I’m always looking for more interesting ways to turn a pound of ground meat into a weeknight-friendly dinner for my family of four, and we eat a lot of ground chicken. It’s an affordable, adaptable ingredient, and it can be used with a variety of cuisines and flavor profiles.
For this recipe, I’m borrowing from Filipino cuisine, simmering simply seasoned chicken meatballs in a rich, glazy adobo sauce along with carrots and onions for a one-pot main dish. Boil a pot of rice and you’ve got dinner in just over half an hour.
This is my second adobo recipe for Simply Recipes—my first is for the Instant Pot. My friend Nancy gave me some pointers along the way, as her family makes the dish often. When I showed her this recipe for a meatball version cooked on the stove, she said it looked like a great weeknight spin on classic adobo.
Ingredients for Adobo Chicken Meatballs
Not all adobo preparations include coconut milk, but it is a great addition, giving a little extra richness to this dish. For anyone who dislikes the flavor of coconut, you may very well enjoy it in this dish anyway—it’s very much toned down thanks to the strong flavors of salty, savory soy sauce and tangy white vinegar.
For a slightly lighter dish, you can substitute light/reduced-fat coconut milk. And if you’d like to cut down the sodium, use low sodium soy sauce and/or chicken broth or just add a tablespoon less soy sauce. If you go this route, you may want to taste the dish for seasoning at the end of cooking, adding a little more vinegar or sugar to balance out the flavors.
Easy Recipe Variations
This recipe works well with other ground meats than chicken. Ground pork makes for slightly richer meatballs, and ground turkey has a more assertive flavor but is good, too. For leaner meatballs, use ground chicken breast or turkey breast. Plant-based chicken “grind” works, too (Kroger has a house brand).
You can also toss in other vegetables to simmer along with the meatballs. Green beans, sliced bell peppers, rounds of zucchini, or sliced asparagus work well. Add them about 10 minutes before the end of the cooking time.
Save Time By Prepping Ahead
There are a few parts of this recipe that you can prepare in advance so everything’s ready to go at dinner time. For one, you can make and form the meatballs, then refrigerate them, covered, for up to a day until you’re ready to cook them.
You can also make the liquid adobo mixture the day of and store it in a jar in the fridge until ready to use. And if you’d like to get the veggie prep done in advance, go ahead and slice up your onion and carrots up to a day ahead, storing them together in a container in the fridge.
How to Serve Adobo Chicken Meatballs
Adobo dishes are usually served with rice. I like to use my Instant Pot to cook a batch of rice for a low-effort accompaniment to the main dish. Of course, you can use a rice cooker or a pot on the stove, or sauté up some cauliflower rice.
Ground Chicken Weeknight Wins
- Chicken Larb Lettuce Wraps (Larb Gai)
- Spicy Buffalo Chicken Burgers
- Pressure Cooker Chicken Lettuce Wraps
- Baked Chicken Meatballs
Make the meatball mixture:
In a medium bowl, stir together the ground chicken, egg, breadcrumbs, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, and pepper until evenly mixed.
Make the adobo sauce mixture:
In a 2-cup liquid measuring cup, mix together the broth, coconut milk, soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, and pepper.
Cook the meatballs:
Place a large braising pan or high-sided skillet with a lid over medium heat and add the oil. When the oil is shimmering, use a small (1 1/2 tablespoon) cookie scoop or a spoon and your hands, shape the mixture into meatballs and gently drop them into the skillet as you go.
Brown the meatballs for about 2 minutes on their first side, until golden brown. Use a spatula to gently turn them and brown them on another side, for 2 minutes more. Sauté them for one more minute, so all the sides have a little color or are at least opaque.
Add the remaining ingredients and simmer:
Scoot the meatballs to one side of the pan, and add the garlic cloves to the other side of the pan. Sauté for 1 minute, making sure they all come into contact with the oil and get a bit browned. Spread out the meatballs and add the onion, carrots, and bay leaf, using a spatula to poke them down around the meatballs.
Pour the adobo sauce mixture over the meatballs and vegetables.
When the mixture comes up to a simmer, cover the pan and turn the heat to medium-low. Let simmer for 15 minutes.
Reduce the sauce and serve:
Remove the lid, turn the heat up to medium-high, stir, and let simmer for another 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is reduced, thickened, and glossy.
Sprinkle green onions on top. Serve with rice or cauliflower rice.
Store any leftovers in a tightly lidded container in the refrigerator. To reheat, microwave each serving until piping hot, about 1 1/2 minutes.
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