Chicken Binakol


Imagine a Negrense male clad in loin cloth. He goes out hunting and catches a wild fowl. He climbs a coconut tree and gets a young coconut. He kills the bird by beating it, dresses it and breaks it into pieces with his bare hands. Afterwards, he opens the top half of the coconut with a sharpened piece of wood. He gets three big stones to form a stove and builds a fire using dried leaves and branches. Fashioning the coconut shell into a pot, he boils the fowl together with the coconut meat and juice. Once the shell has turned black all around, he brings it back to his family to partake.

This primitive way of cooking Chicken Binakol is still practiced to this day in some towns in Western Visayas. No added ingredients - just the chicken and the coconut. Binakol comes from the word bakol, which means pounded or beaten, but in this case to chop or break into pieces.

When cooking Chicken Binakol, it is best to use young coconut for it is sweeter and more tender.

It takes hours to cook but it gives out a rich creamy flavor coming from the coconut milk. The essence of the chicken, complemented with the delicate sweetness of the coconut, bring out exotic flavors that make this dish truly amazing.

Another traditional and natural way of making Chicken Binakol is by cooking it inside a bamboo. The native chicken is steamed together with the coconut water, onions, ginger, and lemongrass. Because of the bamboo, the dish absorbs all the aroma of the ingredients and renders the texture of the chicken juicy and its taste rich, while cooking over flaming charcoal. Papaya or chayote, and fresh chili leaves, complete the dish.

The essence of the chicken and the rich flavor of the coconut milk bring out the fusion of flavors in Chicken Binakol.

We cherish traditional ways of cooking Chicken Binakol as they speak volumes about Negrense heritage and ingenuity. Alas, these are time-consuming in an age where every minute counts. And so, we’ve transported the Chicken Binakol into modern kitchens.

As households started cooking this dish and incorporating it in family meals, some ingredients have been added, like bell peppers, carrots, potatoes, and cabbage, making the binakol even more flavorful and diversified in texture. What stayed are the young native chicken and the young coconut. The option to cook it with lemongrass, ginger, and onion still remains.

It may take longer to cook but native chicken is best for Chicken Binakol because of its distinct flavor.

Although the kitchenware and equipment are modern, the soup still has that sweet taste of the coconut, the tender chicken meat that has been simmered in the juice, with the glorious fusion of ingredients that achieve the exquisite flavors of the Chicken Binakol. This exotic traditional dish with its rustic charm can tickle and satisfy the curious palate of adventurous food enthusiasts. It is definitely a Negrense dish worth trying.

Negrense /neg-REN-se/ n. the people of Negros Island in the Philippines. The island is divided into two provinces, Negros Oriental to the east and Negros Occidental to the west.

1 Tbsp. vegetable oil or any neutral flavored cooking oil
1 knob of ginger, roughly the size of the thumb, sliced
1 medium red onion, sliced
½ kg. chicken (better if native), 4-6 cuts depending on how big the chicken is
4 cups coconut water
1 bundle lemongrass
1 cup young coconut meat, scraped using a spoon
2 cloves garlic, sliced
½ cup pepper leaves
Salt to taste

Vegetables that can be added:
1 cup carrots, diced
1 cup potato, quartered
½ cabbage, sliced
½ cup bell pepper, cut into thin slices


1. In a pot, sauté the ginger and onion in oil until brown.

2. Add the chicken. Saute until half brown.

3. Pour the coconut water. Add the lemongrass. Bring it to a boil.

4. When chicken is tender, add the coconut meat. Allow to boil for a few minutes.

5. Add the pepper leaves.

6. Salt to taste.

Makes 2-3 servings.

Recipe shared by Nanay Lucita Divino Tonato
77 years old
Head cook of the Velez-Gamban and Locsin-Gamboa families

Nanay Luz has been cooking family recipes that have been passed on for generations. She learned how to cook from her mother at a young age and became proficient with some of the heirloom recipes of the families she worked with.

Text by: Massah Gonzales-Gamboa
Photography by: Project Twenty Six
Food Styling by: David Dadivas

The ingredients of Chicken Binakol.

Chicken Binakol can tickle and satisfy the curious palate of adventurous food enthusiasts. Try it!

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