Sharing a Recipe – Filipino Chicken Tinola

This post is being created while we’re all weathering the COVID-19 pandemic. I do have enough toilet paper, though I’m still trying to wrap my head around that whole “you need toilet paper to survive” idea. Up there on the pyramid of needs, is food. So, I thought we do need to eat to live. Read through this tutorial to learn how to make Filipino chicken tinola.

Ingredients List – making things interesting

When you cook anything you usually start with a basic list of ingredients. As you gain experience and you want to make things a little different, you start experimenting with adding things to your recipe to see if you spice it up. Here’s an example of the ingredients list for a Filipino traditional soup called tinola.

  • 2-2.5 lbs of chicken
  • 48 oz. chicken broth
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 2″ piece of ginger (minced)
  • 2 cloves of garlic (minced)
  • 1 medium or large onion (diced)
  • 1 tbs. of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium zucchini (sliced thick)
  • 1 chayote (sliced thick)
  • 1/2 lb of baby bok choy
  • optional – 1 banana pepper
  • optional – 2 tbs. fish sauce

Cooking tools

  • tall stockpot (I used a 6qt Instant Pot)

Notes: This is a basic version of the recipe. It can vary widely and you can use different types of vegetables to your preferred taste. Make sure to thoroughly wash your vegetables! If you’re going to use the pepper, do not cut it up. Just it thoroughly, then add it to the mix when you’re adding the broth. The pepper is optional but may make the soup too peppery for some people. Try it uncut first if you’re going to use it. You can also substitute spinach for the bok choy.

Mincing garlic – If you’re not familiar with peeling and mincing garlic, you may find this pretty useful.

Step 1 – Get a clove of garlic and wide flat knife



Step 2 – Place the clove under the flat part of the knife



Step 3 – Using your other hand, place pressure on the knife to crush the garlic clove with the flat of the knife.

crushed garlic

Step 4 – Pull the dried husk off the garlic clove. It should be easy to pull it off now.

pull husk off garlic clove

Step 5 – Place the peeled garlic clove the on the cutting board. Please careful not to cut your fingers. You can mince the garlic like this:

Mincing garlic with a knife

You should mince it so that the resulting pieces of garlic are fine (more than in this picture):

Minced garlic

When I was learning this recipe I had recently watched a movie DVD extra where the producer/director demonstrated how to create a recipe shown in his movie. I remember his quote on why you should know how to cook:

You should know how to cook. After all, you have to eat to live.

Robert Rodriguez

Steps to Cook

  1. Cube the chicken. Many people will often say to use the bone when cooking soups or stews. I like to leave the bones out in a soup if you’re using a broth. Also, it makes it a little friendlier and less messy to eat. You can always leave them in for cooking and take them out after you’re done. If you’re going to leave the bones in for people to gnaw on, then make sure to separate as much of the meat from the bone as you can. I typically cut the meat into bite-size chunks. This helps to make it easier to cook and easier to eat. Put the cut chicken into a bowl where you can mix it with the salt and pepper.
  2. Salt and pepper to your taste. I use kosher salt, so maybe a teaspoon per pound. I also like to use coarse black pepper (the coarser the better). At least a teaspoon of pepper per pound of chicken.
  3. Brown the chicken. Add about a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil to your stockpot. Don’t add too much or your soup will become too oily. My images show that I’m cooking in a 6-quart Instant Pot. It’s what I had handy. I do not use the pressure cooking part of it. The other convenient thing about using the Instant Pot is that if I’m bringing the dish to a party, it’s easy to transport and then heat at the other location. The important part about this step is to heat the olive oil first. Give it 4-5 minutes to heat up, then add the chicken. When you brown it, make sure you’re stirring it. Your chicken should basically turn from the raw to slightly brown. Don’t overcook the chicken when you’re browning. If it looks a little raw, it’s fine. You will be boiling it as well. If you’re cooking on a stove, then your heat should be set to medium. If it’s too hot, you can easily overcook the chicken and many pots (especially stainless steel ones) recommend medium heat. If you’re cooking in an Instant Pot as I did, then just hit the saute button.
  4. Add the garlic, ginger, and onions to the chicken. Stir it well so that the chicken is thoroughly covered with the mixture. Cook it for another 5-6 minutes. If you’re using the fish sauce then add it here as well. I recommend a Filipino Fish Sauce, not the most pleasant smelling thing (so beware), but it adds a little umami to the dish.
  5. Add the chicken broth. I tend to use a low-sodium chicken broth. If you’re using a bouillon cube or broth with salt in it, then you may want to use less than 48 ounces. If you want a measurement, use 42 ounces, and then some water to make up the rest. You’ll need to taste the soup after it’s boiled a bit and salt as needed for your taste. Or you can serve it as is and leave the salt levels to your eaters. If you’re using the banana pepper, then add it here. Bring it to a boil.
  6. Add the chayote and zucchini after it’s boiling. The longer you boil vegetables, the softer they’ll be. Or as my mother likes to chide me, “your vegetables will be mushy!” I typically don’t mind the mushy vegetables in a soup, but if you do, then add it after the soup has been boiling for 5 minutes. Otherwise, once it’s boiling add the veggies and bring back to a boil for 5 minutes.
  7. Finally, add the bok choy. When I add a large bok choy or a bag of baby bok choy (maybe 1/2 lb.) it may go over the top of the pot. So, you should gradually add and mix in the bok choy. Boil it for another 5 minutes and you’re done!

Congratulations! You now know how to make Filipino Chicken Tinola soup! Serve it with a side of rice, you can season it with salt and pepper as needed.