Super crispy skin, tender, and juicy Lechon Kawali cooked in an oven or air-fryer! No deep-frying nor overnight drying is needed! This is your favorite Filipino crispy pork belly made easier and more delicious with the simplest seasoning.
I love everything about Lechon Kawali! The fat, the crunch, and most of all the bacony flavor. BUT the process of making it frightens me. The traditional way that is.
Boiled fatty pork belly with an unknown amount of moisture deep-fried in a large pot of boiling oil. Argg! A recipe for disaster, at least in my case. Most of the time.
Never again will this ever happen!
Finally, I found the best way of making my favorite Filipino crispy pork belly.
I am just so excited to share it with all of you.
You will love this recipe because:
- It makes the crispiest and most tender lechon kawali you'll ever have.
- No deep-frying or air-drying! All you need is a convection oven or an air-fryer.
- Safe to cook - no oil splatters, accidental oil burns, and fried food smell lingering in the kitchen.
You only need four ingredients to make Lechon kawali; three actually if you exclude the water for boiling.
Use the freshest pork you can find, preferably from the butcher. Avoid frozen cuts that have been stored for who knows how long–such cuts will not crisp up. This is speaking from a personal experience.
To prepare: Slice the pork into 2 ½ to 3 inches thick to create a good balance of crispy exterior yet juicy (fatty) insides.
Salt and Pepper
This version of lechon kawali uses just salt and pepper for the seasoning. It's so basic and simple yet does wonders in bringing out the bacony flavor of the pork.
For boiling, you will need salt, whole black pepper, and optional scallions or green onion leaves.
For frying, salt the skin of the pork to make it crispy. I recommend using a coarse-grained type such as sea salt and kosher. Don't use iodized salt or table salt, please.
How to make it
Here's how to make lechon kawali:
1. Prevent the meat from curling
Make vertical slits (don't cut through!) to the edges of the skin (see video). It's important that the pork can be laid flat on the wire rack and that the is skin side up throughout the broiling process.
2. Tenderize the pork belly
Boil the pork for 45 minutes to 1 hour until fork tender. A longer cooking time may be needed if using thicker or larger cuts of meat.
For pressure cooker or Instant pot: cook at high pressure for 20 minutes for the pork to become fork-tender. Use quick release to release the pressure. Please refer to your instruction manual for more details.
3. Prick holes in the skin
Prick holes in the skin using a fork after boiling to make puffy cracklings. The skin is already tender so this step is easier to do.
4. Season with salt
Season the skin as soon as the pork is cool to touch. Include the sides and bottom part of the pork.
5. Cook in the oven or air-fryer - crispy, puffy crackling pork skin
Cook on high heat until the skin starts crackling and puffing. Lower the heat then switch to normal/bake mode until it's crispy and brown all over.
Don't airdry or it won't be puffy! I mistakenly did this and the skin became 'makunat' I don't know what's the English term for that but Pinoys you get me right? Season the meat and sides first then sprinkle salt on the skin last.
To get the skin really crispy, you need the oven really hot before placing the pork belly in. Thus, I recommend using the highest temperature for pre-heating.
Here's what I use:
The preheating temperature for the oven is 250c /482f. You need around 15 to 20 minutes to get the oven really hot. Lower the heat to 200c /400f after placing the pork inside. Cook with the fan on or (BROIL) until the skin starts puffing and browned all over.
The preheating temperature for the air-fryer is 200c/392 F. You need about 3 to 5 minutes. Air-fry the pork for 20 minutes until the skin starts puffing. Reduce the heat to 180c/356f and continue cooking until the pork belly is crispy all over.
How to Serve
Cut into pieces and serve with your favorite dipping sauce. I love soy, vinegar with raw onion dip (get the recipe). It's tangy, salty, and sweet. I recommend reducing the amount of salt if you like using this dip too!
Other popular dips for lechon kawali are spiced vinegar, liver sauce (also known as lechon sauce), and ketchup or sweet chili sauce.
What to serve with Lechon Kawali
Recipes for special occasions
- Filipino Pork BBQ Skewers
- Embutido with Cheese
- Pork Humba (Meltingly tender Pork!)
- Beef Caldereta
- Lechon Manok
- Pork belly Sisig
- Garlic Butter Crab
- Easy Beef Kare Kare
- Lechon Pork Belly with Crispy Crackling
Watch the Lechon Kawali Recipe Video
Filipino Dessert and Snacks
- Biko with Latik Sauce
- Special Palitaw
- Bibingka Malagkit
- Maja Blanca
- Leche Flan
- Cassava Cake
- Kutsinta No Lye
- Easy Bibingka (Filipino Rice Cakes)
Crispy Lechon Kawali (Air-fryer or Oven)
- 1 kg to 1.5 kg pork belly (see note 1)
- 3 to 4 cups water (see note 2)
- 1 tablespoon salt (for boiling)
- 2 teaspoon whole black pepper
- 1 tablespoon kosher or sea salt (adjust to taste, see note 2)
- Make vertical slits (don’t cut through!) around the edges of the skin of the pork belly (see video). It’s important that the pork can be laid flat on the wire rack and that the skin is side up throughout the broiling process.
- Place pork belly, water, salt, and whole black pepper in a large pot. Bring the liquid to a boil, then turn the heat down to medium. Cook the pork until fork tender. Cooking time will depend on the thickness of the meat (see note 3).
- Remove pork from the pot and place it in a wire rack with a baking sheet under. Let it cool.
- Rub salt on the sides and bottom of the meat. The amount depends on how salty you want the pork to be. And then finally, sprinkle salt evenly on the skin (see video).
To cook in the oven:
- Pre-heat the oven to 250c /482f for 20 mins.
- Place pork in the oven, lower rack. Lower the heat to 200c /400f then bake with the fan on (BROIL) until the skin starts puffing and browned all over. This could take 30mins or more depending on the size of the pork and the oven. Rotate with a tong every now and then to evenly brown all sides.
To cook in an air fryer:
- Preheat the air-fryer to 200c/392 F for 3 minutes for a regular air-fryer and 5 minutes for an oven air-fryer.
- Air-fry the pork for 15 to 20 minutes until the skin starts puffing. Reduce the heat to 180c/356f and continue cooking until the pork belly is crispy all over. Rotate with a tong every now and then to evenly brown all sides.
- Let the pork rest for 10 minutes before serving.
- Cut pork into slices and serve with your favorite dipping sauce.
Recipe Notes and Tips:
- Pork belly - choose a fatty cut. Slice into 2 ½ to 3 inches thick to create a good balance of crispy exterior yet juicy (fatty) insides.
- For the salt, I recommend using a coarse-grained type such as sea salt and kosher. Table salt and iodized salt is not recommended for this recipe.
- Boiling time: stove-top usually takes 45 minutes to 1 hour. Longer if using thicker cuts of pork belly. To quickly tenderize the meat, you can use a pressure cooker or instant pot. Reduce the water to 3 ½ cups. Pressure cook for 20 minutes (high pressure in the Instant pot and use quick release).
- Broil mode is often known as grill mode in other oven settings. Please refer to your manual.
- Cooking time: Browning of the pork can take longer is using the large oven. Less if using air fryer and smaller ovens.
- Caution: Don't place the pork at the top rack as oil may splatter to the heat source and create smoke inside the oven.
- Reserve the broth for other recipes. Use to make pancit bihon or canton or other Filipino vegetable dishes.