Best Filipino Barbecue Pork Belly (Inihaw na Liempo)

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Picture this: you’re sitting on a tropical beach, the sun is setting, and the warm ocean breeze is gently caressing your face. In the distance, you can hear the cheerful chattering of friends and family as they gather around a sizzling grill. What’s on the menu? A delectable Filipino classic: Barbecue Pork Belly, or as it’s known in the Philippines, Inihaw na Liempo. This mouthwatering dish is made with tender pork belly marinated in a sweet and tangy sauce, then grilled to perfection. So why should you give this recipe a try? Well, because not only will it transport your taste buds to the sunny shores of the Philippines, but it also offers an enticing twist on the classic barbecue that will impress your guests and leave them craving for more.

Now, you may be thinking, I’ve grilled pork belly before, what makes this Filipino recipe so special? Glad you asked! The secret lies in the unique blend of flavors found in the marinade, which includes soy sauce, calamansi juice (or lemon juice), brown sugar, garlic, and more. This combination of ingredients creates a harmonious symphony of sweet, sour, and savory notes that truly sets this dish apart from your run-of-the-mill barbecue. Plus, the expert cooking tips and intriguing scientific tidbits we’ve included will make your grilling experience both enjoyable and educational! So, whether you’re a beginner in the kitchen or a seasoned home chef, why not take your taste buds on a culinary adventure and try out this scrumptious Filipino Barbecue Pork Belly recipe in the next section? Trust us, you won’t be disappointed!

Yield & Servings

4-6 servings


1.5 lbs pork belly, sliced into ½ inch thick pieces
½ cup soy sauce
¼ cup calamansi or lemon juice
¼ cup brown sugar
¼ cup banana ketchup (or regular ketchup)
¼ cup minced garlic
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
½ teaspoon salt
Bamboo skewers (optional)

Notable Equipment & Tools

Mixing bowl
Grill or grill pan

Step-by-step Instructions

Step 1: Gather and Prep Your Ingredients

All ingredients ready? Let’s begin!

Step 2: Create Flavorful Marinade

In a mixing bowl, combine soy sauce, calamansi or lemon juice, brown sugar, ketchup, minced garlic, ground black pepper, and salt. Mix well until sugar is dissolved.

Step 3: Marinate Pork Belly Slices

Add the sliced pork belly to the marinade, making sure each piece is well coated.

Step 4: Cover and Refrigerate for at least 2 hours

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or preferably overnight, for the flavors to fully penetrate the meat.

Step 5: Prepare Bamboo Skewers

If using bamboo skewers, soak them in water for at least 30 minutes before grilling to prevent them from burning. Preheat your grill or grill pan to medium-high heat.

Step 6: Thread Pork onto Skewers

Thread the marinated pork belly onto the skewers, if using, or simply place the pieces directly onto the grill. Reserve the remaining marinade for basting.

Step 7: Grill Pork Belly

Grill the pork belly for 8-10 minutes on each side, or until cooked through and slightly charred.

Step 8: Continuously Baste with Reserved Marinade

Baste the meat with the reserved marinade while grilling to keep it moist and flavorful. Once the pork belly is cooked, remove it from the grill and let it rest for a few minutes before serving.

Step 9: Serve with Rice and Enjoy Your Filipino Barbecue Pork Belly

Serve the Filipino barbecue pork belly with steamed rice and a side of pickled vegetables or a simple cucumber and tomato salad. Enjoy!

Substitutions & Alternatives

Fear not, my culinary comrades! If you’re facing a shortage of certain ingredients or just want to add your own twist to this Filipino barbecue pork belly recipe, we’ve got your back. Let’s dive into the world of substitutions and alternatives that’ll still have your taste buds doing the cha-cha.

1. Pork belly: Can’t find pork belly or want to go leaner? Opt for boneless pork shoulder or pork loin instead. Just make sure to trim any excess fat and slice the meat into the same 1/2-inch thick pieces. Vegetarians, you can swap out the pork for firm tofu or your favorite meat substitute—just remember to adjust the grilling time accordingly.
2. Soy sauce: If you’re a sodium-watcher or simply looking to switch things up, try using low-sodium soy sauce or tamari. Coconut aminos, while not as salty, can also be a soy-free alternative that brings a tropical twist to the dish.
3. Calamansi or lemon juice: No calamansi or lemons on hand? Lime juice makes a zesty and citrusy stand-in, while vinegar can add that tangy kick that’ll make your taste buds say Ay, caramba!.
4. Brown sugar: If you’re all out of brown sugar, you can replace it with white sugar or even honey—just expect a slightly different sweetness profile.
5. Banana ketchup (or regular ketchup): Can’t find banana ketchup? No problemo! Regular ketchup works just fine. Feeling adventurous and want some heat? Mix in a dash of your favorite hot sauce. For a fruity twist, try using mango or pineapple ketchup, which can be found at specialty stores or online.
6. Minced garlic: Garlic powder can save the day if you’re out of fresh garlic. Use 1/8 teaspoon of garlic powder per clove of minced garlic called for in the recipe.
7. Bamboo skewers: Don’t have bamboo skewers or simply want a fuss-free grilling experience? No skewers, no problem! Just lay the pork belly pieces directly on the grill, and use tongs to flip them with ease.

With these substitutions and alternatives in your cooking arsenal, you’ll be able to whip up this Filipino barbecue pork belly dish and have your guests singing your praises. Now, grab your apron, fire up that grill, and let the flavor fiesta begin!

Storage & Reheating

Congratulations! You’ve successfully cooked up a scrumptious batch of Filipino barbecue pork belly. Now, let’s get down to business and talk about storing and reheating those tasty leftovers (if there are any).

First, give your pork belly a moment to cool down after its grilling adventure. Once it’s reached room temperature, you can either store it in an airtight container or wrap it snugly in aluminum foil. If you’re feeling extra fancy, pop those skewers off the sticks and store them like kings in a royal palace of Tupperware.

Now, let’s time travel to the future when you’re craving that succulent pork again. Simply remove your leftovers from the refrigerator, and behold! Filipino barbecue pork belly ready for reheating. To reheat, you have a few options:

1. Oven: Preheat your oven to 350°F (180°C) and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Place the pork belly in a single layer on the sheet, and cover it with another piece of foil. Heat for about 10-15 minutes or until the pork is heated through. The oven method is perfect for retaining that juicy tenderness, as it gently warms the meat without drying it out.

2. Microwave: If you’re in a hurry or just can’t wait any longer to devour that delicious pork, the microwave is your best friend. Place the pork belly on a microwave-safe plate, cover it with a microwave-safe lid or another plate, and heat on medium power for about 1-2 minutes, or until it’s heated through. Be sure to keep an eye on it, as the microwave can sometimes make the pork a little dry or chewy.

3. Grill: Feeling nostalgic for that outdoor barbecue vibe? Fire up your grill or grill pan to medium heat. Place the pork belly directly on the grill and cook for about 3-4 minutes per side, or until heated through and slightly charred. Make sure not to overcook it, as we don’t want to lose that tender, juicy goodness.

No matter which method you choose, your Filipino barbecue pork belly is sure to taste as fabulous as it did the first time around. And remember, this dish pairs beautifully with steamed rice and a side of pickled vegetables or a refreshing cucumber and tomato salad. So go ahead, dig in, and relive the magic of your culinary masterpiece!

Serving Ideas

Now that you’ve mastered the art of grilling Filipino barbecue pork belly, it’s time to elevate your serving game! Impress your guests with these mouthwatering serving ideas that celebrate the flavors of the Philippines and showcase your culinary skills.

  • Rice, Rice, Baby: No Filipino meal is complete without a generous serving of steamed white rice. Try using aromatic jasmine rice for an even more delightful experience. Pro tip: Use a rice cooker to ensure perfectly cooked rice every time.
  • Pickled Pleasures: A side of pickled vegetables like papaya atchara or a cucumber and carrot relish adds a tangy, crunchy contrast to the rich, smoky flavors of the pork belly. Trust us, your taste buds will thank you!
  • Dipping Delights: While the barbecue pork belly is already a flavor bomb, offering a simple dipping sauce can add an extra layer of excitement. Mix together some soy sauce, calamansi or lemon juice, minced garlic, and a hint of chili flakes for a zesty, savory kick.
  • All Wrapped Up: For a fun, interactive meal, set up a DIY lettuce wrap station! Provide large lettuce leaves (such as romaine or butter lettuce), steamed rice, the grilled pork belly, and assorted toppings like sliced cucumbers, tomatoes, and fresh herbs. Let your guests create their own delicious bundles of joy.
  • Noodle Nirvana: Channel your inner Filipino foodie by serving the barbecue pork belly on top of a bed of pancit noodles. Choose from various types of Filipino noodle dishes like pancit canton, pancit bihon, or pancit malabon for a scrumptious, satisfying feast.
  • With these creative serving ideas, you’re bound to become the go-to Filipino barbecue master in your circle! So go ahead, gather your friends and family, and enjoy the delicious flavors of the Philippines. Kain na! (Let’s eat!)

Variations & Customization

The beauty of this Filipino barbecue pork belly recipe is that it can be easily customized to suit various dietary needs and preferences. Below are some suggestions on how to adapt this recipe for common dietary restrictions and diets:

  • Vegan: Swap the pork belly for a vegan alternative like tempeh, seitan, or king oyster mushrooms. These options will provide a similar texture and absorb the flavors of the marinade just as well. If using mushrooms, be sure to shorten the marinating time to prevent them from becoming too soggy.
  • Gluten-Free: To make this dish gluten-free, simply substitute the soy sauce with a gluten-free alternative like tamari or coconut aminos. Be sure to check the label of any ketchup used, as some brands may contain gluten. Opt for a gluten-free option if necessary.
  • GAPS/AIP: For those following the GAPS or AIP diet, replace the soy sauce with coconut aminos and use honey instead of brown sugar. Omit the ketchup and instead use a homemade tomato sauce without any nightshades or additives. Additionally, you can swap the calamansi or lemon juice for apple cider vinegar if citrus is not allowed on your specific protocol.
  • Keto: To make this recipe keto-friendly, replace the brown sugar with a low-carb sweetener like erythritol or stevia. Use a sugar-free ketchup or simply omit it and increase the amount of soy sauce and lemon juice to compensate for the missing liquid.
  • Other popular variations: Feel free to mix up the flavors and ingredients in the marinade to suit your taste buds. Try adding a bit of heat with hot sauce or chili flakes, or experiment with other herbs and spices like ginger, lemongrass, or coriander. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can even try swapping out the calamansi or lemon juice for other types of citrus like orange or lime.
  • Grilling alternatives: Don’t have access to a grill? No problem! This dish can also be cooked in the oven or on a stovetop. To cook in the oven, preheat to 425°F (220°C) and place the marinated pork belly on a baking sheet. Bake for 30-40 minutes, flipping the pieces halfway through and basting with the reserved marinade as needed. On the stovetop, simply heat a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat and cook the pork belly for 8-10 minutes per side, basting with the marinade as you go.
  • With these suggestions in hand, you can easily transform this delectable Filipino barbecue pork belly recipe to suit any dietary needs or preferences. So, go forth and experiment, and most importantly, enjoy the mouthwatering results!

Notes & Tips

  • Embrace the global culinary heritage: Filipino barbecue pork belly is a flavorful and mouth-watering dish that highlights the unique blend of local and international flavors in Filipino cuisine. The combination of ingredients like calamansi, soy sauce, and banana ketchup is a nod to the country’s rich history and influences from different cultures.
  • Don’t skimp on the marinating time: Patience is key when it comes to marinating the pork belly. The longer you let the meat soak in the flavorful mixture, the more tender and tastier it becomes. Overnight marinating is highly recommended for best results, but if you’re short on time, a minimum of 2 hours will still give you a decent flavor.
  • Grill it right: Achieving the perfect char on your Filipino barbecue pork belly is crucial for maximum flavor. Make sure your grill or grill pan is preheated to medium-high heat to get those beautiful grill marks and a slightly crispy exterior. If you’re using an outdoor grill, cook the meat over indirect heat to avoid flare-ups and uneven cooking.
  • Bamboo skewers vs. direct grilling: Using bamboo skewers is a fun and traditional way to serve this dish, but it’s not absolutely necessary. If you prefer, you can simply grill the pork belly pieces directly on the grill. Just be sure to soak the skewers in water for at least 30 minutes before using them to prevent any unwanted fires.
  • Baste, baste, baste: Don’t forget to baste the pork belly with the reserved marinade while grilling. This not only keeps the meat moist but also adds an extra layer of flavor. Remember, flavor is king!
  • Rest and serve: After grilling, let the pork belly rest for a few minutes to allow the juices to redistribute. This ensures a tender, juicy, and flavorful bite every time.
  • Get creative with sides: Filipino barbecue pork belly is traditionally served with steamed rice and a side of pickled vegetables or a simple cucumber and tomato salad. However, feel free to experiment with other sides like grilled corn, coleslaw, or a refreshing mango salsa.
  • Armed with these tips and tricks, you’re now ready to conquer the world of Filipino barbecue pork belly! Happy grilling, and don’t forget to share your culinary masterpiece with friends and family. After all, food tastes better when enjoyed together. Mabuhay!

Common Mistakes

Rushing the marination time: Patience is a virtue, especially when it comes to marinating your pork belly. For the best flavor, allow the meat to marinate for at least 2 hours or, even better, overnight. This will give the Filipino flavors a chance to really seep into the meat, resulting in a more flavorful and succulent dish.

Skipping the skewer soak: If you’re planning on using bamboo skewers, don’t forget to soak them in water for at least 30 minutes prior to grilling. This simple step will prevent your skewers from burning on the grill and leaving you with a charred mess.

Turning up the heat too high: When grilling your pork belly, resist the urge to crank up the heat to the max. Cooking at medium-high heat will ensure that the meat is cooked evenly and that the sugars in the marinade don’t burn too quickly. Remember, slow and steady wins the barbecue race!

Ignoring the basting: Basting the meat with the reserved marinade while grilling not only keeps it moist but also adds an extra layer of flavor. Don’t let this golden opportunity pass you by! Keep that marinade handy and baste away.

Cutting into the meat too soon: Just like with any grilled meat, it’s essential to let the pork belly rest for a few minutes after removing it from the grill. This allows the juices to redistribute throughout the meat, ensuring that every bite is tender and juicy.

Going solo on the sides: While the Filipino barbecue pork belly is undoubtedly delicious on its own, don’t forget to serve it up with some tasty sides. Steamed rice and pickled vegetables or a simple cucumber and tomato salad will not only complete the meal but also offer a refreshing contrast to the rich, flavorful pork.

Health Risks & Benefits

Hold onto your taste buds and get ready for a flavorful adventure with this Filipino barbecue pork belly recipe! But before we dive into the deliciousness, let’s talk a bit about the health aspects of this dish.

First up, let’s discuss the star of the show: pork belly. While indulging in this fatty cut of meat might not be the best choice for those watching their waistlines, it does boast some health benefits. Pork belly is an excellent source of protein, which is essential for building and maintaining muscles. Plus, it provides some essential vitamins and minerals, such as B-vitamins, selenium, and zinc.

Now let’s talk about the marinade. Here, we’ve got a fusion of flavors, with soy sauce, calamansi (or lemon) juice, brown sugar, and banana ketchup (or regular ketchup). Soy sauce adds a savory punch and is a potent source of antioxidants, but be mindful of the sodium. Calamansi juice, a citrus fruit native to the Philippines, is packed with vitamin C and antioxidants, offering potential immune-boosting powers. Lemon juice also works as a great substitute, providing similar benefits. Brown sugar and ketchup contribute to the sweet and tangy notes, but remember to enjoy these in moderation due to their sugar content.

Finally, by grilling the pork belly, you’re using a healthier cooking method that doesn’t require additional oil or butter. However, keep an eye on the heat and avoid charring the meat too much, as excessive charring can create potentially harmful compounds.

So, while this Filipino barbecue pork belly might not be an everyday meal, it’s a fantastic choice to satisfy your cravings and introduce your palate to new and exciting flavors. Balance this dish with nutrient-dense sides, like pickled veggies or a cucumber and tomato salad, and you’ve got yourself a global culinary experience worth celebrating!

Recipe History & Context

Let’s dive into the mouth-watering world of Filipino barbecue, a scrumptious culinary tradition that has been delighting taste buds for generations! This Filipino Barbecue Pork Belly recipe is a delicious illustration of the Philippines’ rich and diverse culinary heritage, influenced by a delightful mix of indigenous, Spanish, Chinese, and American flavors.

Barbecue – or ihaw in Tagalog – is a popular street food and backyard party staple in the Philippines. Filipinos have mastered the art of grilling, and they’re known for their sweet and savory marinades that make the meat incredibly juicy and bursting with flavor. In this recipe, we use a tantalizing blend of soy sauce, calamansi (or lemon) juice, brown sugar, banana ketchup, minced garlic, and spices to marinate the pork belly, creating a perfect symphony of tastes that will have your guests clamoring for more.

The use of calamansi, a small citrus fruit native to the Philippines, is a testament to the country’s love affair with sour and tangy flavors. Calamansi is frequently used in Filipino cuisine to brighten up dishes and add a zesty kick. If you can’t find calamansi, don’t worry – lemon juice makes a great substitute and still brings that irresistible tang to the party.

And let’s not forget the banana ketchup! This quirky condiment was invented during World War II when there was a shortage of tomatoes in the Philippines. Resourceful locals turned to bananas instead, and the rest is culinary history. Banana ketchup adds a unique sweetness to the marinade and pays homage to the Filipino spirit of innovation and adaptability in the kitchen.

Overall, this Filipino Barbecue Pork Belly recipe is a fantastic way to celebrate the Philippines’ incredible culinary traditions and enjoy a delicious, crowd-pleasing dish. Now go fire up that grill and get ready to impress your friends and family with some juicy, succulent, and flavor-packed pork belly. Kain na! (Let’s eat!)

Common Questions

What if I don’t have calamansi or lemon juice?

No calamansi or lemon juice? No problem! You can substitute it with lime juice or orange juice. The citrus juice not only adds that tangy flavor but also works as a tenderizer for the pork. So, feel free to pay homage to your favorite citrus fruit – as long as it’s on the tangy side!

Can I use a different type of meat for this recipe?

Absolutely! This Filipino barbecue marinade is quite versatile and can work wonders on chicken or beef as well. Just remember to adjust the cooking time accordingly to ensure your chosen protein is perfectly cooked. Feel free to explore the world of proteins and impress your taste buds!

I don’t have a grill or grill pan. Can I cook the pork belly in the oven?

Certainly! Preheat your oven to 375°F (190°C), and place the marinated pork belly on a baking sheet lined with foil or parchment paper. Bake for 20-25 minutes, flipping the pieces halfway through and basting with the reserved marinade. If you want those beautiful grill marks, finish the pork belly under the broiler for a couple of minutes, but keep a close watch to avoid any unwanted charring.

What is banana ketchup, and where can I find it?

Banana ketchup is a popular Filipino condiment made from mashed bananas, sugar, vinegar, and spices. It adds a unique fruity sweetness to this barbecue recipe. You can find banana ketchup in most Asian markets or even online. If you can’t find it, don’t worry – regular ketchup will do the trick!

Can I make this recipe ahead of time?

Definitely! In fact, the longer you marinate the pork belly, the better the flavor. You can slice and marinate the pork belly up to 24-48 hours in advance, keeping it covered in the refrigerator. Just make sure to give the marinade enough time to work its magic on the meat, and you’ll be ready to grill whenever the barbecue craving strikes!

Filipino Barbecue Pork Belly (Inihaw na Liempo)

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Marinating Time: 2 hours
Total Time: 2 hours 50 minutes
Servings: 6
Calories: 653kcal


  • Mixing Bowl
  • Grill or grill pan
  • Tongs


  • 1.5 lbs pork belly sliced ½ inch thick
  • ½ cup soy sauce
  • ¼ cup calamansi or lemon juice
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup banana ketchup or regular ketchup
  • ¼ cup minced garlic
  • ½ tsp ground black pepper
  • ½ tsp salt
  • Bamboo skewers optional


  • Mix soy sauce, calamansi or lemon juice, brown sugar, ketchup, minced garlic, ground black pepper, and salt in a bowl.
  • Add pork belly to the marinade, cover, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.
  • Soak bamboo skewers in water for 30 minutes if using.
  • Preheat grill or grill pan to medium-high heat.
  • Thread pork belly onto skewers or place directly on the grill. Reserve remaining marinade for basting.
  • Grill for 8-10 minutes on each side, basting with reserved marinade.
  • Remove from grill and let rest before serving.
  • Serve with steamed rice and a side of pickled vegetables or cucumber and tomato salad.



Calories: 653kcal | Carbohydrates: 14g | Protein: 13g | Fat: 60g | Saturated Fat: 22g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 6g | Monounsaturated Fat: 28g | Cholesterol: 82mg | Sodium: 1407mg | Potassium: 304mg | Fiber: 0.3g | Sugar: 12g | Vitamin A: 64IU | Vitamin C: 5mg | Calcium: 20mg | Iron: 1mg

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