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This Sweet and Sour Pork is even better than the overly sauced, greasy take out kind. Tender chunks of pork are pan fried crispy on the outside, then added to sauteed onions, peppers, and fresh pineapple in a homemade sweet and sour sauce.

If you love Chinese take-out, be sure to try our Easy Honey Walnut ShrimpEasy, Classic Chinese Beef with Broccoli, and Easy Chicken & Vegetable Stir-Fry!

An image of a plate of homemade sweet and sour pork.

Sweet and Sour Pork

As much as my family loves going out for Chinese food, we prefer this Sweet and Sour Pork with a homemade sweet and sour sauce and lightly breaded crispy pork instead of the soggy, densely battered chunks of meat at some restaurants that leave me feeling underwhelmed.

My secret to tasty, crispy pork is to first marinate bite-size chunks of pork tenderloin, allowing it to absorb the flavor of soy sauce, sesame oil, and a few seasonings, before tossing the meat with cornstarch.

The light dusting of cornstarch helps keep the meat tender as it pan fries in a thin layer of oil, rather than in a deep fryer, and it provides the perfect amount of crispy coating, without weighing everything down or getting soggy.

An image of a cast iron skillet full of homemade sweet and sour pork.

What does Sweet and Sour Pork taste like?

Sweet and Sour Pork has a wonderfully unique flavor with a sour tang from vinegar and sweetness from sugar.

Some people like to use pineapple juice from a can of pineapple chunks to make the sweet and sour sauce, but I feel like the flavors are much better with chicken stock and fresh pineapple instead.

The wonderful sauce coats each piece of crispy pork and al dente peppers, onions, and pineapple. But you can also add additional veggies like snow peas, green beans, asparagus, sliced carrots, and broccoli, which are all delicious in sweet and sour pork.

If adding snow peas, green beans, or asaparagus, throw them in at the same time as the peppers and onions so they have a chance to soften slightly. If using carrots or broccoli, add them a couple minutes before the peppers and onions so they have a bit longer to stir-fry and soften since they take longer to cook.

What cut of meat do you use for Sweet and Sour Pork?

Technically you could make Sweet and Sour Pork by cutting up pork chops, pork loin, or pork butt into bite-size chunks. But pork tenderloin is my favorite in terms of ease and also the flavor and tenderness.

An image of a plate of rice topped with chunks of crispy pork with stir fried vegetables, pineapple, and sweet and sour sauce.

How to Make Sweet and Sour Pork

  1. Marinate. Cut pork into bite size pieces and add to a large bowl or gallon-size ziplock bag. Add the water, soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic powder, and onion powder, then stir to combine or massage the marinade into the meat and set aside to absorb the flavors.
  2. Prepare the sauce. The sweet and sour sauce that will coat the pork is made by whisking together chicken broth, apple cider vinegar, granulated sugar (brown sugar would work as well), ketchup, garlic, ginger, salt, and the white parts of some chopped green onions. In a separate bowl prepare the cornstarch slurry by whisking together cornstarch and water.
  3. Prepare the meat. Once the pork has had a chance to absorb the flavors of the marinade, sprinkle it with a little salt and pepper, then add half of a cup cornstarch. Reseal the lid or bag and shake well until each piece of meat is evenly coated with a light layer of cornstarch. This is all the breading the pork gets, but trust me, it makes a perfectly light and crispy coating once the pork is fried!
  4. Cook the meat. Heat the oil in a large skillet or cast iron pan over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the meat in a single layer, without crowding (leave space between each piece, and work in batches if necessary, otherwise it will just steam instead of brown). Let it cook without moving or stirring the meat for 2-3 minutes until nicely browned on the bottom. You might want to loosely cover the pan with a splatter guard or a piece of foil, just because this step can make a bit of a mess on your stove. Flip each piece of meat with tongs and cook on the other side for another 2-3 minutes until nicely browned and the meat is cooked through. Transfer to a plate and tent with foil to keep warm.
  5. Stir fry the veggies. There should be about 1 tablespoon of oil left in the bottom of the pan from cooking the pork. If not, add a little more oil so the vegetables aren’t going into a dry pan. Add peppers and onions and stir-fry over medium-high heat for 1-2 minutes. You don’t want them to soften too much, since they should still have some texture and bite.
  6. Make the sauce. Add the pineapple and the sweet & sour sauce and let the sauce heat until it comes to a simmer. Stir the cornstarch slurry, then drizzle it over the vegetables and sauce, stirring until the sauce has thickened slightly.
  7. Serve. Return the pork to the pan and toss with the sauce, vegetables, and pineapple until everything is coated well. Sprinkle with the reserved green parts of the chopped green onions and serve with white or brown rice.

A collage of images showing the steps for how to prep the meat and sauce for sweet and sour pork. An image showing how to make sweet and sour pork in a cast iron skillet on the stovetop.

How to you thicken the sweet and sour pork sauce?

I like to thicken the sauce with a simple cornstarch slurry. You can start by using half of the slurry and continue to add until you get the thickness you like.

I use the full amount of cornstarch which gives a wonderful juicy sauce that coats everything perfectly.

Can I make this recipe with chicken instead?

Absolutely you could make Sweet and Sour Chicken using this same recipe. It tastes delicious!

Serving Suggestions

We always serve Sweet and Sour Pork over white rice made in the rice cooker. It would also be good with cauliflower rice if you are looking for a low carb option, or brown rice, which I like for its nutty flavor.

If you double the sauce, you can thicken half of it in a small saucepan and serve it as a delicious dipping sauce for homemade egg rolls!

An image of a cast iron skillet filled with homemade sweet and sour pork. 

More Delicious Pork Recipes

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a gray plate topped with a pile of rice and covered in sweet and sour pork with wooden chopsticks to the side
Yield: 4 servings

Sweet and Sour Pork

This Sweet and Sour Pork is even better than the overly sauced, greasy take out kind. Tender chunks of pork are pan fried crispy on the outside, then added to sauteed onions, peppers, and fresh pineapple in a homemade sweet and sour sauce.

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes

Ingredients

Pork

  • 1 pound pork tenderloin, cut into bite-size chunks
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Pinch of black pepper
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil, for frying

Sauce

  • 3/4 cup chicken broth
  • 1/3 cup ketchup
  • 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 green onions, chopped, with green and white parts separated
  • 3 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons water

Stir-Fry

  • 1/2 green bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/2 white onion, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/4 pineapple, cut into 1-inch chunks

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl with a lid or a large ziplock bag, combine the meat with the water, sesame oil, soy sauce, garlic, powder, and onion powder. Stir or squish to combine, then set aside for 20 minutes to marinate.
  2. While the meat marinates, make the sauce in a small bowl by combining the chicken broth, ketchup, apple cider vinegar, sugar, garlic, ginger, salt, and the white parts of the green onions. Whisk well. In a separate bowl, combine the cornstarch and water, then set both aside.
  3. Once the meat has had a chance to absorb the flavors of the marinade, sprinkle with the salt and pepper, then add the cornstarch and shake well until each piece of meat is evenly coated with a light layer of cornstarch.
  4. Heat the oil in a large skillet or cast iron pan over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the meat in a single layer. Let it cook without moving or stirring the meat for 2-3 minutes until nicely browned on the bottom. Flip each piece of meat with tongs and cook on the other side for another 2-3 minutes until nicely browned and the meat is cooked through. Transfer to a plate.
  5. There should be about 1 tablespoon of oil left in the bottom of the pan from cooking the pork. If not, add a little more oil. Add the peppers and onions to the pan and stir-fry over medium-high heat for 1-2 minutes.
  6. Add the pineapple and sauce and let this cook until the sauce comes to a simmer. Give the cornstarch and water mixture another good stir, then drizzle this slurry over the vegetables and sauce, stirring until the sauce has thickened slightly.
  7. Return the pork to the pan and toss with the sauce, vegetables, and pineapple until everything is coated in the sauce. Sprinkle with the reserved green parts of the chopped green onions and serve with rice.

Notes

  • You can use a can of pineapple chunks, if needed, but there is a noticeable difference in the flavor of the finished dish. We definitely prefer fresh pineapple, when available.
  • Additional veggies like snow peas, green beans, asparagus, sliced carrots, and broccoli are all delicious in sweet and sour pork. Add snow peas, green beans, or asparagus at the same time as the peppers and onions so they have a chance to soften slightly. If using carrots or broccoli, add them a couple minutes before the peppers and onions so they have a bit longer to stir-fry and soften since they take a bit longer to cook.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

4

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 602Total Fat: 33gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 27gCholesterol: 84mgSodium: 893mgCarbohydrates: 45gFiber: 1gSugar: 24gProtein: 31g

This post first appeared on Yellow Bliss Road where I am a contributor.