Chinese Barbecue Pork (Char Siu), Homemade Five Spice

Are you familiar with Chinese Barbecue Pork {Char Siu}; that flavourful, luscious, sticky-sweet, bright-red pork served in House Special Soup, fried rice, and on skewers at Chinese restaurants? I have a serious fixation on the stuff. I can’t get enough of it. The problem with satisfying my need for it is twofold:

  • I don’t live near a Chinese restaurant. No. Really… It’s fifteen miles round trip to the nearest one and the nearest one is not worth driving fifteen miles round trip.
  • I’m not super fond of food dyes. They kind of weird me out, honestly… That’s why you don’t see a lot of things calling for food colouring here on Foodie with Family.

With these issues in mind, I started making my own Chinese Barbecue Pork {Char Siu} a while back and I think it tastes vastly superior to what I can get at many restaurants. I use red beet powder because that not only adds a little sweetness, but adds a little red to the party without using food dye. Hey- I like pretty foods as much as the next gal,I just don’t like artificial food colouring! Does anyone else feel like diving face first into that plate?

Chinese Barbecue Pork {Char Siu} made without food colouring!


I had a very pregnant friend visiting when I was plating this Chinese Barbecue Pork {Char Siu}. She happily helped me dispatch of the evidence after I snapped a couple shots. Her daughter -who normally doesn’t love meat dishes- assisted in the effort, too. It didn’t take us much time to make that dish look as clean as it did before I threw a pile of food on it.

Chinese Barbecue Pork {Char Siu} made without food colouring!

Are you wondering what in the world you’d do with four whole tenderloins cooked into Chinese Barbecued Pork {Char Siu}? Aside from slicing them and serving over rice as pictured and serving to your pregnant friends, you can dice them and toss it into fried rice or onto salad, slice thinly and add to your own House Special Soup or put on split rolls with a slaw for Chinese Barbecue Pork Sliders… I’m sure there are other options I haven’t thought of yet. How would you serve these?


Cook’s Notes

  • I have to say a couple of words about the ingredients out of which the marinade is made. Don’t skip the Five Spice Powder. I used to think I couldn’t stand the stuff. It turns out -unsurprisingly- that what I hated was the little jars of indeterminate age that I got from the regular grocery store that then languished in my spice drawer for years on end. Homemade Five Spice Powder is a revelation, to say the least. Made of cinnamon, fennel seed, Szechuan (or Sichuan) peppercorn, star anise, and clove, it might sound a little odd to add to a savoury dish, but I tell ya, it does something special to pork. Chances are you’re pretty familiar with all or most of those ingredients. If I were a betting woman, I’d say the ingredient that most people haven’t used is the Szechuan peppercorn. It’s a key flavour in most Szechuan food. Unlike black or white peppercorns, it’s not known to be spicy or hot, but rather, it’s citrusy and numbs the tongue a bit. All in all, after making my own Homemade Five Spice, I have to say that I’ve done a 180° on my stance and I now sprinkle a little bit of it into nearly everything! If you don’t want to make Homemade Five Spice, you can use five spice powder purchased at an Asian grocer or a well-stocked grocery store.
  • Don’t marinate your pork for less than 12 hours, but you also don’t want to go too far beyond 24 hours. The marinade will have done all it can do at 24 hours and anything beyond that is not going to do anything good for your pork.
  • This is a two part grilling process, but don’t let that intimidate you. You begin them over a low heat portion of the grill and finish them (while brushing with honey) over high heat. This is done most easily by building a bed of hot coals to one side of the grill if using wood or charcoal, or simply having a couple of burners on high and a couple on low in a gas grill.

Chinese Barbecue Pork {Char Siu} made without food colouring!

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Chinese Barbecued Pork (Char Siu), Homemade Five Spice
Fragrant, moist, and full of flavour (garlic, ginger, Sriracha, ) with a sticky-sweet, slightly charred glaze, this Szechuan Chinese restaurant standard is worlds better made at home! This recipe is for four pork tenderloins, leaving plenty to freeze for fast meals at a later date!
For Homemade Five Spice Powder:
  • 2 teaspoons Szechuan Peppercorn
  • 8 whole star anise
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seed
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground cloves
For the Chinese Barbecue Pork:
  • 4 good sized boneless pork tenderloins (about 4-6 pounds total weight)
  • ½ cup hoisin sauce
  • ½ cup soju (Korean rice liquor) or light rum
  • ⅓ cup brown rice syrup or honey, plus additional for brushing while grilling
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons Sriracha
  • 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons ground ginger
  • 2 tablespoons granulated onion or onion powder
  • 2 tablespoons red beet powder (can omit or substitute with 1 teaspoon red food colouring)
  • 1½ tablespoons Homemade Five Spice or purchased five spice powder
  • 1½ tablespoons granulated garlic or garlic powder
To Make the Homemade Five Spice:
  1. Put a clean, dry, heavy-bottomed skillet over medium low heat. Add the Szechuan peppercorns and shake the pan back and forth until the peppercorns are fragrant, about 2 to 3 minutes. Immediately add them to a spice grinder with the fennel seed and star anise. Grind until the mixture is as finely powdered as you can make it. Shake it through a fine mesh strainer. Discard what remains in the strainer. Take the sifted spices and stir in the ground cinnamon and cloves. Return this mixture to the spice grinder and grind momentarily to better combine the spices. Store in an airtight container in a dark, cool cupboard. For most potent flavour, use within three months.
To Make the Chinese Barbecued Pork (Char Siu):
  1. Add everything but the pork tenderloins and the spare honey to a large, resealable, zipper-top bag. Seal the bag and use your hands to gently squish and combine the ingredients until it is evenly mixed. Open the bag and add all of the pork tenderloins. Squeeze as much air out of the bag as you can, reseal it, place it on a rimmed baking dish and refrigerate for 12 to 24 hours, turning the bag halfway through the marinating process.
  2. Preheat oven to 375°F. Place the tenderloins on a rimmed baking sheet and roast for 20 minutes. While the tenderloins are roasting, begin preheating a grill, using high heat on half of the grill and low heat on the other half. When the tenderloins have roasted for 20 minutes, transfer them to the HIGH heat side of the grill. Drizzle honey over the tops of the tenderloins and use a heat-proof pastry brush to distribute the honey. When the bottom of the tenderloin has good colour, about 4 minutes, flip it over, drizzle it again with honey and brush to distribute. The second side should colour up more quickly than the first as it was brushed with honey. When that has nice colour and a couple of charred bits, transfer it to the LOW heat side of the grill, flipping it over in the process. Continue drizzling with honey, brushing, and grilling until the internal temperature of the thickest part of the tenderloin measures at least 145°F (medium rare). Transfer the cooked tenderloins to a clean, rimmed baking dish and lightly tent with foil. Allow them to rest for at least 3 minutes before slicing or chilling.
To Serve Immediately:
  1. Slice or dice the pork -hot, warm, or room temperature- and serve over rice, in soup, or on sandwiches or salads.
To Freezer for Later Meals:
  1. Chill the cooked Chinese Barbecue Pork (Char Siu) before wrapping tightly in a double layer of plastic wrap and then a layer of foil. Place the wrapped pork on a baking sheet and put into the freezer. When the pork is frozen firmly, place the wrapped pork in a labeled, resealable zipper top bag and freeze for up to 6 months.
To Reheat:
  1. For best results, remove the desired number of cooked tenderloins from the freezer, remove the foil and double layer of plastic wrap, and thaw in the refrigerator overnight. Reheat in a 350°F in a foil covered rimmed baking dish until heated all the way through, about 15-20 minutes.
  2. If you're in a hurry, remove the foil and one layer of plastic wrap, then defrost gently in the microwave. Remove the last layer of plastic wrap, place in a rimmed, microwave safe dish, cover the dish with plastic wrap, venting one corner, and reheat on medium temperature until hot all the way through. The timing of this will depend on the strength of your microwave.


Here is a list of marginally difficult to find ingredients available for purchase on

This post was originally published on June 17, 2013.

Chinese Barbecue Pork {Char Siu} made without food colouring!


  1. Jen L says

    I would use the iPad for my recipes! I have such a big collection of recipes now from so many great bloggers, but I have them all in ziplist. It is such a hassle to bring the computer in to the kitchen and make sure it isn’t in the way!
    I would also love to be able to access apps for my kids stuff. And we are going to start planning a trip to Disney and there are all sorts of fun apps for that!

  2. Sandii says

    I’d use an iPad for summer homeschooling, watching online videos, photo editing & sharing, storing/viewing all my saved Foodie (& other) recipes and Facetime chats with overseas family members … and I am sure I’ll find a whole bunch of other uses for it too :)

  3. Michele W says

    Our restaurant is about 45 miles away but we have an asian market that is a little closer. So we live a great recipe. Thank you…..

  4. Christy says

    The new Ipad would totally be my “cookbook”! I get tired of printing out recipes and trying to organize them!

  5. Jen a says

    I would love to know what kinds of educational apps you use! They would be tops on my list, along with the ability to read ebooks, and who am I kidding angry birds as well :)

  6. Bill says

    Thanks for the chance to win an iPad. Since I’m teaching future teachers, I try to stay up to speed with all of the wonderful new tools for language teaching that there are out there as well as access to Spanish and French language media.

  7. Anne Weber-Falk says

    Fabulous opportunity. Thanks a bunch. I’ll be making that pork next week. Gosh, I’m drooling at the thought.

  8. says

    I would use it for working on my blog so I could update it more frequently, keeping my recipes in order and to read all my favorite blogs, which includes Foodie with Family!

  9. Shell J says

    What a great opportunity! I would love this for homeschool with my kids. As for the pork…I would use the leftovers to make some sort of chinese barbecued pork wrap up. Yum!

  10. Kim says

    I’m a teacher, and my principal refuses to buy iPads for us – says we should buy it with our personal funds (hahahahahahaha on my bloated salary, obviously) or use department funds that are supposed to benefit ALL students to buy teacher iPads.

  11. Rie says

    Where to begin…….I would probably use it the most to watch movies in bedroom (No TV in the bedroom!!) Then I’d find a whole mess of other things to do with it. Can’t wait to try this pork. I have an amazon shopping list so I think I’ll be adding a few more items after this post.

  12. Lynette says

    I have some pork tenderloin that I NEED to try this recipe with. IF I won this IPAD, I would stock it up with recipe apps galore!

  13. Abby says

    If I won I would use the Ipad for playing games and watching movies and reading.
    The pork looks delicious!

  14. AmyG says

    While it doesn’t seem like the most important thing, I would love an Ipad to display recipes when I cook. My hand-me-down laptop lives in the bedroom, no longer has a a working battery and loses power when the power cord is moved so it does not visit the kitchen easily. I look funny, according to my family, running from the kitchen to the bedroom and back to the kitchen, as I check that I’ve remembered a recipe correctly.

  15. Deitan says

    I’ve really enjoyed your site and witty writing for well over a year now. I’ve been wanting to try a recipe with five spice powder for some time now but couldn’t bring myself to buy it from the store since it looks like it has been there since it was first put on the shelf! Thanks for the spice mix recipe :)

  16. Peg Eisenhardt says

    I finally took a vacation, ok I’m staying home, so I can get caught up on chores and rest. I figured that this would be a great time to make dinners I normally don’t have time for and here it is- it looks amazing. You must be psychic. I just happen to have pork roasts in the freezer from the fall. You’re a genius- thanks Rebecca

    What will I do with an iPod, Home school, reading and business bookwork

  17. says

    I’m super excited about this despite the other 8k + entries! The wife could definitely use this for teaching music lessons! and who knows? maybe I’ll tamper with it once in a while. ;)

  18. Lisa says

    I love Susan Barton’s Reading and Spelling System for teaching reading to people with Dyslexia; with it our dyslexic son is reading at grade level, end of grade 9. She just released an app on the ipad for using the tiles in the system, and that would be awesome, especially if I started tutoring other students using her system.
    I have been looking for a recipe for pork loin, this one looks incredible!

  19. Jennifer says

    well i’m sure my husband will be watching truck videos in bed but i’d love to have a resource for my office/work space and for homeschooling on the go!

  20. says

    I’d like to think I’d use my iPad for something intellectual, but I’d probably use it to watch Homestar Runner cartoons and read food blogs. I’m sure I’d find other super sweet stuff to do with it. Also, I can’t remember ever having a family gathering when I was growing up where we didn’t have char siu. It was an imperative. And if we were really lucky, there would also be kalua pig. Hawaiians love pork, I guess.

  21. Karen B says

    I love your blog and the evening facebook questions. I’d love to have this to share with my 3 year Granddaughter. Thanks!

  22. Juls says

    I would use it to keep track of all my family recipes that I’ve collected. And to share with my hubby so he can actually see the APPS (Iphone way too small). Oh and I love that you think that your Chinese place 15 miles away isn’t worth driving too…not all Chinese is good Chinese! It’s an art to making it great!

  23. Charlette says

    An IPad I would love this so I can have recipes in front of me when cooking and baking. No more paper printouts!!!!!

  24. Kath says

    I wouldn’t mind having an iPad solely for reading and using as a cookbook (storing recipes via bookmarks). It is a bit difficult to read the recipes on my phone but it is still a blessing not having to write down the recipe or lugging my laptop into the kitchen. Thank you for the give away and good luck everyone!


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