Delicious Chicken Tocino Recipe: Authentic Filipino Flavor

In the heart of Filipino cuisine lies a sweet and savory dish that has captured the taste buds of many, both locally and internationally. Chicken Tocino, a variant of the traditional pork tocino, offers a delightful blend of flavors that are both comforting and exotic. This dish, with its roots deeply embedded in Filipino culture, presents an authentic taste of the Philippines. In this article, we will explore the origins of tocino, delve into the secrets of making delicious chicken tocino at home, and share tips on how to enjoy it in true Filipino style.

The Origins of Tocino

Tocino is derived from the Spanish word for bacon, indicating its colonial origins. However, the Filipino version has evolved significantly from its Spanish counterpart. Traditionally made with pork, tocino in the Philippines is known for its sweet taste, a result of the unique marinade it is cured in. The adaptation of chicken tocino came about as a healthier alternative to pork, catering to those looking for a lighter yet equally flavorful option.

The Secret to Authentic Chicken Tocino

The key to authentic chicken tocino lies in its marinade, a perfect blend of sweetness, saltiness, and a hint of tanginess. Here’s a recipe that captures the essence of traditional Filipino tocino using chicken as the star ingredient.


  • 2 lbs chicken thighs, boneless and skinless, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup pineapple juice (for tenderizing and adding a slight tang)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar (for sweetness and caramelization)
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce (for color and saltiness)
  • 1 tablespoon garlic, minced (for aroma and flavor)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon annatto powder (achuete) for color (optional)
  • Cooking oil, for frying
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  1. Prepare the Marinade: In a large bowl, combine pineapple juice, brown sugar, soy sauce, minced garlic, salt, pepper, and annatto powder if using. Mix well until the sugar is dissolved.
  2. Marinate the Chicken: Add the chicken slices to the marinade, ensuring each piece is well coated. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight, to allow the flavors to meld.
  3. Cook the Tocino: Heat a skillet over medium heat and add a small amount of cooking oil. Fry the marinated chicken slices in batches, turning occasionally, until fully cooked and caramelized on both sides. The sugar in the marinade will caramelize, giving the tocino its characteristic sweetness and a beautifully glazed appearance.
  4. Serve: Serve the chicken tocino hot with a side of garlic fried rice (sinangag) and a fried egg for a traditional Filipino breakfast known as “Tocilog.”

Tips for the Perfect Chicken Tocino

  • Marinating Time: For the best flavor, marinate the chicken overnight. This not only allows the meat to absorb all the flavors but also tenderizes it, resulting in a more succulent dish.
  • Cooking Technique: To avoid burning the sugar in the marinade, cook the tocino over medium heat. If you find the chicken is browning too quickly, reduce the heat slightly.
  • Serving Suggestions: Chicken tocino is traditionally served for breakfast, but it’s versatile enough to be enjoyed at any meal. Pair it with steamed rice and pickled papaya (atchara) for lunch or dinner, or wrap it in warm tortillas for a Filipino-inspired taco night.

Variations of the Chicken Tocino Recipe

Chicken Tocino is a popular Filipino dish known for its sweet and savory flavors. Traditionally made with pork, this dish has found its variation in chicken, offering a lighter yet equally delightful taste. Here, we explore several variations of the Chicken Tocino recipe, each adding a unique twist to the classic preparation.

1. Classic Chicken Tocino

  • Description: This version sticks closely to the traditional Tocino recipe but uses chicken thighs or breasts, marinated in a blend of pineapple juice, soy sauce, sugar, and garlic, then pan-fried to perfection.
  • Twist: For a more traditional flavor, add annatto powder for color and a hint of earthiness.

2. Spicy Chicken Tocino

  • Description: Kick things up a notch with the addition of chili flakes or fresh chopped chili peppers to the marinade, giving the chicken a spicy edge that complements its sweetness.
  • Twist: Use honey instead of sugar for the marinade to balance the spice with a smoother, nuanced sweetness.

3. Garlic Chicken Tocino

  • Description: Garlic lovers can enjoy this variation where minced garlic is not just a marinade ingredient but also garnished generously over the cooked chicken, offering a crispy, aromatic finish.
  • Twist: After cooking the Tocino, briefly sauté additional garlic until golden and sprinkle over the top for an extra burst of flavor.

4. BBQ Chicken Tocino

  • Description: This version involves grilling the marinated chicken instead of the traditional pan-frying, giving it a smoky flavor that’s perfect for outdoor cookouts.
  • Twist: Brush the chicken with a mix of the marinade and honey during the last few minutes of grilling for a caramelized exterior.

5. Citrus-infused Chicken Tocino

  • Description: Add a fresh twist by incorporating citrus zest and a squeeze of lemon or orange juice into the marinade, offering a tangy contrast to the sweet profile of the Tocino.
  • Twist: Marinate the chicken with slices of the citrus fruit of your choice to intensify the flavor.

6. Vegan Chicken Tocino

  • Description: For a plant-based alternative, use soy-based or wheat-based chicken alternatives marinated in the traditional Tocino mixture. This version maintains the classic flavor while being completely meat-free.
  • Twist: Add a dash of liquid smoke to the marinade to mimic the smokiness of grilled Tocino.

7. Pineapple Chicken Tocino

  • Description: Incorporate chunks of pineapple into the cooking process, allowing them to caramelize and meld their flavors with the chicken for a tropical twist.
  • Twist: Serve with a side of fresh pineapple salsa for a refreshing contrast.

Serving Suggestions for Chicken Tocino

Chicken Tocino, with its sweet and savory flavors, offers a delightful experience that pairs well with a variety of sides and condiments. Here are some serving suggestions to elevate your Chicken Tocino meal:

  1. With Garlic Fried Rice (Sinangag):
    • The classic Filipino breakfast, often called “Tocilog,” includes Tocino served with garlic fried rice. The aromatic, crispy rice complements the sweetness of the Tocino perfectly.
  2. Sunny-Side-Up Eggs:
    • Adding a sunny-side-up egg alongside Chicken Tocino makes for a rich and satisfying meal. The runny yolk adds creaminess that balances the meat’s sweetness.
  3. Pickled Papaya (Atchara):
    • This tangy and sweet pickled papaya is a staple side dish in Filipino cuisine. Its acidity and crunch provide a refreshing contrast to the Tocino’s tenderness and flavor.
  4. Fresh Tomato Salad:
    • A simple salad of fresh tomatoes, onions, and a splash of vinegar can offer a light and acidic balance to the dish, cutting through the sweetness and richness of the Tocino.
  5. Steamed Rice:
    • For those who prefer simplicity, steamed jasmine or white rice serves as a neutral base that allows the flavors of the Tocino to shine.
  6. Vinegar Dipping Sauce:
    • A dipping sauce made of vinegar, garlic, and chili adds a sharp, tangy element that enhances the meat’s flavor.
  7. Stir-Fried Vegetables:
    • A side of stir-fried vegetables like bell peppers, green beans, or bok choy adds color, nutrition, and a bit of crunch to your meal.
  8. Fried Plantains (Saba):
    • Sweet, caramelized plantains can be a delightful companion to the savory Tocino, offering a different kind of sweetness and texture.
  9. Pandesal:
    • Serving Tocino with this traditional Filipino bread roll makes for a hearty and filling breakfast or snack.
  10. Cucumber Salad:
    • A refreshing cucumber salad dressed with vinegar, sugar, and salt is a crisp, cool addition that balances the dish’s sweetness.

When serving Chicken Tocino, consider these suggestions to create a well-rounded and enjoyable meal that caters to a variety of tastes and preferences.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

  1. Can I use a different meat for tocino?
    • Yes, pork and beef are also commonly used for tocino. Adjust cooking times based on the meat choice.
  2. How long can I store the marinated chicken in the fridge?
    • Marinated chicken can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. For longer storage, freeze it.
  3. Is it necessary to add food coloring?
    • No, food coloring is optional and primarily used to achieve the traditional reddish color of tocino. The taste remains the same without it.
  4. Can I cook tocino without adding oil?
    • Yes, you can cook tocino without oil, especially if using a non-stick pan. The fat from the chicken will render out and help in the caramelization process.
  5. How do I achieve the perfect caramelization?
    • The key to perfect caramelization is the balance between the heat and the sugar in the marinade. Cook on medium heat and allow the sugar to caramelize slowly without burning.


Chicken Tocino is more than just a dish; it’s a celebration of Filipino culture and flavors. By following this recipe, you can bring a taste of the Philippines into your home, no matter where you are in the world. The sweet and savory flavors of chicken tocino, combined with its rich history, make it a must-try for anyone looking to explore authentic Filipino cuisine. So, gather your ingredients, and let’s embark on a culinary journey to the Philippines with this delicious chicken tocino recipe.