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Instant Pot Char Siu or Chinese BBQ Pork

Instant Pot Char Siu makes it possible to make this Chinese BBQ Pork in a fraction of the time of the classic recipe. The meat is perfect for eating on its own with rice or Mantou steamed buns or in Char Siu Bao, Pork Fried Rice, or Singapore Noodles.

char siu pork sliced on a cutting board with leafy greens

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Char siu (also called Cha Siu or Char Siew) is a staple of Cantonese cuisine and is ubiquitous in the Chinese BBQ shops in Chinatown.

You’ll see this type of Chinese barbecue pork—bright red and glistening with fatty goodness—hanging in shop windows. With its bright red color, you can’t miss it.

Good Char siu or Chinese roast pork is succulent, tender, sweet, and savory. It offers the perfect balance of salty and sweet flavors with succulent tender meat.

Why should you make char siu in an instant pot?

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.

An electric pressure cooker can produce perfect char siu in much less time than the traditional cooking method of roasting it in the oven.

Using the pressure cooker is also a great plan when it’s hot outside and you don’t want to heat up your kitchen.

What makes Chinese BBQ pork red?

Traditionally, the red color of the pork comes from red fermented bean curd or tofu, but many contemporary cooks use red food coloring.

You can also use beet juice, or even cherry juice for coloring.

Note that the pork in the photos was cooked with red food colouring. If you use fermented bean curd, you will get more of a reddish-brown color.

You likely wouldn’t be able to taste the difference between using the fermented tofu and the food coloring, so I usually opt for the latter. The recipe only requires a few drops and the food coloring is easier to keep on hand.

If you want to use the fermented red bean curd, it is available in jars and you can find it in a Chinese grocery store or Asian market or order it online.

char siu pork sliced on a cutting board with leafy greens

What ingredients do you need?

How to make Instant pot 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, or cook it on a grill, 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 sweet, savory sauce. It’s basically a Cantonese barbecue sauce made of hoisin sauce, honey, soy sauce, Shaoxing wine (or another cooking wine), five-spice powder, and often molasses, maltose, or brown sugar. Marinate the pork in this mixture to infuse it with flavor.

You can make your own char siu sauce from scratch, or you can buy char siu sauce in jars in an Asian market or online.

What cut of pork is best for making char siu?

The best cut of pork for making Char Siu is boneless pork shoulder or pork butt or (these are actually just two different names for the same cut of meat!). This cut has the perfect ratio of fat to lean for a succulent char siu.

You can use fatty cuts like pork belly, too, but I think the proportion of fat to lean meat is too high. The result is that you lose a lot of volume in cooking as the fat renders. The end product may also just be too fatty.

You can also use pork tenderloin, which is considerably leaner than pork butt. Personally, I find this cut a bit too lean. It is easy to overcook it, drying it out. Because it has so much less fat, you don’t get the delectable crispy edges that you get with a fattier cut of meat.

How to serve this chinese bbq pork

For a simple meal, serve this char siu pork sliced over steamed white rice with or without extra sauce. Add a side of stir-fried or steamed vegetables to make it a meal. I like Chinese Dry Fried Green Beans, broccoli, gai lan (Chinese broccoli), or bok choy.

You can also use this char siu recipe to fill Chinese BBQ pork steamed buns, or Char Siu Bao. Serve them as part of a dim sum feast including Har Gow and other dumplings.

It’s also perfect for tossing with stir-fried noodles, Singapore Noodles, or Pork Fried Rice.

If you’re in the mood for a different sort of meaty goodness, you have to try this super delicious Smoked Meatloaf from Cook What You Love.

more chinese recipes you’ll love

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.

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By on March 7th, 2020

About Robin Donovan


Hi, I’m Robin! I am a full-time food blogger, recipe developer, and cookbook author. I spend my days cooking, writing about, and photographing food.

I’m the author of more than 40 cookbooks, including Ramen for Beginners, 5 Ingredient Cooking for Two, Sushi at Home, The Baking Cookbook for Teens, and the bestselling Campfire Cuisine.

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57 thoughts on “Instant Pot Char Siu or Chinese BBQ 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 love to eat Char Siu since i’m in grade school, my late father used to bring me to chinese restaurant in Ongpin China Town, Manila. During our college time in Cebu, he used to order take out from a chinese restaurant in Colon, Cebu City, Phils. And now i like to learn how to cook Char Siu. Please send me thru my email below on how to prepare, to serve, the ingredients in making Char Siu as shown above. Many thanks.
    William Navarro

    Reply
  4. 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
  5. 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
  6. 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
  7. 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
  8. 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
  9. Pork Butt(Boston Butt) and pork Shoulder are not the same cut, Pork Butt comes from above the shoulder and has a meatier more marbel flesh.

    Reply
    • Ah, you are (mostly) correct. Thank you for pointing this out! Pork shoulder includes both pork butt and pork shoulder (both come from the pig’s shoulder, but once butchered, one is called shoulder, the other is called butt, different parts of the shoulder). For the most part, you can use these interchangeably.

      Reply
  10. I have purchased the Char Su sauce and was wondering if I just add the Chinese wine and omit the other ingredients? Thank you!

    Reply
  11. This looks so yummy! I have a Ninja Foodi, so has the air fryer built in with the pressure cooker. You mention being able to air fry instead of using the oven for the final step, what would the process for that be?

    Reply

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