Crispy sweet and sour pork made with golden fried pork, pineapple pieces, capsicum and onion, all tossed through a sticky sweet and sour sauce. A homemade takeout recipe that the whole family will love! With easy air fryer and stove top methods, skip the takeaway and give this easy recipe a try at home instead!
Wherever you are from, sweet and sour pork is a classic staple on most Chinese restaurant menus. With golden, crunchy pieces of fried pork tossed through a sweet and tart sticky sauce, it’s not hard to see why it is a much-loved favourite!
Now, you can ditch the takeaway and make your own easy version at home! Served with easy fried rice or steamed rice, this version tastes just as good (if not better!) than what you’ll find at your favourite restaurant.
This recipe can be tossed through a hot wok or frying pan and be ready in less than 30 minutes. Or, if you love the idea of crispy battered sweet and sour pork without frying in oil, I have also included a healthy sweet and sour pork option that is cooked to crispy perfection in an air fryer. Both methods are included below. Either way, you’ll be amazed at just how easy it is to make this recipe at home!
Which cut of meat is best?
For the short cooking time, the best cut of meat for sweet and sour pork is the neck, shoulder or belly due to the distribution of meat and fat. The marbling of fat throughout the pork makes the bite sized pieces more tender and moist. For a leaner alternative, you can use pork tenderloin or fillets, but the dish may be slightly less tender due to the lower fat content.
Vegetables for sweet and sour pork
Garlic, sliced onion, capsicum, spring onion and pineapple are used in this dish. For additional vegetables, you can also add thinly sliced carrot, snow peas or any of your favourites. The vegetables are stir fried (or air fried) until tender but still slightly firm.
Fresh or canned pineapple can be used depending on preference and availability. I personally find that fresh pineapple works best because it has more flavour than the canned version. But, canned pineapple works too!
How to make sweet and sour pork
Step 1; marinate the pork
The first step is to marinate the pork pieces a mix of light soy, Chinese five spice, black pepper and Shaoxing (Chinese wine) to lock in the flavours.
Leaving the pork to marinate overnight is best. Otherwise, leave it covered in the fridge for as long as possible.
Step 2; make the sweet and sour sauce
To make homemade sweet and sour sauce for pork, simply stir the sauce ingredients together in a small saucepan until combined.
The cornflour is combined with water and used as a thickening agent which is added at the end of cooking and gives the sauce its rich and glossy appearance. When tossed together, the thick sauce clings to the crispy coating on the pork and tastes amazing!
If you prefer your sauce on the sweeter side, add a further 1-2 tablespoons of sugar.
Step 3; fry the pork
For the extra crispy coating in this recipe, cornflour (corn starch) is used to coat the pork before frying. Or, potato starch or arrowroot can be substituted. The result is similar to battered sweet and sour pork, but with a crispier coating that holds its texture better when added to the sauce.
When the pork has marinated, an egg is added to the mixture and the pork pieces are then tossed through cornflour until thickly coated.
Fry the pork pieces in canola or vegetable oil in a hot wok or frying pan. Or, use an air fryer with 2 tablespoons of oil for a healthier option. (You can find both methods below).
Bite sized pieces of pork (around 3cm) should take around 5 minutes to cook through and by this time, the coating will be golden and crispy. Rest the pork pieces on some paper towel while you cook the vegetables.
Step 4; time to cook!
Wipe out the wok and return it to the heat. Stir fry the onion, garlic and capsicum together until tender. Add the pineapple pieces and toss.
Stir the pork pieces and spring onion through the vegetables. Add the sweet and sour sauce and quickly toss to coat. Remove from the heat and serve immediately with fried or steamed rice.
Air fryer sweet and sour pork;
If you love sweet and sour pork, but prefer a healthier option with less oil, try “frying” the pork in an air fryer instead of deep frying in oil. I use an 8 litre air fryer which cooks the whole batch of pork at once. For smaller air fryers, the pork can be cooked in batches.
Pre-heat the air fryer to 200 C (392 F) Add the coated pork to the tray and cook for 5 minutes, until cooked through. Remove the pork from the tray and set aside. Add the vegetables and garlic to the air fryer and cook for 4-5 minutes, until tender. Add the sauce, pineapple and pork and cook for a further 2 minutes.
Serve immediately over fried or steamed rice.
Or try these other “takeout” restaurant copycat meals that you can make at home!
If you try this crispy sweet and sour pork recipe, I’d love to hear about it! Feel free to leave a comment or review below, or send me a message. For more food inspiration, tips and to share your own recipes and creations, head over to my Facebook Recipe Group.
Crispy Sweet and Sour Pork
For the pork
- 600 grams pork shoulder (1.3 pounds). Or use belly, neck or tenderloins.
- 1 tbsp light soy
- 1 tsp ground Chinese five spice flat teaspoon
- ½ tsp black pepper
- 2 tbsp Shaoxing (Chinese wine)
- 1 tbsp cornflour
- 1 egg
- ½ cup cornflour extra, for the coating
- 2 tbsp canola oil for air fryer. Use extra for wok frying.
For the sweet and sour sauce
- ⅓ cup chicken stock
- ⅓ cup rice vinegar or apple cider vinegar
- ¼ cup pineapple juice
- ½ cup sugar
- 4 tbsp tomato sauce
- 2 tbsp light soy
- pinch salt
- 1 tbsp cornflour
For the stir fry
- 2 tbsp oil canola or vegetable
- 3 cloves garlic chopped
- ½ red capsicum diced
- ½ yellow capsicum diced
- 1 medium onion sliced
- ½ cup pineapple fresh or canned, chopped into small pieces
- steamed or fried rice
- sesame seeds
- spring onions chopped
- Cut the pork into bite sized pieces (approx. 3cm pieces). In a small bowl, combine the pork, soy sauce, Chinese five spice, pepper, Chinese wine and 1 tbsp of cornflour and stir. Cover and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes (overnight is best, where possible).
For the sweet and sour sauce
- Mix all of the sauce ingredients except for the cornflour together in a small saucepan and stir to combine.
- Stir over a low heat until simmering. Mix the cornflour with ¼ cup of water and stir. Add the cornflour slurry to the sauce and continue to cook for 1-2 minutes, until the sauce thickens slightly and the cloudiness from the cornflour disappears. The sauce will look glossy and smooth when ready.
- Pour the sauce into a jug and set aside.
For the crispy pork
- Once the pork has marinated for the desired time, remove from the refrigerator and stir the egg through the pork.
- Add the remaining ½ cup of cornflour to a bowl. Toss a few pieces of pork at a time through the cornflour, until all pieces are completely coated.
Wok/stove top instructions
- Heat the oil in a wok until hot (around 185 °C/356 F). Fry the pork (in batches for smaller woks or frying pans) until browned, crisp and cooked through (around 5 minutes).
- Carefully remove the pork from the hot oil and place on a plate with paper towel to drain. The pork can be twice cooked in the oil, if desired, for a crisper texture.
- Carefully remove the oil from the wok and wipe the wok with paper towel. Return the wok to the heat and, once hot, add the garlic, onion and capsicum with 1-2 tbsp oil.
- Toss the vegetables until tender but still firm (2-3 minutes). Add the pineapple and stir fry until combined.
- Quickly add the pork and pour the sweet and sour sauce over the top. Toss to combine and cook for 1-2 minutes. Remove from the heat and serve immediately over fried or steamed rice. Garnish with spring onion and sesame seeds.
Air fryer instructions
- Remove any baskets or racks from the air fryer basket and pre-heat the air fryer to 200 °C (392 F).
- Place the coated pork pieces into the basket of the air fryer. Drizzle over 1-2 tbsp of oil and cook for 5 minutes, until the pork is crispy and cooked through.
- Remove the pork from the basket and set aside.
- Add the garlic, onion and capsicum to the basket and cook for 4-5 minutes, until the vegetables are tender but still slightly firm. Add the pineapple, sweet and sour sauce and pork pieces, stir and cook for a further two minutes.
- Remove the tray and stir. Serve immediately over fried or steamed rice. Garnish with spring onion and sesame seeds.