Roast Chicken Adobo


We love our roast chickens over here. My husband and I have been having them since we were newly married and our kitchen was a tiny galley-type in our first apartment. We now have two children and a slightly bigger kitchen (emphasis on the slightly) and our love for good old roast chicken continues. Now my children wait patiently (sometimes not too patiently) for me to take the chicken out of the oven…and I cut choice bits to pop into their waiting mouths and hands…and am endlessly thrilled when they approve.

We have, in fact, just recently graduated from a one-chicken family to a two-chicken family! Yes, the one roast is no longer enough for us four…and of course, there must be leftovers for lunch the next day! And if I’m lucky, a little bit more to scrape together some chicken salad spread (which I love). The carcass then gets tucked away into the freezer for future chicken stock.

There is always something so satisfying, and even celebratory, about bringing a whole roast chicken to the table. Sweat on brow, hands in oven mitts firmly holding the baking dish, triumphant smile as you see eyes light up…

“Dinner’s on!” “Make space! Make space!” “Careful, it’s hot!” “Mmmm! Smells good!” “I want a leg!”

These are the memories I keep with me and I hope my children keep with them.

I remember my mother making chicken at home when I was a child. Whether whole, or in pieces, I could always see the familiar Magnolia wrapper in our freezer (as well as all their ice cream! Does anyone remember flavor of the month??). Did you know that their chickens are free of hormones and steroids? I certainly did not know this when I was younger (and filled with hormones myself…wait, did I just say that???) but as a mom these things become more important. Not that I can say that our lives are totally all-natural free of the odd chemical…but I do my best to seek out options that are better for us (and the rest I just choose not to feel guilty about).

So. Anyway. When they approached me to do something for them, the wheels in my brain immediately started turning. Do I do something old and familiar? Or something new and different?

I decided to do a little of both…turning our beloved adobo into a classic roast chicken, and still retaining everything we love about eating adobo.

The idea here was to have the chicken adobo-flavored, but dry-heat-cooked like a traditional roast, BUT also have a sauce to enjoy with rice as with regular adobo. I used all the traditional flavors of adobo here (soy, vinegar, black pepper, garlic, bay) but applied them in different ways and at different stages of pre-cooking/cooking. And what you get is this chicken.

Roast Chicken Adobo


  • 6 cups water
  • 3/4 cup soy sauce
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons vinegar (I used sukang sasa)
  • 6-8 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 tablespoon black peppercorns

Pan sauce/Baste:

  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons kecap manis (sweet soy sauce)
  • 3 tablespoons vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • Generous grindings of freshly cracked black pepper


  • 1 whole Magnolia chicken
  • 4-5 whole heads of garlic, unpeeled and sliced in half on the equator
  • 10-12 small red onions, peeled and halved
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • Freshly cracked black pepper
  • Canola oil (or any mildly flavored vegetable oil), for basting

– The night before you intend to cook, brine your chicken: combine brine ingredients in a deep bowl or plastic container that will fit both the brine and the chicken. Mix well and let sugar dissolve. I do this while the chicken defrosts. I place the brine in the fridge to keep it cold and by the time the chicken is defrosted the sugar is dissolved. May also be worth mentioning here that I only use water that I would use to drink (so in this country’s case, that means no tap water). When the chicken is defrosted, pat well with a paper towel and submerge into the brine. I place the chicken in the brine last thing at night, right before I go to bed.
– When you wake up the next morning remove the chicken from the brine and pat dry. Proceed with recipe or, if you are cooking the chicken later in the day, store it in the fridge.  Discard brine.
– Mix all the ingredients for the pan sauce/baste thoroughly. Set aside.
– Stuff your chicken with 2-3 garlic head halves, 2-3 onion halves, 1 bay leaf, and 1 teaspoon black peppercorns. Tie the legs together with a kitchen twine.
– Place the chicken in a baking dish and surround with the rest of the garlic, onions, and bay leaves. Crack black pepper over everything.
– Pour about half of your pan sauce over the chicken. Shake the pan a bit so the sauce is evenly distributed. Save the remaining sauce for basting.
– Place the chicken in a pre-heated 400F oven and roast for 1 hour 20 minutes to 1 hour 30 minutes, or until chicken is done (when juices run clear if pierced in the thigh near the bone…check tip below for fully cooked thighs***!). While the chicken is roasting, baste it 3-4 times with the oil and reserved sauce. This will help infuse even more flavor, keep it most, and give it a lovely bronze color. I like to baste the onions and garlic as well while I’m at it.
– When the chicken is done, let it rest for 15 minutes before carving. Serve with the pan juices and roasted onions and garlic.

Tip***: If it’s been an hour and a half already, and there is still a bit of blood in the thigh juices, I like to splay the chicken. Cut the thighs away from the body, just enough so the leg and thighs spread open, but not enough to fully detach them from the body. Pop it back in the oven and cook just a bit longer until the thigh is cooked through. With the legs spread open like this, it will not take long. This allows your thighs to cook faster without overcooking the breast. This is not the prettiest thing so if presentation is a concern then skip this and just cook until juices run clear. Or carve the chicken before serving so no one is the wiser.

This seems like a long and complicated recipe but it is, in fact, nothing of the sort. The brine is super easy to throw together and then all you need to do is plonk the chicken in the night before. The next day it’s just a matter of stuffing bird and pan with the very simply cut (just halved all!) veg. The pan sauce is also a breeze to put together…mix, pour, and baste.

This is my first time to brine a chicken and I am now a covert! I am likewise loving this combination of brining and basting. Brining infuses the chicken with flavor and also keeps is moist. So does basting. Doing both, doubles your chances of a delicious, tender, and juicy roast chicken. And I am always one to hedge my bets when able.

For this adobo roast I wanted both the brine and the roast itself to have adobo flavors. I adapted my brine from this one by Trissalicious. I then made a pan sauce based on my own adobo recipes. The chicken absorbs the flavor from the brine and the basting, and a delicious sauce develops when your adobo-pan-sauce combines with the chicken juices during roasting. The onions and garlic go sweet and soft in the oven, and are delicious mashed into your rice after you’ve generously spooned on some sauce. This is great with some atsara or any sort of native pickle (here I’ve served it with ampalaya pickle, but I think some pickled labanos would be great too).

If you have leftovers, shred the meat and fry it along with some of the leftover garlic and pan sauce to make adobo flakes. You can have this with garlic-fried rice and a fried egg for breakfast, while you reminisce the wonderful chicken dinner you had the night before.

What’s your favorite roast chicken memory? What are your foolproof roast chicken tips? I’d love to hear them!

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