If you love a juicy, sweet & sticky char siu (Chinese BBQ Pork, 叉烧), give this easy recipe a try! Delicious authentic char siu is achievable at home! Includes instructions on how to make char siu in the oven so this can be made in the oven or the grill depending on the season.
Table of Contents
- Ingredients for Char Siu
- Red Fermented Bean Curd & Substitutions
- Best Cuts of Meat to Use for Char Siu
- Char Siu's Signature Sweet and Sticky Glaze
- How to Make Char Siu (Chinese BBQ Pork)
- Grilling Instructions for Char Siu
- Oven Instructions for Char Siu
- How to Re-heat and Store
- How to Use Chinese BBQ Pork (Char Siu)
- More Chinese Recipes You May Like
- Did you make this Char Siu recipe?
- Recipe Card
Added instructions on how to cook this in the oven! Woohoo! So now this can be made in the oven or on the grill depending on the season!
Every time I look up 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 my char siu very sweet and sticky and I don't like using red food coloring because I don't feel like it really adds anything to it except color so I wanted to get the color as natural as possible by using red fermented bean curd.
There's a lot to cover for char siu in this recipe, so let's get started!
Ingredients for Char Siu
Here are the ingredients for my authentic char siu recipe!
- Pork - I like to use pork shoulder or pork butt for char siu because of its equal fat-to-meat ratio, which I find makes it a lot juicier and flavorful.
- Garlic and Ginger - These two aromatics are also a must and will give a lot of flavor to your char siu.
- Hoisin Sauce - This will give a slight sweetness to the marinade as well as an additional flavor. Definitely do not skip this ingredient.
- Chinese Five Spice Powder - For the best char siu sauce flavor, Chinese five-spice powder is a must. It's a very popular spice now, so you should be able to find it at any grocery store but if you can't find it, they will definitely have it in any Asian grocery store.
- Red Fermented Bean Curd - To get that red color, I use red fermented bean curd. It also gives a lot of umami flavor and it is also a source of salt as well. You can find it at most Chinese supermarkets but if you can't find it then your best bet is to buy it online.
- Sweeteners for the Glaze - I like to use honey because I always have it on hand. You can also use maple syrup, barley malt syrup, maltose, or molasses. For the molasses, we used fancy/cooking molasses which is different from blackstrap molasses. Fancy molasses has a higher sugar content and blackstrap molasses is black in color and actually bitter.
- Korean Red Pepper Flakes (Optional) - I did an experiment and used gochugaru (Korean pepper flakes) to make it a bit spicy and it also added a bit of redness to this as well. This is definitely not a traditional ingredient but if you're okay with experimenting, then definitely try adding this! Also, keep in mind, that it will also add an earthier flavor as well.
Red Fermented Bean Curd & Substitutions
Red fermented bean curd is called 'lam yu' in Cantonese. Not to be confused with the other fermented bean curd called 'fu yu' which is almost the same thing but without the red color. It's basically a fermented bean curd with a soft cheese-like texture. It also is extremely salty and loaded with umami almost like a soft cheese!
Traditionally, char siu is always red. I prefer to make my char siu without food coloring so I used red fermented bean curd for the red color and the salt. The red fermented bean curd also adds another dimension of flavor similar to what the cooking wine provides as well.
Red fermented bean curd 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 flavor but it will be somewhat close. 🙂
In this recipe, the red fermented tofu (aka red bean curd) is used as a source of sodium and color, so if you substitute it out, you will lose the red color that char siu is known for.
Best Cuts of Meat to Use for Char Siu
Let's talk meat. The best cut of pork for char siu will be a personal preference, most people like it juicier with an equal ratio of fat to meat, and some people prefer it a bit on the leaner side with no fat.
I prefer a more fatty and juicy char siu so I highly recommend using boneless pork shoulder (you can also use pork butt or pork belly as well). If you prefer a leaner char siu, then you can use 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 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 a lot of 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.
Cut the pork up into long thin strips, no larger than 3 inches wide. It cooks faster, and you get more surface area for sauce. Mmmm! The sauce is the best part of this!
Char Siu's Signature Sweet and Sticky Glaze
Next, let's talk sweeteners!
Char siu's trademark is its red sweet and sticky sauce. The char siu glaze is basically made out of the char siu sauce/marinade with an additional liquid sweetener added to it to give it extra sweetness and stickiness.
I like to use honey for this recipe because it's easy to find and it is usually in most household pantries. If I have molasses at home, I will also use that as well since it gives a bit more flavor than honey - if you do use molasses, use fancy molasses and not blackstrap molasses. Blackstrap molasses has a bitter flavor without a lot of sweetness.
I also recommend using barley malt syrup or maltose as well if you want a bit more flavor but these are a bit harder to find so 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.
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 the glaze and thicken it to give us that nice sticky thick layer! Don't worry too much about re-using the marinate as the glaze, since we will be cooking it.
How to Make Char Siu (Chinese BBQ Pork)
Lastly, let's talk heat. We can make char siu over the grill or in the oven. Both turn out fantastic, but I found that it would cook a lot faster on the grill than in the oven - with more char as well, so it will take a lot less time to make on a bbq.
Grilling Instructions for Char Siu
I used a charcoal BBQ for this, with indirect heat from hot charcoals off to the side.
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 an 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!
Oven Instructions for Char Siu
If you are making char siu in the oven, it will take slightly longer than grilling it since the oven is usually not as hot as a BBQ.
When you are setting up the meat on the tray or roasting rack, set it on a rack so there is airflow below the meat. I like it line it with foil before setting down a rack for an easier clean-up. If you don't have a rack, you can take foil and crunch them up into foil balls and rest the meat on that.
I set the oven to 400F (204C) and cook it for 20 minutes a side for a total of 40 minutes. Then for the last 20 minutes, I flip and glaze the meat with the glaze every 3-5 minutes until the glaze is all brushed on.
The burnt sugar is another trademark flavor 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!
How to Re-heat and Store
If you're making a big batch, char siu freezes really well in the freezer for up to 3 months. I store them in a ziplock bag, with all the air removed for easy storage in the freezer.
To re-heat it from the freezer, I bring it out the day before and defrost it in the fridge. Once it has defrosted, you can microwave it to warm it up. Make sure you don't slice it ahead of time before you microwave it, or you will lose a lot of moisture and juiciness. Microwave it as a whole piece, then once it is warm all the way through, you can let it rest for a few minutes and then slice it.
If you don't plan to freeze it, then it can keep in the fridge for up to a week, stored in a well-sealed container, or covered over a plate with plastic wrap.
How to Use Chinese BBQ Pork (Char Siu)
Char siu is a very versatile dish and is one of the main reasons why I love it so much. You can use it in so many different ways, and it's always great to have some on hand for some really easy dinner and meals.
Here are a few additional ways you can use char siu if you have any leftovers.
- Steamed or baked BBQ pork buns - You can chop char siu up into tiny cubes and make a sweet and savory filling with it and stuff it in buns to make steamed or baked bbq pork buns. When I'm too lazy to make buns, I will stuff them into dumpling wrappers instead and make a simple char siu gyoza with it.
- Stir Fry Noodles or Vegetables - You can cut char siu into thin strips and use it in any type of noodle or vegetable stir fry. I like to add it to my Singapore noodles or my teriyaki yaki udon noodles to give it a bit of protein.
- Noodle Soups - Thin slices of char siu is delicious when it's served with simple broth soups with noodles like wonton noodle soup.
- Fried Rice - If you have leftover char siu, or you need some meat in your fried rice, you can cut it into small cubes and add it to any type of fried rice as well!
- Eat as-is with white rice - Char siu is delicious on its own, sliced into thin pieces and served with plain white rice. I like to serve it with white rice. As a kid, my dad and I would also mix plum sauce with mustard and use it as a dipping sauce as well!
More Chinese Recipes You May Like
- Sweet and Sour Pork
- Beef Chow Fun (Beef Ho Fun)
- Crispy Cantonese Beef Chow Mein
- Easy Creamy Congee Recipe
- Tomato and Egg Stir Fry
- Ultimate Chinese Hot Pot Guide on How to Hot Pot at Home
- Chinese Eggplant with Garlic Sauce
- Wonton Noodle Soup
- Saucy Beef Chow Fun
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Sweet and Sticky Char Siu (Chinese BBQ Pork)
- Depending on your oven, the heat may vary. If you notice that you are not getting much of a char on your char siu, set the oven to broil and broil each side for 3-5 minutes (6-10 minutes in total) at the very end when the meat has finished cooking. Make sure you don't leave the area and watch the oven while it is broiling since it can burn very quickly.
- If you are using molasses for this recipe, use fancy or cooking molasses only. Do not use blackstrap molasses, it has a bitter taste.
- If you cannot find red fermented bean curd, you can substitute this with 3 tablespoons of oyster sauce.
- Make sure you bring the char siu out of the fridge for an hour before you cook it. This will ensure that the pork will cook all the way through to the middle evenly.
- Korean red pepper flakes (gochugaru) is an optional ingredient and is definitely not in authentic and traditional char siu. If you decide to use it, it will give your pork additional red colour but it will also be a bit of spiciness to it as well. It will also give the char siu an earthier flavour. So if you don't want this - skip it! 🙂
Char Siu Marinade
- 2 tablespoons honey (or maltose or barley malt syrup or fancy molasses (not blackstrap molasses))
- 1-2 cubes red fermented tofu (add an additional 4 teaspoons of the sauce, mashed together - this is also known as red bean curd)
- 2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 cloves garlic (roughly chopped, approximately 1 ½ tablespoons)
- 4 slices of ginger (roughly chopped, approximately 2-3 tablespoons)
- 1 teaspoon Chinese five spice powder
- 2 tablespoons Chinese rice cooking wine (or dry sherry)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon Korean pepper flakes (optional, for additional color and a mild spiciness. It will also give it an earthier flavor)
- 2-3 lbs pork shoulder (cut into long strips, 3 inch wide)
- 2 tablespoons honey
- leftover marinade
Cutting and Marinating the Meat
- Cut the pork shoulder into long strips, that are roughly 3 inch thick. Mine are usually sized around 3 inches wide, and 5-7 inches long.
- Combine the ingredients in the marinade section into a ziplock or a big bowl and combine it with the pork.
- Marinate it in the fridge for 24 hours.
Preparing the Glaze
- Remove the meat from the marinade and let it sit for an hour at room temperature before cooking
- Add all the marinade to a small pot including the chunks of garlic and ginger. Cooking the glaze with the ginger and garlic will make it more flavourful.
- Add 2 tablespoons of honey into the marinade and mix well.
- Cook it on low heat on a stove for 5 minutes or when the sauce starts to boil.
- Set it aside for later, we will use this for glazing at the end
(Option 1) Grilling the Pork on the BBQ
- Heat up BBQ to 325F (162C)
- Cook the char siu for 15 mins on one side, then flip it for another 10 mins. Check the meat thermometer. The temperature should be around 145F (62C). If it's not, keep the meat on longer until it reaches that internal temperature.
- Once it hits an internal temperature of 145F (62C), we will use the glaze and glaze it 4-5 times, flipping the meat every minute to prevent burning
- 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.
- Once the meat has rested, cut it up and enjoy!!
(Option 2) Cooking the Char Siu in the Oven
- Line a sheet pan with foil before setting down a metal rack over it for easier cleanup. Using a metal rack over the sheet pan also will give the char siu proper airflow to roast in the oven. Place the meat on top of the rack.If you don't have a rack, you can take foil and crunch them up into loose foil balls and rest the meat on that.
- Pre-heat the oven to 400F (204C).
- Once the oven has reached 400F (204C) bake the pork for 20 minutes.
- Flip the pork and cook for another 20 minutes
- Increase the oven temperature to 425F (218C)
- For the next 20 minutes, flip and glaze the meat every 5 minutes until all the glaze is brushed on. Don't worry if there are charred sections, it's a trademark of char siu as well! 🙂
- Once the meat is done (when it reaches an internal temperature of 145F (62C)), let it rest for 10-15 minutes, cut it up and enjoy! 🙂
*Nutritional information is calculated using online tools and is an estimate*
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Luis Davila says
Looking forward to trying it!
Joyce Lee says
Hope you enjoy it!
Scott Schulman says
Been making char suit and by far best way to cook is air fryer. 390 for 8 minutes, flip pork over for another 6 minutes. Thicker or thine strips need adjusting. Get it charted and it will still be juicy yet crisp. Only way to do it consistently,Quickly, easily.
Joyce Lee says
Thanks so much for sharing this with me! I actually just got an air fryer and will definitely be using your tips to make it in the air fryer! I really appreciate this!
best whole hog bbq in north carolina says
The most delicious American food is barbecue. It is a regional dish with many tastes, including the Memphis-style sticky ribs, the Central Texas-style smoked Brisket and Memphis-style sticky pork ribs as well as the Kansas City-style burned ends. There's more in this iconic cuisine than what's on the surface.
Best Char Siu I have ever tried. I will always make it this way from now on. I did want it red but so not like tofu so I used about 2 1/2 of fresh beets for the color. Delish!! Thank you for such a wonderful recipie.
I mean 2 1/2 tablespoons of beets for color. 🙂
Joyce Lee says
Wow that is actually brilliant! I never thought of using beet juice for color! I will need to try this next time I have some beets! Thank you for sharing your idea with me and I'm super happy you liked the recipe!
This is my new favorite BBQ pork recipe. Made it today and it turned out perfectly. Thank you!
Joyce Lee says
I'm so happy you liked it! I'm very happy to share!
Last time, about a year ago, I went to do this Sweet and Sticky Char Siu, it was so overwheming 👍and everyone loved and praised this Char Siu I made. Sacastically, they said these sticky, taste of Char Siu is obsessed to them. I told my friends I went to your website to follow all your entire ingredients recipe. I did all exactlly as your ingredients outlined....
Now, since we are facing global Omicron pandemic, for stay home safety, so I decided to dig in your website again to do this yummy finger-licking-good food enjoyment .Thanks.
Joyce Lee says
Welcome back and I am super happy everyone enjoyed the char siu!
Wishin you all a happy new year, please stay safe!
Awesome recipe that matches some great restaurant char siu! Just personal as everyone is different, I replace the hoisin with oyster sauce (because I already have it) and mix some dark soy and sweet soy with the regular soy (same overall amount) and add a little white pepper. In the smoker at a slightly higher temp and it works wonders for me. Also using pork belly (skin off) is a great option.
Thank you so much for this recipe. About to put my third one on the smoker!
Joyce Lee says
Thanks for coming back and sharing this with me! I'm so happy you liked this!
Thank you for recommending pork belly to me! I have not tried using that cut of meat but now I am curious! I bet the fattiness from the pork belly would taste fantastic!