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Pork tocino

Sun, 28 May, 2023

Tocino is Spanish for bacon. And in the Philippines it’s the synonym for the most unbelievable pork dish.

pork tocino

What is pork tocino?

Pork tocino is a sweet cured pork dish that is typically served for breakfast, lunch and dinner in the Philippines. It originated in Spain and was introduced to the Philippines during the Spanish colonization. However, Filipinos have made this dish completely their own by adding flavours that are a hallmark of Filipino cuisine: sweet, garlicky, and peppery.

The process of making tocino differs from each region of the Philippines. There are many varieties of the dish using pork slices, chicken and even beef.

It is a classic dish that has been enjoyed by generations and can be served with rice, fried eggs, and tomato slices. The word ‘tocino’ comes from the Spanish word for bacon but when it comes to Filipino cuisine, it is different from what we can find in a British bacon butty.

filipino cured pork

Filipino cooking

Filipino cuisine is a fusion of different cultures such as Malay, Chinese, Spanish and American. Some popular Filipino dishes include adobo, sinigang, kare-kare, lechon and many more. And yet it is sometimes severely disdained by various cooking experts and pronounced to be junk copied blindly on American style of eating.

Perhaps compared with other South East Asian cuisines, Filipino food is not spicy or exotic enough; too sweet or too bland. But to be honest, I am certainly not out to judge flavoursome, vibrantly coloured, marinated meat having grown up on sad East European pork seasoned with salt and maybe pepper if my Mum was feeling reckless!

I’ve not been fortunate enough to have had the typical breakfast of tosilog: tocino, sinangág (garlic rice) and itlóg (egg) in Manila, but I can certainly say that the western take on the dish produces excellent results. Just imagine how gorgeous the real deal must taste like!

filipino cured and fried pork shoulder slices

How is Filipino bacon made?

In the Philippines they cure the pork in the juice of a native fruit called annatto, which, apart from tart sweetness, gives the meat bright crimson colour. Since it is broadly unavailable outside South East Asia, the recipe from New York Times Cooking suggests using a combination of beetroot and pineapple juice.

So how to go about preparing that peculiar Asian-Caribbean (because they have a similar dish also in West Indies) kind of bacon?

The meat is either pork belly or, like what I’m using, pork neck aka shoulder. It is sliced thinly and marinated in the crimson concoction of beet and pineapple juice, brown sugar, soy sauce for the bacon-like saltiness, and lots of crushed garlic because you have to have garlic with pork.

The marinating process needs at least 24 hours and up to 2 days.

tocino marinating

And then what? How to cook pork tocino?

Frying is the most common method of cooking tocino in the Philippines. However, you can also grill it or bake it in the oven if you prefer. But the slowly caramelised slices, crispening around the edges and burnished in the middle are hard to resist.

Just like bacon, you should add tocino slices to a cold pan. You’re aiming for slow and gradual caramelisation rather than flash searing.

A non-stick pan is the easiest to handle in the preparation of this dish, but a well-seasoned cast iron skillet will serve as well if not better.

And then you can go full Filipino and serve it with rice and egg, or westernise the experience, load the tocino into a fat big bread roll and call it a fusion bacon sandwich. Either way, you will enjoy it tremendously.

tocino the filipino bacon

You could also use pork tocino in one of these recipes, to replace ordinary bacon:

Spicy salad of bacon and cucumber mixed with new potatoes and served warm. Cured pork appears often in Chinese cuisine, often paired with Sichuan pepper and chilies.

Fresh corn, bacon and avocado salad with crumbled feta and furikake seasoning, on a bed of iceberg lettuce: one of the best main course salads ever.

Cheesy bacon and sweetcorn enchiladas with red salsa, made with crisp, toasted corn tortillas. Assemble and bake them straight away, so they don’t get soggy standing around.

pork tocino bacon from the Phillipines

Pork tocino

Servings: 2-4Time: 20 minutes plus marinating


  • 300g (10 oz.) boneless pork shoulder
  • 80g (12 cup) brown sugar
  • 80g (13 cup) pineapple juice
  • 80g (13 cup) beetroot juice
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 5 garlic cloves
  • 2 tbsp groundnut oil, for frying
  • For the garlic fried rice:
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 tbsp groundnut oil
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 200g (1 cup) cold cooked rice
  • 1 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 1 spring onion, chopped


1. Trim the pork off rind and any excess fat. Cut it into ½ cm/¼ inch slices.

slicing pork shoulder

2. In a bowl stir the sugar, both juices and the soy sauce. Peel the garlic and grate it into the bowl. Whisk until the sugar dissolves.

making marinade for tocino

3. Add the meat and massage each slice with the mixture. Weigh the meat down with a saucer so it’s submerged, cover the bowl with cling film and refrigerate for at least 24 hours and up to 2 days.

4. Take the pork slices out of the marinade and place on a plate.

5. Add the oil to a large non-stick frying pan and place it over medium heat. Add the pork slices to the pan whilst still cold. Cook for about 12-14 minutes, turning the slices over every 2 minutes, until caramelised on both sides. If cooking in batches, keep the cooked meat warm.

pan frying tocino

6. To make garlic fried rice, peel and thinly slice the garlic. Add the oil and butter to another frying pan or wok. Place it over medium heat and add the garlic. As soon as it starts sizzling, turn the heat up and add the rice. Stir it around then leave it to cook undisturbed for a couple of minutes. Stir it again and cook for another minute until hot and a little crisp. Take it off the heat and stir in the parsley.

7. Serve tocino with garlic fried rice sprinkled with spring onions.

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Hello! I'm Anna Gaze, the Cuisine Fiend. Welcome to my recipe collection.

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