If you love sweet and sticky char siu like we do, give this recipe a go! We also played around and gave it a little spicy kick by adding Korean pepper flakes. Why? Because we think sweet and spicy go hand in hand, don’t you agree?

Sweet and Sticky Chinese BBQ Pork (aka Char Siu)


Google Char siu and you will find that it is a very popular dish and there are whole lotta recipes already out there for it. So why did I decide to write about this, and add to the abundant (and wonderful) recipes that is already out there? ..besides the fact that all asian blogs need to have one of these on their sites, it’s almost like a right of passage — haha I kid 🙂


Mostly laziness. Seriously! Every time I google a recipe for char siu, I used a different one every time, with different results every time. So I decided to actually spend the time and create one to my liking (I like mine very sweet and sticky with a hint of spiciness!) and actually document it. Yes, it took more effort than googling a recipe but you know what? It was worth it! Now I finally have my own char siu recipe that I can tweak to death that’s also easy for me and friends to find! …and I will finally get to use the same recipe over and over again.


Sweet and Sticky Chinese BBQ Pork (aka Char Siu)


There’s a lot to cover, shall we get started? Allons-y!



Most of the ingredients can be found at your local grocery store, however red fermented tofu, Korean red pepper flakes may be harder to find and you may have to find them at an Asian grocery store.

Disclaimer: I have provided affiliate links to harder to find products so they are easier to find. I would never recommend a product that I don’t use myself or that I highly recommend. However, if you can buy these locally please support your local shops by buying it there. 🙂

Sweet and Sticky Chinese BBQ Pork (aka Char Siu)


Traditionally, char siu is always red. I prefer not to use dye so I used red fermented tofu for the colour and the salt. The red fermented tofu also adds another dimension of flavour similar to what the cooking wine provides as well.


Update: Red fermented tofu might be difficult to find if you do not have a local Asian grocery store nearby. You can substitute this with 3 tablespoons of oyster sauce OR 3-4 tablespoons of soy sauce. As always, substitution may not produce the exact flavour but it will be close. 🙂


In this recipe, the red fermented tofu is used as a source of sodium and colour, so if you substitute it out, you will lose a the red colour that char siu is known for. You can add a few drops of red food colouring if you really want that red colour, but I personally wouldn’t because the colour doesn’t add to the flavour 🙂 It just makes it – red!

If you use the optional ingredient, korean red pepper flakes then the red will still be there and you will have a bit of a spiciness to it as well. (mild spicy)



Let’s talk meat.
The cut of pork you will make the char siu with will be a personal preference. I prefer a more fatty and juicy char siu so I went with a pork shoulder. Some may prefer a more leaner char siu, for that I’d say use a pork tenderloin. The recipe here will be for a pork shoulder, so you may need to adjust how long you cook it for.

I highly suggest using a meat thermometer. Why? Because it takes the guessing work out of cooking meat and that is a glorious thing. One less thing to worry about in the kitchen. I have eaten my fair share of raw chicken, and believe me, a meat thermometer is a very good investment in the kitchen if you cook meat. I prefer the digital ones, not because I’m fancy but because the digital ones use a long wire prong which I can leave in the meat in the BBQ/oven. This allows me to read the temperature without ever opening the oven or BBQ.


Tip #1: Don’t be afraid of buying a pork shoulder with the bone in. Around here in Canada they are inexpensive compared to the ones that are boneless one so that’s a win right there! Buying the whole hunk of meat also gives you more freedom to cut it up to the size you want. The bone that’s left? That stuff is great for stocks. Nothing ever gets wasted here! 🙂


Tip #2: Cut the pork up in long thin chunks. It cooks faster, and you get more surface area for sauce. Mmmm! The sauce is the best part of this, you know it! 😛




Sweet and Sticky Chinese BBQ Pork (aka Char Siu)


Experiment: I added Korean red pepper flakes. Why? 2 reasons, because I thought it might give it a nice red as well — which it did! and because I like things a bit spicy so I thought it’d also give it a little kick. It gave it a small spicy kick, not a big one so this is an optional ingredient on the actual recipe.



Next let’s talk sweeteners!

Char siu’s trademark is it’s sweet flavour.
I used barley malt syrup in this marinade (only because it was what I had on hand). I know barley malt syrup and maltose are not easy to find so I would suggest substituting it with molasses. It has a similar flavour, a dark earthy kind of sweetness, that’s not too sweet. (and yes! honey works too!)
If you do choose to hunt for the odd ingredients, you can usually find maltose in an asian grocery store and the barley malt syrup in a health food store. 🙂


Sweet and Sticky Chinese BBQ Pork (aka Char Siu)


Tip #3: After you are done marinating the meat, we will re-use the marinating sauce as the glazing sauce. This is when you will add additional honey to it. The honey will sweeten up the glaze and thicken it up to give us that nice sticky thick layer 🙂


Tip #4: Don’t over marinate the meat. I do this ALL the time, because the longer the better right? Yes, but not in this case. This marinade has two very salty components: cooking wine and red fermented tofu which can make the end result very salty. Don’t marinate it for less than 24 hours! but don’t over marinate it as well 🙂


Sweet and Sticky Chinese BBQ Pork (aka Char Siu)



Lastly, let’s talk heat.

I used a charcoal BBQ for this, with indirect heat from hot charcoals off to the side. I haven’t tested this in the oven but I will on my next batch of char siu, but for now if you decide to experiment in the oven let me know how it turns out! 🙂

On the BBQ, we had the temperature steady at 325F (162C). We had the meat for 15 mins on one side, then flipped it and cooked it for another 10 mins. At this point, the meat was at a internal temperature of 145F (62C). We did 4-5 layers of glaze, flipping the meat every minute to prevent burning. When it looked red and sticky and a little burnt we pulled it out and gobbled it right up!


Sweet and Sticky Chinese BBQ Pork (aka Char Siu)

Sweet and Sticky Chinese BBQ Pork (aka Char Siu)


Tip #5: The burnt sugar is another trademark flavour of char siu! So don’t worry too much if it seems a little burnt. 🙂

Let us know if you made this and how it turned out with #pupswithchopsticks! We’d love to see how this turns out for everyone that’s tried it!


Happy Cha Siu’ing! 🙂

5 from 3 votes
Sweet & Sticky Chinese BBQ Pork (Char Siu)
Prep Time
10 mins
Cook Time
35 mins
Total Time
45 mins

If you love sweet & sticky char siu like we do, give this recipe a go! ..and we added Korean pepper flakes for a kick, because sweet & spicy go hand in hand!

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Chinese
Servings: 4
Author: Pups with Chopsticks
  • 2 tbsp molasses (can be substituted with maltose, barley malt syrup, honey)
  • 1 cube red fermented tofu (and 4tsp of the sauce, mashed together)
  • 2 tbsp hoisin sauce
  • 2 cloves of garlic (roughly chopped)
  • 4 slices of ginger
  • 1 tsp chinese five spice powder
  • 2 tbsp chinese cooking wine (Shaoxing wine or sherry)
  • 1-2 tbsp Korean pepper flakes (for additional colour and spiciness) (optional)
  • 2-3 lbs pork shoulder (cut into long 3 inch thin strips)
  • 2 tbsp honey
Cutting and Marinating the Meat
  1. Cut the pork shoulder into thin 3 inch thick strips. (Cooks faster and absorbs marinade more evenly)

  2. Combine the ingredients in the marinade section into a ziplock or a big bowl and combine it with the pork.

  3. Marinate it in the fridge for 24 hours.

Grilling the Pork
  1. Remove the meat from the marinade and let it sit for an hour in room temperature.

  2. Reserve the marinade into a small bowl (remove the garlic bits and ginger) and combine it with the honey for glazing at the end of grilling

  3. Heat up BBQ to 325F (162C)

  4. Cook the char siu for 15 mins on one side, then flip it for another 10 mins. Check the meat thermometer. Temperature should be around 145F (62C). If it's not, keep the meat on longer until it reaches that temperature.

  5. Once it hits an internal temperature of 145F (62C), we glazed 4-5 times, flipping the meat every minute to prevent burning

  6. When the meat looks red, sticky and slightly burnt, remove it from the BBQ and let it rest for 20 mins on a plate before cutting into it.

  7. Once the meat has rested, cut it up and enjoy!! 🙂

Recipe Notes
  • Tip #1: Cut the pork up in long thin chunks. It cooks faster, and you get more surface area for sauce.
  • Tip #2: After you are done marinating the meat, we will re-use the marinating sauce as the glazing sauce. This is when you will add additional honey to it. The honey will sweeten up the glaze and thicken it up to give us that nice sticky thick layer
  • Tip #3: Don't over marinate the meat. This marinade has two very salty components: cooking wine and red fermented tofu which can make the end result very salty. Don't marinate it for less than 24 hours! but don't over marinate it as well





Share on Facebook59Share on Google+3Pin on Pinterest37.5kTweet about this on TwitterShare on Yummly159Share on StumbleUpon0Email this to someone

23 thoughts on “Sweet and Sticky Chinese BBQ Pork (aka Char Siu)”

  1. This looks so darn good, and so much simpler than I thought! My hubby would be head over heels for this! Definitely a must-try!

    1. Thanks Karly! 🙂 🙂 I thought they would be on the grill for a lot longer when I was making this but the smaller cuts made it very easy to manage and quick to cook! 😀 Let me know if you have any questions! 🙂

  2. Have you tried cooking it in the oven yet? This looks SO good but I don’t know if I can bare grilling in the Wisconsin winter. Also, what do you recommend as a side?

    1. Hi Ashley!

      I haven’t had a chance to try this recipe in the oven yet, I’m hoping in the new year I will. (I’ll tack on the oven instructions as well :)) Oh I completely understand what you mean about grilling in the winter haha! It get’s to about -20 here in Canada! If you do decide to try it out, I’d suggest baking it on a rack so it has a bit of airflow between the meat and the tray that way when you glaze it, it will have a chance to dry out a bit and give it that nice stickiness and if you use a digital meat thermometer (it doesn’t need to be expensive, I bought myself a 20 dollar one 🙂 and use it on everything) you will always get it juicy and moist! 🙂
      Hrmmm…as a side, I would have it with either rice, noodles or veggies but to be honest I would eat this with anything! Soupy noodles and sometimes I even put them in sandwiches 😀 Hope that helps! Oh! If you do do it in the oven let me know how it turns out! We can compare notes! 🙂

  3. Yes please! I have had so many different variations of char siu and have been both underwhelmed and delighted. By looking at your pictures and ingredients, it looks and sounds so delicious. I need to try this one out. I’m saving it for the next time I attempt to make char siu!

    1. Let me know if you have any questions about it! I haven’t tried this out in the oven yet, but I plan to maybe sometime after the new year. I’m actually quite sad I can’t do this on the bbq until the spring because my bbq is frozen shut by our wonderful Canadian winters. haha! 🙂

  4. This pork looks gorgeous!! I love char siu, but have never thought to make it at home before/I have no idea how to make it at home. You make it look so easy, I’ll have to try this ASAP! Might be a good dish for me to make on Chinese New Year to impress all my awkward relatives. And by awkward, I obviously meant awesome. 😉 Thanks for sharing!

    1. I’m so glad you like this! At first it seems intimidating but if you break it up into 3 steps, it’s not bad at all! Marinate, Smoke\Bake, and Baste! That’s it! 🙂 Hope your awesome relatives love this as much as we do! 🙂

  5. What can you substitute for the fermented tofu? I live in Norway and it is difficult to find such ingredients here where I am.

    1. Hi Julianne!

      If you can find oyster sauce, I would suggest 3 tablespoons of oyster sauce as substitution. However if that is also difficult to find then I would suggest 3-4 tablespoons of soy sauce.

      The fermented tofu also provides the red colour, so you might not get that colour after it is done cooking. You can use a few drops of red food colouring if you want the reddish tones however I would lean towards not using that as it adds nothing to the flavour except the red colour 🙂

      Hope this helps!

  6. Hi Joyce, Just came across your site and saw your chashu recipe. After reading the recipe I had
    some questions. You said you grilled the meat indirect so you never sear the meat? That’s fine, I was just wondering.
    Another question, how thick do you cut your pieces of meat? Sure looks like the real thing. ……Thanks

    1. Hi twobacas!

      Welcome and I’m so glad you found our little site! 🙂
      When I grilled it, I used a kamado smoker and since it is in an egg shape, I could only push the charcoal aside so far – so the charcoal was not directly below the meat it was off to the side by a few inches (which is still quite hot). I didn’t sear the meat because I wanted the meat to cook at a even steady pace and searing it would give it too much heat right off the bat which would produce a more dry pork and raw centre.
      If you use a gas grill, you don’t need to worry about the indirect charcoal heat. 🙂 The awesome thing about using a pork shoulder and pork but is the meat is juicy and moist almost always. 🙂
      For the sizing of the meat, I usually buy pork shoulder bone-in and slice the meat off of the meat in 2-3 inch thickness length wise so I get a nice and long strip of meat to work with. With boneless it works the same way, cut it length-wise so you get a nice long piece of meat 2-3 inches wide.

      Oh! Also, when you first start grilling it, it won’t look charred, red, gloss like the pictures right off the bat, in fact it might look boring and dead. Once you put the honey/molasses into the marinade and start glazing it near the end, then the sugars will start to char and it will start looking like how it should be 🙂

      Hope this helps! and please don’t hesitate to ask more questions! 🙂

  7. Thanks Joyce,

    I think the secret is adding honey when you are glazing, because all of the other recipes I have seen
    do not do that. Also do you have much marinade left after marinating or do you double up?
    I will be using a Weber kettle and cooking indirect. Will let you know when I make next time…..Thanks again

    1. Yes, exactly! Reserving the honey until the very end is key for that nice burnt, sticky glaze! 🙂 This makes approximately 1/4 – 1/2 cup of marinade, so I had leftover marinade for the glazing especially when you add in the honey in the end. Oh yay you’re using charcoal! 🙂 As long as the grill gets up to heat 325F(162C), you’re good. I didn’t close the lid to the grill while I was doing this, so the excess oxygen flow also bumps up the heat of the indirect charcoal. Happy grilling! 🙂 and you are very welcome.

      1. I took a look at the recipe again and it mentioned you can substitute honey for molasses in the marinade but
        in the Recipe Note Tip 2 it states not to add honey. I’m kind of confused. Thanks again

        1. Oh good catch! 🙂 I made that a bit confusing so I fixed up the Tip to hopefully be more clear.
          What I meant to say was don’t add ‘all’ the honey into the marinade and to reserve some of it for the glaze combined with the marinade to brush on at the end, but I said it in a confusing way.

          1. Sorry, one last question in the marinade, is the garlic cloves ( whole or minced ) also the ginger
            ( slices or grated ). I guess that’s two .

          2. No worries 🙂 I bashed the garlic with the side of the knife and did a very rough chop (1-2 chops at most). For the ginger I cut them into slices.
            My goal was to make them big enough so that you can easily remove them once you are done marinating. You don’t want the pieces to stick to the meat during the grilling else the pieces will burn and you want the marinade free of bits for glazing.

      2. Hi Joyce

        Yes, I had enough marinade left like you said after i made it today.
        You nailed the recipe I won’t have experiment any longer.
        I’ll just make this one………Thanks again

        1. That is absolutely amazing to hear and I am SO happy to hear that this worked for you as well!! 🙂
          ..and you’re very welcome twobacas, anytime I can help just let me know. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *