The Captain’s Filipino Pork Adobo

by Ginny on April 20, 2012

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This is a recipe of the highest order– a family recipe, passed down through the perfecting mechanism of multiple generations. I feel very lucky to have tasted it while living in Alaska, and honored to have been given the recipe. Well, not a recipe exactly, but a list of ingredients with which to attempt a re-creation of this beloved dish. It’s from our friend Christian. And if you know Christian, you probably know his adobo. When Christian cooks adobo, people show up. This is the kind of dish that brings people to the table, over and over again.

So what is adobo? While trying to figure out the origins of this Spanish-style adobo recipe from my half-Filipino friend, I found that there are so many answers to that question, adobo is quite possibly one of the most confusing words in culinaria. The Spanish word Adobo means seasoning or marinade. In Latin America, adobo often refers to a dry seasoning of garlic powder, salt, and oregano. Paprika and vinegar are also common to “adobo” preparations, either wet or dry. In regards to those little cans of “Chipotles in Adobo”, the word refers to a tomato-based sauce with paprika, garlic, vinegar, and other spices– similar components to the one in this adobo recipe.

The widespread and variable use of the word adobo lends a nod to the reach of the Spanish Conquistadores, who conquered, among other places (like Puerto Rico), the Philipines in the 16th century. While there, they came across a native dish of braised meat, poultry, or fish simmered in soy sauce and vinegar. This is the most common version of what they call adobo in the Phillipines. But it is my understanding that there are also tomato-based versions of this dish cooked in Filipino kitchens. Perhaps a marriage of Spanish and Filipino cuisine. . . those zany Conquistadores! If it’s any consolation, sitting in front of  a plate of this dish, you won’t care what adobo means or where it’s from. The only word on your tongue will be these three simple letters : YUM.

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Recipe : The Captain's Filipino Pork Adobo

Our pal Christian, a.k.a. The Captain,  used to make big pots of this adobo at the pilot house in Juneau . Full of spicy, sweet flavor it filled the kitchen with the most mouth-watering aroma, and never failed to conjure a crowd. He let me jot down what he put in it, but since he went by feel, he didn’t have any measurements to offer. After some tinkering I came up with a recipe I could pass on to you.

Here are some notes you may find helpful:  For a stew, this cooks up quite fast, and boils rather than simmers, like most braising-type recipes prescribe. In testing, I simmered this over low heat, thinking it would be better somehow. It was delicious, but took 3 1/2 hours for the pork to get tender and with no definite difference in flavor. So I say turn up the heat and boil away for great adobo in a fraction of the time. Also, it may strike you as odd to add so much pickling spice, full of whole cloves, coriander seeds, bay leaves, and allspice berries, but rest assured that once it cooks down those whole spices are tender to the bite. If you have a sensitive tummy, you may want to try grinding the pickling spice down in a coffee or spice grinder, but I’ve come to love the bold kicks of flavor the bits of bark and berries offer in this incomparable dish. Oh, and P.S.- This would make a great freezer meal.   


  • 4 lb. pork shoulder or butt roast (or 3 to 3 1/2 pounds trimmed stew meat)
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 1 tablespoon Mongolian fire oil (a.k.a. hot pepper sesame oil, or chili oil)
  • 1 tablespoon grapeseed or canola oil
  • 3 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 2 [15 ounce] cans Hunt’s tomato sauce (the Captain says Hunt’s is a must)
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons pickling spice
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 2 cups long grain white rice (uncooked)

Trim fat from pork roast and cut into 1-inch cubes. Place pork in a large mixing bowl and sprinkle with cayenne, black pepper, and paprika. Toss to coat.

In a large, wide-bottomed soup pot with a lid, heat the fire oil and grapeseed oil over high heat until shimmery. Add pork and minced garlic, and saute until browned, about 10 minutes. Add the cans of tomato sauce and 1 can of water. Stir in salt, cider vinegar, pickling spice, and red wine. Bring to a steady boil over medium or medium-high heat, and cook partially-covered for 30 to 45 minutes or until pork is tender and sauce has reduced and thickened a bit.

While adobo is cooking, prepare rice according to package instructions. Serve adobo over rice.

Serves 6 – 8


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