In Spain, pork, beef, and chicken are often marinated in an adobo, a combination of spices and vinegar. After marinating, the meat is then called adobado. Usually, the adobo combines dry spices, along with vinegar or wine, and olive oil. Before refrigeration, marinades were very common, since marinating meat with spices masks any unpleasant flavors, tenderizes, and preserves it.
There are many versions of adobo. The Spanish commonly use some dry spices, Spanish sweet and/or spicy paprika, fresh garlic, vinegar and olive oil in their adobos. Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean and South America also have versions of adobos, based on their regional spice and flavor preferences. Having been under Spanish rule for nearly three centuries, cuisine in the Philippines also includes adobado meat and poultry dishes.
Tips for Cooking
- It is important to wait to add salt until just before cooking the meat since it will draw out the juices.
- Use a glass or ceramic bowl or dish to avoid a reaction between the adobo and the container. Plastic containers can be used, but are not recommended because the plastic will absorb the color and flavors of the spices.
- Be sure to refrigerate the meat or fish while marinating to avoid spoilage.
Below are several different adobo recipes for red meat, poultry, and game. Remember, use the quantities given for spices as a guide, and adjust to your taste. There are no rules, and each cook has their own taste.
Basic Spanish Adobo for Pork & Red Meats
This makes enough for approximately 1 kilo (2 lbs) of pork or beef.
- 4 tablespoons Spanish paprika (sweet or spicy)
- 3 tablespoons dried oregano
- 2-3 large garlic cloves (minced or 3 tablespoons garlic powder, NOT garlic salt)
- 5-6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 4-5 tablespoons vinegar
- Optional: 3-4 tablespoons water
- Mix paprika, oregano, and garlic together in a glass bowl or container.
- Stir in oil and vinegar (and optionally water).
- Place meat in a container and rub adobo into all sides of the meat using your hands.
- Cover tightly and refrigerate for a minimum of 2 hours, and a maximum of 24 hours, turning meat occasionally to coat all sides.
Spanish Adobo for Chicken
This adobo is good for roasted or grilled chicken and makes enough for 1 chicken.
- 3 tablespoons dried oregano
- 1 sprig fresh basil
- 1 hot pepper or 1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
- 1 tablespoon spicy Spanish paprika
- 3 tablespoons sweet Spanish paprika
- 1 tablespoon dried thyme
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Vinegar or fresh lemon juice
- Finely chop basil leaves and hot pepper.
- Mix basil with rest of spices in a bowl, and then rub onto chicken using your hands.
- Coat all surfaces thoroughly. Add olive oil a bit at a time, continuing to coat chicken with your hands.
- Squeeze lemon juice from 1/2 lemon or a few tablespoons vinegar into bowl and mix.
- Allow to marinate for 20 minutes to 2 hours. Roast or grill chicken.
- Remember to be sure to discard any leftover adobo in which raw chicken was marinated.
Adobo for Game Birds
This adobo is good for wild birds, such as quail and pheasant.
- 1 bay leaf
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon sweet Spanish paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red peppers
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
- Crush the bay leaf and garlic in a mortar and pestle, then place in a glass bowl.
- Add the rest of the ingredients and allow to sit for 1 hour.
- Add birds and marinate for 1 hour in a mixture, or use it to baste them while grilling.