This traditional Chinese sweet and sour pork recipe (咕噜肉, Cantonese Style) features crispy pork, pineapple, peppers, and onions, all tossed in a deliciously sticky sweet and sour sauce. This recipe is better than takeout any day of the week and will you that classic flavor at home!
Table of Contents
- What is Sweet And Sour Pork?
- My Version of Sweet and Sour Sauce
- Why You'll Love This Version of Hong Kong Style Sweet and Sour Pork
- Ingredients to Make Sweet And Sour Pork
- How to Make Sweet And Sour Pork (Step by Step)
- Joyce’s Tips For Making the Best Sweet And Sour Pork
- Serving Suggestions
- Recipe Variation Ideas for Sweet And Sour Pork
- Frequently Asked Questions
- How to Store Leftover Sweet And Sour Pork
- More Chinese Takeout Recipes You May Like
- Recipe Card
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.
That being said if you prefer your sweet and sour pork more on the sweeter side, it is very easy to tweak it by adding an 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.
This recipe is simple, straightforward, and packed with flavors! It’s one of my readers’ all-time favorite recipe, and it’s something I’ve perfected over years and years of cooking! Try it at home and you’ll know exactly why it’s so good!
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 and if you're looking for something on the spicier side, there is also Chicken Manchurian!
Read on to learn exactly how to make this delicious sweet and sour pork recipe today!
What is Sweet And Sour Pork?
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.
Sweet and sour pork is probably one of the most popular Chinese dishes outside of China. In Cantonese, dish is called gú lóuh yuhk or ‘ancient pork’, and is typically made with pork, but there is also a variation that uses chicken as well.
At it's core, this Chinese takeout dish is marinated pieces of pork, that is battered and deep fried and then tossed in a sweet and sticky sweet and sour sauce with chunks of onion, bell peppers and pineapple.
My Version of Sweet and Sour Sauce
Among some of the most widely used ingredients in this dish nowadays is ketchup. My sweet and sour pork recipe doesn’t call for any though. Instead, I like to use tomato paste 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 my sweet and sour 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.
The sugar in the recipe perfectly balances it out to give you that sweet and sour flavor, but the American version of sweet and sour pork tends to be even sweeter. When you do a taste test, if you, if you like it sweeter, you can add 1-2 additional tablespoons of sugar to the sauce.
Why You'll Love This Version of Hong Kong Style Sweet and Sour Pork
- Batter Stays Crispy: My sweet and sour sauce is slightly thicker, and I don't let the crispy pork simmer in the sauce (you just want to quickly coat the meat at the very end) so the whole dish maintains it's crispiness. I also use starch in the batter, which creates a crunchier coating that can hold up to the sauce as well.
- Not As Sweet As American Sweet and Sour Pork: This Cantonese sweet and sour pork has a more balanced sweet and sour sauce so it's less sweet with more of a tang.
- Very Flavorful: The batter is not just a coating of flour or starch, it is actually a combination of blended onion, garlic and ginger as well, which makes the batter incredibly flavorful after you deep fry the aromatics with the batter.
Ingredients to Make Sweet And Sour Pork
Here's an overview of the specific ingredients for this sweet and sour pork recipe. For the exact ingredients and measurements, please scroll to the recipe card below.
For the Pork Marinade:
- Pork: For this sweet and sour pork recipe, 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.
- 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.
- Soy Sauce: Used in the pork marinade and the sweet and sour sauce, soy sauce adds a savory, umami flavor that compliments the sweetness of the pineapple and the acidity of the vinegar. I like to use low sodium soy sauce for this.
For the Batter:
- 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.
For the Fruits and Veggies:
- Pineapple: The tangy sweetness of pineapple adds a delicious contrast to the savory pork, making it a key player in this dish. I personally find that fresh pineapple chunks 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, just make sure you drain out the liquid well before using it.
- Bell Peppers: Bell peppers add a pop of color and a bit of a crunch to the dish. You can choose any color you prefer. Red bell pepper and green bell pepper work best, but yellow or orange would work too!
- White Onion: Onion - For this sweet and sour pork recipe, I like to use white onions in it, but any kind of onion will work.
For the Sweet and Sour Sauce:
- Tomato Paste: Instead of ketchup, I use tomato paste which adds a rich, umami, deep flavor to the sauce. It's also what gives the sauce its red color.
- Oil: This is used to saute the tomato paste, which intensifies the flavors.
- White Vinegar: Adds the sour component to the sauce. It's what gives the dish its tangy kick.
- Sugar: This ingredient balances out the sourness from the vinegar. It gives the sauce its sweet taste.
- Soy Sauce: Adds a savory, umami flavor to the sauce and makes the sauce more balanced and well rounded.
- Corn Starch With Cold Water: This is the thickening agent in the slurry. It's important to use cold water to dissolve the corn starch or it will clump.
How to Make Sweet And Sour Pork (Step by Step)
Making this incredible sweet and sour pork recipe at home is super easy and will give you great results every single time. Here's how to make it step by step:
Preparing the Ingredients
Chop the Vegetables and Pineapple: Cut the onions and peppers into one-inch chunks. If you're using fresh pineapple, core, peel, and cut it into one-inch chunks. If you're using canned pineapple, drain it and cut the rings into one-inch chunks. Place them in a bowl and set aside.
Marinating the Pork
Prepare the Pork: Cut the pork shoulder into one-inch chunks and put it in a bowl.
Make the Marinade: Grate the ginger, garlic, and onion and add them to the bowl with the pork. You may also chop these ingredients and blend them with soy sauce in a food processor to create a smooth paste.
Marinate the Pork: Add this paste to the bowl with the pork, mix everything well, and let it marinate for an hour.
Battering The Pork (Two Step Process)
First Coating: After marinating, separate the pork pieces and sprinkle half of the potato starch over the meat and gently toss until each piece is coated. Let it rest for five minutes until the starch has absorbed the marinade and moisture, creating a gummy, moist batter.
Second Coating: Add the remaining starch into a small bowl, and dunk each piece of pork one at a time into the starch until it is coated again.
Deep Fry the Pork
Deep fry the pork: Heat oil in a deep fryer or a pan and carefully add the meat, make sure not to overcrowd the pan. Cook the meat for approximately five minutes until it is crispy and browned. For extra crispy pork, you can double fry the meat. Once fried, set the crispy pork aside to drain.
Putting It All Together
Create the Sweet and Sour Sauce: In a clean frying pan, heat some oil and add tomato paste. Toast the paste until the oil turns dark reddish-orange color. Add in white vinegar, water, sugar, and soy sauce, and let it cook for five minutes.
Thicken the Sauce: In a small bowl, dissolve cornstarch in cold water. Slowly pour this mixture into the sauce while stirring until the sauce has thickened. Once the sauce has thickened, add in the peppers, pineapples, and onions and cook for a minute or two.
Combine the Pork and Sauce: Add the crispy pork to the sauce and quickly toss to coat each piece. Avoid cooking the crispy pork in the sauce for too long as this can make the batter soggy. Once all the pork pieces are coated, turn off the heat.
Serve: Plate the pork and serve with rice. Enjoy your homemade sweet and sour pork!
Joyce’s Tips For Making the Best Sweet And Sour Pork
- Use Fresh Pineapple If Possible: Fresh pineapple gives a much better flavor than canned. If you must use canned, then make sure that it is thoroughly drained before adding it to your recipe.
- Marinate Your Pork: Marinating the pork with soy sauce, ginger, garlic, and onion enhances its flavor. Allow it to marinate for at least an hour before proceeding with the recipe.
- Use Potato Starch for Super Crispy Pork: Potato starch gives a crispier and crunchier result than cornstarch. But if you can't find potato starch, cornstarch will work just fine.
- Don't Rush The Frying Process: Overcrowding the pan can result in undercooked pork. Fry the pork in batches if needed and make sure that each piece is crispy and browned.
- Double Fry for Extra Crispiness: If you want your pork extra crispy, always double frying it. After the first round of frying, let it cool for a minute before frying again for 30 seconds to a minute again.
- For A Crispier Dish, Don't Let the Batter Get Saturated: To keep the pork crispy, don't let it sit in the sauce for too long. It is best to turn off the heat before you quickly toss the fried pork in the sauce just before serving.
- Toast the Tomato Paste: Take the time to toast the tomato paste in oil until it becomes a dark red color. This intensifies the flavor and makes the sweet and sour sauce incredibly flavorful.
- For a quick and easy meal, pair your sweet and sour pork recipe with some easy egg fried rice, or garlic fried rice. The mild flavor of the egg fried rice complements the tangy taste of the pork, making it a perfect combination.
- If you're a fan of bold flavors, try serving your sweet and sour pork with cumin beef fried rice. The robust flavor of the cumin and beef adds an exciting twist to the meal.
- For a Chinese takeout theme dinner, hakka noodles or Singapore noodles can be an excellent accompaniment to your sweet and sour pork. The noodles add a delightful texture contrast to the tender pork.
- Serve it with a side of Chinese scrambled eggs and shrimp for a nostalgic Asian dinner.
- I also like to make crab and cheese spring rolls or a bowl of easy corn egg drop soup if I am doing a takeout at home night, which goes very well with the sweet and sour pork.
Recipe Variation Ideas for Sweet And Sour Pork
This delicious sweet and sour pork recipe is so flavorful and easy to make, you'll want to try out some of these delicious variations! Here are some great ideas:
Add Some Heat: If you like your dishes with a bit of spice, add a sprinkle of crushed red pepper flakes to the batter or the sweet and sour sauce. It will give your dish a nice kick that contrasts beautifully with the sweet and tangy sauce.
Swap the Meat: If you're not a fan of pork, no worries! You can easily substitute it with chicken or even tofu for a vegetarian option. Just follow the same recipe, replacing the pork with your chosen protein.
Bump Up the Veggies: Looking to incorporate more vegetables into your meals? You can add other veggies to this dish like snap peas, broccoli, or carrots. The added vegetables will not only provide extra nutrients but also add a nice crunch and color to your meal.
Frequently Asked Questions
Absolutely! This recipe is quite versatile. If you're not a fan of pork, you can easily substitute it with chicken for a sweet and sour chicken recipe, or even use tofu for a vegetarian option.
Not to worry! If you don't have potato starch, you can substitute it with cornstarch. It will still give your meat that delicious, crispy coating.
Yes, feel free to add other vegetables to this dish. Some good options include carrots, snow peas, or even baby corn. Just make sure to adjust the cook time accordingly to ensure all the vegetables are cooked to your liking.
How to Store Leftover Sweet And Sour Pork
To store leftover sweet and sour pork, once it has cooled, keep it in an airtight container for up to three days.
When it is time to reheat your sweet and sour pork, you can do it either in the oven or in the microwave. For the oven method, re-heat it at 350f for about 15 minutes or until it is heated through.
If you're using a microwave, place the leftovers in a microwave-safe dish, cover it loosely, and heat for a minute or two, stirring halfway through to guarantee even heating.
Unfortunately, freezing is not recommended for this dish. The crispy coating on the pork tends to become soggy once thawed and reheated.
More Chinese Takeout Recipes You May Like
- Sweet and Sticky Crispy Beef
- Chilli Chicken
- Sweet and Sticky Char Siu (Chinese BBQ Pork)
- Chicken Manchurian
- Corn Egg Drop Soup
- Singapore Noodles
- Crispy Chicken Pakora
- Beef Chow Fun (Beef Ho Fun)
- Crispy Cantonese Beef Chow Mein
- Chinese Lemon Chicken
- Saucy Beef Ho Fun with Gravy
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Sweet and Sour Pork (咕噜肉, Cantonese Style)
Joyce's Recipe Notes
- 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 bell 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)
Sweet & Sour Sauce
Corn Starch Slurry (To Thicken Sauce)
- 1 tablespoon corn starch
- 1 tablespoon cold water
- Cut ½ white onion and 1 bell pepper 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 1 lb pork shoulder into 1-inch chunks and place it in a bowl.
- Add 4-5 slices ginger, 3 cloves garlic (peeled), and 1 small onion (cut into smaller pieces into a food processor with 2 tablespoons soy sauce and it into a smooth paste. If you don't have a food processor, you can grate the ginger, garlic, and onion instead.
- Add the blended aromatics into the bowl with the pork and mix well. If you grated the ginger/garlic/onion, add the soy sauce as well.
- Let it marinate for 1 hour.
Battering the Pork (2 Step Process)
- Once the meat has finished marinating, in the bowl or plate - separate the meat slightly so they are not clumped together.
- First Coating: Add half of the 1 cup 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.
- Second Coating: Add the rest of the potato starch into a bowl or plate and dip each piece of pork into the potato starch one by one until each piece is well coated.
Deep Frying the Pork
- 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.
- Double Fry it - 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 dark reddish-orange color.
- 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 until the sauce has thickened.
- 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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