Incredibly meaty and juicy vegan pork belly! With layers of (coconut) fat that melt-in-your-mouth and a crispy crust, this plant-based meat alternative is a must-try! Plus it looks surprisingly real!
Introducing vegan roast "pork"! I'm so excited to share this recipe!
Once again, this is a dish that I discovered in Vietnam, I am blown away by how creative Vietnamese cuisine can be when it comes to making vegetarian dishes. Called "Heo quay chay" there, this vegan pork belly consists of two layers of vegan meat and coconut "fat" topped with a crust to mimic the pork skin!
This recipe is definitely unique and super fun to make. Let's do it!
⭐️ Why You Should Try This Recipe
- It's super meaty: The balance of the rich "fat" with the meaty layers yields an incredibly meaty texture.
- It's easy to make: Just 7 ingredients and 30 minutes to make! Plus I'm sharing step-by-step photos below to show you exactly how to make it.
- You can use it in a multitude of recipes: This vegan pork belly can be used in stir-fries, sandwiches, baos, noodle dishes, or as a topping for steamed white rice!
🥣 How to Make Vegan Pork Belly
Preparing this "roast pork" is easy and requires just 7 ingredients:
- Coconut milk - Full-fat coconut milk makes the base for the layers of fat. It brings richness and a white color.
- Tapioca starch and rice flour - Both will help thicken the fat layers during steaming. Tapioca starch some elasticity and white rice flour a stronger structure.
- Salt and sugar - To season.
- TVP slices - To make the "meat" layers, we are using TVP (textured vegetable protein). Use thin TVP slices like these Unflavored strips or these Vegan Chicken Slices. You can usually find TVP slices online, or in many Asian stores. Looking for a substitute? Check out the FAQ section!
- Tapioca pearls - Optional, tapioca pearls just add some texture to the skin layer, helping give this vegan pork a look closer to the authentic pork belly. Make sure you are using small tapioca pearls.
- Annatto oil - We are using annatto oil as a natural coloring for the skin layer, it adds a vibrant orange color. If you don't have annatto oil, you can use some orange food coloring.
This recipe consists of 3 steps:
- Preparing: First, we will rehydrate the TVP and make the coconut milk "fat".
- Steaming: We will steam the loaf, layers by layers, finishing with the orange "skin" layer.
- Refrigeration: Before cutting into slices, the loaf needs to be cool completely. I usually let it chill overnight in the refrigerator.
- Frying: Deep-frying gives the vegan "pork" a crispy texture and helps prevent it from crumbling in stir-fries.
Preparing the "meat" and fat layers
Let's start by making the coconut milk "fat". In a bowl, whisk together the coconut milk, water, tapioca starch, rice flour, salt, and sugar.
Then, add rehydrated TVP slices to the coconut milk mixture and let it sit for about 30 minutes. This step will allow the TVP to soak up some of the coconut milk.
Preparing the skin layer
To make the orange skin layer, reserve about 3 tablespoons of the coconut milk mixture and combine it with 1 teaspoon of annatto oil and 1 and ½ teaspoon of tapioca pearls.
Now comes the fun part, steaming our "pork" loaf! We will be steaming the loaf layers by layers to make sure each layer is cooked properly. To do so:
- Arrange the TVP on the bottom of a lightly oiled baking pan (I used a 3.5x6-inch pan).
- Top with 2 tablespoons of the coconut milk mixture and steam for 5 minutes.
- Add 3 more tablespoons of coconut milk and steam for another 5 minutes.
- Repeat step 1-3 one more time.
- Finally, top with the orange mixture (including the tapioca pearls) and steam for another 3-4 minutes.
You will end up with 2 layers of fat and 2 layers of "meat" topped with the orange crust.
Here, I went with a ratio of about 1:1 for the meat to fat layers, but feel free to adjust to your liking by adding more or less coconut milk.
Once your loaf is fully cooked, let it cool completely at room temperature before transferring to the refrigerator for at least 5 hours. After that, you can remove it from the baking pan and cut it into thick slices!
I usually cut it into thick rectangles, but feel free to cut it into larger slices, or slightly thinner strips.
Finally, the frying step! To add crispiness and even more richness, we will deep-fry the pork slices.
Heat about ⅓ cup of oil in a large non-stick skillet. Once hot, add the sliced vegan pork and fry for 7-10 minutes, or until golden brown and crispy.
Char Siu Sauce
Since this vegan roast pork has a very mild flavor, you want to coat it with a sauce. To do so, prepare a char siu sauce by combining char siu sauce, water, sugar, and five spice in a skillet. Cook for 2-3 minutes until almost syrupy. Add the fried vegan pork and stir to coat. Enjoy!
🍚 What To Serve With Vegan Roast Pork
After stir-frying the "pork" in the char siu sauce, you can simply serve it on top of white rice, quinoa, noodles, or your favorite grain. This vegan roast pork is also delicious in bao buns, you can for example swap the tofu in these Sate Tofu Baos for char siu roast pork!
What can I substitute for the TVP?
Basically any strip of plant-based meat will work. You can use slices of homemade vegan chicken or store-bought vegan chicken. Tempeh might work as well, but I haven't tried it yet. I would recommend staying away from tofu as it probably won't stick to the fat layers.
Does the fat layer melts?
It doesn't, it just gets softer after cooking.
Can I omit the frying step?
You can, but the texture won't be the same, and your pieces of "pork" won't hold well if you want to stir-fry them. I highly recommend frying it. If you want a healthier alternative you can of course air-fry it.
Can I bake this vegan pork instead of frying?
I haven't personally tried it yet, but I think it should work. Arrange thick slices of vegan pork on a baking sheet and generously brush with oil. Then bake at 355°F (180°C) for 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown. You can then stir-fry it with your favorite sauce.
Can I skip the char siu sauce?
Since this vegan pork belly doesn't have much flavor on its own, you want to cook it in a sauce. Just like tofu, it's a great vehicle for flavor and will soak up sauce perfectly. Personally, I love cooking it in the char siu sauce (recipe below), but you could definitely cook it in a black pepper or teriyaki sauce!
This vegan meat alternative is so good! You will be surprised by how meaty it tastes, the crust adds a nice crunch (or should I say crisp!), and the fat layer brings richness and chewiness.
Vegan "Roast Pork"
Coconut "Fat" and Meat Layers
- 1 and ½ teaspoon small tapioca pearls
- 1 teaspoon annatto oil
- Add the TVP slices to a large bowl and cover with water. Rehydrate for about 30 minutes, or until the slices are soft. Drain and rinse the slices a couple of times. Squeeze the slices to remove as much excess moisture as possible.
- In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the tapioca starch, rice flour, coconut milk, water, salt, and sugar. Add the TVP slices to the bowl and let it sit for about 30 minutes. This step will allow the slices to soak up some of the coconut milk.
- To make the "skin layer": Reserve 3 tablespoons of the coconut milk mixture and transfer to a small bowl. Add the annatto oil and the small tapioca pearls and stir to combine. Set aside.
- To steam: lightly oil a small 3.5x6-inch pan. Alternatively, you can line it with parchment paper.
- Arrange a layer of TVP slices to the bottom of the pan (feel free to cut them if they don't fit). Pour about 2 tablespoons of the coconut milk over the slices, just to cover. Steam in a steamer for 5 minutes.
- Next, pour in 3 more tablespoons of the coconut milk mixture over the TVP slices and steam for another 5 minutes. This will make our first layer of fat.
- Repeat one more time with another layer of TVP slices and another layer of coconut milk, steaming each for 5 minutes.
- Finally, pour in the orange coconut milk mixture over the last layer of fat. Steam for another 4 minutes. Carefully remove the pan from the steamer and let it cool completely at room temperature before transferring to the refrigerator. The coconut layers will slightly harden and it will be easier to cut.
- After at least 5 hours in the refrigerator, remove the loaf from the pan and cut it into thick slices using a lightly oiled knife. Note: vegan "pork" will keep for up to 6 days in the refrigerator.
- To fry: Heat about ⅓ cup of oil in a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add the vegan pork slices and fry for 7-10 minutes, flipping halfway through frying. Once the vegan pork is golden brown and crispy, remove from the oil and transfer to a plate.
Char Siu "Pork"
- To a non-stick skillet, add the char siu sauce, water, sugar, and five-spice powder. Heat over medium heat and cook for 3-5 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened.
- Add the fried vegan pork slices and stir to coat. Cook for 2 more minutes, stirring regularly.
- Enjoy the char siu pork on top of white rice, quinoa, or use in sandwiches, bao buns, banh mi, etc!