Chinese BBQ Pork (Char Siu)

Nov 20, 2019 | meat, Recipes

It was the year 2000, I was 15 years old and working for the summer in a mall Chinese Food place in Southern Ontario. Every day of the week there was a different special at the restaurant. It was my first Thursday working and so it was also the first time I was seeing the Thursday special. When I arrived at work the steam table was already set up and as my eyes scanned the all familiar pre-lunch mounds of fried rice, lo mein, sweet and sour pork, and beef and broccoli, something caught my eye. There, in the tray where the daily special always went, was a pile of bright red pieces of pork. I’d never seen anything like it. I asked what it was and the manager told me, “Chinese BBQ Pork”.

It wouldn’t be until years later that I’d realize what I was serving that day and subsequently had for lunch every Thursday that summer was Char Siu, aka Chinese BBQ Pork. A sweet, and incredibly flavourful pork dish that to this day is one of my strongest memories from that period of my life.

The recipe I’m going to share with you today isn’t the recipe from all those years ago in the mall Chinese Food place, and I’d be hard-pressed to call it authentic. But, it is delicious. And if you are looking for something different to do with a big chunk of pork, something that will keep you up at night with cravings, then this is it.

A note about the red colour.

The red colour of char siu generally comes from either red bean curd or red food colouring. The colour of mine comes from Korean Chili Powder. It is likely that char siu was originally cooked slowly over an open fire leading to a red smoke ring around the meat. It’s also possible that the red bean curd was added to mimic that natural red line. As nice as the red colour is, if you can’t find red bean curd or Korean Chili powder, I recommend just leaving it. It’s always best not to die your food with red food colouring if you can avoid it.

Char Siu Flavours

The main flavours of Char Siu are typically Chinese 5 spice, honey, soy sauce, rice wine, hoisin sauce, and red bean curd. To accommodate my issues with gluten and to use ingredients I already had on hand I changed the basic recipe a little bit, but we will get into that later.

The recipe I created is based on one I found online which seemed pretty good. You can check out the original here.

Okay, let’s take a look at what I did.

The Marinade

The secret to the incredible flavour of Char Siu is in the marinade which doubles as a basting liquid and even plays a thrid roll as a sauce later (once it has been boiled). Making the marinade is as easy as putting ingredients in a bowl and stirring them.

One of the main ingredients in Char Siu is typically Hoisin sauce. I have yet to find a good quality gluten-free version of this so I left it out of the recipe. If you are unfamiliar with Hoisin Sauce it is a sweet fermented soybean sauce with a base of flavours similar to Chinese 5 Spice. To make up for the lack of Hoisin I added miso paste (also made of fermented soybeans and also replacing the red bean curd which I didn’t have), extra soy sauce (made of fermented soybeans too), extra honey, and extra Chinese 5 Spice. The combination of all of these ingredients worked really well to replace the Hoisin Sauce to the point where I didn’t even notice it was missing.

I also didn’t have any rice wine so I used brandy instead. If you have white wine or sherry, those will work too.

Char Siu Pork (Chinese BBQ Pork) Gluten-Free

A Gluten-Free Char Siu Pork or Chinese BBQ Pork Recipe That Will Leave You Wanting More.
Total Time: 1 day 2 hours 30 minutes
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Chinese
Keyword: Barbecue Pork, BBQ pork, Char Siu,, Chinese BBQ Pork, Chinese Food, Pork


  • 3 tbsp Honey
  • 3 tbsp Miso Paste Gluten-Free
  • 3 tbsp Tamari (or soy sauce)
  • 1 tbsp Chinese 5 Spice Powder
  • 2 cloves Garlic, grated or puréed
  • 1 tbsp Grated Ginger
  • 2 tbsp Brandy, Rice Wine, White Wine, or Sherry
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 1 tbsp Korean Chili Powder
  • 1 kg Pork Shoulder or Sirloin Roast


  • Combine all the ingredients except the pork in a mixing bowl and stir well.
  • Put the pork in a large ziplock bag and pour the marinade over.
  • Seal the bag, gently massage the marinade into the pork and place in the fridge for 24 hours.
  • Remove the pork from the marinade, reserving the excess and place on a rack set above a roasting pan.
  • Roast the pork on 300°F for 2 hours and 30 minutes or until the pork is very tender and has a little char around the edges.
  • While the pork is roasting, bring the reserved marinade to a boil along with 2 tbsp honey and cook for 5 minutes.
  • Baste the pork every 20 -30 minutes with the boiled marinade.
  • Once the pork is cooked let it rest loosely covered for at least 20 minutes.
  • Brush the pork generously with the remaining marinade, thinly slice and serve.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Serving The Char Siu

Char Siu can be served sliced thin with rice and bok choy as I did, it can be served with noodles either stir-fried or in a soup, it can be used in fried rice, or eaten in steamed buns. Of course, you can do anything you want with your Char Siu. Pick it up with your hands and take a big bite out of it caveman style…okay I did this too.

The point here is that this delicious pork has a lot of uses, so go make it. Seriously, go make it. Your taste buds will thank you.


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