Home Korean Pulled Pork Belly Sandwiches

Korean Pulled Pork Belly Sandwiches

by Brad Prose

Prepare to get messy when crushing these Korean Pulled Pork Belly Sandwiches. Crispy, smoked pork belly is shredded and topped with a spicy Korean honey mustard sauce. Grab some napkins and dive in!

Messy pulled pork belly sandwiches and Korean honey mustard.

This recipe was originally created in collaboration with Derek Wolf at Over The Fire Cooking.


Pulled pork sandwiches are a barbecue classic, but pulled pork belly shouldn’t be overlooked. Loaded with crispy textures, meaty bites, and glistening fat, smoked pork belly is asking to be added to your menu. Topping it with sweet, intense heat from the Korean honey mustard just makes these sandwiches absolutely irresistible.

Check out some of these other Korean BBQ recipes such as Korean Grilled Ribeye with Gochujang Sauce, Gochujang Chili Con Carne, Fiery Korean Chicken, or Kimchi Potato Salad.

Why You’ll Love Pulled Pork Belly

If you love this website, there’s a chance you’re the type of person that already enjoys pork belly. Smoking it to tender perfection for shredding really takes it to another level. Here are some reasons why you’ll fall in love with pulled pork belly:

  • Hearty, meaty, and fatty. The variance of texture creates a dynamic bite every time.
  • Crusty bark. Fat on the outside of smoked pork belly tends to crisp up more, adding an extra crunch.
  • Minimal prep. Open it out of the package and it’s pretty much ready to go.
  • Forgiving, due to fat content. Just like smoked pork shoulder, pork belly is also very easy to smoke.
It's time to eat these Korean pulled pork belly sandwiches.

First, you have to prep. I mentioned that prepping the pork belly was simple, and I wasn’t kidding. Here are a few basic steps with some tips for the best results:

Prepping the Pork Belly

STEP 1: Clean the pork belly. Take it out of its package, usually a cryovac bag. Wipe it clean with paper towels and use a sharp knife to clean up any thin or odd edges that might be present.

STEP 2: Score the fat cap. This will allow more penetration for seasoning but also gives the fat a chance to crisp up more.

STEP 3: Season generously. Use your preferred seasoning, whether it is homemade (recipe below) or a premade Korean BBQ Blend. Make sure to rub the seasoning in all of the cracks that were scored into the fat cap.

STEP 4: Dry-brine in the fridge. This is optional, but I highly recommend it. The salt will draw out excess moisture, giving the pork a much more crispy bark during the smoke process. If you have the time, do it. Dry-brine the pork belly on a wire rack with a baking sheet in the fridge, uncovered, overnight.

Seasoning the Pork Belly with Korean Flavors

Korean BBQ is hot on the scene with spicy, funky flavors of chiles and fermented ingredients. Transferring those Korean BBQ spices to pork belly isn’t a stretch, and works incredibly well. Having the right combination creates an incredibly crusty, flavorful bark on the outside.

Korean BBQ Seasoning

  • 2 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
  • 1 teaspoon whole yellow mustard seeds
  • 3 tablespoons gochugaru flakes
  • 3 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons sesame seeds (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon granulated garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger powder

The first 3 spices are toasted briefly to bring out the aromatics and oils before being ground. Mixed with the rest, the spices will stay pretty fresh for up to about 6 months. Sesame seeds are optional, and you can mix white with the black variety for color.

Sometimes it’s easier to grab a bottle and cook. I’ve used the Spiceology Korean BBQ Blend many times with great success. This blend has dehydrated soy, which is pretty unique and adds a slight savory note to the bark. You could brush the pork belly with a little soy before seasoning if you choose to use the homemade blend for a similar taste.

Want a different flavor?

Try coating the pork belly with Smoky Southwest Dry Rub for a more traditional barbecue flavor profile with robust chile flavors.

Smoking the Pork Belly for Shredding

YES, the pork belly will actually shred apart if cooked properly. The high-fat content ribboned through the meaty pork will render down, creating soft pockets allowing the meat to shred into long strands. I discovered this when making a smoked pork belly, thinking I was just going to slice it like a brisket. It ended up being a little too tender and started pulling apart.

Preheat your smoker to 250°F. Set the seasoned pork belly in the smoker and cook at that temperature all the way through. This is going to be on the smoker for about 6-7 hours depending on the size and fat content of your pork belly, so get ready for a longer cook.

REST IS BEST

The biggest key for the pork belly to shred properly is appropriate resting time. Rest the pork belly, wrapped in butcher paper for at least an hour at room temperature. I recommend allowing it to rest at room temperature until it’s about 190°F and placing it in an insulated cooler or oven (not turned on) for at least an hour.

Resting allows the muscle fibers to relax and distribute the juices back into the center. The meat will be willing to shred much easier.

Watch the temperature for safety, it should not drop below 145°F.

Look at that crusty bark on the smoked pork belly

Ideal Toppings

  • Korean Honey Mustard: Think of it as the BBQ sauce for this sandwich. Spicy, sweet, and acidic flavors brighten up the sandwich and take this over the top.
  • Kimichi: Whether it’s chopped or in a slaw, this funky cabbage provides some crunch and savory notes. Always a fun addition to anything with Korean flavor profiles
  • White Onions: Raw, white onions would be an incredible contrast of crunch and sharpness to balance out the flavors. This is my top choice aside from the Korean honey mustard.
  • Pickles: Whether it’s cucumber pickles or another vegetable, having an acidic crunch would taste delicious and cut through the rich flavors of pulled pork belly.
Mixing the Korean honey mustard.
Chopping the pulled pork belly for sandwiches

Frequently Asked Questions

Will the pork belly really shred?

Yes, in most cases it will. Sometimes the strands will shred to very long lengths, and you may need to chop them into smaller pieces. I recommend using a heavy blade such as a meat cleaver to chop the strands into smaller pieces.

My pork belly didn’t pull apart, what should I do next time?

Usually, this doesn’t happen for one of two reasons: It was pulled off the smoker early, or it wasn’t rested properly. Make sure that the pork belly is exceptionally tender when coming off the smoker, to the point that the temperature probe slides right through as if it felt like a jar of peanut butter. Make sure the pork belly rests for at least an hour, and feel free to try traditional foil instead of butcher paper if you’re still having issues.

Can you smoke this pork belly in a pellet grill?

Yes, you absolutely can. The photos show a wood-fired cabinet smoker, but You can achieve these same results in a pellet smoker, charcoal grill, or even a gas grill. With the correct setup, the only thing you need to worry about is smoke and temperature.

Should I use a water pan in the smoker?

The pork has quite a bit of moisture from the fat content. I’ve found that adding a water pan prevents a crusty bark from forming as well. Living in Arizona means that I’m smoking in pretty dry weather, which is a good place to test for the need to add moisture to the smoker. Don’t bother attempting to lower the humidity, but increasing it likely will affect the development of a bark.

Messy pile of pulled pork belly with sandwiches.

More Smoked Pork Recipes to Fire Up!

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Korean Pulled Pork Belly Sandwiches

  • Total Time: 7 hours 30 minutes
  • Yield: Serves about 10 1x

Ingredients

Scale

Pork Belly

  • 68 pound pork belly, no skin
  • 6 tablespoons Korean BBQ Seasoning (recipe below)
  • 45 diced scallions, for garnish
  • Bread rolls, or buns for serving

Korean BBQ Seasoning

  • 2 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
  • 1 teaspoon whole yellow mustard seeds
  • 3 tablespoons gochugaru flakes
  • 3 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons sesame seeds (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon granulated garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger powder

Korean Honey Mustard

  • ½ cup gochujang
  • 4 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 ½ tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 ½ tablespoons honey
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • Water as needed to thin out

Instructions

  1. Prepare the seasoning blend by toasting the peppercorns, fennel seeds, and mustard seeds in a small pan over medium heat for a few minutes until aromatic. Grind these spices to a medium coarse, and mix with the rest of the ingredients when cool. Taste and adjust.
  2. Prep the pork belly. Wipe the pork belly clean, and score the fat cap with a crosshatch pattern, going about 1/4″ deep. Season all sides with the Korean BBQ spices, rubbing into all of the crevices and cuts on the fat cap. If possible set the pork belly on a wire rack with a baking sheet and allow it to rest in the fridge, uncovered for at least 4 hours, up to overnight.
  3. Preheat your smoker to 250°F. Take the pork belly out of the fridge and allow it to rest at room temp while the smoker warms up.
  4. Smoke the pork belly. You may need to spritz it with apple cider vinegar on the edges while it cooks, after the first two hours. Make sure the edges stay as moist.
  5. Prepare the sauce. Mix all of the ingredients together to make the Korean honey mustard. Add a little water as needed to thin it out as much as you’d like. Taste and adjust.
  6. Temp and rest. Smoke the pork belly for about 6-7 hours, or until it registers around 200-205°F. I’ve had some go as high as 208-210°F before being tender enough. Use a temp probe or toothpick, it should slide right through the smoked pork belly with little resistance. Remove the pork belly and immediately wrap in butcher paper. Allow it to rest on the counter at room temperature until it falls to at least 190°F before placing it in a cooler for resting. Monitor the temperature and allow it to rest at least for a full hour before shredding.
  7. Shred and serve. Pull the meat apart into strands, you may need to chop it into servable pieces for sandwiches. Build the pulled pork belly sandwiches and top with Korean honey mustard and scallions.

Notes

Read through the article for tips on making sure you have a crispy bark, and tender pork belly for shredding.

  • Author: Brad Prose
  • Prep Time: 30
  • Cook Time: 7 hours
  • Category: Pork
  • Method: Smoking
  • Cuisine: Korean BBQ

Keywords: Korean BBQ, gochujang, shredded pork belly, pulled pork belly, smoked pork belly, spicy food, smoked pork sandwich

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