Discover the crispy goodness of lechon kawali made easy with our air fryer pork belly recipe. Enjoy this traditional Filipino dish at home without all the mess.
Just like our lumpia and banana turon, this recipe puts a modern twist on a classic Filipino favorite by transforming traditional deep-fried pork belly into a guilt-free delight. Gone are the days of excessive oil and unhealthy cooking methods - with the air fryer, you can now indulge in this iconic dish without compromising your health goals.
By utilizing hot air circulation technology, the air fryer evenly cooks each piece of pork belly, resulting in perfectly crisp skin and succulent meat. The result is a delightful combination of textures - biting into it reveals an audible crackle followed by tender and juicy bites.
Not only does using an air fryer yield healthier results, but it also saves time and effort. No need to stand by a pot of hot oil while carefully monitoring temperature levels or risk splatters and burns. With just a few simple steps, you can enjoy deliciously crispy lechon kawali right at home.
Reasons to Love
- Healthier alternative to deep frying. Unlike traditional deep frying methods that require a lot of oil, air fryers use significantly less oil or sometimes none at all. This means fewer calories and less fat.
- Crispy texture without the mess. No more dealing with hot oil splatters or greasy stovetops! You get the same crispy texture as deep frying but without all the mess.
- Easy monitoring and control. You just set the desired temperature and cooking time with an air fryer. There's no need for regular monitoring like deep frying.
The main ingredient, of course, is pork belly. Look for a nicely marbled slab to ensure a good balance between tender meat and crispy skin.
Here is the full list of ingredients needed for the air fryer recipe:
- pork belly slab
- bay leaves
- whole black peppercorns
- apple cider vinegar
Scroll down to the recipe card for quantities used.
To make these air fryer crispy pork belly bites, you must start your preparation the day before. You'll need to let the boiled meat chill in the refrigerator overnight.
To start, bring water to a gentle boil in a medium stock pot. Add salt, garlic, peppercorns, and bay leaf. Once the water begins to boil rigorously, gently add the pork belly slab, skin side up. Skim the scum and turn pork belly slab after every 10 minutes.
Carefully remove pork after 45 minutes to 1 hour or when the pork belly slab is fork-tender. Add more water halfway through, if needed. Cool for 30 minutes or more. Place in an airtight container lined with paper towels. Refrigerate overnight.
Next day, preheat the air fryer and gently transfer pork belly slab onto the air fryer basket or tray, skin side up. Let it sit at room temperature for 15 to 30 minutes. Lightly brush pork skin with apple cider vinegar.
Slowly insert the air fryer basket or tray into the pre-heated air fryer at 400°F (205°C). Air fry pork belly slab for 30 minutes. Brush pork skin with the remaining apple cider vinegar at the last 10 minutes.
Remove pork belly slab once crisp and golden. Let it sit for 5 to 10 minutes.
Chop the pork into bite-sized pieces and serve with your favorite dipping sauce.
Hint: Before air frying, it's essential to pre-boil the pork belly. This step helps remove excess fat from the meat while ensuring that it remains tender and juicy. Plus, boiling also helps to partially cook the pork, reducing cooking time later.
In its simplest form, lechon kawali is seasoned with just salt and pepper. However, you can change the flavor of this crispy pork belly recipe to customize it to your preferences. Here are a few ideas to try:
- Marinate - soak the pork in a mixture of soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, and spices for at least 2 hours. The marination process allows the flavors to penetrate deep into every bite.
- Aromatics - add herbs like rosemary or thyme to bring a fragrant aroma to the dish. Or, use a splash of soy sauce to add an umami flavor profile.
- Spicy - toss the crispy pork belly in a spicy chili garlic sauce after air frying it to add a fiery kick to each bite.
- Sweet - after air frying the pork belly until crispy, brush a mixture of honey and soy sauce onto the skin. Then, give it an extra few minutes in the fryer.
You can even try barbecue seasonings on your air fryer pork belly bites like we us on our air fryer baby back ribs.
Top tip: After pre-boiling, take extra care to pat dry the pork skin thoroughly before chilling in the refrigerator. This step is crucial in achieving maximum crispiness. Moisture on the skin can hinder proper air frying and result in less crispy lechon kawali.
- Dry the meat well before air frying. By allowing the pork belly to air-dry in the refrigerator, excess moisture is removed from the skin. This is important for achieving a crispy and crackling skin when it's air fried.
- Adjust cooking time and temperature if needed. Every machine varies in temperature settings and cook times, so adjust accordingly.
- Preheat the air fryer. A consistent temperature is needed for even browning.
Lechon kawali is traditionally served sliced into bite-sized pieces alongside steamed rice. The combination of the crispy air fryer pork belly and fluffy rice creates a satisfying meal. You can also pair it with vegetables such as roasted cabbage steaks or sautéed green beans for a balanced main course.
The meat can also be served as an appetizer with dipping sauce. A simple blend of soy sauce, apple cider vinegar, garlic, salt, and pepper is perfect for dipping each piece.
To store the leftover pork belly, allow it to cool down completely before transferring it to an airtight container or wrapping it tightly in aluminum foil or plastic wrap. It will stay fresh for up to four days.
You can also freeze leftovers if you don't plan on consuming it within a few days. Wrap in freezer-safe bags or containers, removing as much air as possible. The frozen meat can last up to four months, but be sure to thoroughly thaw it before reheating.
Want to try more easy pork recipes for one or two people? Check out some of these dishes:
- Ground pork stir fry is a simple meal idea for busy weeknights.
- Pork chops in a crock pot take very little time to prepare.
- Ground pork tacos are a nice change from traditional beef ones.
- Pork loin in crock pot results in tender meat that melts in your mouth.
- Pork steaks in the oven come out perfectly cooked every time.
Air Fryer Pork Belly (Lechon Kawali)
- 1.3 pounds pork belly slab 600g
- 6 cloves crushed garlic
- 3 pieces bay leaf
- ½ tablespoon whole black peppercorns
- 1 ½ tablespoons kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 4 cups water or more if needed
- In a medium stock pot, bring water to a gentle boil. Add salt, garlic, peppercorns, and bay leaf.
- Once the water with aromatics begin to rigorously boil, gently add the pork belly slab, skin side up.
- Skim the scum. Turn pork belly slab after every 10 minutes.
- Carefully remove pork after 45 minutes to 1 hour or when pork belly slab is fork-tender. Add more water halfway through, if needed.
- Cool for 30 minutes or more. Place in an airtight container lined with paper towels. Refrigerate overnight.
- Next day, gently transfer pork belly slab onto the Air Fryer tray, skin side up. Let it sit at room temperature for 15 to 30 minutes.
- Lightly brush pork skin with apple cider vinegar.
- Slowly insert the Air Fryer tray into the pre-heated Air Fryer at 400F (205C) in the middle cooking chamber, near the rotisserie catch. Air Fry pork belly slab for 30 minutes.
- Brush pork skin with the remaining apple cider vinegar at the last 10 minutes.
- Remove pork belly slab once crisp and golden.
- Let it sit for 5 to 10 minutes before chopping into bite-sized pieces.
- Serve with your favorite dipping sauce.