This air fryer sweet and sour pork recipe is a lightened up version of a classic Chinese dish. Instead of deep frying pork pieces, you cover them with panko breadcrumbs and then air fry the pork. Finally, toss the pork pieces with a mouthwatering sweet and sour sauce.
Prep Time30 minutesmins
Cook Time20 minutesmins
16ouncespork shoulder (without bones)
1 1/2tablespoonssoy sauce, use tamari if gluten free
2tablespoonswhisked egg, (see note 1)
3/4cuppanko (breadcrumbs), add more if necessary (see note 2)
3tablespoonsrice vinegar, (see note 3)
1tablespoonsambal oelek, (see note 4)
1 1/2tablespoonsoil, any neutral-flavored oil works
1/2large green bell pepper, diced (about 100g)
1/4large yellow onion, diced (about 2/3 cup or 80g)
1cuppineapple chunks, about 4 to 4.5 ounces (see note 5)
toasted sesame seeds for garnish
Prepare the Pork
Trim off any thick layers of fat along the sides of the piece of pork shoulder. Then, cut the pork into small pieces, about 1 inch by 1 inch. You don’t want the pieces of pork to be too thick. Otherwise, it will throw off the cooking time, and the pieces of pork will be more difficult to eat. I try to make sure they’re no more than 3/4-inch thick. Transfer the pork pieces to a bowl.
Marinate the Pork
Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of soy sauce, 1 teaspoon sesame oil, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, and 1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic (or garlic powder) to the bowl with the pork. Mix the seasonings and the meat together for a minute. Set the meat aside while you prepare the sauce.
Make the Sauce
In a bowl, add the ketchup, honey, rice vinegar, sambal oelek, salt, and paprika. Add most of the water, reserving about 1 or 2 tablespoons of water aside. Mix the sauce ingredients inside the bowl. Then, mix the remaining water with the cornstarch separately. Cornstarch settles to the bottom over time, so you’ll need to stir the cornstarch slurry again later. Set the ingredients for the sauce aside.
Cover Pork with Breadcrumbs
Mix 2 tablespoons of whisked egg to the marinated pork. This will help the panko stick to the exterior of the meat pieces.
Spread half of the panko breadcrumbs over a plate. I like to keep the other half of the panko on the side to sprinkle over the pork gradually. Use a fork to place several pieces of pork over the breadcrumbs on the plate. Sprinkle panko over the pork and move the pieces around so that they’re completely covered in panko. Transfer the breaded pieces of pork to another plate. Continue breading the remaining pieces of meat.
Air Fry Pork
Preheat the air fryer (my air fryer automatically preheats the machine to 400ºF in 5 minutes). Carefully transfer a batch of the breaded pork to the air fryer basket, making sure that the pork pieces don’t overlap.
Cook the pork at 380ºF for 3 minutes. Then, take out the pork, flip the pieces over and cook again for another 2 minutes. Flipping the pork ensures that the panko browns evenly.
Using a thermometer, check the internal temperature of the pork. It should be somewhere around 160ºF since we’re working with pork shoulder.
Stir Fry Vegetables
In a wok (or a large sauté pan), heat the oil over high heat. Add the diced onions and cook them for 1 to 2 minutes. Then, add the diced green bell peppers and cook them for a minute more. Transfer the lightly cooked vegetables to a bowl and set aside.
Heat the wok over high heat. Carefully pour the sauce ingredients in the bowl (except for the cornstarch slurry) and let the sauce cook for 30 seconds. Then, give the cornstarch slurry a stir because the cornstarch likely settled to the bottom. Add the cornstarch slurry to the wok and mix everything together. Let the sauce bubble and thicken for 2 to 3 minutes.
Use a spatula and run it along the edges of the wok frequently because the cornstarch tends to collect along the edges of the simmering liquid. Turn off the heat and mix in the cooked pork, vegetables, and a handful of pineapple chunks. Stir to coat everything with the sweet and sour sauce.
I’m sure many of you are wondering what to do with the leftover egg. Cook it along with your morning oatmeal, or use it to make my egg fried rice!
If it’s not easy for you to find panko breadcrumbs, try to find another type of textured breadcrumbs. If you are gluten free, there should be gluten-free breadcrumbs available in supermarkets!
If you don’t have rice vinegar, you can use white distilled vinegar. Apple cider vinegar might work here too.
I know sambal oelek (sambal ulek) isn’t an ingredient you’d normally see in a Chinese recipe, but I like the spice and tangy flavors of the sauce. You can leave it out if you do not have any on hand. If you like spicy food, you can add a bit more sambal oelek.
I used fresh pineapple because it has more flavor. You can also use canned pineapple chunks if you don’t have fresh pineapple on hand.