From Nonna's Kitchen: Magda’s Delicious Pork Adobo

When I had the opportunity to cook with a talented Filipina home cook in my Heirloom Kitchen, I knew exactly what we could make: adobo, which is considered the national dish of the Philippines. Magda was warm, sweet and incredibly willing to show me this dish she makes for her family on a regular basis.  I was excited to taste it to experience this popular dish. Adobo is typically made with bone-in chicken or pork ribs; what’s consistent is the sauce, always a blend of vinegar and soy sauce. Magda told me that Adobo is a matter of taste.  Some like it more tart and will add more vinegar.  

For the needed sweetness, the secret is “sweet” soy sauce.  Found in Asian markets or in the international aisles of many grocery stores, it’s a blend of soy sauce and sugar.  Magda says if you can’t find sweet soy sauce, you can make your own add a few tablespoons of brown sugar to the marinade. 

Another great tip is, while you are cooking, if you taste the sauce and find it to be too tart, drop in a small peeled potato.  It will mellow out the sauce and will taste quite good when you serve the dish.  Allow it to remain whole by leaving it alone so that it doesn’t break up into the sauce.  

Therefore, the ratios in her recipe provide for a balanced sauce but if you prefer more sweet or tart, adjust the vinegar and sweet soy until you create a sauce just for you.  As Magda said, the acid/sweet level of an adobo depends on the taste of the chef and her family.

Magda also mentioned that another flavor option is a tablespoon of paprika.  It will make the sauce a red hue and also, intensifies the marinade.  In addition, when she makes her adobo with chicken instead of pork, Magda likes to get skin-on, bone in chicken thighs, remove the skin herself and then make a slit down the bone to separate the meat a bit.  That way, the marinade really seeps into the meat. Fillipinos use the two meats interchangeably.   I was lucky enough to try both and loved the intense flavor of the pork.  

While the chicken only needs to marinate for a few hours, the pork ribs are marinated for two days.  The meat becomes infused with the syrupy soy and vinegar and falls off the bone when you dig in.  Another trick of Magda’s is that she has the butcher cut the rack in half lengthwise. Before marinating, she separates the ribs.  Hence, you end up with ‘mini’ ribs, perfect for snacking!

And the best part?  While the pork does require a few days in the marinade, once you are ready to cook , it couldn’t be easier!   Everything gets tossed in the pot as the marinade becomes the rich, sticky sauce studded with soft onions and garlic.  Another one pot, international, wonder I can’t live without!

Magda's Pork Adobo


Prep time :        Total time: 

2 pounds pork ribs, butcher should cut racks in half horizontally
2 bay leaves, cut in half
8 garlic cloves, peeled, left whole but smashed
1/2 medium white onion, sliced in thin half moons
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup sweet soy sauce
1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup white vinegar

  1. Take the halved ribs and cut them individually between each bone. In a large glass pan, place the ribs bone side up. Add bay leaves, garlic cloves and onion.
  2. In a medium mixing bowl, combine both soy sauces, salt, pepper and vinegar. Whisk to combine.
  3. Pour marinade over the ribs and mix to coat. Cover with saran wrap and place in the fridge. Allow ribs to marinade for two days.
  4. In a large stock pot, add ribs and all the marinade. Turn on high heat until marinade begins to bubble. Cover with a lid and lower the heat to simmer.
  5. Allow the ribs to simmer for 1 hour. Remove the lid and bring heat up to medium high.
  6. Let the ribs bubble in the sauce for an additional 7 to 10 minutes to let the sauce thicken. Mix to cover the ribs in the sauce. Serve with rice.

Buon Appetito!

Pork Adobo, Step by Step.

Pork Adobo, Step by Step.