In this classic takeaway-style sweet n’ sour pork stir fry recipe, crispy twice-cooked pork shoulder strips are coated in a tangy sweet and sour sauce with pineapple chunks, sweet bell peppers and onions.
Originally published in May 2014. Updated and republished with new images and information in May 2021. This recipe is suitable for gluten-free diets.
Why you want to make this…
Craving Chinese food?
This classic takeaway-style sweet n’ sour pork stir fry recipe is just what you need!
In it, crispy twice-cooked pork shoulder strips are coated in a deliciously tangy sweet and sour sauce and served with pineapple chunks, sweet bell peppers and onions.
This recipe has always been a hit with my kids; they think it tastes just like a Chinese takeaway meal does.
Clean plates all around too, for the win!
What you’ll need…
- Pork – shoulder cuts make for a more flavoursome finished dish.
- Tamari soy sauce – a naturally gluten-free sauce used to flavour the pork marinade.
- Egg yolk – acts as a liquid to get the cornflour to stick to the meat.
- Cornflour – acts as a tenderiser, coating the pork so it doesn’t lose moisture when it’s deep-fried (see tips on velveting, below). Also used to thicken the sweet and sour sauce.
- Sunflower oil – some for deep-frying the twice-cooked pork and a little more for stir-frying the vegetables.
- Sweet bell peppers – use either green, red or yellow or a combination of all three.
- Onion – red, white or brown, as you wish. I’ve used red as it’s got a sweeter flavour that the kids like.
- Garlic – two finely chopped cloves, for a mild garlic flavour.
- Pineapple chunks in juice – for convenience and flavour. Reserve the juice to use in the sweet and sour sauce.
- Vinegar – distilled white vinegar will do, but you can substitute this with apple cider vinegar. Either will provide the characteristic sour punch to the sauce.
- Caster sugar – adds more sweetness to the sauce. Substitute with granulated if desired.
- Water – for stir-frying the peppers and adding liquid to the sauce.
- Tomato ketchup – don’t be judgy now. This adds the right level of tart flavour to the sauce. Substitute with 1/2 the quantity of tomato puree if you wish but it won’t taste the same.
- Sea salt – to balance the sweet and sour perfectly.
- Spring onions – to garnish (optional)
How to make it…
- Marinade your pork strips in cornflour, soy sauce and a beaten egg yolk for 20-30 minutes.
- Make the sweet and sour sauce by combining pineapple juice, vinegar, sugar, water and tomato ketchup in a small bowl.
- Coat the marinated pork strips in more cornflour and deep-fry in hot oil, twice.
- Stir-fry the peppers, onions and pineapple in a little oil.
- Add the sweet and sour sauce, bring to the boil and thicken with cornflour.
- Add the crispy pork strips and mix well to coat. Serve immediately.
Tips for making sweet and sour pork
- prep everything in advance – chop your vegetables, mix the sauce, marinate the meat and dissolve the cornflour in water so that it’s all ready to go. Separate bowls make this easier.
- use a digital thermometer to keep track of the temperature of the hot oil. Bring the oil back up to 180 C between each batch.
- serve sweet and sour pork immediately while the pork is still crispy from deep-frying.
Where does sweet and sour pork come from?
Sweet and sour pork is a classic Cantonese dish from the Guangdong province in China. The Chinese call it gu lao rou 咕咾肉, and although there are many different recipes, most involve pork, pineapple and bell peppers.
What’s the best pork for sweet and sour pork?
Pork shoulder cuts make for a more flavoursome finished dish because they contain more fat. Alternatively, use neck fillet or tenderloin. We recommend sourcing your meat from a UK-bred high-welfare farm.
Why is Chinese takeaway meat so tender?
Chinese takeaway meat is so tender and silky because they use a special technique called velveting. Velveting (tenderising) is a method of marinating meat with cornstarch and a little bit of egg, soy sauce and/or oil before cooking.
This creates a layer of silkiness around the protein which you will recognise from Chinese takeaways.
Tips for a tender pork stir fry
- slice your meat in thin strips against the grain. This shortens the fibres which help make the meat tender.
- use the velveting technique in this recipe. The cornflour marinade before pre-cooking the pork results in a very tender finished meat.
How do you make pork crispy?
Double frying the pork after it’s been marinaded and dredged in cornflour coats the meat in a protective, crispy layer, which means it’ll remain crispy when mixed with the sauce.
Serve immediately with rice or noodles.
Sweet and Sour Pork Stir-fry Recipe
For the crispy twice-cooked pork
For the vegetables
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- Prepare pork marinade by combining the soy sauce, egg yolk and 1 tbsp of cornstarch together in a medium sized bowl. Stir in the pork pieces and leave to marinade for 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, prepare peppers, onion, garlic and pineapple and place in separate bowls. It can get frantic while cooking and so having everything prepared in advance makes it much easier.
- Prepare sauce by combining the pineapple juice, vinegar, sugar, water and tomato sauce together in a small bowl. Set aside.
- Stir the remaining 6 tbsp cornstarch into the pork. It gets a bit gloopy but I find once it's well combined you can separate the pork pieces onto two plates for ease of handling. They'll separate during frying.
- Heat the oil in a large heavy bottomed pan to 180 °C. Keep the lid nearby just in case the oil gets too hot and catches fire (just pop the lid on to put it out).
- When both batches of pork have been cooked pop them all back into the hot oil for a further 30 seconds. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain in a bowl lined with kitchen towel. Keep warm (I put a plate over the top to keep the heat in).
- Add remaining 3 tbsp oil and stir fry the garlic for 30 seconds. Add the onion and pineapple and stir fry for a further minute.
- Return peppers to the pan and pour in the sauce.
- Bring to the boil and stir in the cornflour dissolved in the water to thicken.
- When thickened stir in the pork pieces and toss lightly to coat the pork in the sauce completely.
- Serve immediately with rice or noodles.