Sweet and Sour Pork

Crispy sweet and sour pork is velveted in a peppery, garlicky soy sauce marinade and tossed in a thick sweet and sour sauce with stir-fried onions, bell peppers, and pineapple. It’s a quick, 30-minute recipe that’s even better than your favorite takeout!

overhead closeup: sweet and sour pork cooking in a skillet

When I think of Chinese food, one of the first dishes that comes to mind is sweet and sour pork. It’s an iconic meal that uses both classic Chinese cooking techniques and widely loved Cantonese flavors.

And it’s all about the sauce! Once wrapped in a savory marinade, stir-fried to a crispy golden perfection, the juicy pork is tossed in a sugar and vinegar sauce with ketchup for extra tanginess and thickened with cornstarch. The thick sauce clings to and coats the tender meat as it’s stir-fried, and tossed along with the peppers, onions, and pineapple. 

extreme closeup: my sweet and sour pork recipe with veggies showing

This flavor combination is great with all protein but especially pork. I even love it on ribs! But you might also know it as a dipping sauce for egg rolls and other crispy, fried Chinese dishes.

My sweet and sour pork recipe is great with steamed white rice and fried rice, or — my personal favorite — tender lo mein noodles!

overhead: ingredients needed for sweet and sour pork stir fry
overhead: chopped vegetables in a bowl for sweet and sour pork

Tip From Kevin

Batter time

This sweet and sour pork stir fry get dredged in a light batter that also acts as a marinade to get that signature crunchy exterior. I’m all about making things easier and faster!

overhead: fried pork cooling on a wire rack

Ingredient Notes and Substitutions

  • Pork – Shoulder is good for sweet and sour pork stir fry. I explore some of the other options in the FAQ section below — there are plenty to choose from!
  • Bell Peppers – I use both green and red bell peppers. You can also include yellow or orange bell peppers in your sweet and sour pork recipe.
  • Red Onion – Yellow onion is also great in sweet and sour pork.
  • Pineapple – It’s not always easy to find and prepare pineapple! If you’re looking for a substitute, use canned or frozen pineapple chunks — with the liquid drained — or simply omit. 
  • Marinade – This flavorful marinade is made with light soy sauce, garlic powder, white pepper, salt, and three ingredients that make all the difference:
    • Egg, Cornstarch, & Flour These three work together to tenderize and coat the meat, creating a thick, seasoned layer that crisps up and swallows the sauce once it’s fried.
  • Sweet and Sour Sauce – Sweet and sour pork sauce is made from equal parts ketchup and brown sugar, a little less white vinegar, water and cornstarch for viscosity, and a pinch of salt. Regular white sugar and some other neutral-tasting vinegar can be used if needed.
overhead: my sweet and sour pork recipe cooking in a skillet

How to Make Sweet and Sour Pork

  1. Marinate. Whisk the marinade ingredients together in a small bowl. Add the meat, toss to coat, and let marinate while preparing the sauce and vegetables. 
  2. Prep the Vegetables. Wash, pat dry, and cut all of the vegetables and pineapple. Set aside. Chop the green onion for garnish and set aside.
  3. Make the Sauce. Add the sauce ingredients to a bowl and whisk together. Set aside.
  4. Fry. Heat the oil in a wok to 350 degrees F. Once the oil is to temperature, fry the meat for 3 minutes on each side. Keep each round of cooked meat warm in the oven while frying the next until all is cooked. Leave in the oven while preparing the sauce and vegetables.
  5. Cook the Vegetables. Leave 2 tablespoons of oil in the wok, removing and saving the rest for another use. Heat remaining oil for a minute on high before adding the pineapple and vegetables. Stir fry for 2 minutes. Add the sauce, stir to coat the ingredients, and cook for another minute while the sauce thickens. 
  6. Toss & Serve. Add the meat back to the wok and toss in the sauce. Serve sweet and sour pork stir fry right away while it’s warm and crispy!
  • Wok – There’s no better pan for stir fry than a wok. You can hold a lot of food while very quickly frying, stirring, and tossing.

Storing and Reheating

Sweet and sour pork stir fry is only crispy for a short while once it’s served. The crispy exterior gradually softens once it’s coated in the sauce.

That being said, you can get leftovers as crispy as possible in the oven or air fryer. Store in an airtight container, refrigerate, and eat any leftovers within 4 days.

overhead: a hand holding a large platter of sweet and sour pork stir fry

Frequently Asked Questions

Is sweet and sour pork a traditional Chinese food?


Absolutely. More specifically, it’s a Cantonese dish hailing from southern China. The dish has become more Western over the years, especially after ketchup was introduced to Chinese cooking and once immigrants brought the dish to the United States in the 1800s.

However, the core sweet and sour pork recipe hasn’t changed — velvety pork in a sugary, tangy vinegar sauce.

How do Chinese restaurants make pork so tender?


Chinese stir fry recipes almost always include marinating and cooking the meat in cornstarch or egg, which coats and “velvets” the meat, making it especially soft and tender. 

My sweet and sour pork uses both cornstarch and egg in the marinade to both velvet the meat and create a thick crust!

What kind of pork is best for stir fry?


Pork butt is well-loved by chefs because it’s a fatty, large cut of meat. I personally prefer the shoulder — while a little tougher, it’s less expensive and just as easy to work with. Both are cut from the shoulder of the pig.

With the velveting method, the cut used is not tremendously important. This could be the shoulder, butt, filet, or even a loin roast.

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extreme closeup: sweet and sour pork with veggies showing

Sweet and Sour Pork

Chinese sweet and sour pork is tender and crispy, coated in a luscious sweet and sour sauce you can make with pantry staples right at home.
Servings: 4
Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 10 minutes
Total: 30 minutes

Ingredients 

Pork Marinade

Sweet and Sour Pork Sauce

Instructions 

  • Heat oven to 200°F. Line a baking tray with paper towels and a wire rack.
  • In a bowl mix together the marinade ingredients and add the pork. Toss to coat in the marinade/batter. Marinate as you prep vegetables.
  • Wash and cut the vegetables, pineapple and green onion garnish. Set aside.
  • In a small bowl whisk together the sauce ingredients. Set aside.
  • In a wok, heat the oil to 350°F. Carefully fry the pork pieces in batches to not over crowd the wok. Cook for 3 minutes per side. Remove and set on lined tray. Repeat with remaining pork. Place tray in oven to keep warm as you finish sauce and vegetables.
  • Remove all but 2 tablespoons of the oil (let oil cool and save for other use). Heat wok on high and after a minute add the vegetables and pineapple. Stir fry quickly for 2 minutes. Stir the sauce and add to the wok. Stir fry to coat the vegetables another 1 minute as the sauce thickens. Add the cooked pork and toss to coat completely. Garnish with green onions and serve immediately.

Video

Notes

***The nutritional value of oil for frying based on a retention value of 10% after cooking. The exact amount may vary depending on cook time and temperature, ingredient density, and the specific type of oil used.

Nutrition

Calories: 1306kcal | Carbohydrates: 35g | Protein: 24g | Fat: 35g | Saturated Fat: 7g | Trans Fat: 0.4g | Cholesterol: 110mg | Sodium: 1072mg | Potassium: 644mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 21g | Vitamin A: 1231IU | Vitamin C: 80mg | Calcium: 54mg | Iron: 2mg

The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.

Course: main dishes
Cuisine: Chinese
Author: Kevin
Have You Made This Recipe? Let Me Know on InstagramTag @keviniscooking or tag me #keviniscooking!
titled image (and shown): sweet and sour pork stir fry

Kevin

I was bitten by the cooking bug as a kid cooking and baking along side my mom. After an ROP restaurant course in high school, I went to work in restaurants and catering. My love of travel and food has led me across the world and I love to share those foods with family and friends.

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