This beef adobo is a simple recipe for authentic Filipino street food. Ask anyone and they will tell you that adobo is "THE" dish of the Filipino cuisine. It's simple to prepare with just a few easy to find ingredients and the flavour will blow your mind.
What is adobo?
Adobo is basically an item of food in a vinegar marinade. Although Spanish and Portuguese methods are similar, the Filipino Adobo developed completely independently.
Many might argue classic adobo must be made from chicken. NOT TRUE. Adobo refers to the cooking method and not the protein used.
There are many varieties but a few popular street food varieties you would find when visiting Manila include:
- Adabong Baka - Beef adobo
- Adabong Baboy - Pork adobo
- Adabong Talong - Aubergine adobo
- Adabong Pusit - Squid adobo
- Adabong Manok - Chicken adobo
No matter which style of adobo you try, they are all extremely delicious.
What does beef adobo taste like?
Sweet, sour, salty and umami. What more could you ask for in a dish? When cooked correctly adobo is a very intensely savoury dish that lingers for a long time.
Many people raise an eyebrow when they see the vinegar and soy sauce content. Don’t worry. I was one of them until I tasted it)) The trick is to properly cook the vinegar and the rest magically just falls into place.
It’s a very simple and straightforward dish to prepare and perfect for the lazy cook.
You will need the following.
- Vinegar – Coconut sap vinegar is the one you want if you can find it. If not then use rice vinegar, white wine or apple cider. They all work equally good. I have used them all.
- Garlic – Fresh garlic works best. Dried can be used in emergencies.
- Soy sauce – Any good brand will do. Homemade even better. If you want 100% gluten-free then use tamari or another good gluten-free brand.
- Sugar – I use brown sugar but any will do. Coconut sugar is the most authentic.
- Black peppercorns – Use some fresh smelling ones that’s been properly stored. If you can find fresh green peppercorns they are the best.
- Beef/chicken/pork/aubergine – Use any, Just note that cooking times all vary and something like aubergine will be cooked very quickly. For this recipe, I used beef shoulder stewing meat.
- Corn starch(optional) – I like thickening the sauce at the end a bit. That’s what I like but, some just serve it as is. Any brand will do.
- Coconut milk(optional) – Not classical but very delicious and creamy. This recipe is done without but, feel free to sub some water for coconut milk. Use a good creamy and stable brand.
How to cook it
I like to marinate the beef overnight. Some people don't and they miss out on some serious flavour and also the whole point of adobo. So, let's marinate it.
You wanted the best adobo so we going to make the best adobo.
First, let's make the marinade and cut our beef into chunks. You could easily use beef short rib or beef cheeks. They are both amazing.
For this beef adobo, I used beef blade which is part of the chuck/shoulder. It is tender while not too fat and holding it's shape when braised for a long time.
Mix the beef and the marinade together and let it sit in the fridge overnight or for about 8 hours. Told you. This is perfect for lazy cooks.
The next morning remove the beef from the marinade.
Next, we will pat the beef dry with a kitchen cloth and sear it in a heavy-bottomed cast-iron skillet. Make sure it's dry otherwise it won't colour at all.
We want a bit of colour. It's good and tasty and makes food taste good.
When the meat is seared you add the marinade straight to the pan and let it come to a boil.
At this point you will think that I am taking you for a ride but, trust me, I'm not. The sauce will come to the boil and look terrible.
This is just albumin from the meat juices and it coagulates on the surface.
Just strain it through a sieve and put the meat and the strained liquid in an oven-safe dish.
Now, wrap up with tin foil or close with a lid. Place in the oven at 150 degrees Celsius or 300 degrees Fahrenheit for 3 hours or until the beef is soft and tender. If it needs more cooking time simply lower the temperature to 120 degrees Celsius or 250 degrees Fahrenheit.
We are braising this adobo slowly until it's rich, soft and succulent.
Once you have checked it and you think it's done. Your dish is technically ready.
I like to thicken up the sauce a bit and I am sure you would like it that way too...
To thicken the adobo sauce. Pour the sauce into a small pot. Next, mix a bit of cornstarch with water to make a slurry.
Don't worry all the measurements are down in the recipe.
Bring the sauce to the boil and add the slurry while whisking. The sauce will thicken up slightly but should not be overly thick or gloopy.
Taste and adjust the seasoning and balance if needed.
Add back the beef and bay leaves.
Serve with your side of choice. Enjoy!
Sides to serve with it
I like serving it with this spiced roasted onion couscous but, any of the following goes well with it.
- Steamed rice - Perfect and simple.
- Mashed potatoes - Think Asian mash and gravy)
- Steamed broccoli or spinach - Got to have your greens.
- Bok choy - Crisp and juicy. Works well with the rich sauce.
Variations of adobo
- Adabong Baboy (Pork adobo) – Use the same recipe as above and substitute the beef for pork belly or pork neck. My second favourite.
- Adabong Talong (Aubergine adobo) – For a vegan adobo. Boil the sauce and thicken. Cut the aubergine in half lengthways and sear in a pan with some cooking oil. Next, lay on a baking tray and brush with the adobo sauce. Roast at 170C basting every 5 minutes for about 40 minutes or until the aubergine is fully cooked and perfectly glazed.
- Adabong Pusit (Squid adobo) – This one is a question of good squid and your ability to cook it. Squid gets tough very cook so never vigorously boil it. Just below a simmer is good for about 5 minutes in the sauce. (Make sure to cook the sauce before)
- Adabong Manok (Chicken adobo) – The most well known of the lot. Use the same method as in the beef recipe. Just know that the chicken will cook a lot quicker.
- Adabong Sa Gata (With coconut milk) – As mentioned before you could add coconut milk or cream to any of these and it gives a creamier milder version. Serve adobo with something simple as the flavour is really intense and you only need something to hold the sauce and balance the richness of the dish.
Tip for success
- Meat - It's best to use meat that is not very lean. Using lean meat will result in a dry result. Ask your butcher or shop assistant for stewing or braising meat if you're unsure. Marbled grain-fed beef works the best.
- Cooking time - Some cuts and types of beef take longer to cook than others. If you have the time I suggest you cook this long and slow to avoid any guessing when it comes to doneness. Cook the meat at 90 degrees Celsius or 194 degrees Fahrenheit for 8 - 12 hours until it's falling apart tender.
- Balance - Adjust the seasoning of the sauce once cooked so that it's nicely balanced. If it needs a touch more sugar then add it. Maybe a touch more acid to cut through the rich beef or season more with salt and pepper depending on your preference.
Other recipes you might like
If you like cooking Asian food as much as I do then you'll find the following recipes useful.
- Nasu dengaku - Sweet miso baked eggplant
- Thai prawn massaman curry
- Homemade kecap manis - Indonesian Sweet soy sauce
- Thai spiced beef koftas
- Teriyaki glazed pork tenderloin
- Homemade sriracha hot sauce
Frequently asked questions
Once cooked it should be cooled down and store in the fridge covered airtight
It will keep in the fridge for up to two weeks because of the high salt acid content that helps to prevent spoilage.
You can freeze it for longer storage for up to 6 months. Make sure to cover it properly or seal it in a vacuum bag to avoid freezer burn.
Useful equipment for this recipe
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For the meat
- 1 kg beef blade
For the marinade(adobo)
Slurry to thicken the suace(optional)
- 5 g cornstarch
- 10 g water
- First, let's make the marinade and cut our beef into chunks. You could easily use beef short rib or beef cheeks.
- Mix the beef and the marinade together and let it sit in the fridge overnight or for about 8 hours.
- The next morning remove the beef from the marinade.
- Next, we will pat the beef dry with a kitchen cloth and sear it in a heavy-bottomed cast-iron skillet. Make sure it's dry otherwise it won't colour at all
- When the meat is seared you add the marinade straight to the pan and let it come to a boil.
- At this point you will think that I am taking you for a ride but, trust me, I'm not. The sauce will come to the boil and look terrible. Don't worry. This is just albumin from the meat juices and it coagulates on the surface. Just strain it through a sieve and put the meat and the strained liquid in an oven-safe dish.
- Wrap up with tin foil or close with a lid. Place in the oven at 150C for 3 hours or until the beef is soft and tender.
- We are braising this adobo. Until it's rich, soft and succulent. Once you have checked it and you think it's done. Your dish is technically ready.
- To thicken the adobo sauce. Pout the sauce into a small pot. Next, mix a bit of cornstarch with water to make a slurry.
- Bring the sauce to the boil and add the slurry while whisking. The sauce will thicken up slightly but should not be overly thick or glumpy.
- When done, add back the beef and serve with your side of choice.
- Adobo can be made with many other things as I mentioned in this post. My favourite being pork neck or belly.
- Remember that all types of meat and vegetables have different cooking times and it's best to test often for doneness.
- Don't use lean beef as it will result in dry meat.
- If your meat needs longer to become tender turn down the oven a touch and let it cook longer until it's soft. See tips for success section.
- To make this beef adobo gluten-free be sure to use a gluten-free soy sauce.
- Although not a spicy dish, you could easily add some heat by adding some chopped chilli.
- It keeps well in the fridge for up to two weeks and many months stored in the freezer.