Try this pork belly air fryer recipe when you want deliciously moist slices of pork belly with perfectly crispy skin. Pork belly is essentially fresh bacon, unsliced and with the skin still attached. Like bacon, pork belly is very high-fat, and air frying is a great way to lower the fat. When served with warm cinnamon applesauce, this dish is comfort food at its finest.
One of my email subscribers recently asked if I'd do an air fryer pork belly recipe. You all know how much I love air frying, so I was definitely up for the challenge! I'm pleased with how well it turned out.
Pork belly isn't a typical food in much of American cuisine. However, there's a closely related food you may be very familiar with: bacon.
Both bacon and pork belly come from the belly of the pig. While bacon is typically smoked, cured, and sliced, pork belly is left in a more natural state.
Most of the time, pork belly is purchased as a large slab of meat with the skin still attached. It doesn't appear to resemble bacon much until you flip it on its side…
It's much easier to see the close relation to bacon now, isn't it?
I've actually tried air frying bacon before, but it made a bit of an oily mess in the air fryer. When you air fry pork belly, you get a similar taste, but less clean up is needed. That's a win in my book!
Why You Should Make Pork Belly in the Air Fryer
- It's a lower calorie and lower fat way to enjoy pork belly. A lot of the fat from pork belly drips away while it cooks in the air fryer oven. The excess fat accumulates in the lower drip pan of the oven, not on your plate.
- The pork belly has super crisp and crackly skin. It's almost like a delicious crispy chip over the top of the moist pork belly. I was seriously just peeling it off and munching away on it. My goodness, SO GOOD!
- Fits many low-carb and keto diets. If you're using a low-carb approach for weight loss or to help manage your blood sugar, this dish may fit. Pork belly is a very low carb food.
- Makes a delicious and special meal. If you haven't tried pork belly yet, this is an excellent introduction to this tasty food.
Ingredients for the Pork Belly Air Fryer Recipe
Time is the biggest ingredient in this air fried pork belly recipe, as you do need to start the recipe the night before. In terms of food ingredients, not much is need for the basic pork belly air fry:
- Pork belly
- Finely ground sea salt
- Dried sage
- Baking powder
- Dried thyme
- Dried rosemary
- Cooking oil spray
The baking powder may seem like an out of place ingredient, but it is vital if you want crispy pork belly skin. Without the baking powder, or with less baking powder, the skin does not crisp up as well. I tried it!
If you reduce the amount of baking powder, the skin remains soft at the end of the cooking time. If you keep cooking it at 400F, the skin will eventually get crispier. However, the meat begins to dry out a bit when you cook it too long under the high heat.
Baking powder was also my secret ingredient in my frozen chicken wings air fryer recipe. It made the chicken wing skin nice and crispy, and it has the same effect on pork belly skin!
Since most people don't eat pork belly alone, I also recommend having the following on hand for side dishes:
- Bacon fat (for cooking the veggies)
Sometimes I serve the air fryer pork belly over brown rice, but it's not really necessary. I have some more ideas for side dishes that would go with air fried pork belly below.
How to Cook Pork Belly in the Air Fryer
First off, make sure you have an air fryer with a large enough capacity for this recipe. I use a 10-Quart Kalorik Digital Air Fryer Oven. Also, cooking times can vary between air fryer ovens, so feel free to adjust the cooking time as needed.
As I mentioned above, you need to start this recipe the night before you want to eat pork belly. That is because the pork belly needs some time to dry out for maximum crispiness.
To help speed the drying process, most recipes I've seen have you poke holes in the pork belly skin. A metal skewer works well for this. I made the holes a couple of inches apart.
Next, you need to rub salt all over the pork belly and let it sit on a plate in the fridge overnight. I blotted any moisture that collected on the plate or the pork belly with a paper towel.
The next evening, you'll rub the pork belly with a mixture of baking powder and dried herbs. Then you'll mist it generously with the cooking spray. You want the baking powder mixture to be thoroughly moistened by the oil.
To cook the pork belly, I air fried it for 40 minutes at 250F and then the last 10-20 minutes at 400F. Having your pork belly spend most of its cooking time under the lower heat helps prevent the meat from drying out too much. However, those final minutes under the high heat is where the skin crisps up nicely.
A Tip for Cooking Pork Belly in the Air Fryer
One issue that may arise when air frying pork belly is that it may buckle a bit as it cooks. As a result, the pork belly skin can get a little ashy from getting too close to the top of the fryer.
You could move the pork belly to the lower air fryer rack if you see this happening. However, if you don't catch it in time, no worries. The ash wipes off easily with a paper towel, and the crispy skin stays intact.
After you slice it and add some warmed cinnamon applesauce, no one will know what happened. Your secret is safe with us.
One more tip! It's better to use a bit too much baking powder here, even if you end up having to wipe some away at the end. The baking powder is really the key to getting the pork belly skin to crisp up quickly under the high heat.
When I made the recipe video below, I decided all the baking powder made the pork belly look messy. I reshot the video with another piece of pork belly using less baking powder. Yes, it looked "neater," but I was disappointed that the skin didn't crisp as well.
Since taste definitely trumps outward appearances in my book, I reverted back to my original recipe video. It's messy, but it gets the best results. Just wipe the pork belly skin after air frying if there's some ash or baking powder, and don't sweat it.
I swear, everyone is going to love it! (I mean, unless they are one of those people who just don't like pork belly. You might want to avoid serving this to them in that case. Haha)
Expert Tips from a Dietitian
This is a level 3 recipe (weight maintenance and active lifestyles). The nutrition information provided for this recipe below was calculated using raw pork belly and is likely an overestimate. A lot of fat drips off of the pork belly as it cooks, lowering the calorie content. I also did not include the salt in the nutrition information, as it mostly gets wiped away.
Even with the air fryer helping to lower the fat, pork belly is still an extremely high-fat and high-calorie food. I would encourage you to think of pork belly in the same way you'd think of bacon. It's really more of an added fat rather than a protein food.
Many of the cultures that have pork belly as a more common food in the diet use it in small amounts in dishes. If you have a fat loss goal, it may be better to think of pork belly as a condiment to add flavor. Give other foods (protein, veggies, whole grains) the starring role on your plate.
I love pork belly, so I included a rather large portion on my plate. However, I balanced things out by keeping the rest of the meal pretty light, with applesauce and non-starchy veggies. As in my keto zucchini boats with chorizo recipe, this is another example of pairing high-calorie fatty meat with low-calorie veggies.
No matter what dietary strategy you are using for weight loss, you need to maintain a calorie deficit to lose weight. I recommend remaining mindful of your fat intake if you are following a low carb or keto diet for weight loss.
The calories in high fat foods such as pork belly can rack up quickly. If you aren't mindful of your intake, it could end up creating a barrier to you reaching your goals.
What goes with air fryer pork belly?
Add some fruits and/or veggies to this pork belly air fryer recipe to round out the meal. Here are some suggestions of side dishes for pork belly:
- Slow Cooker Applesauce Recipe (No Sugar Added!)
- Slow Cooker Pear Sauce
- Cranberry Pear Salsa with Ginger and Orange
You could warm the pear sauce or applesauce and spoon it over the pork belly. An alternative would be to serve a fruit salsa, such as the cranberry pear salsa, on top.
I'd also include some non-starchy veggies with the meal. I went with a mix of zucchini and carrots, but you could do side salads or whatever veggies you prefer instead.
Frequently Asked Questions
Where can I buy pork belly?
Your neighborhood supermarket may not carry pork belly, but luckily, it is not too difficult to obtain. For the best price, I recommend buying pork belly at grocery stores that specialize in East Asian foods. I obtained the pork belly in this recipe from Whole Foods through Amazon.
Is pork belly Paleo?
Yes, pork belly should be a good fit for most Paleo diet plans. Outside of dairy products, animal-based foods are typically highly encouraged as part of the Paleo diet, particularly if they are pastured foods.
The Paleo diet isn't a strictly defined diet, such as the diets that are used as medical nutrition therapies in hospitals. Paleo diets are generally tailored to how a person feels when eating a certain way.
That said, many restrict grains, dairy, legumes, and white potatoes when following a Paleo diet plan. Beef, pork, chicken, fish, and eggs are all definitely still on the menu.
Do air fryers produce crispy just like fried foods that can match deep frying?
With the right recipe, you can create crisp foods with an air fryer that may rival deep frying. However, most foods "fried" in an air fryer will not be exactly like deep fried foods.
Instead of thinking of an air fryer as a deep fryer, I recommend thinking of it as a mini convection oven. These two kitchen appliances will cook your foods in a very similar way. In fact, I think an air fryer is unnecessary if you already own a convection oven.
Other Recipes You May Enjoy
With an air fryer, you can crisp up many of your favorite foods easily, not just pork belly! After you make this pork belly air fryer recipe, you might like these other air fryer recipes:
- Air Fryer Tofu Bowls with Ginger-Lime Aioli
- Air Fryer Calamari – Crispy Squid Rings Recipe
- Jibarito with Air Fryer Tostones
- Air Fryer Coconut Shrimp with Pineapple Dipping Sauce
- Air Fryer Jicama Fries with Cilantro-Lime Dipping Sauce
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And now for the disclaimer…
All recipes on this website may or may not be appropriate for you, depending on your medical needs and personal preferences. Consult with a registered dietitian or your physician if you need help determining the dietary pattern that may be best for you.
The nutrition information is an estimate provided as a courtesy. It will differ depending on the specific brands and ingredients that you use. Calorie information on food labels may be wildly inaccurate, so please don't sweat the numbers too much.
For more information on how the three recipe levels may help with a weight management goal, refer to my overnight oats with yogurt post. Let's get cooking!
Pork Belly Air Fryer Recipe
For the air fryer pork belly:
- 1½ lbs. pork belly, skin attached
- 1 teaspoon finely ground sea salt
- ½ tablespoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon dried sage
- ½ teaspoon dried thyme
- ½ teaspoon dried rosemary
- cooking oil spray of choice
For the side dishes (not included in nutrition information):
- 1½ cups cinnamon applesauce (store-bought or try my SlowCooker Applesauce Recipe)
- 1 lb. carrots, chopped
- 18 ounces zucchini, chopped
- 2 tablespoons bacon fat
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
- salt and pepper, to taste
To make air fryer pork belly:
- Start this recipe the night before you want pork belly for dinner! Using a metal skewer, punch holes into the pork belly skin, about 1½-2 inches apart. Try not to poke all the way through the meat (though it's OK if it happens sometimes).
- Rub all sides of the pork belly with the salt. Let the pork belly sit, skin side up, on a plate in the fridge overnight. Wipe any excess moisture that forms on the plate or the pork belly with paper towels.
- The next evening: mix the baking powder, garlic powder, sage, rosemary, and thyme together. Rub this mixture on all sides of the dried pork belly.
- Mist an air fryer baking tray with cooking spray. Place the pork belly on the tray, skin side up. Generously mist the pork belly skin with the cooking spray. You want the baking powder to be thoroughly moistened by the spray. You can rub the skin of the pork belly if there are any clumps of dry baking powder left after misting with the oil. (Watch the recipe video below for visuals of this process.)
- Place the baking tray in the top rack position in your air fryer oven. The pork belly should not touch the top heating element in the oven. Air fry for 40 minutes at 250°F. Then turn up the heat to 400°F and air fry for an additional 10 minutes. (Check your pork belly at this point. If the skin is not nice and crispy, you may need an additional 10 minutes of cooking time at 400°F.)
- Troubleshooting: If there is some ash or baking powder residue left on the pork belly skin at the end of the cooking time, it will wipe away easily with a paper towel. If you see that your pork belly is bulging in the middle as it cooks, you can move it to the lower rack in the air fryer oven.
- After air frying, let the pork belly rest for 10 minutes. Then slice it into ½" slices.
To make the side dishes:
- Preheat the oven to 400°F. Put the carrots, zucchini, bacon fat, thyme, rosemary, salt, and black pepper in a large roasting pan. Mix well.
- Roast the veggies for 40-50 minutes until the carrots are tender, stirring halfway through cooking time. Keep warm until serving time.
- Shortly before serving, warm the cinnamon applesauce on the stovetop or in a microwave.
- To serve: put ⅙ of the pork belly slices on each plate. Top with about ¼-cup of the warmed applesauce. Serve the roasted carrots and zucchini on the side.
This is a level 3 recipe (weight maintenance and active lifestyles). The nutrition information provided for this recipe below was calculated using raw pork belly and is likely an overestimate. A lot of fat drips off of the pork belly as it cooks, lowering the calorie content. I also did not include the salt in the nutrition information, as it mostly gets wiped away. Even with the air fryer helping to lower the fat, pork belly is still an extremely high-fat and high-calorie food. I would encourage you to think of pork belly in the same way you'd think of bacon. It's really more of an added fat rather than a protein food. Many of the cultures that have pork belly as a more common food in the diet use it in small amounts in dishes. If you have a fat loss goal, it may be better to think of pork belly as a condiment to add flavor. Give other foods (protein, veggies, whole grains) the starring role on your plate. I love pork belly, so I included a rather large portion on my plate. However, I balanced things out by keeping the rest of the meal pretty light, with applesauce and non-starchy veggies. As in my keto zucchini boats with chorizo recipe, this is another example of pairing high-calorie fatty meat with low-calorie veggies. No matter what dietary strategy you are using for weight loss, you need to maintain a calorie deficit to lose weight. I recommend remaining mindful of your fat intake if you are following a low carb or keto diet for weight loss. The calories in high fat foods such as pork belly can rack up quickly. If you aren't mindful of your intake, it could end up creating a barrier to you reaching your goals. Nutrition information is for one serving of the recipe. The applesauce and carrot and zucchini side dish are not included in the nutrition information.