If you only master one Vietnamese food specialty it has to be this Vietnamese Grilled Pork recipe. And it’s incredibly easy! We break down a pork shoulder slather it in a classic lemongrass marinade before grilling it. To top things off we have added the classic Vietnamese dipping sauce- Nuoc Cham. But don't worry, like I already said- it is so easy!
Please read the entire post for tips and tricks to ensure a perfect recipe every time. And don't forget to tag @peelwithzeal on Instagram so we can admire your creation!
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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 over rice. It is bursting with the flavors of Vietnam but uses ingredients that are easy to find at basic American grocery stores.
We also love it because it is gluten-free, dairy-free, and fits a whole host of diets like keto/ low-carb, paleo and Whole30. Now this pork recipe 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 grilling.
Lemongrass Marinade Ingredients and Substitutions
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 out 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/ 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.
Tamari - This is a gluten-free soy sauce 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- The fish sauce is one of those foods I love in things, I just try not to smell it on its own. And why does 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 for Whole30, Keto, and other sugar-free diets.
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 with big bowls or rice. For me, it isn't worth the extra expense.
Vietnamese grilled pork follows pretty much every grilling recipe you know; prep the meat, marinade, grill. Not hard but we have a few key points to help this lemongrass pork be your greatest culinary masterpiece.
Prep the Pork Shoulder- You will need a small pork shoulder, about two pounds. 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 pieces that are ¼ inch thick. While small pieces, 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 pieces.
Blend the Lemongrass 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.
Marinade Overnight- It can be tempting to rush and just do 30 minutes or an hour but trust me 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.
Grill- 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.
Rest- 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.
Pork Chops Variation
Use half the marinade recipe for 4 bone-in 1-inch thick pork chops. You will still marinade overnight. Grill over medium heat 5 to 6 minutes a side until the internal temperature of the shops reaches 145 F degrees.
Alternately, you can sear in a cast iron pan. Not the same but a great alternative when you don't have access to a grill!
Pork Skewer Variation
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.
Recipe Tips and Tricks
- 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.
- Grilled lemongrass pork will last 3 to 4 days when stored in an airtight container
- Use leftover pork for Vietnamese inspired tacos or on a Bahn Mi sandwich. Chop into small pieces and pan-fry to reheat.
I like to serve this recipe with sushi rice, pickled watermelon radishes, and a simple green salad, sometimes with our carrot ginger dressing or with a drizzle of fermented garlic honey. Other times I just chunk up cucumbers and tomatoes and dip in the Nuoc Cham.
Other tasty gluten-free grilling recipes you might want to try:
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Vietnamese Grilled Lemongrass Pork
- 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)
- 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.
- 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.
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.
- Remove the meat from the refrigerator 30 to 60 minutes before grilling. Allow resting to ensure even distribution of the marinade.
- See post for pork skewer and oven cooking variations.