The Ultimate Sweet and Sour Pork Ribs

Here’s a quick and easy recipe on how to make authentic Chinese sweet and sour pork ribs.

Oh yes, one of my favorite food indulgences is sweet and sour pork ribs! I mean who doesn’t love to sink their teeth into tender meaty ribs coated in a sugary vinegary sauce? Well as we may all know there are many variations of this wonderful Chinese classic dish but in this post I’m going to show you the real deal recipe compliments of my grandma. This is not your buffet style pork ribs covered in a bright red sauce or ketchupy versions that are overly sweet.

I grew up eating this dish for lunch and dinner when my grandma use to cook for my brother and I during our school days. I remember coming home and being welcomed by the smell of sweet and sour sauce bubbling away on the stove top…I knew I was in for a treat those days! I always wondered how my grandma got such complex flavors in this dish and that wonderful deep brown color, and I was surprised about how easy it was to make when I came around to watch her process one day! The key to this dish is hitting that right balance of sweetness and sourness and I’m going to show you a few key techniques to get that right color and flavor.

Alrighty, let’s get straight to the recipe shall we? First step, get yourself a nice piece of fresh pork ribs. Now in my experience sometimes you might get the odd porky smelling one…if you do find yourself in this situation I recommend you pre-boil your meat first and give it a good rinse before cooking instead of stir frying from raw.

Caramelize the sugar in oil to add color and build flavor.

Next is to find yourself a pack of Chinese rock sugar which is really important to this dish. They come in large or small blocks and can be yellow or white in appearance, either of which will work well in this dish. I find that rock sugar, unlike regular white sugar, doesn’t burn as quickly and really adds a deep caramel color and flavor to the ribs.

The first step is to heat the oil and gently melt the rock sugar into the oil by stirring gently over medium high heat. Once it’s melted and starts to turn into a nice amber color toss in your ribs and constantly stir to coat. Continue to cook until the ribs are evenly browned. This process may take a few minutes so be patient and make sure not to burn the sugar.

Once the ribs are caramelized add in the Shaoxing cooking wine, light soy sauce, Chinese balck vinegar, and water. Personally, I prefer to use Chinese black vinegar as it has a deeper flavor but if you don’t have it at home regular white vinegar will also do.

Braise the ribs for 30 minutes until tender and the sauce is reduced. At this point, the sauce should appear sticky and slightly thick and it’s now time to finish the dish. Taste the sauce and add any additional salt if needed. You will find that after the cooking process the vinegar taste is very mild and the ribs are not too sweet. So to wake up the dish by putting in another splash of black Chinese vinegar and a few spoons of white sugar. Continue tasting and adjusting until you reach the right assertive balance of sweet and sour!

Serve this with a nice bowl of hot rice and you got a simple and delicious dinner ready to go. Give this a try and I’d love to hear your comments below!

The Ultimate Sweet and Sour Pork Ribs

Prep time: 5 min     
Cook time: 30 h   
Total time: 35 min   
Servings: 4



  1. Heat a wok to medium high heat and add in the oil and rock sugar. Stir the sugar constantly until it melts into the oil and starts turning a golden color.
  2. Add in your pork rib pieces and coat them with the sugar oil mixture constantly. Continue to cook the ribs until the surface becomes a caramelized brown color.
  3. Add in the Shaoxing cooking wine, soy sauce, Chinese black vinegar, salt and water. Cook the ribs uncovered on medium heat for 20-30 min until tender. If the ribs need more time add in a little more water and continue cooking.
  4. Reduce the sauce until thickened and syrupy. Stir in the white sugar and an additional tablespoon of Chinese black vinegar.
  5. Serve immediately while hot and sprinkle with some green onions and sesame seeds. Enjoy!

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