adobo dish chicken / poultry

Adobong Pula (Red Adobo)

Thursday, April 24, 2014Enz F

Here is another addition to my adobo chronicles and definitely to top the list of my personal favorite Filipino adobo. The dish obviously derived its name from the red color of its sauce. Red Adobo or Adobong Pula, as it is known, derived its bright red hue from the atsuete or annatto extract, which is usually added to the marinade sauce. Oftentimes referred to as the “poor man’s saffron”, atsuete is a natural coloring and flavoring agent that yields a moderately soft to delicately earthy flavor and is universal to a number of Filipino dishes which include pancit palabok (garnished rice noodles), kare-kare (stewed oxtail and mixed veggies in peanut sauce) and chicken inasal (Ilonggo chicken barbecue).

Adobong Manok sa Atsuete is a regular table fare in the province of Iloilo.
The Spanish-baptized Filipino adobo is a well-loved viand of every Juan dela Cruz, from the mountainous northernmost Batanes to the volcanic island of Jolo in the south. Considered an all-around Filipino hallmark, it is certainly a dish that goes beyond the boundaries of different regions in the Philippines. From the infusion of numerous additives, condiments, flavorings, sauces and spices to the incorporation of different main components – there are meat versions like pork, chicken, beef, duck, goat and horse; seafoods like fish, octopus, squids and crabs; numerous versions of fruits and vegetables; and even exotic varieties from peculiar lizards and snakes to creepy farm insects and bugs - adobo has become a national signature that continues to branch out and actively grow through the passage of time depending on the emerging modernization, trends and needs.

The use of atsuete or annatto in Adobo is a familiar recipe in the two regions in the Philippines. In the Southern Luzon, where the folks fondly call it Adobong Batangas, atsuete is utilized in place of the soy sauce as the flavoring agent along with the combination of pork, beef and pounded liver. Seasoned with rock salt or patis (fish sauce), it produces a mildly salty flavor with a very rich sauce. Meanwhile, Adobong Manok sa Atsuete (Chicken Adobo with Annatto Extract) is a well-loved table fare in the Visayas Region, specifically in Iloilo. Here, the annatto extract is combined with the soy sauce-vinegar marinade.

Atsuete or annatto is responsible to the bright red hue of Red Adobo.
I am more a fan of chicken meat than pork or beef, so with my version of red adobo, I chose chicken and cooked it the “Adobong Batangas" way. And instead of thickening the sauce with mashed liver, I preferred to finish it with liver spread sold in can. This flavorful pack apparently adds a slight sweetness to my adobo with a tamed bitterness. I must say, it is quite a fusion of Batangas and Iloilo red adobo and I just fell in love with my experimental output in an instant – indeed, another worthy innovation to try with. I cannot forget a quote from a good friend of mine who also loves to cook, “Just cook in the pot and combine everything delicious, they all would surely come out delicious too.” Well, I can vouch for it in this case.

Adobong Pula (Red Adobo)
Number of Servings: 3 to 4

(Printer-friendly recipe)

  • 2 lbs. chicken breasts or thighs, sliced into adobo chops 
  • ¼ cup atsuete (annatto/ achiote) extract or ½ tsp. annatto powder dissolved in ¼ cup water 
  • ½ cup vinegar 
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced 
  • ½ tbsp. whole peppercorn 
  • 4 pcs. dahon ng laurel (bay leaves) 
  • 2-3 tbsps. patis (fish sauce) 
  • ¼ tsp. salt 
  • 1 can 3 oz. (85 grams) liver spread 
  • 2 tbsps. toasted garlic for garnish (optional) 
  • cooking oil 

  1. Prepare the atsuete/ annatto extract. Set aside. 
  2. Combine the vinegar, garlic, peppercorns, bay leaves and salt in a large container. Add the chicken chops and pour in the atsuete extract. Toss until the marinade mixture is evenly distributed. 
  3. Let the chicken sit to marinate for 1 hour to overnight. 
  4. When soaking is done, drain the chicken. Set aside the marinade sauce. 
  5. Heat enough cooking oil in a large saucepan. Put the chicken on the shimmering oil with skin-side down and stir fry until the color turns light brown. Cook the chicken by batch and do not overcrowd the pan. Set aside the chicken on a container with lined paper towel to drain the excess oil. 
  6. When frying is done, using the same pan, scrape off any chicken residue (or use a clean saucepan) and remove the used cooking oil. Return all the chicken in the pan and pour in the atsuete marinade. Make sure to coat all the chicken pieces with the marinade sauce. 
  7. Cover the pan and allow to boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer covered for 20 minutes. Stir and flip the chicken pieces occasionally and add more water if necessary. 
  8. Season with patis and add the liver spread as a finishing touch. Simmer for another 10 to 15 minutes until the liver spread is dissolved and the sauce thickens. 
  9. Remove from heat and transfer into a platter. Garnish with toasted garlic and serve with steamed rice along with your favorite vegetable side dishes. Enjoy! 

  1. Balance the acidity and saltiness by adjusting the vinegar and salt or patis according to your taste. 
  2. You may use any meaty chicken part of your choice. I prefer the breast, thigh and leg part. 
  3. If you cannot find atsuete/ annatto/ achiote in your specialty store, you can substitute it with sweet paprika or mild saffron.

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  1. I will be trying this soon. Been trying to get my hands on some good Adobo Recipes a while now actually. Not decided whether to try the Red one or the White one yet. Thanks for sharing :)


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