This vegan adobo is a plant-based version of a classic Filipino dish. Chicken Adobo has grown to become one of our favorite go-to dishes, sparking offshoots like Pork Adobo (which is excellent on little mini sliders for a party, in case you ever wondered).
Naturally, I came to wonder how I could veganize it! And this vegan adobo with seitan “chick’n” is pretty brilliant if I do say so.
Meat Eaters Will Be Skeptical
The reason why Chicken Adobo is so delicious is because of the sticky unctuousness that comes from bone-in, skin-on chicken braising for a long time. It’s hard to recreate that symphony of fat, salt, and acid without, well…chicken fat.
When I floated the idea of a Vegan Chicken Adobo to the family, I got wrinkled noses and that “you’re young and on a fool’s errand” look from Sarah that I’ve been getting from her ever since she tricked me into “racing” her up the stairs to see who could carry the laundry up from the basement fastest. Yes. I’m not proud.
That said, I PROVED HER WRONG WITH THIS ONE!
Achieving Richness with Vegan Ingredients
So how do you mimic the taste of long simmered chicken fat without any chicken? The key is slowly sweated onions and garlic, which take on a deep sweetness and umami that infuses the whole dish. Our original recipe has no onion, but this is key for the vegan version.
The other crucial addition is the best thick coconut milk you can find. Now is not the time for low fat or, I hate to say it, non-Asian brands. There is a big difference from your mainstream grocery store generic and a good old can of Aroy-D coconut milk for some reason.
Most traditional versions of adobo don’t use coconut milk. However, it is a regional Filipino variation that we love. The additional fat is also necessary for this vegan version.
The other secret is browning the seitan before you add it to the sauce, and simmering the sauce without the seitan, so that it doesn’t get too salty from sitting in the sauce for too long.
Now there’s nothing holding you back from those good vegan fats!
What Is Cane Vinegar?
You’ll notice that this recipe calls for “cane vinegar,” which is made from sugar cane.
The brand we buy from our local Asian market is “Datu Puti,” which is pictured above. They also make some flavored vinegars, so made sure you’re buying the plain version. If you can’t find cane vinegar, you can also substitute regular distilled white vinegar or rice vinegar (AKA rice wine vinegar).
Ok, now that that’s out of the way, let’s cook!
Vegan Adobo: Recipe Instructions
Heat a pan over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of oil, along with the onion and garlic. Saute until softened. The onions can crisp ever so slightly at the edges, but they shouldn’t take on too much color.
Add the coconut milk…
Along with the cane vinegar, dark soy sauce, light soy sauce, sugar, black pepper, bay leaf, and 2 dried red chili peppers.
Turn the heat down to a low simmer, and cook for about 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat another tablespoon of oil in a skillet (nonstick works great). Break up the seitan or cut it into desired shapes, and add it to the pan. Brown it until it’s golden all over.
Add the browned seitan to the sauce.
Stir it in, and cook for another 5 minutes.
Serve this rich adobo with steamed rice and chopped cilantro on top!
- 2 tablespoons oil (can use vegetable oil or coconut oil; divided)
- 1 large onion (halved and thinly sliced)
- 4 cloves garlic (peeled and smashed)
- 14 ounces coconut milk (make sure you're using a full-fat coconut milk, preferably a brand like Aroy-D)
- 3 tablespoons cane vinegar
- 2 tablespoons dark soy sauce (you can also start with half this amount and adjust to taste)
- 2 teaspoons light soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper (or 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns; they're more traditional, but will have to be picked out)
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 dried red chili peppers
- 8 ounces chicken-style seitan (or other vegan protein substitute of choice: tofu, oyster mushrooms, etc.)
- 2 tablespoons cilantro (chopped, optional)
- Heat a pan over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of oil, along with the onion and garlic. Saute until softened. The onions can crisp ever so slightly at the edges, but they shouldn’t take on too much color.
- Add the coconut milk, cane vinegar, dark soy sauce, light soy sauce, sugar, black pepper, bay leaf, and 2 dried red chili peppers. Turn the heat down to a low simmer, and cook for about 20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, heat another tablespoon of oil in a skillet (nonstick works great). Break up the seitan or cut it into desired shapes, and add it to the pan. Brown it until it’s golden all over. Add it to the sauce, and cook for another 5 minutes.
- Serve with steamed rice and chopped cilantro on top, if using.