Make authentic Chinese Sweet and Sour Pork at home! Get my tips and tricks for perfectly crispy pork, smothered in a delectable sauce with pineapple and peppers. Better than takeout!
If you’ve ever tried to make Chinese food at home, you may have been frustrated that you couldn’t get a nice, crispy coating like they have at all the restaurants.
I struggled for years to figure out the secret, but I finally did!
The secret to making crispy Sweet and Sour Pork
It comes down to two things:
- Using tempura mix for the batter
- Frying once at 350 degrees F., then again at 400 degrees F.
Equipment needed for Sweet and Sour Pork
You will be deep-frying these lovely golden nuggets of pork. You can do it on the stovetop in a high-sided pan, or in a wok. But it’s hard to maintain the proper oil temperature.
My favorite way to deep fry things is using an electric skillet. This is my favorite:
If you don’t have a fryer but want to make French fries or donuts, then an electric skillet is a must. The temperature dial ensures that your oil stays hot like it should so that you don’t get soggy or burned food. A skillet can be used for lots of other things, too, from pancakes to stir fry and more. You can even use it as a buffet server.
There are several awesome things I love about this particular model. First of all, you can remove the pan from the base and wash it in the dishwasher! There is also a spout for pouring liquids out of the pan and a spoon and spatula holder. The handles fold down so you can easily store it without taking up extra space.
An electric skillet for this recipe just makes things SO much easier, because you don’t have to check the temperature of the oil with a thermometer or keep adjusting the flame or heat on your stovetop burner.
How to make Sweet and Sour Pork
First, you’ll want to cut your pork into cubes. I usually cut them into 3/4″ cubes. You can use pork chops or pork loin here.
Now you can marinate your pork if you like, and want to do that extra step. (I’m usually in a hurry, so I skip marinating, but it does make the meat flavorful and soft).
To marinate, you mix some soy sauce, corn starch, and baking soda and add it to the pork. Refrigerate for 1 1/2 hours.
When you’re ready to fry, add about an inch (or more) of vegetable oil to your electric skillet and set the temperature to 350 degrees F.
Now it’s time to mix up the tempura batter. You can find tempura mix at almost any grocery store in the Asian section.
If you have an Asian store in your area, you can get larger bags of the mix, which is what I like to do. I get this Ottogi Frying Mix.
It’s basically a mixture of flour and corn starch along with some spices. It makes your batter come out light and crispy. I’ve had much better luck using a frying mix than trying to make my own batter out of flour, eggs, and corn starch.
To make the batter with the frying mix, you just add water. I like to add ice water, because this produces an even lighter result. (You can see I’ve even added ice cubes to keep the batter cold).
Now you stir in the pork cubes until they’re all covered.
Now it’s time for the first fry. Use tongs to add a few cubes of the battered pork to the hot oil. Fry about 10 cubes at a time.
They’ll need to fry for about 5 minutes. Stir and flip the cubes in the oil so that all sides get cooked.
Your goal here is to get the pork fully cooked.
The batter won’t get very brown. That’s o.k. It should look like this:
When you remove the fried pork, set it on a paper towel-lined plate.
Once you’ve fried all the pork, turn the temperature on the oil up to 400 degrees F.
Then fry your pork in batches again, very briefly, until it turns a deep golden brown. (This will not take more than two minutes, and may take even less time).
The goal here is just to crisp up the batter. The pork is already cooked.
Everything should darken and look like this:
To serve, you can add in some stir-fried peppers, canned pineapple chunks, and of course, the delicious sweet and sour sauce (recipe below).
To cut down on sugar, and to preserve the crispy exterior, I like to serve the sauce separately and let everyone add their own to their personal servings.
Of course, you are welcome to add all the sauce to the fried pork and stir everything together. Just realize that this will reduce the crispiness of the pork.
I’m not going to lie. This is a time-intensive, labor-intensive meal. But the thanks you get from your family will be worth it.
For the pork
- 2 pounds pork, cut into 3/4" cubes
- 1 cup frying mix (or tempura mix)
- 2/3 cup ice water
For the vegetables
- 1/2 green pepper
- 1/2 red pepper
- 2 large carrots, peeled and sliced diagonally into thin slices
- 1 can pineapple chunks, drained (reserve the juice)
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
For the sweet and sour sauce
- 1/3 cup rice vinegar
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1/4 cup ketchup
- 1/2 cup reserved pineapple juice
- 1/4 cup of water
- 2 teaspoons of cornstarch mixed with 4 teaspoons of water
For the pork
Heat at least one inch of vegetable oil in an electric skillet, wok, or high-sided pan on the stove to 350 degrees F.
In a large bowl, mix the 1 cup of frying mix with the 2/3 cup of ice water.
Add the pork cubes and stir until fully covered with batter.
Using tongs, carefully add about 10 cubes of pork to the oil at a time. Stir and turn so that each side gets cooked. Each batch should take about five minutes to fully cook.
Remove the fried pork and set on a paper towel-lined plate to rest.
When done cooking all the pork, increase the heat of the oil to 400 degrees F.
Fry the pork again in batches, for only about 1-2 minutes, until the batter turns golden brown. Remove and allow to drain on another paper towel-lined plate.
For the vegetables
Cut up the green and red peppers, along with the carrots, and stir fry over medium-high heat until tender-crisp--about five minutes. Add the pineapple chunks at the very end just to heat through. Remove from the burner and set aside.
For the sweet and sour sauce
In a medium-sized pan on the stove, add the 1/3 cup rice vinegar (may substitute white vinegar), 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce, 1/4 cup ketchup, 1/2 cup reserved pineapple juice (from the can of pineapple), and 1/4 cup of water.
Heat and stir over medium-high heat.
In a small cup, stir together 4 teaspoons of water and 2 teaspoons of cornstarch.
When the sauce mixture comes to a boil, pour in the cornstarch mixture, stirring vigorously.
Turn down the heat and stir until the sauce thickens. Remove from the heat.
Plate the fried pork and top with the stir-fried peppers and pineapple chunks. Pour the sweet and sour sauce over the top, or serve it on the side, so people can add sauce to their individual servings.
Serve with rice.
If you want to marinate the pork before frying, add the cubed pork to a large bowl or Ziploc gallon-sized bag. Then add 2 tablespoons of soy sauce, 2 tablespoons of corn starch, and 2 teaspoons of baking soda. Put in the refrigerator for 1 1/2 hours.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 6 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 502Total Fat: 23gSaturated Fat: 8gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 13gCholesterol: 133mgSodium: 221mgCarbohydrates: 31gFiber: 1gSugar: 27gProtein: 41g