Instant Pot Whole Chicken Adobo
In this version of pressure cooker Filipino adobo the chicken is cooked whole. You get all the wonderful adobo flavor and sauce while all parts of the chicken are perfectly cooked without falling apart.
An already simple, straightforward dish like Filipino adobo where a handful of ingredients is thrown into the pot and braised until the meat is tender doesn’t need the help of a pressure to make it even easier. Once you determine the right vinegar to soy sauce ratio to suit your taste (my classic recipe is here) you can’t mess it up. Or can you?
Leave it to me to do just that.
Thighs and drumsticks have never been my favorite parts of the chicken–I’ve always favored wings and breasts. For my mom who used a cut-up whole chicken to prepare her chicken dishes there was never any fighting over “the best piece” because our favorites didn’t overlap and everyone got what they wanted.
The pressure cooker still being a novelty for me I tried to prepare my classic adobo recipe using a cut-up whole chicken earlier this year. Again, the conventional method using the stove is as easy as it gets and I never worry about the smaller, leaner or more tender cuts of meat overcooking or falling apart but that’s what happened when I experimented with my Instant Pot. Even using a shorter cooking time it was quite disappointing to see that the more delicate pieces of meat had fallen apart from the pressure. The adobo tasted as it should but a pot of loose bones, skin and meat was hardly presentable and far from photogenic.
There’s a reason most recipes on the web use only chicken thighs or the whole leg–it’s better for managing cooking time with uniform cuts of meat but not ideal for this girl who prefers other parts of the bird.
I let the matter go and stowed away my Instant Pot for the summer but I knew I’d tackle it again eventually.
When pictures of whole chickens–one after another after another–sitting in Instant Pots began to populate my Facebook feed (I now follow the Instant Pot community there) it dawned on me that it might be the adobo solution I’d been looking for.
Most of the recipes are presented as a pressure cooker version of “roast” chicken but I was less interested in that than I was about cooking a whole chicken that would yield an evenly cooked bird with all the parts intact and infused with adobo flavor.
It worked beautifully.
The wings were still attached to the rest of the chicken and the breasts were juicy. The bird sat in the pot on a trivet breast side down (accounting for the odd impression on the surface of the chicken in my pictures here) but you can skip this step. The whole chicken was so tender it barely held together but it did great with delicate handling as I transferred it out of the pot and onto a baking sheet to brown the skin under the broiler.
There was no shortage of flavorful adobo sauce in the pot–perfect for drizzling over rice–and as resistant as my brain seems to be about a roast chicken coming from a pressure cooker it was the workaround I needed. The added bonus is that this preparation gave this humble Filipino dish that doesn’t normally win pretty points a chance to look more appealing–just remember to cook yours breast side up to avoid it looking like it’s been branded by the trivet.
Instant Pot Adobo Cooking Tips:
- I use a 2:1 ratio of vinegar to soy sauce with a little water. This lends a bolder vinegar flavor after cooking but mellows out over time. As you reheat the vinegar flavor mellows and the sauce gets sweeter, more complex. If you want to tone it down to suit your taste simply add 1/4 cup of water and continue to adjust until you reach the right balance for you.
- Another way to infuse even more flavor into the chicken is to cut up leftovers and put them back in the sauce. The meat will absorb more of the adobo flavor.
Instant Pot Whole Chicken Adobo
In this version of pressure cooker adobo the chicken is cooked whole to keep the smaller, leaner pieces from overcooking or falling apart. You still get all the adobo flavor and loads of sauce to drizzle over rice. (The one hour time listed below includes the total time from start to finish, not just pressure cooking time.)
- 3.5 – 4 pound whole chicken, rinsed and patted dry
- 1 cup vinegar (plain white, Filipino cane vinegar or apple cider vinegar)
- 1/2 cup soy sauce
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 head garlic peeled and half of the cloves smashed and the other half left whole
- 2 bay leaves
- Freshly ground black pepper or 1 tbsp whole peppercorns
Make sure the inner pot of your pressure cooker is in place. Turn on your pressure cooker to sauté mode. Add all the ingredients except the chicken and bring to boil without stirring the liquid. After the liquid has boiled for two minutes place the trivet that came with your Instant Pot inside the pot and set the chicken breast side down. You can cook it breast side up but I think side down allows for more tender breast meat.
Seal the lid, set the cooker to manual, high pressure for 20 minutes. The time noted above includes the 12 minutes it will take for the pot to come to pressure. It may be more or less depending on the size of your chicken.
Once the 20 minutes of pressure cooking is up, wait 15 minutes for natural pressure release (NPR)–10 minutes would be fine, too, if your chicken is the same size as mine) –before releasing the remaining pressure completely by hitting the pressure release valve. It will take about one minute for the pin to come down, indicating it's safe for you to remove the lid.
If you plan to serve the chicken whole, I recommend transferring the chicken to a baking sheet and broiling it for two to three minutes until the skin is nicely brown. Tip: if you anticipate leftovers I would cut up the chicken (at this point it practically falls apart), pour over the adobo sauce to allow the flavor to further be infused into the meat.
Serve with rice.
Adobo sauce tastes better as it is reheated. The vinegar flavor mellows over time but if you want a more toned down vinegar flavor feel free to add 1/4 – 1/2 cup of water to the sauce.