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Easy Air Fryer Crispy Pork Belly Recipe (Filipino Lechon Kawali)

Crispy deliciousness with every bite of this tender, juicy and tasty pork belly! NO NEED to deep-fry and soak up meat with a lot of oil just to come up with a crispy, crackly uber-tasty pork belly as it's cooked in the air fryer! Step-by-step instructions with notes to ensure success included in the recipe.

Course Main Course
Cuisine Asian Cuisine, Southeast Asian
Keyword air fryer lechon kawali, best air fryer crispy pork belly, Easy Air Fryer Crispy Pork Belly (Filipino Lechon Kawali), Easy Air Fryer Crispy Pork Belly Recipe (Filipino Lechon Kawali), Filipino-style crispy pork belly, how to cook crispy pork belly in the air fryer, recipe for air fryer crispy pork belly
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Chill 12 hours
Servings 4

Ingredients

FOR THE PORK BELLY

  • 1.5 pounds pork belly
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon coarse salt
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • water, as needed

FOR THE SPICED SOY-VINEGAR DIPPING SAUCE

  • 1/4 cup rice or white vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce, adjust to taste
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 2 Thai red chillis, sliced (adjust heat level to taste)

Instructions

FOR THE AIR FRYER PORK BELLY

  1. In a 2-qt saucepan, place the pork belly with the onion, garlic cloves, bayleaves, coarsely-grinded salt and soy sauce. Fill with enough water to completely cover or submerge the pork belly.

  2. Using medium heat, bring to a boil. Lower heat to a simmer. Cover and cook for 1-1/2 hours or until the meat is fork-tender. Add water as needed to ensure pork belly is submerged.

  3. Take the pork out of the saucepan and pat dry. Poke holes all over the fatty or skin side of the pork using a fork. (I sometimes simply score it, too.) Salt all over the fatty/skin area. Make sure to use only coarse salt or at least coarsely-grinded salt (salt passed through a grinder).

  4. Leave out to dry in the refrigerator overnight or at least 3-4 hours. You want to completely dry out the pork, if possible. The addition of salt on top helps dry it out, too. If there’s still some remaining moisture in the meat, simply dry it off with a paper towel.

  5. Allow the pork to come to room temperature for about half an hour before air frying.

  6. Preheat the air fryer to 400 F. Place the pork belly skin side up on the air fryer basket. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until browned all over and crispy to your liking. Check the pork belly after 20 minutes and flip to brown the other side, if needed.
  7. Let it set for 10 minutes to allow the juices to redistribute all over the meat and keep it moist. Slicing the meat right away would not only be messy but all that tasty juice would leave the meat and you don't want that. Your patience, should you wait, would be rewarded with tasty, juicy and tender meat!

  8. Slice into desired thickness (about 1/2 an inch for me usually is good). Serve with some sarsa (Filipino gravy) or a spice soy and vinegar dip. For the sarsa, I simply buy Mang Tomas brand for this because it is the typical lechon sauce and I don’t make it because the bottled variety is quite good. Dip each belly slice into the sauce before eating, if desired.

FOR THE SPICED SOY-VINEGAR DIPPING SAUCE

  1. Mix together the vinegar and soy sauce. There's no right or wrong measurement here. Simply adjust to the amount you want and based on your taste preference. Stir in the minced garlic and chilis. Serve with the pork belly.

Recipe Notes

Some people simply boil the pork for 45 minutes to 1 hour (no simmer). You may do this for a shortcut but watch out for the water level that it doesn’t get low and only stop boiling once the pork is already tender. I am more into the slower method because I find the meat absorbs more of the flavor of the seasoned water so the meat doesn’t need extra salt afterwards.

Do not use fine table salt especially on the skin of the pork. Since you are either poking holes or scoring meat, the fine salt may seep in to these crevices and may make it too salty. Coarse salt is better because it’s bigger in size so that won’t be a problem. Also the crackling skin is formed more by using coarse salt (makes the skin pop) rather fine salt.

To chill or not to chill? My mother always chilled her lechon kawaii before frying and that always came out crispy. Some say it’s not needed but I have yet to try frying the pork without chilling and drying it out in the refrigerator. I am bound to cook pork belly again soon as it’s a family favorite so watch this space for my verdict!