Tender and moist chicken, al dente chayote, fragrant ginger, and fresh malunggay leaves–this chicken tinola recipe is a comforting and delicious chicken soup when you want to curl up under a blanket. As a traditional Filipino dish, it’s loaded with familiar flavor profiles of ginger and fish sauce.
When I was growing up, my mom made a huge batch of chicken tinola (aka tinolang manok) whenever I was sick with the flu or a cold because it was easy to make and light enough for someone under the weather to eat. This dish is an ode to my mom’s recipe where she marinades the chicken beforehand and adds a ton of green malunggay leaves.
What is chicken tinola?
Chicken tinola, or tinolang manok in Tagalog, is translated to chicken stew or soup. While it’s fairly different from chicken adobo, chicken tinola is also a popular comfort food. It’s an indigenous soup from the Philippines and was even included in the Filipino hero Jose Rizal’s novel Noli Me Tángere in the 1800s.
This soup is similar to many chicken soups–eating it just feels good for your soul. It’s steamy, warm and full of flavor from the tender chicken, fragrant onions, ginger, garlic, and rich in greens like malunggay (moringa) or chile pepper leaves.
These days, you can find many variations of chicken tinola. You can add watercress, spinach, taro, long finger peppers, chayote, and more. It’s one of the easiest chicken soup recipes to make in the Philippines, and is often a staple in homes since its such a simple comfort food.
Fish sauce and marinating chicken
While fish sauce, or patis, is very popular in Vietnamese cuisine, it’s just as important a flavor profile in Filipino cooking. Filipino food historian, Doreen Fernandez wrote that Filipinos often brought small bottles of patis with them when traveling abroad to acclimate the “alien” taste of new foods.
For this recipe, I use patis to marinate the chicken to give it more flavor from the get go–even if the get go means marinating for two hours. Trust me, marinating will be worth it! I’ve tried forgoing marinating chicken or even cutting it down to 30 minutes, but I felt it always needed more flavor. I used a ratio of one pound of chicken to one tablespoon of fish sauce. I also add the extra fish sauce from the marinade straight into the saute.
Malunggay / moringa leaves
Malunggay leaves are also known as moringa. These days, moringa leaves have gotten very popular for their health benefits like vitamin c, beta carotene, and antioxidants that help combat free radicals.
Tinolang manok traditionally includes sili or hot pepper leaves, but my mom (and entire family) loves malunggay leaves so much we ate chicken tinola exclusively with green moringa leaves. For this recipe, I added some spinach for more greens, but you can add sili leaves or other types of greens based on your preference too.
I have many fond memories as a child helping my mom pick out malunggay leaves from the grocery store and then helping her prepare them in the kitchen. It’s been years since then, but the memory of using my fingers to pinch the stems and strip the heart shaped leaves off the hearty stems remains a part of me.
- Marinate your chicken to get more flavorful pieces. While some recipes don’t call for marinating the chicken at all, I go by my moms direction and marinate the chicken for two hours prior to cooking. Previously, I tried marinating for as little as 30 minutes, but I found the best tasting chicken is done by marinating for at least two hours. I haven’t gone beyond this since I marinate with fish sauce and don’t want the chicken to become too salty.
- Brown the chicken before braising. This helps you get evenly cooked and tender chicken that is full of flavor.
- Adjust the seasoning of your tinola: if your soup is lacking flavor or salt, add more fish sauce. If your soup is too salty, add more water to even out the flavor.
Is tinolang manok healthy?
Just like other types of chicken soup (like chicken phở, Vietnamese chicken noodle soup, miến gà recipe), chicken tinola is a light dish to serve someone under the weather or just someone craving light comfort food. The warmth of the soup also helps to soothe sore throats.
What is the English of tinolang manok?
Tinolang manok is a tagalog dish that translates to chicken soup.
How do you cut chayote for tinola?
To cut the chayote for tinola, slice the chayote in half and then use a spoon to remove the seed in the center. Then cut the tinola in half again and slice it into half-inch cubes.
Chicken Tinola (Filipino Tinolang Manok)
- 2 lb (907.2 g) chicken wings and drummettes
- 5 tbsp fish sauce
- ½ yellow onion chopped
- 5 cloves garlic minced
- 2 inches of ginger julienned
- 6 c filtered water more if necessary
- 2 small chayote cut into ½ inch cubes
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 4 c spinach cleaned
- 1 c moringa leaves stripped and cleaned
- ½ tsp black pepper
- salt to taste
- Pat the chicken dry and put it in a storage container. Pour two tablespoons of fish sauce into the bowl and mix to make sure the chicken is thoroughly coated. Cover the container with a lid and marinate on the counter for at least two hours. Note: If you put the chicken in the fridge to marinate, you need to remove it at least 20 minutes before cooking to bring it to room temperature, otherwise the chicken will cook unevenly.
- In a pot over medium heat, add the vegetable oil and the onions. Saute for about one to two minutes or until the onions are translucent. Add the garlic and ginger and cook for one minute until fragrant, but not burned.
- Add the chicken into the pot and stir all the ingredients. Continue to the chicken in the pot for 6-8 minutes or until the chicken is brown on the outside, or the internal chicken temperature reads 135 °F.
- Add the water and the rest of the fish sauce into the pot and stir. Raise the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil.
- Lower the heat to medium-low and continue a simmer for about 30 minutes covered with the lid.
- Remember to stir occasionally and skim the fat and scum off the top of the soup.
- Add the chayote and continue to cook for 8 minutes or until the chayote is soft and you can pierce it easily with a fork.
- Add all the spinach.
- Immediately add all the moringa, then cook for up to one minute to soften the leaves.
- Taste test the soup and add the black pepper. If necessary, add additional salt or pepper to taste. The chicken should be tender and the internal temperature should read 165 °F.