If you only master one Vietnamese food specialty it has to be this Vietnamese Grilled Pork recipe. And it’s incredibly easy and uses an affordable cut of meat! I am going to show you how to quickly break down a pork shoulder and slather it in a classic lemongrass marinade. A quick spin on the grill and you are going to impress everyone at your dinner table.
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I love cooking my way around the world from Indian lamb vindaloo to spicy Thai pumpkin soup. But I also like to experiment with recipes that are off the beaten path, like turning traditional swimming rama into a 20-minute weeknight dinner.
And when most people think of Vietnamese food they think of classics like Pho or a Bahn Mi sandwich. However, I think of this restaurant-style grilled lemongrass pork.
📖Why This Recipe Works
First off, this is a grilled pork recipe that uses the least expensive meat possible- a pork shoulder roast. Yes, you absolutely can, and should, grill pork shoulder. Don't worry about the meat being tough. The juice in the marinade will tenderize the meat.
Speaking of...The marinade is bursting with the flavors of Vietnam but uses ingredients that are easy to find at basic American grocery stores.
This recipe also comes with a traditional dipping sauce to add a little heat.
We also love it because it is gluten-free (if you use tamari and not regular soy sauce), dairy-free, and fits a whole host of diets like keto/ low-carb, paleo, and Whole30.
Now this grilled pork roast makes a lot- a whole 8 servings! Perfect for a family cookout.
Want to make a smaller batch? We have included variations for making lemongrass pork chops and marinated pork skewers, both perfect for grilling.
Lemongrass Marinade Ingredients
Lemongrass- You need two 6-inch stalks of lemongrass. Lemongrass can be found in bulk at international markets for cheap. I always get it in the fresh herb section at our local grocery store.
In a pinch, you can use the tube of lemongrass paste, just be aware of other ingredients. A common "substitute" is the zest of one lemon, but we don't recommend that for this recipe. The main flavor in this pork dish is lemongrass, it just wouldn't be the same without it. When working with lemongrass always trim the dry ends just a bit and peel off the dry outer layer.
Onions- You just need one small white onion. If you only have a large onion, use half. You can also substitute a shallot or 3-4 scallions (i.e. green onions).
Garlic- Use the equivalent of 3 large cloves of fresh garlic. I don't recommend substituting garlic powder, however, garlic paste of jarred prechopped garlic is fine. Just note you might need a bit more than the recipe calls for to get the pungent garlic flavor.
Soy Sauce - I use tamari, a gluten-free soy sauce. But you can use regular soy sauce if gluten isn't an issue for you. You can also substitute coconut aminos for Whole30 and soy allergies.
Fish Sauce- Fish sauce is one of those foods I love in things, I just try not to smell it on its own. And why do fish sauce and pork make the perfect pair? No idea, but it works. Proper fish sauce is really important and I would be lying if I said I never substituted Worcestershire Sauce when I was out of the fish sauce.
Orange Juice- The juice's acid helps to tenderize the meat. If you don't have fresh (or unsweetened) oranges try substituting pineapple or lime juice. You can also take a peek at our full list of OJ substitutes.
Honey- We just use a small amount so you can omit it for Whole30, Keto, and other sugar-free diets. But you can also regular sugar or brown sugar.
What Cut of Pork Should I Use?
Vietnamese lemongrass pork typically uses a pork shoulder roast. Boston butt, or pork butt, is the cut of pork that comes from the upper part of the shoulder from the front leg and may contain the blade bone.
It is relatively tough, but also relatively inexpensive. Woot woot. While normally slow-cooked to make it tender this style of pork recipe is thinly sliced and the marinade will soften the meat for us.
You can use a pork loin roast but it will be more expensive. This grilled pork dish isn't fancy, it is meant to be served family-style. For me, it isn't worth the extra expense.
⏲️How to Make Vietnamese Grilled Pork
Vietnamese grilled pork follows pretty much every grilling recipe you know; prep the meat, marinade, and grill. Not hard but we have a few key points to help this lemongrass pork be your greatest culinary masterpiece.
Step 1- Slice the Pork Shoulder
You will need a small pork shoulder, about two pounds of pork. The pork can be trimmed of excess fat if you like. I prefer to keep the fat cap on for extra flavor. You want to cut the meat into ¼-inch thick slices.
While thin strips, 2 inches or so, are nice if you have a large grilling basket they tend to fall through the grill grates if you don't have a basket. I recommend 3 to 4-inch long pieces.
Step 2- Marinade
Combine all marinade ingredients in a blender or food processor. You want the marinade to be as smooth as possible but note that there will be little fibers due to the nature of the lemongrass.
Coat the sliced pork in marinade and cover. Refrigerate overnight.
It can be tempting to rush and just do 30 minutes or an hour but trust me, for the best results this needs all night. Otherwise, the pork will be tough. The pork can stand up to a long marinade which is why we love lemongrass pork for meal prep.
You can make the dipping sauce in advance by simply mixing together all the ingredients.
Step 3- Grill the Pork Roast
You can use gas or charcoal, either way over medium-high heat and 3 to 4 minutes per side. I little char is a good thing. The pork should be cooked to 145 F degrees.
Let the pork rest. It isn't meant to be served piping hot. And don't forget to add a little green garnish, I like the green scallion tops the best.
🥗What to Serve with Vietnamese Pork
This type of dish is traditionally served over rice noodles with pickled fresh vegetables. Sometimes it is served with a fried egg.
If you want more dipping sauces try carrot ginger dressing or a drizzle of fermented garlic honey. Other times I just chunk up cucumbers and chopped tomatoes and dip them in the Nuoc Cham or add my favorite gyoza sauce.
👩🏻🍳 Expert Tips
- Pork shoulders tend to be large cuts of meat. You can either double this recipe for a large crowd or cut your pork should into parts. Using 2 pounds for this grilled pork recipe and freezing the remainder for future use as a stew or braise.
- When making the pork chop variation you will have excess marinade. Only use what you need and freeze the marinade for future use. It will keep 2-3 months in the freezer.
- I don't recommend an oven broil or using a grill pan for this recipe, except for the pork skewers. Which are easier to manage under a broiler.
Vietnamese Pork Chops
Use half the marinade recipe for 4 1-inch thick bone-in pork chops. You will still marinade overnight. Grill over medium heat for 5 to 6 minutes a side until the internal temperature of the shops reaches 145 F degrees.
Alternatively, you can sear in a cast iron pan. Not the same but a great alternative when you don't have access to a grill!
Vietnamese Pork Skewers
To make Vietnamese pork skewers you can use a pork shoulder, pork belly, or a pork roast (more expensive). For skewers, you need to slice the meat longways into very narrow strips, between ⅛ and ¼ inch. Marinade overnight per the recipe.
Skewer one piece of meat onto the skewer in a zig-zag shape. Skewering each piece of pork several times. Depending on the length of your pieces you will likely get 2 to 3 pieces per skewer. Grill over medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes, turning often.
If using bamboo skewers soak for at least 20 minutes to prevent burning. If using metal skewers, be careful! They will still be hot after resting.
Grilled lemongrass pork will last 3 to 4 days when stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Use leftover pork for Vietnamese-inspired tacos or on a Bahn Mi sandwich. Chop into small pieces and pan-fry to reheat.
More Mouthwatering Pork Recipes
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Vietnamese Grilled Pork with Lemongrass
- Grill, gas or charcoal
- 2 lbs pork shoulder
- lime wedges, cilantro, scallions optional garnish
- Slice pork into ¼ inch thick pieces, 3 to 4 inches wide. Place in a nonreactive bowl (glass or ceramic).2 lbs pork shoulder
- In a food processor blend all the marinade ingredients until smooth. The lemongrass fibers will still show but there should be no big chunks. Pour over the pork slices. Each piece should be coated with the mixture. Refrigerate overnight.2 stalks lemongrass, 1 small white onion, 3 cloves garlic, 2 Tablespoons tamari gluten free soy sauce, ¼ cup fish sauce, ¼ cup orange juice, 3 Tablespoons olive oil, 1 Tablespoon raw honey, ¼ teaspoon black pepper, ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- Preheat grill to medium-high heat. Grill 4 minutes per side, or until cooked through.
- Allow meat to rest for 10 minutes before serving. Top with cilantro and scallions, serve with lime wedges, and Nuoc Cham dipping sauce.lime wedges, cilantro, scallions
Nuoc Cham Dipping Sauce
- Combine sugar, fish sauce, and warm water in a small bowl. Stir until sugar dissolves. Stir in garlic, carrots, and serrano chili to taste.3 Tablespoons coconut sugar, 3 Tablespoons fish sauce, ⅔ cup warm water, 1 clove garlic, finely chopped, 2 Tablespoons carrots, 1 serrano pepper
- Remove the meat from the refrigerator 30 to 60 minutes before grilling. Allow resting to ensure even distribution of the marinade.
- See the post for pork skewer, pork chop, and oven cooking variations.