it has evaporated. Keep an eye on it.
- Remove from the heat.
- If using some or all as a thickened sauce, divide and allow one half to cool. Set that amount aside.
- Whisk together in the small bowl a slurry of ½ t of cornstarch with 1 T of cold water.
- Add to saucepan with adobo and heat on medium, whisking continuously.
- When slightly thickened, stir and remove from heat.
- Remember to remove the bay leaf before serving or eating sauce.
- While still warm, spoon over plated meats and sides or toss wings with sauce in a large stainless steel bowl. You can use this adobo sauce as a marinade for chicken, pork, or beef, or as a dipping sauce for dumplings or spring rolls.
- Make ahead and keep chilled in an airtight container for two weeks, freeze, or use immediately!