Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Duck Leg Adobo – A Real Family Meal

If you’ve worked in restaurants before, you know that every night before service the staff sits down to what’s called the “family meal.” One of the younger cooks is usually charged with scraping together something filling and, more importantly, not expensive. It was during one of these meals that I first had adobo.

When I worked at the Carnelian Room in the late 80’s, much of the kitchen crew was Filipino, so chicken and pork adobo was a very common dinner. One of the dishwashers made a particularly great version, and I fell in love with the bold, simple flavors. I also remember being pretty annoyed that the dishwashers there were better cooks than I was at the time, but that’s another story.

Anyway, I happened to have some duck legs around last week, and all it took was a well-timed email wishing for adobo to inspire this video. I understand that most of you will not use duck for this, but if you do, be sure to save the fat.

Duck fat is prized by chefs, and more heart-healthy than people realize. It can be used for just about anything you’d normally fry in butter or vegetable oil. I roasted some Brussels spouts with mine, but it also will make just about the best homefries you’ve ever tasted.

Like I said in the video, no duck, no problem. If you can simmer it in a sauce, it will work in this recipe. Because of the high soy sauce content, be careful about over reducing, but other than that, not much can go wrong. This is cheap, easy, and very flavorful, which is why it makes for such a great “family meal.” Enjoy!

Ingredients for 6 duck legs:
6 duck legs (or about same amount of chicken or pork)
salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp reserved duck fat
1 large onion, sliced
8 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup seasoned rice vinegar (if not seasoned, use a little sugar to taste)
1/2 cup soy sauce, or to taste (this is a fairly salty dish, so if you're not into that kind of thing, add less and adjust later)
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
2 tsp sambal chili sauce, or other hot pepper sauce to taste
2-4 bay leaves

View the complete recipe


Unknown said...

Dear Chef,

Your use of auto-tune was magnificent.

Haven't laughed that hard watching Food Wishes since the 'Super Bowl Chicken Bone Prediction' Episode!

Recipe looks great can't wait to try..

Homemade Ranch is up next though!


Christiane said...

Hi Chef John, never post a comment before but thank you for that one, I forgot about adobo! Will try with duck for sure (usually make mine with chicken).
Love your recipes and your style!

ghanima said...

As a half-Filipino, I salute your innovation at making adobo with duck meat. This is nothing short of a stroke of genius!

Thuy said...

i would really love to try this with duck - but my bf doesn't like duck meat ( i know, i can't believe it either...), so i'm simply gonna try this with chicken :)

Nicholas said...

Just made this. Used 8 chicken thighs, 4 bay leaves, cooked chicken for about 1h15. Delicious!

Evan St. James said...

When are you going to do a video on Lobster Bisque? I'm dying to learn how to make it. But won't do it until you make a video on it. Ha, how's that for dedication?

Evan St. James
The One Man Band Extravaganza!

Bobby said...

Being Filipino, I've always thought of Adobo as the leftovers dish of our culture. You just throw whatever leftover meat you have into that sauce, and it's magic.

I make my own version of Adobo using 2 inch cubed beef roast (precut for stew) and serve on our traditional rolls called Pan de Sal.

I cook the beef in a similar marinade to yours in a slow cooker for at least 3 hours or more... and it is like the perfect garlic beef slider. You have to toast the rolls slightly though, so they can soak up that awesome sauce...

Thanks for showing off some Filipino Food, I love that you did that!

TheGlitteryDragon said...

I was watching this new video you posted and my husband said "ohh, one of his videos. Is this what we're eating next?"
haha! I've made several of your recipes, and even a few I've questioned on how good they would be, but they've all been wonderful.
We dont have duck easily available where we are, but I am going to give this a go with some pork.
Thanks for all the awesomeness :)

Claudine said...


Rita said...

Being a Filipino decent - thanks for the ingenious twist of the duck.

Yes, chicken legs and pork are used with some whole peppercorns. Two bay leaves are enough for the dish.

Thanks for introducing this to your blog!

Psyrixx said...

Ingredients Correction

2tsp sambal chili sauce


You can delete this comment, I only posted it for the correction. Also - Don't know if you saw my tabbouleh vid on Twitter, I followed your format and actually set it up so if you wanted to use it to substitute if you're sick or something you could. It's not *that* great quality wise but I figured I'd give it a shot!

Chef John said...

oops! thanks!

Steve said...


When I was at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, we had a lot of Filipinos working in the lunch room and they'd often make chicken adobo. I've been wanting to learn how to make that dish for years.

Any reason why this wouldn't work with duck breast instead of legs? I can usually find breast at my local market but I don't recall ever seeing duck legs there. I suppose I could ask. . .

Anonymous said...

Another fabulous recipe accompanied by a really funny video, as always. Thanks for the creative recipe. The Tasty Awards are now available for voting which I just did for my fav chef.

Chef John said...

Thanks anon!

Chef John said...


Don't do it! Duck breast is very expensive, and it's MUCH better cooked medium-pink instead of well-done as it would be here. It would be very dry. Use chicken thighs! :)

Anonymous said...

I am very proud to see that our humble Filipino Adobo is now being recognized and with a wonderful Chef John twist. Very nice, your cooking videos always makes me hungry especially with this one! :) Great job Chef John! :)

Anonymous said...

I try too cook a lot of your recipes "when i can." But this one w moved to the front of the line and will be done this weekend.

Incredible as always Chef John.

Thank you for doing what you do for us home cooks.

Anonymous said...


Thanks for the wave off on the duck breast. I'll see if I can find some duck leg.

Christine said...

I just made this for my dinner. It was very salty!! I think next time I will use reduced sodium soy sauce. I love it when there aren't a lot of dishes to do after dinner, this was the perfect weeknight meal.

Anonymous said...

Hi Chef,
I have a pork loin that needs cookin'. Would I slice it in 1 1/2 to 2 inch slices, and brown like your duck legs? If so, how long should I cook them in the sauce?


Chef John said...

I'm not a fan of boiled pork loin as it will be pretty dry. Pork shoulder much better for this. But if you have to, do not over cook. I can't give times, so use a thermometer to 145F

inchrisin said...

This might be the most open recipe you've ever posted. Thanks for being flexible on our tastes here. (Or whatever you want to make). :)

Kristen said...

Hi Chef! I just made this with pork. Yum indeed. However, instead of sambal, I used Hainanese Chicken Rice Chilli Sauce with garlic and ginger. It added a nice tangy zing to the dish. Just a suggestion. :) Thanks a mil for the recipe!

Hopefully one day, you do a video on Devil (Debal) Curry. It'll put hair on your chest.

Anonymous said...

I made this recipe for dinner last night. I used 8 chicken thighs, & a few potatoes, & followed the rest of ingredients listed. I thought that the sauce was very salty. The vinegar was also very prominent. I added sugar to help take away the acidity. I ate the chicken adobo with rice, but I still couldn't finish my meal. :( I think it would taste better if I used less soy sauce & vinegar than what the recipe calls for. I've tried many chicken adobe Filipino style & I always thought that it was a little too salty. I'll have to try again til I get it to my liking. Sorry for the negative feed back, Chef John. I still love your amazing videos.

Chef John said...

Don't apologize, and it's not negative feedback! The dish is salty and sour and not everyone will like it! :)

Jessi said...

You should autotune a whole video, Chef John.

Psyrixx said...

This was delicious, by the way. Made it last night with chicken thighs and drumsticks, wife took leftovers to work with her and we'll probably have whatever ends up being left from that for dinner tonight.

Sauce was quite watery for our dinner but I kept it simmering on the stove while we ate (probably for an additional hour and twenty minutes) and reduced it by half for the leftovers.

tessgarcia said...

Chef John, I'm from Mindanao in the Philippines and I've been following your blog for the longest time. Thank you so much for cooking Adobo. My Filipino heart just swells with pride. :)

Orum said...

As usual, very nicely done. Simple and beautiful. My aunt in the Philippines likes to add a can of diced pineapple to add a little sweetness. Loved the trick with the parchment paper. So cool.

Anonymous said...

I have adobo about once a week, usually pork, chicken or squid, but duck sounds really interesting. Some people may not have rice vinegar, but white distilled vinegar can be used also. This is the first time I saw sambal sauce used in adobo, so I'm going to try this instead of using fresh hot pepper. Meat of choice is usually pork belly, but we cut back on the soy sauce and vinegar.

Thanks for sharing this recipe and making the video.

maria said...

I love Adobo! I make it with apple cider vinegar and Silver Swan (red label) soy sauce and I do not add any salt seasoning Ilearned a few years ago that all soy are not alike. Maria

Anonymous said...

Dear chef John,
Your blogg hepls me a lot!!! I love all your recipe!!!! So easy and really tastes good!!!!...before i don't know how to cook, but now my husband calls me my little chef...(^_^) Again thanx a lot!!!!

Anonymous said...

Thanx a lot for helping us with ur video!!!! Vielen Dank!!!
nejo from Germany

Anonymous said...

Again this Adobo recipe is geil ( super).... Please more filipino recipe please...(^_^) Vielen Dank!!

Nejo from Germany

Chris Smith, Camarillo said...

We have a large Filipino community in Ventura California, some say the largest outside of the P.I. There is always an adobo vendor at every church or other local festival. They usually use bone-in chicken thighs and legs usually in a combo with spring rolls. Always great, can't wait to try this recipe.

Mike Lively said...

Chef John,
I tried this recipe today but with pork. It turned out very well. I love the sour/salty flavour and it goes well with rice and vegetable.
I also wanted to say how much I appreciate your Blog and videos.
Thanks Again,
Mike Lively, BC, Canada

Locomotive_breath said...

Hi Chef

Made this on Friday with chicken legs and thighs. I upped the level of sambal. I loved the end result but the missus found it too fatty although she liked the flavor. I had drained the skillet off the fat after I had browned the chicken, she still found it too fatty. I am thinking of using 3 skinless legs + 1 with skin the next time and maybe a little less vinegar. Do you think it will do the trick?

As you can see, misses with the missus (drum roll please) is unacceptable ;)

Also, what soy sauce did you use? I used Kikkoman regular soy sauce and it wasn't as dark as yours. Suggestions?

Thank you. Your blog is one of my favorite sites on the web.

Orenwolf said...

Chef John,

This was the third of your recipies I've tried out. I had only a (large) Duck breast to share between the two of us, but it turned out wonderful - the tastes were rich, sauce delicious, and meat superb.

I think I will retry this by first cooking the duck sous-vide, then browning, then applying the (previously-reduced) sauce to see how that turns out. I'm curious to see how the texture compares to braising. :)

Thanks again!

john said...

Dear Chef John,

After I made this dish, I had to sit down and rethink my life. The flavor was absolutely incredible and the smell lingered in my kitchen after I was done - it was bliss. I used chicken for this dish and added some red pepper flakes and just a tiny pinch of sugar at the end.

Thank you so much for sharing. This will definitely be a regular in the rotation this fall and winter.


Anonymous said...

Dear chef John,

I just bought duck legs and I am going to try this tommorrow, can you please tell me what soy sauce did u use? I have Kikkoman and Kecap Manis -maybe the latter would be better since it is sweeter? Thanks a lot!

Chef John said...

I used Trader Joe's brand!

J.J. said...

I just wanted to point out that any time one *reduces* soy sauce, it's obvious that it's going to be really salty. Think of dried/drying out soy sauce/fish sauce--there'll be salt crystals at the bottom.

My grandmother makes this and uses Silver Swan soy sauce, it's a Filipino brand. It's more viscus and concentrated than the more common Japanese/Chinese/Korean soy sauce brands I've used. So it turns out to be really salty. She would always say that "it makes you eat more rice!"

I prefer my Adobo garlic-y, though.

Ah, the memories.

سجاد said...

Dear chef!
Living in Asia for 5 years now, i added some extra Chinese tastes to it n the result was wonderful:
1- add some slices of fresh ginger to the sauce, it will add some heavenly taste to it
2- when finished and just before serving, can add some chopped spring onion, it will bring some fresh crunch and lift the taste a bit!

Thanks for the great recipe!!

Sarah said...

Hi chef,

I already made the dish 3 times and it was always awesome -really addictive though. After reading the comments saying it was too sour, I used Kecap Manis soy sauce (sweet, thick sauce) together with regular one -ratio 3:1. And it worked great! Many thanks for the recipe, look forward to another asian style recipes!

mdb139 said...

Chef John,

I'm thinking of making this for the weekend, most likely with chicken thighs. I don't mind chicken skin if it's crispy, but find soggy skin to be less than satisfying. I'm wondering if you have any advice as to whether or not to keep the skin on? You obviously did with duck legs, but I thought your use of parchment paper may have allowed enough moisture to escape to the skin to dry out enough despite having braised it (at least partially) skin-side down.

I know the first time I made coq au vin I was bummed out about that I left the skin on and don't want to make the same mistake here.



Chef John said...

If you don't enjoy, pull it off! Or cook to get the flavor, and simply don't eat it, pull it off when cooked.

Lou Penaflor said...

@mdb139 i have tried cooking it once in the oven to make the skin crispy. I cooked it just like how chef john did it buy i finished it in the oven with the skin side up.

proudlybrown said...

Wow! You certainly made this look fancier than the typical adobo! In the Philippines, this dish is usually one of the first ones taught to kids, probably because most people just dump all the raw ingredients together in a pot, bring it to a boil, then simmer until the meat is tender and the vinegar is no longer acrid. Couldn't be easier!

Personally, I've never cooked adobo with onion or salt in it, just garlic, pepper, and bay. But your video makes me wanna try it!

maldita qu said...

I love your recipes and your humor =)
Thank you for featuring one of our Filipino dishes.

Ed Adams said...

I have made this recipe so many times now and I've found it works with any meat you want to throw in there. My wife's work is hosting a cookout for the dorm residents and I'm going to use this recipe for chicken wings. They are going to be so good, I can taste that sauce already as it runs down my fingers and elbows :)

Unknown said...

We traditionally throw in the garlic first before the onions. We throw the onion when the garlic is almost golden brown. Then we use whole peppercorn. Not grounded but that's fine. And we add sugar. Really. Then there is a variation. You can use lemon (we use calamsi) juice as replacement for vinegar. It tastes more divine. And yes, don't put more than 2 bayleaves on it unless you want it to taste like stronger similar to medicine which is not tasty.

The Family! said...

Chef john, loved the video and will definitely try your recipe. I am wondering how would it turn out cooked in a crock pot. Do you have any suggestions or modifications to this recipe?

Chef John said...

not sure about modifications, but im sure you can cook in a SC!

gabirddog said...

I just got back from Duck Hunting in Arkansas and saved the legs from all the Mallards, pintails, gadwalls, and red heads. The pintails have an obscene amount of fat. Tried to pick most of the legs but only had good skin/fat on about half. I tried your recipe including the Sombal and it was increadible. Had to use a little more oil because these are wild ducks and except for the pintails, just don't have that much fat. An you are right, put the duck legs aside and spoon the sauce over some sticky rice. This was awsome!!!

martikol said...

Try this with lamb.. amazing.

Mock said...

Dear Chef John,

I know it is an old post, but it looks great and I want to make it. Can I do it in a slow cooker?


T Verga said...

I don't usually cook using recipes, but with this I decided to follow it pretty closely (I didn't have rice vinegar so I used some distilled white vinegar and about a teaspoon of sugar for two legs)and it was ABSOLUTELY, MIND-BLOWINGLY, CAN'T-BELIEVE-I-MADE-THIS delicious. Also, I had a stroke of genius and used the rendered fat (about two tablespoons) to coat and lightly toast my rice before adding chicken stock and cooking it covered until absorbed. Not the healthiest rice around, but it had a great pilaf-like richness and flavour with basically no extra work.
Thank you Chef!

Harold M said...

Love your video's Chef John. What is seasoned rice vinegar, I have rice vinegar and rice wine vinegar and rice cooking wine, but I've never heard of seasoned rice vinegar ?