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Adobo is a type of cuisine that originated in Spain and Portugal. It typically involves marinating raw meat in a stock (or sauce) composed of garlic, soy sauce, vinegar, paprika, oregano, and salt.

Adobo was widely adopted in Latin American countries like Peru, Mexico, Uruguay, and other Spanish and Portuguese colonies, including the Azores, Madeira and the Philippines. The term “adobo” actually describes a marinade or seasoning mix, and recipes for that marinade vary widely by region. Puerto Rican adobo, for instance, differs greatly from the Mexican, Peruvian, and Uruguayan varieties.

In the Philippines, the name “adobo” was given by the Spanish colonists to an indigenous cooking method that was already in existence. When the Spanish first discovered the Philippine islands in the late 16th century, they encountered a cooking process that involved stewing with vinegar. The Spanish referred to it as adobo due to its similarity to the Spanish adobo (although that similarity was only marginal). The Filipino adobo actually entails a marinade that is distinctly different from Spanish marinade, and the dish is prepared using an entirely different cooking method.

Since I was born and raised in the Philippines, I grew up eating the traditional Filipino adobo. I may be biased, but I believe that Filipino adobo, with its rich and bold flavors, stands out as a stellar dish that is superior to other countries’ versions of adobo. The dish has become inseparably linked to the Philippines that it is considered by many as the (unofficial) national dish of the Philippines, and is usually the centerpiece of a lunch or dinner meal or even a fiesta.

Traditional Filipino adobo usually involves chicken (and/or pork) marinated in vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, and black peppercorns. The meat is first browned in oil, and then simmered in the marinade.

As part of Underground Health Reporter’s Meatless Monday issue, I’m featuring my favorite recipe for vegetarian adobo. When I became a vegetarian many years ago, I continued the tradition of preparing Filipino adobo by substituting chicken with vegetarian “chicken”. I love this plant-based dish so much that I make it at home at least once a week. It’s surprisingly simple to make — the vegetarian chicken is marinated in vinegar, pepper and Bragg, fried in a bit of oil, then cooked the same way as chicken adobo in the Philippines. This chicken-less version of the iconic Filipino dish is a healthy way to enjoy the taste of the Philippines.

Vegetarian Filipino-Style Adobo


Vegetarian Adobo4 vegetarian “chicken” cutlets – sliced into bite-sized pieces (my favorite brands are Trader Joe’s Chickenless Crispy Tenders*, Lightlife Smart Tenders Meatless Savory Chick’n*, and Gardein Chick’n Scallopini)*
4 cloves garlic, minced coarsely
1 tbsp Bragg Liquid Aminos or soy sauce
½ tsp black pepper
½ cup vinegar
1 tbsp olive oil
1 cup water, more or less as needed


Marinate vegetarian chicken in garlic, Bragg, pepper, and vinegar for 15 minutes. Reserving marinade, scoop out the garlic with a slotted spoon and transfer into preheated oil and stir-fry until brown, being careful not to overcook or singe the garlic.

Add marinade and vegetarian chicken. Simmer 10 minutes. Serve with rice.

*Note: When using the chickenless/meatless tenders (which are half the size of cutlets), use 8 tenders instead of 4 cutlets in this recipe.