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Grilled Chicken Thighs with Adobo Sauce

JJ Johnson's Grilled Chicken Thighs with Adobo Sauce + Collard Green Salad with Coconut Dressing
JJ Johnson's Grilled Chicken Thighs with Adobo Sauce + Collard Green Salad with Coconut DressingNathan Congleton / TODAY
Cook Time:
1 min
Prep Time:
15 mins

Chef notes

I love cooking with Peruvian-style adobo sauce. This recipe features the unexpected sweetness of rice vinegar along with West African palm sugar, which I love for its rich, caramel flavor.

Swap option: You can use dark brown sugar in this recipe and your guests will love it all the same.


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup diced yellow onion
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
  • 3 bird's eye chiles, seeded and chopped
  • 1/2 cup palm sugar
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 14.5-ounce can stewed tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 1 cup soy sauce
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon whole cloves
  • 1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 8 thighs)



In a 4-quart pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot and begins to shimmer, add the onion and sprinkle with salt. Sauté the onion for 3 to 5 minutes, then add the garlic, ginger and chiles and cook for 2 additional minutes.


Stir in the palm sugar and allow it to dissolve and melt down slightly, then blend in the tomato paste. Once the sugar and tomato paste are incorporated and begin to caramelize slightly, pour in the stewed tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes. Add the vinegar, soy sauce, stock, bay leaves, cloves and peppercorns. Bring the sauce to a simmer and let cook until reduced by half, about 30 minutes.


Taste and season the sauce before straining through a medium-mesh sieve; discard the solids. Let the sauce cool completely.


Place the chicken in a medium bowl and add half of the cooled adobo sauce. Reserve the remaining sauce for serving. Fold the chicken to coat with the sauce.


Preheat a cast-iron grill pan over medium heat. When the grill pan is hot, lift the chicken from the sauce, allowing excess sauce to drip back into the bowl. Place the chicken on the grill, smooth side down. Cook until the chicken is marked and releases from the grill ridges easily. Turn the chicken over and lower the heat to medium-low.


Continue to cook the chicken over medium-low heat, turning occasionally and brushing with more of the adobo sauce from the bowl, to continue layering the flavor. Cook until the chicken is lightly charred and cooked through, 15-18 minutes. Discard any remaining adobo sauce that has been used as marinade.


Transfer the chicken to a clean work surface and let rest for 5 minutes. Serve with the reserved sauce.