Umami Chicken

Who gets to decide that there’s suddenly a “fifth taste”? Weren’t we all  perfectly satisfied with sweet, sour, bitter, and salty?  (Though I have wondered if somebody hadn’t left out spicy). Umami, the fifth taste, was discovered by a Japanese chemist about 100 years ago. He identified a single molecule, glutamate, as being the source of a rich/savory quality in certain foods, such as cured meats, seafood, pork, soy foods, mushrooms, aged cheeses, and fermented foods. The truth is, it’s taken me a while to grasp umami. It’s a quality you come to understand almost intuitively…a lip smacking reaction to something savory and “close your eyes” yummy. This Umami Chicken definitely qualifies

Umami chicken with bok choy and rice

Easy Umami Chicken

Umami was the first word that popped into my head when I took my first bite of this dish. Chicken, still on the bone (umami) gets gently simmered in a generous amount of soy sauce (an umami superpower) along with tangy vinegar (more umami) and loads of garlic (flavor bomb). It’s an umami triple threat. The fact that it couldn’t be easier to make is a big bonus.

The recipe comes to me by way of my friend Spring, who learned it from her friend Maria Benton, who learned it from her mom Purita and her Grandma “Nanay”. It’s called Adobo, a traditional Filipino dish that Maria says, “Growing up we ate this a few times a week. Sometimes with chicken wings or drumsticks, sometimes whole chicken cut up, or with pork spareribs cut up into thirds. Something with bone always comes out the tastiest.”

Umami indeed.wedges of roasted cabbage on a sheet pan with pistachios

Check out these other umami-powered dishes:

Roasted Cabbage with Miso Ginger Butter

Beef and Mushroom Blended Burger

Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad with Pecorino

Romaine and Avocado Salad with Anchovy Dressing

Umami Chicken

This recipe comes to me by way of Maria Benton, who learned it from her mom and grandma. It's a traditional Filipino dish called Adobo that is tangy, salty, and tender all at once. Serve it over steamed rice with a hefty serving of a favorite green vegetable on the side. This chicken is excellent as a leftover.
Course Dinner
Cuisine philipino
Keyword adobo chicken, umami chicken
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Servings 10 pieces of chicken; 5 to 7 servings
Calories 350 kcal
Author Katie Morford


  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 5 chicken legs and thighs, bone-in, skin-on, separated (about 3 pounds)
  • 10 large cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce (or gluten-free Tamari)
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • Steamed brown rice (optional)


  1. Set a large, heavy pot over low heat and coat the bottom with olive oil. Set the chicken legs and thighs skin-side-down in the pot and scatter the garlic over the top. Put on the lid and cook until the chicken turns opaque in color, about 15 minutes, turning the pieces over halfway through. A spatula may help if the chicken sticks to the bottom.
  2. Add the soy sauce, vinegar, and water, tip the pot to mix the liquids, put on the lid, and simmer on low until the chicken is very tender, about 45 minutes, turning the pieces over halfway through.
  3. Serve with rice.

Recipe adapted and used with permission by Maria Benton. 


09.23.2017 at10:46 AM #

Meegan K. Massagli

Hi Katie, could the simmer part of this be done in a slow cooker? If so, what would be the temp/time?

09.23.2017 at10:46 AM #

Katie Morford

I would think so. I’d say instead of 45 minutes on the stove, 4 hours on low in the slow cooker. You’ll just have to try it and see, but it’s the type of recipe that should work in the slow cooker

02.02.2021 at7:46 AM #

Sharon allen

Umami is truly the 5th taste in all taste. this recipe is really nice for chicken and brown rice, both are healthy for humans. I also like this blog about what does umami mean and taste like-

09.05.2021 at6:34 PM #

Caitlin Soukup

hi- what temperature of heat should I use when I first put the chicken in the pot with the garlic over it?

09.05.2021 at6:34 PM #

Katie Morford

You want it on low heat.

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