Easy and Delicious Air Fryer Char Siu (BBQ Pork)

This quick and easy Char Siu (BBQ Pork) Recipe is going to wok your world, and yes, it can all be done in an air fryer! Read on for the full fuss-free recipe.

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Char Siu (BBQ Pork) is a legendary Cantonese specialty consisting of mouthwatering pork that is roasted to perfection in a marinade that’s at once salty, sweet, sticky, and… sensational.

Truly, it is (in my opinion) one of the most delicious things you can eat as far as Cantonese cuisine is concerned.

And while most typically, Char Siu is purchased from Cantonese siu mei shops (where they sell all sorts of amazing BBQ/roasted meats), it’s a surprisingly easy treat to prepare at home, especially if you use Papa G’s lazy air fryer method below.

… Yes, today, you’re learning how to make Char Siu in an air fryer, for delicious results with a fraction of the effort (and clean-up).

So, keep scrolling for our foolproof air fryer Char Siu (BBQ Pork) recipe. We guarantee you’ll Char-ish it for years to come.

A Few Notes About This Air Fryer Char Siu Recipe

Traditionally, Char Siu is slowly roasted in an oven, and painstakingly basted throughout the roasting process, which creates the pork’s signature glaze and char.

I’ve personally prepared Char Siu this way to great results, but the process (and clean-up) had me hesitant to make it a regular part of my home cooking rotation.

Fast forward to 2021, and Papa G has (after 40+ years in the biz) begun to learn that shortcuts aren’t always a bad thing.

… Which has led to a flourishing love affair with his air fryer.

And upon the realization that Char Siu can indeed be made in an air fryer, well, let’s just say this delicious BBQ pork is now being made a LOT more often.

So, just as an FYI: the method below puts an emphasis on ease and speed, without compromising on flavour.

Will it be as sticky and glossy as roasted BBQ pork from a siu mei shop? Not quite, but it’ll taste pretty close, and require a fraction of the effort.

So, read on if you’re interested in an ultra easy method of making char siu in an air fryer!

What Kind of Pork to Use for Char Siu

If you’re new to Char Siu, one of the first questions you might ask yourself is what kind of pork to use.

Well – here’s the annoying answer! The type of pork you use for your Char Siu is a matter of personal preference.

Most commonly, pork shoulder/butt is used, but pork belly and pork tenderloin also work well.

In our photos, you’ll see that we tried this recipe with both tenderloin (which is quite lean), as well as pork belly (which is fattier). Both tasted great, but we personally prefer that extra fattiness that comes with the pork belly.

Our gluttonous tip? Try a bunch of cuts and figure out what you like best!

How to Make Your Char Siu Look Red

Besides its sticky glaze and charred exterior, one of the most iconic aspects of Cantonese BBQ Pork is its bright red hue.

Making Char Siu at home, it’s tough to get that vibrant red colour without a splash of red food colouring. While preserved red bean curd adds a certain red tint, it doesn’t quite get you the bright red that you often see in restaurant-style BBQ pork.

… So, if you are looking to impress your guests or simply get a more photogenic Char Siu, feel free to add some red food colouring to your liking. It won’t impact the taste, but aesthetically it is more pleasing.

Since simplicity is the name of the game for our Air Fryer Char Siu, we opted to go without any additional colouring, and the results still turned out great!

Ingredients for Our Char Siu (BBQ Pork) Recipe

  • 1kg of pork (either pork shoulder/butt or skinless pork belly, pork tenderloin can work if you don’t mind a leaner cut)
  • 10g salt
  • 40g sugar
  • 2 tsp chicken powder
  • 1 tbsp cooking wine
  • 1/2 tsp white pepper powder
  • 2 tbsp hoisin sauce
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 pieces preserved red bean curd (+ 2 tbsp juice)
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • OPTIONAL: 1/2 tsp of five spice powder

Step by Step Instructions for Our Char Siu (BBQ Pork) Recipe

Using an air fryer, this Char Siu (BBQ Pork) comes together quickly and easily for a delicious treat that goes great with rice, noodles, bao, or a variety of other Chinese dishes. Here are the step by step instructions!

At least 2 hours in advance, prepare your pork. Use some paper towels to absorb excess moisture from the pork, and set aside in a large bowl.

To the large bowl, add in your salt, sugar, chicken powder, cooking wine, white pepper, hoisin sauce, soy sauce, red bean curd, and baking soda. Optionally, add a bit of five spice for an extra flavor boost.

Mix well, and leave to marinate at least two hours (preferably overnight).

When you’re ready to make your BBQ Pork/Char Siu, prepare your air fryer by wiping it clean and then adding 2 tbsp of water at the bottom.

Place your pork flat in the air fryer, and air fry it at 365 degrees F for 18 minutes, flipping halfway through. NOTE: Your pork may need to fry for longer depending on how large your pieces are.

After the pork is at your desired level of charred, add some honey on top and fry for another minute at 400 degrees.

Let the Char Siu cool for 5 minutes and then slice into thin pieces.

Pour the leftover sauce/juices from the air fryer over the BBQ pork and serve with rice (or enjoy it on its own).

Air Fryer Char Siu (Chinese BBQ Pork)

Air Fryer Char Siu (Chinese BBQ Pork)

Ingredients

  • 1kg of pork (either pork shoulder/butt or skinless pork belly, pork tenderloin can work if you don’t mind a leaner cut)
  • 10g salt
  • 40g sugar
  • 2 tsp chicken powder
  • 1 tbsp cooking wine
  • 1/2 tsp white pepper powder
  • 2 tbsp hoisin sauce
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 pieces preserved red bean curd (+ 2 tbsp juice)
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • OPTIONAL: 1/2 tsp of five spice powder

Instructions

  1. At least 2 hours in advance, prepare your pork. Use some paper towels to absorb excess moisture from the pork, and set aside in a large bowl.
  2. To the large bowl, add in your salt, sugar, chicken powder, cooking wine, white pepper, hoisin sauce, soy sauce, red bean curd, and baking soda.
  3. Mix well, and leave to marinate at least two hours (preferably overnight).
  4. When you’re ready to make your BBQ Pork/Char Siu, prepare your air fryer by wiping it clean and then adding 2 tbsp of water at the bottom.
  5. Place your pork flat in the air fryer, and air fry it at 365 degrees F for 18 minutes, flipping halfway through. NOTE: Your pork may need to fry for longer depending on how large your pieces are.
  6. After the pork is at your desired level of charred, add some honey on top and fry for another minute at 400 degrees.
  7. Let the Char Siu cool for 5 minutes and then slice into thin pieces.
  8. Pour the leftover sauce/juices from the air fryer over the BBQ pork and serve with rice (or enjoy it on its own).

Notes

For a more typical red Char Siu aesthetic, you can add some red food colouring to the marinade. This will not affect the flavour, but will give the BBQ pork a more distinctive red colour.

We Hope You Enjoy Our Char Siu (BBQ Pork) Recipe!

Let us know in the comments if you have any questions, or be sure to let us know if you’ve tested the recipe out. We’re always looking to improve our recipes and make sure they taste great for everyone.

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