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.
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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.
What ingredients do you need?
- Soy sauce (regular or dark soy sauce)
- Shiaoxing wine (or use sake, dry sherry, or dry white wine)
- Hoisin sauce
- Sesame oil
- Red food coloring or red fermented tofu
- Chinese five-spice powder
- Boneless pork butt
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.
- Mix up the marinade ingredients (or use char siu sauce) and marinate the pork, ideally overnight.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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
- Char Siu
- Char Siu Bao
- Salt and Pepper Chicken
- Har Gow Chinese Shrimp Dumplings
- Singapore Noodles
- Sesame Noodles
- Pork Fried Rice
- Szechuan Shrimp
- Hoisin Spare Ribs
- Chinese Dry Fried Green Beans
- Vegetarian Dan Dan Noodles
- Sesame Chicken
- Kung Pao Chicken
- Fried Wontons
- Sweet and Sour Tofu
- Mantou Chinese Steamed Buns
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
- 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.
- 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.
- Pour the marinade into the Instant Pot and then put the trivet in. Place the pork on top of the trivet.
- Close the pot and turn the valve to the sealing position. Cook on high pressure for 35 minutes.
- Let the pressure release naturally for 10 minutes and then quick release the remaining pressure.
- Remove the pork from the pressure cooker.
- Preheat the oven to 450ºF.
- Cover a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and place a rack on top. Put the pork on top of the rack.
- To make the glaze, in a small bowl, stir together the soy
sauce and honey. Brush the mixture on the pork.
- 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.
- Remove from the oven and let stand for a few minutes before slicing.
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.