Pork Tocino is a Filipino dish cured in sugar, salt, pepper, and garlic. Typically served with garlic fried rice and eggs, it’s a delicious breakfast treat!
Pork tocino is a type of Filipino cured meat made of beef, chicken or pork. It’s typically served as an all-day breakfast meal as a primary component of the popular combo, tocilog, which is a portmanteau for tocino, sinangag (garlic fried rice), and itlog (sunny side up eggs).
This regional delicacy has evolved to be a delicious balance of sweet and salty, but traditional Kapampangan burong (cured) babi (pork) as I remember it, is fermented at room temperature to achieve a slightly sour taste. For the sake of food safety, I highly recommend curing the meat in the refrigerator for no more than three days and storing it in the freezer immediately after.
It’s so easy to make at home, you’ll never have to buy it again! I suggest marinating a few pounds and freeze for future use. Portion out in individual resealable bags and you’ll have a delicious meal ready in a pinch.
Traditional pork tocino included salitre (saltpeter) which acts as a food preservative and colorant. The recipe below, however, uses basic pantry ingredients and has no added preservatives.
The marinade is a simple mixture of salt, sugar, garlic powder, and pepper to bring on the amazing sweet and garlicky flavors you’ll love. The red food coloring is for aesthetic purposes only and can be omitted.
- For better taste and texture, use the right cut of meat. I find tenderloin (lomo) to be too lean and pork belly to be too fatty. Tocino, like our iconic BBQ pork, is best made with Boston butt or (despite the name, it actually comes from the pig shoulder) kasim which is well layered with fat.
- For a tender chew, cut the meat thinly across the grain.
- Not a fan of food coloring? Substitute about 1 teaspoon atsuete powder or 1/4 cup of banana ketchup.
- You can add pineapple juice, anise wine, or vinegar to help tenderize the meat and balance the sweetness with a hint of tangy flavor. Make sure not to marinate the meat in the refrigerator for too long as the acids will denature the protein fibers and result in a mushy texture. Cure overnight and transfer to the freezer.
Ways to cook
- You can pan-fry straight in hot oil, but I suggest cooking the tocino first in water until fork-tender. Add just enough water to cover the meat and simmer until meat is tender and liquid is mostly absorbed. Add oil and cook, stirring regularly, until lightly browned and caramelized.
- Instead of pan-frying, you can also grill the meat over hot coals for about 3 to 5 minutes on each side or until cooked through and nicely charred.
- To bake, arrange the marinated meat in a single layer on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake, uncovered, in a 350 F oven for about 30 to 40 minutes or until browned and a thermometer inserted in the center of the meat reads 145 F. Turn the meat halfway through cooking and loosely tent with foil if over-browning before fully cooked.
Homemade Pork Tocino
- 2 pounds pork butt, sliced to 1/4-inch thick
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 2 drops red food coloring
- 1 cup water
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- In a bowl, combine pork, sugar, salt, garlic, pepper, and red food coloring. Massage meat with curing mixture until well-distributed and evenly colored.
- Store in a covered container or ziplock bag and refrigerate overnight to cure.
- In a pan over medium heat, add pork including marinade and enough water to cover. Bring to a boil.
- Lower heat, cover and simmer until meat is tender and cooked through, adding more water in 1/2 cup increments as needed.
- When water is completely absorbed and meat is tender, add oil and cook, stirring regularly, until meat caramelizes. Serve hot.