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Char Siu or Chinese BBQ Roast Pork

Char siu (Chinese BBQ Pork or roasted pork) is delicious on its own or as a filling for Chinese steamed buns. This Instant Pot char siu recipe uses a combination of the pressure cooker and oven to make the pork tender and give it that trademark sticky-sweet glaze.

char siu pork sliced on a cutting board with leafy greens

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Take a walk through Chinatown and you’ll see this type of pork—bright red and glistening with fatty goodness–hanging in the windows of all the barbecue places. With its bright red color, you can’t miss it.

Char siu is succulent, tender, sweet, and savory and can be made with pork belly, pork shoulder or butt, or pork loin. Whichever cut you use, you can slice it thinly and serve it over rice. Or toss it in a sweet-savory hoisin-based sauce and use it as a filling for steamed buns or Char Siu Bao.

Traditionally, the red color of the pork comes from red fermented bean curd or tofu, but many cooks use red food coloring or beetroot powder instead. Fermented tofu is sold in jars and you can find it in Chinese or Asian markets or order it online.

Fermented tofu can be tricky to find. It is available in Chinese markets or online. I’ve included a couple of other options in my recipe, as well.

Cantonese cuisine Char siu literally “fork-roast” on a cutting board

How to make char siu pork

This char siu recipe is easy to make. Most of the time required is just marinating time.

  1. Mix up the marinade ingredients (or use char siu sauce) and marinate the pork, ideally overnight.
  2. Pressure cook the pork using the reserved marinade as the liquid until it is tender. If you don’t have a pressure cooker, you can braise the meat on the stovetop.
  3. Brush a soy-sauce-and-honey glaze on the pork and bake it in the oven until the glaze is sticky and blackened in places.
  4. Serve immediately or refrigerate for later use.

What is char siu sauce?

Char siu sauce is a savory-sweet Cantonese barbecue sauce made of hoisin sauce, honey, soy sauce, Shaoxing wine (or another cooking wine), five-spice powder, and often molasses and/or maltose. Marinate the pork in this mixture to infuse it with flavor.

You can get the red color in this char siu recipe by using red food coloring. You can also use red fermented bean curd or beetroot powder. Note that the pork in the photos was cooked with red food coloring. If you use fermented bean curd, you will get more of a reddish-brown color.

How to serve this bbq pork

For a simple meal, serve this char siu recipe sliced over steamed white rice with sautéed or steamed vegetables. I like broccoli, gai lan (Chinese broccoli), or bok choy.

You can also use this char siu recipe to fill Chinese steamed bus. It’s also perfect for tossing with stir-fried noodles or adding to make pork fried rice.

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Yield: Serves 6

Char Siu or Chinese BBQ / Roast Pork

Char Siu or Chinese BBQ / Roast Pork

Serve this sweet, succulent pork thinly sliced over white rice or use it to fill steamed buns or make pork fried rice.

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Additional Time 2 hours
Total Time 2 hours 55 minutes

Ingredients

For the pork

  • ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons honey
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • ¼ cup Shiaoxing wine (or use sake, dry sherry, or dry white wine)
  • ¼ cup hoisin sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 cubes red fermented tofu, mashed, plus 2 tablespoons of the liquid from the jar (optional, see note)
  • ¾ teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder
  • 2 ½ pounds boneless pork butt

For the glaze

  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • ¼ cup honey

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl, combine the honey, soy sauce, wine, hoisin sauce,
    sesame oil, garlic, fermented tofu, if using, and five-spice and stir to mix.
  2. Add the pork and turn a few times to coat all sides well. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 24 hours.
  3. Pour the marinade into the Instant Pot and then put the trivet in. Place the pork on top of the trivet.
  4. Close the pot and turn the valve to the sealing position. Cook on high pressure for 35 minutes.
  5. Let the pressure release naturally for 10 minutes and then quick release the remaining pressure.
  6. Remove the pork from the pressure cooker.
  7. Preheat the oven to 450ºF.
  8. Cover a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and place a rack on top. Put the pork on top of the rack.
  9. To make the glaze, in a small bowl, stir together the soy
    sauce and honey. Brush the mixture on the pork.
  10. Cook the pork in the oven for 6 to 8 minutes. Turn the pork over, brush more of the glaze on it, and cook for another 4 minutes or so.
  11. Remove from the oven and let stand for a few minutes before slicing.

Notes

If you don't want to use fermented tofu, you can color the marinade with a few drops of red gel food coloring. Or you can try using other more natural coloring methods like adding cherry or beet juice.

pinterest pin for char siu

48 thoughts on “Char Siu or Chinese BBQ Roast Pork”

  1. I couldn’t find your note for an option on the fermented red tofu. What could be used? I’ve heard of possibly using maraschino cherry juice to get the bright red in Chinese dishes. Thanks.

    Reply
    • Hi Judy! Thanks for posting. I’m not sure what you are asking. Are you looking for an alternative to the fermented tofu? I think most people use food coloring as an alternative. I suppose you could try the cherry juice. Beet juice would probably work, too. I have only used the tofu or food coloring.

      Reply
    • Judy, I have also used the pre-made Char Siu sauce, available at most Asian grocery stores. It turned out great. Search for Char Siu sauce in Google to get an idea of what to look for.

      Reply
  2. I guessed the “note” would be about using food coloring. But here is what is making us look for the other option. Copied from recipe- 3 cubes red fermented tofu, mashed, plus 2 tablespoons of the liquid from the jar (optional, sea note)

    Reply
  3. I am afraid that I will get a burn notice on my instant pot because there is not much liquid. has this been a problem?

    Reply
    • Hi Deb! I have made it exactly this way dozens of times and have never gotten a burn notice. The pork will give off a lot of liquid as it cooks. I hope you try it! It is really yummy.

      Reply
  4. Hi, just curious, why do we put the pork on a trivet to cook and not directly into the sauce? What difference would there be?

    Reply
  5. So if you put it over the trivet.. is it something like steaming in the pressure cooker? Never done it. I thought when you use pressure cooker it has to be soaked with water/broth.

    Reply
    • Hi Paula! Thank you for asking. No, you do not need to cover the meat in liquid. The liquid is there to create steam, which is what creates the pressure for pressure cooking. You only need 1 to 1 1/2 cups of liquid in a pressure cooker.

      Reply
  6. I read your recipe it called for 4 garlic cloves minced but in the recipe I didn’t read anything about the garlic do you just put it in with the soy sauce honey and the rest?

    Reply
    • Hi Janie! Yes, the garlic is added in Step One along with the other marinade ingredients: “In a large bowl, combine the honey, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, sesame oil, garlic, fermented tofu, if using, and five-spice and stir to mix.”

      Reply
    • I don’t know! I haven’t tried either using spare ribs or Ah-So Sauce (I don’t actually know what that is). But try it! I have made ribs in the Instant Pot and they are great.

      Reply
  7. YOu mention the option of cooking on a stove top instead of pressure cooker- how long does one cook on stove top for and at what temp if you don’t have a pressure cooker?

    Reply
    • It will depend on the size and weight of the piece of pork you are cooking, but I would say probably 2 to 2 1/2 hours.

      Reply

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