A traditional Chinese sweet and sour pork recipe (咕噜肉, Cantonese Style) made with crispy pork, pineapple, peppers, and onions tossed in a sticky and sweet and sour sauce - better than takeout!
Sweet and sour pork doesn't need an introduction. It's an internationally famous dish and most cultures have a different spin on it, which I think is absolutely fantastic! Koreans have Tangsuyuk, the Japanese have Subuta, and the Caribbeans also have their version as well - and I'm sure there are plenty more versions out there! The more the merrier I say. 🙂
This version of Hong Kong-style sweet and sour pork is the Cantonese version I grew up with. The Cantonese version has pineapple in it and it has a bit more of a balance between the sweet and sour flavor, whereas the American Chinese version is a bit on the sweeter side. If you prefer your sweet and sour pork more on the sweeter side, you can add 1-2 additional tablespoons of sugar to the sauce during the cooking process. Other than that, there isn't much of a difference between the two - both are delicious either way. 🙂
If you're craving takeout, especially something with crispy meat tossed in sweet and sticky sauces then you may also like my other take-out recipes like my reader's favorite Sweet and Stick Crispy Beef. If you are looking for something with a bit of spice then you definitely need to check out my recipe for Chilli Chicken, and Chicken Manchurian.
Alternatively, if you are looking for a chicken version, I also have a Sweet and Sour Chicken (Hong Kong Style) recipe as well, which is just as tasty but uses a less spiced batter.
Why You'll Love This Version of Hong Kong Style Sweet and Sour Pork
Sweet and sour pork is definitely one of my favorite dishes but I'm definitely very picky about it.
I like my pork extra crispy in sweet and sour pork so I make the sauce slightly thicker so that thickness coats the pork but doesn't make it soggy. A thinner sauce tends to make the crispy batter soggier, and quicker. For the sweet and sticky sweet and sour sauce, I'm a huge fan of the balance of both sweet and sour so it's a 50/50 mix of vinegar and sugar to create that with a bit of soy to take the edge off the sharp vinegar.
Sweet and Sour Pork Ingredients
- Pineapple - I personally find that fresh pineapple tastes amazing in this dish, mostly because it has a lot more flavor and is a lot juicier than canned pineapple but cutting a fresh pineapple is time-consuming, so in a pinch, I will use canned pineapple. So this is completely your preference whether you want to use fresh pineapple or canned pineapples! If you have the time, try using fresh pineapple, but if you're pressed for time then go for the canned stuff.
- Pepper - Any type of peppers (green, red, yellow, or orange) will work for this recipe.
- Onion - For this recipe, I like to use white onions in it, but any kind of onion will work.
- Pork - For sweet and sour pork, I like to use pork shoulders (or pork butt) because of the marbling of fat within the meat. The fat marbling makes the bite-sized pieces tender, moist and flavorful. If you are looking for a healthier or leaner alternative, you can use pork tenderloin but it might turn out slightly less tender and less moist since it is a leaner cut of meat. Alternatively, you can also use chicken for this as well.
- Soy Sauce - Any type of soy sauce will work for this recipe, but I do like to use low sodium soy sauce whenever I can.
- Ginger/Garlic/Onion - To give the batter extra flavor, I grate onion, ginger, and garlic into the marinade and mix it right in with the potato starch. You definitely should not omit or substitute these ingredients out.
- Potato Starch - To make the crispy batter, I use potato starch. I found it made it a lot crispier than using corn starch. If you can't find potato starch, you definitely can substitute it with corn starch and it will still make a deliciously crispy batter.
- Egg - Even though I have a photo of an egg in my ingredients, I actually don't use egg to make the crispy pork batter. I found during my further testing (after this photo was taken) that the batter was much crispier without the egg, which works because it's 1 less ingredient!
How to Make Sweet and Sour Sauce from Scratch
There is no ketchup for my sweet and sour sauce. I like to use tomato paste instead of ketchup because I find that tomato paste has a lot more flavor than ketchup and it has a lot more umami than ketchup does as well. The bonus to tomato paste is it gives a natural bright sharp red color to the dish as well. To increase the flavor for sauce, I like toasting the tomato paste in a bit of oil in the pan which intensifies the flavor and makes the sauce even more delicious. Once the tomato paste has been toasted, you can add the rest of the ingredients (sugar, soy sauce, water, white vinegar) into the pan to simmer and meld for a few minutes. To thicken the sauce, add a corn starch slurry to the sauce and keep stirring for a minute until it gets thick, and voila sweet and sour sauce!
How to Get Super Flavorful Batter
Grate Onion, Garlic, and Ginger into the Marinate
To give any type of meat that is going to be deep-fried or grilled an added flavor boost, I highly recommend grating in fresh garlic, onion, and ginger to marinate the meat in. If you have a small food processor it may be a bit easier to blitz it all together but using a hand grater is a lot easier to clean and it is more convenient. The grated aromatics give the meat extra substance for the potato starch to stick which makes crispier bite-sized pork when you are deep-frying it.
2 Step Process for Battering the Pork
- Step 1: Take half the potato starch and mix it throughout the meat. Use your fingers to separate the meat and make sure that each piece of meat is coated during this step. When potato starch gets moisture on it, it can be a bit tricky to work with since it acts very gluey, which is why it is easier if you slightly separate the meat before you do this step. It is crucial that you let it sit for at least 5 minutes after you have coated the meat. You will notice that the potato starch will start to look moist and gummy - This step will make a sticky batter that won't fall off the meat and make it flavorful because the marinade will be absorbed by the potato starch.
- Step 2: Once the potato starch has absorbed the moisture from the meat and the marinade, coat each piece of pork one by one in the potato starch again. I like to use a large plate of potato starch where I can dip the pieces of meat in one by one. This will give us the crispy coat that seals in the flavorful batter on the inside.
How to Get Super Crispy Pork
- Double frying. Once we have finished deep-frying the meat, remove it from the oil for about 1 minute to slightly cool, and then put it back in the oil to re-fry it again for about 30 seconds to 1 minute.
- To get crispy pork, I use potato starch instead of corn starch. I also don't use eggs as a binder in this at all because I find that it makes the pork slightly gummy and not crispy enough. I also find batters made with eggs usually don't stick to the meat very well after it has been fried.
- The grated ginger, garlic, and onion marinade will provide enough moisture to bind the potato starch to the meat without sacrificing crispiness.
- It is also crucial that you don't cook the crispy pork in the sauce for too long because it will make the batter soggy. You want to quickly add in the crispy pork and toss it in the sauce and once everything is well coated, take it off the heat right away.
More Asian Takeout Recipes You May Like
- Sweet and Sticky Crispy Beef
- Chilli Chicken
- Sweet and Sticky Char Siu (Chinese BBQ Pork)
- Corn Egg Drop Soup
- Singapore Noodles
- Crispy Chicken Pakora
- Beef Chow Fun (Beef Ho Fun)
- Crispy Cantonese Beef Chow Mein
- Saucy Beef Ho Fun with Gravy
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Sweet and Sour Pork (咕噜肉, Cantonese Style)
- To get the crispiest pork, try to use potato starch. If you can't find it, you can substitute it with corn starch and it will turn out just as delicious.
- If you are using potato starch to deep fry the meat, make sure to not overcrowd the pan. Gently put the meat in one at a time, and make sure they are not touching each other. When heated, potato starch will start off gummy before it hardens to a crispy shell, so if you have the meat initially touching each other, it may form a giant ball of meat and rip the batter off the pork when you move it around. Once the batter hardens and gets a little crispy, you can move it around freely. This is especially important if you are using a deep fryer because you're working with a smaller deep frying area. I use a small deep fryer at home and have to fry the pork in 2 batches.
- To keep everything crispy, it's important that you don't cook the crispy pork for too long in the sauce - which will make the batter soggy. You want to quickly coat the meat with the sauce at the very end for less than 1 minute.
Fruits and Veggies
- 1 cup pineapple (highly recommend using fresh pineapple, but canned pineapple works too)
- 1 pepper (any color, cut into 1-inch cubes)
- ½ white onion (cut into 1-inch cubes)
- 1 lb pork shoulder (cut into 1-inch pieces)
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 small onion (grated, approximately ¼ cup)
- 4-5 slices ginger (grated, approximately 2 tablespoons)
- 3 cloves garlic (grated, approximately 1½ tablespoons)
- 1 cup potato starch (divided in ½ - can be substituted with corn starch) *See notes
Sweet & Sour Sauce
- 4 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 tablespoons oil
- ½ cup white vinegar
- ½ cup sugar
- ¼ cup water
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
Corn Starch Slurry (To Thicken Sauce)
- 1 tablespoon corn starch
- 1 tablespoon cold water
- Cut the onions and peppers in 1-inch chunks and set aside
- If you are using fresh pineapple, core and peel it and then cut them into 1-inch chunks and set aside. If you are using canned pineapple, drain it and cut them into 1-inch chunks if you are using pineapple rings. Put them in a bowl and set aside.
Marinating the Pork
- Cut the pork into 1-inch chunks and place it in a bowl.
- Grate the ginger, garlic, and onion and put it all in the bowl with the pork.Alternatively, you can also chop the ginger, garlic, and onion into small pieces and blitz them in a food processor. You may also need to add the soy sauce into the food processor with the ginger, garlic, and onions to help it blend more smoothly into a paste. Add the blended aromatics into the bowl with the pork.
- Add soy sauce to the bowl and mix everything very well.
- Let it marinate for 1 hour.
Battering & Deep Frying the Pork
- Once the meat has finished marinating, in the bowl or plate - separate the meat slightly so they are not clumped together.
- Add half the potato starch over the meat and gently toss it until each piece has been coated with potato starch. Let it rest for 5 minutes until the potato starch has absorbed the marinade and moisture, and the batter looks gummy and moist.
- Add the rest of the potato starch on a large plate and dip each piece of pork into the potato starch one by one until each piece is well coated.
- If you are using a deep fryer, set the temperature to 350F (180C) and wait for the oil to get to temp. If you are using a frying pan or shallow pot, set the heat to medium heat and make sure there is at least 1 inch of oil in the pan. To test if the oil is hot enough in a pot, use a wooden chopstick or the back of a wooden spoon and dunk it in the oil. If it starts to bubble, the oil is hot enough to start deep frying.
- Add the meat in when the oil is hot, careful not to overcrowd the pan. (Depending on how big your pan is, you may need to do it in 2 batches). Cook the meat for approximately 5 minutes until it is crispy and browned.
- (Optional - Double Frying for Crispier pork.) If you want very crispy pork, once the meat has finished deep frying, remove it from the oil for about 1 minute, and then re-fry it again for about 30 seconds to 1 minute.
- Remove the crispy pork and let it drain on a rack or a plate with something absorbent like newspaper or paper bag and set aside.
Putting It Together
- In a clean frying pan, add in 2-3 tablespoons of oil, and set the stove to medium heat.
- Add in the tomato paste when the oil is hot and toast the tomato paste for 1-2 minutes until the oil has turned orange
- Add in the white vinegar, water, sugar and soy sauce and mix well and let it cook for 5 minutes.
- In a small bowl, dissolve the corn starch in cold water. Slowly pour it into the sauce but make sure you are constantly stirring it so it doesn't clump.
- Once the sauce has thickened, add in the peppers, pineapples, and onions and cook it for 1-2 minutes. Use your spatula to separate the onion chunks into smaller pieces.
- Add in the crispy pork and coat each piece with the sweet and sour sauce once the meat has all been coated, turn off the heat. Try not to cook the crispy pork in the sauce for too long, this will make the batter soggy. You just want to quickly coat the crispy pork with the hot sweet and sour sauce for no more than 30 seconds to 1 minute and then plate it.
- Plate it and serve with rice! Enjoy! 🙂
*Nutritional information is calculated using online tools and is an estimate*
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Is it ok to freeze after cooking? Maybe best to add peppers and pineapple after defrosting?
Joyce Lee says
If you freeze this, it will definitely get soggy once you defrost it and the batter will fall off the pork.
If you absolutely must freeze it, I would suggest freezing just the deep fried pork and when you are ready to make it, re-heat up the pork in the oven or air fryer until it is crispy again and toss it with the sweet and sour sauce, veggies and pineapple but you will need to make the sauce fresh.
Christina | Christina's Cucina says
Delicious! I am not great at these types of dishes, but loved this so much, thank you for a great recipe! From a fellow food blogger! 🙂
Joyce Lee says
Yay I'm so happy you liked it! It's always nice to hear from a fellow food blogger! Love your blog!
Loved the sharpness of the sweet and sour sauce! And using potato starch makes for crispy pork bits! Will add this recipe to my 'go-to' list! Thank you!
Joyce Lee says
The sharpness of the tart and sweet is definitely my favorite part too! So glad you liked it!
Incredible! Love the twice fry, potato starch impressed a chef, the tomato paste makes this sauce. My husband is having seconds. Thank you so much!
Joyce Lee says
I'm so happy you both like this! I'm super happy to be able to share this with you both!
I agree, double frying is awesome, isn't it? It really crisps up the meat so that it doesn't get soggy as easily!
For sweet and sour this is absolutely scrumptious.
Joyce Lee says
Thanks so much for the kind words, I'm so happy you liked it!