Vegan Char Siu or Chinese BBQ Pork Ribs




All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2016

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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One of my all-time favorite foods, since childhood, is BBQ ribs – especially of the Chinese variety.  Sticky, sweet & chewy – just delicious.  I lived above a Chinese take-out while I was in high school & smelled this shit cooking every day & never tired of it.  Even as the grease filled the air & I could feel my skin breaking out – I still craved these all the time – even if I only let myself have them on special occasions – mainly because I perceived them as extremely fattening and bad for you.

Then I gave up meat in the eighties & all ribs of all varieties fell forever from my diet.

Still – I craved that BBQ sauce & would have my mother send me the Ah-So Sauce (below)  – a brand not available in Los Angeles – and I would stir it into rice or dip vegetables in it.  It was not nearly as satisfying as ribs but I learned to live with it.

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Chinese BBQ pork is called Char Siu.  Lee Kum Kee brand is widely available & certainly available online.  I saw this jar on a shelf & a great idea popped into my mind.  Why not make BBQ pork using Beyond Meat vegan chicken?  Why not, indeed!  Their chicken strips have a texture that can be experienced as chicken OR pork – as pork & chicken really do have a very similar quality.   And – I also decided to make the Char Siu sauce from scratch.  The ingredients are not terribly exotic & can certainly be purchased online – if your local ethnic or regular grocery stores don’t have them all.  The result was visually vibrant & the flavor is dead on.  I recommend this dish very highly!  You could also chop these “ribs” up & make a pork fried rice that would feel even the most deenerate carnivore.

I marinated the chicken overnight (in the bag) but that is totally unnecessary.  You can whip these up in ten minutes & feel all take-out Chinese-y & get your late night, OMG-I-drank-too-much experience right in the comfort of your own kitchen.

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Vegan Char Siu or Chinese BBQ Pork Ribs

Serves 2 as an appetizer – double the marinade recipe if you like lots of BBQ sauce on your ribs


9-12 oz vegan chicken (or seitan strips)

1/2 tsp Chinese 5 Spice

2 TBS agave nectar

2 TBS Shao Xing Chinese rice wine

1 TBS hoisin sauce

1 TBS Thai chili sauce

1 TBS dark soy sauce

2 tsp vegan oyster or mushroom-flavored sauce

2 tsp molasses

1 TBS minced garlic

1 TBS sesame oil

1 tsp red food coloring (critical for the fiery red color)

GARNISH (optional) – sliced scallions or green garlic

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Blend all the ingredients together & then add the chicken.  Marinate for a few minutes – or overnight.  I did this right in the Beyond Meat packaging.

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When you are ready to cook them – heat a pan treated with cooking spray.  Add the MARINADE first & heat until it bubbles.  Add the chicken & cook, on high, turning often.  The idea is to let them get a bit blackened.  The sauce will thicken very quickly – which is why I suggesting doubling the marinade recipe if you like lots of sticky BBQ sauce.  You could even heat part of the marinade in a separate pan & pour it over your finished ribs.

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29 thoughts on “Vegan Char Siu or Chinese BBQ Pork Ribs

  1. Your recipes look so great but are they VEGAN? If they are, why do you call them “pork”, “ribs”, etc.? These names worry me-even the IDEA of comparing vegan or vegetarian food puts me off, terribly. I would like to know if there are animal products or not in your recipes- Thanks for any eventual response-

    Joyce Shulman (an American, living in Italy)


    • Thanks! I am confused that – as a vegan – you have never heard of vegan “meat” referred to as fish or chicken or beef etc. Gardein & Beyond Meat & Field Roast & Tofurkey etc all make fake meats & indicate which meat it is they are replicating. Just like vegan milks & butter & cheese. None of them really ARE milk, butter or cheese – but rather – replacements for them. Are you confused by the phrase “vegan cheese?” Anyway – I am not trying to trick anyone here. Read the ingredients list. See anything not vegan there? It isn’t like I am making this to serve to you. YOU make it – so – I think any non-vegan ingredients would jump right out at you – no? 🙂

      Many vegans LOVED meat but gave it up for ethical reasons. That is why there are so many efforts at vegan bacon etc. Also – many meat eaters would eat LESS meat if there were reasonable replacements for meat. So – I called this dish BBQ pork ribs because they are a REALLY convincing VEGAN copy. Anyone who used to love Chinese ribs but no longer eats pork would love these. And maybe – by presenting recipes like this – I can incrementally change the diets of hundreds & thousands of meat eaters.

      Liked by 3 people

      • I follow a vegan chef who calls his creations “porq”, “beaf”, “cheez” … and I really feel that these analogs cater more to the tastes we associate with the preparation of animal products, rather than the actual taste of beef, chicken, pork, etc. Keep up the good work!


      • I do advocate for not calling plant foods names associated with animals. The more people get used to foods like chickpea salad-not vegan egg salad-the more better I think they’ll adapt.
        On the other hand saying pork beef even chicken represent tastes more than flesh. No one ever tries to replicate a slab of animal muscle!
        But really, I’d rather call things by their flavoring. Herby broth for ‘chicken’, savory for beef…


    • This is the best analogy I can come up with- when you say ‘sausage’, ‘bacon’, ‘ham’, you’re describing tastes, not animal flesh. I’ve never come across a vegan sub for just raw meat! You can take the meat out of bacon and still have bacon taste
      I remember when turkey starting being used as bacon, sausage and ham. People were adamant about turkey not being those things! Now look, it’s totally accepted! Someday vegan things will be just as accepted-we’re getting there -tofu is gaining popularity quickly
      I will say, I can’t go near Beyond Meat chik’n! It really reminds me too much of the nasty rotisserie chickens that keep out of most stores. Your Chinese riblet recipe does sound amazing though! I should try with seitan!


    • Joyce, here’s your trigger alert. I am a new vegan. My husband is a new vegan. He’s a 61 y/o white dude from the sticks who used to hunt with a crossbow. Do you have any idea how difficult it has been to get him on track with a vegan eating plan? He LOVES it now. I am GRATEFUL for recipes that hearken back to that which is immoral and expensive, without actually perpetuating an immoral and expensive and unhealthy lifestyle. It may be horribly offensive to you, but when I’m looking for satisfying vegan recipes for myself and the husband, I think in meaty synonyms. Because it’s what I know. And it’s what I’m seeking. Because I still crave Arby’s, and I’m trying to do the next best thing. I don’t google soy ribs. Not tofu chicken. Not seitan pork. Not TVP beef. Basically, the soapbox vegan has no place in the practical world. It makes people like us run screaming in the other direction. Calm down.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Joyce, you aren’t eating her food, you’ll be making it YOURSELF…why worry about whether it’s vegan when you will be purchasing the ingredients yourself…no one is trying to trick you into eating meat, if you actually READ the recipe, you will see, there are no animal products in them…a rose by any other name…


  3. YUM! I tweaked your recipe a little bit (not much!), doubled it, and used Butler soy curls. I threw all of the ingredients in a gallon Ziploc bag, added some sesame seeds, kneaded it all together, then added the drained soy curls. I put the whole thing in the fridge to marinate and then threw the entire contents in a wok pan. Once they were heated through, using tongs, I put the marinated soy curls in my air fryer (made for a more pork-like texture) and when I plated them, I drizzled them with the sauce that remained in the pan and garnished with green onion and more sesame seeds, I served it with sticky rice and veggie goyoza for a ridiculously delicious dinner! THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THIS RECIPE!


  4. Hi Christine. Can’t wait to try this recipe! I’m making it as an appetizer/ hors d’oeuvre for an all-vegan New Year’s Eve celebration. But I’m wondering, what do you use for the red food coloring? Is there a natural, vegan product you can recommend? TIA and happy New Year!


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  7. This looks amazing! Quick Question: Beyond meat chicken strips have been discontinued, would you recommend another vegan chicken strip? Would the Gardein chicken strips work? Thank you very much and I’m excited to make this!


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