Pork Tocino: What is This Amazing Filipino Dish?

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Pork tocino, or Filipino sweet cured pork, is a native breakfast dish well-loved by many Filipino families. It’s made out of pork cuts, soy sauce, sugar, black paper, and flavorings.

The process of cooking the dish is very simple, but curing meat will take time. Tocino is also one of the main ingredients of tocilog, a Filipino breakfast staple made with tocino, fried rice (sinangag), and eggs (itlog).

The sweet and salty taste of tocino and the warmth it gives early in the morning are enough to give your day a boost! So the next time you’re having a bad morning, have tocino for breakfast.

What is pork tocino

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Origin of pork tocino

The Filipino dish tocino (full recipe here) is native to the Philippines, but its origin can be traced back to the Spanish. “Tocino” literally means “bacon”, or formerly referred to as cured pork from the back of the hog.

And since we already know about the Spaniards’ influence on the Philippines from having colonized it for 333 years, then the passing of food recipes and names should be no surprise.

The preparation of the tocino recipe was then improvised by early Filipino chefs to suit the Filipinos’ love for sweet and salty dishes, especially for hearty breakfast meals.

The Best Cuts of Pork for Making Tocino

When it comes to making pork tocino, the two best cuts of meat to use are belly and shoulder. These parts of the pig are typically used in Filipino cuisine for their fatty and tender qualities, which make them perfect for this sweet and savory dish.

  • Belly: This cut of meat is the fattier of the two, which gives the tocino its oily and succulent texture. It’s also easier to slice and adjust the size of the pieces to match your preference.
  • Shoulder: This cut is leaner than the belly, but still provides enough fat to give the tocino its tender texture. It’s a good substitute if you’re looking for a different variety or want to adjust the nutrition associated with the dish.

Experimenting with Different Cuts

While belly and shoulder are the most commonly used cuts for making tocino, some people have experimented with other parts of the pig. Here are some insights to consider:

  • Half lean and half fatty cuts: This combination gives the tocino a balance of lean and oily texture.
  • Extended parts of the belly: Some people have tried using the extended parts of the belly, which are thinner and leaner than the main part of the belly. This gives the tocino a different texture and flavor.
  • Shoulder and leg: This combination gives the tocino a meatier flavor and texture, which some people may prefer.

Preparing the Meat for the Recipe

Once you have your meat pieces, it’s time to start preparing the marinade. Here’s how to do it:

  • In a resealable container or bag, mix together water, sugar, garlic, salt, and a tablespoon of soy sauce.
  • Add a teaspoon of red food coloring (optional) to give the tocino its signature color.
  • Pour the marinade over the meat, making sure it’s evenly coated.
  • Cover the container or bag and refrigerate for at least 24 hours.
  • When ready to cook, transfer the meat and marinade to a pan and bring to a boil.
  • Lower the heat and let it simmer until the meat is completely tender.
  • Slice the tocino into your desired size and serve with rice and eggs for a delicious Filipino breakfast.

Storing the Tocino

If you have leftovers, you can easily store the tocino for later use. Here’s how:

  • Let the tocino cool down to room temperature.
  • Transfer it to a resealable container or bag and refrigerate for up to 3 days.
  • To reheat, simply cook the tocino in a pan with a little bit of oil, stirring occasionally, until heated through.

Making pork tocino may seem hard, but with the right ingredients and a little bit of fan, you can easily start experimenting with different cuts and find the perfect match for your taste buds. So, if you’re feeling hungry and want to save some data on convenience food, try making tocino at home!

The Secret Ingredient That Gives Pork Tocino Its Signature Red Color

The natural coloring ingredient in pork tocino is annatto powder. Annatto is a type of seed that is commonly used as a natural food coloring in Filipino cuisine. It gives tocino its signature red color and a slightly sweet taste.

How is annatto powder used in making pork tocino?

To make pork tocino, annatto powder is usually combined with other ingredients such as garlic, pineapple juice, and granulated sugar to create a marinade. The marinade is then mixed with thinly sliced pork slices and left to cure for a few days to bring out the flavor.

What are the other ingredients commonly used in pork tocino?

Aside from annatto powder, other ingredients that are commonly used in pork tocino include:

  • Pineapple juice: This gives tocino a slightly sweet taste and helps to tenderize the meat.
  • Garlic: This adds a hint of flavor to the dish.
  • Granulated sugar: This helps to balance out the flavors and gives tocino a slightly sweet taste.

Can annatto powder be substituted with other ingredients?

While annatto powder is the traditional ingredient used to give tocino its red color, it can be substituted with other natural food coloring ingredients such as beet powder or paprika. However, it’s important to note that these substitutes may give tocino a slightly different taste and color.

How is pork tocino usually served?

Pork tocino is usually served as a breakfast dish and is often eaten with garlic fried rice and a fried egg. It can also be served as a main dish and is best paired with other Filipino dishes such as chicken adobo or pancit.

How long can pork tocino be stored?

Pork tocino can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months. To store, simply place the tocino slices in an airtight container or plastic bag and keep them in the refrigerator or freezer until ready to use.

Cooking Tips for Perfect Pork Tocino

  • The best cuts of pork for tocino are belly, kasim (shoulder), and boston butt.
  • If you want a leaner option, you can use tenderloin, but it may not be as tender as the other cuts.

Cooking the Pork

  • Heat a flat surface pan over medium-high heat and add a teaspoon of atsuete powder to give the tocino its signature red color.
  • Add the pork slices to the pan and cook for 3-5 minutes on each side, stirring constantly to prevent burning.
  • Reduce the heat to low and cover the pan to allow the tocino to caramelize quickly without drying out.
  • Watch the tocino closely to ensure that it cooks to the right tenderness and doesn’t become too dry or tough.
  • If the tocino is too fatty, you can remove some of the excess fat by blotting it with a paper towel.

Serving Suggestions

  • Pork tocino is a versatile food that can be served in many ways, such as with rice, eggs, or as a BBQ meat.
  • You can also find creative ways to incorporate tocino into other dishes, such as adding it to a stir-fry or using it as a topping for pizza.
  • Enjoy the delicious taste of pork tocino with your friends and family!

Storing Pork Tocino: Tips and Tricks

When it comes to storing pork tocino, it’s essential to keep it fresh and safe to eat. Here are some tips to help you store your pork tocino properly:

  • Always check the package before buying. Make sure it’s not expired and that it contains all the necessary ingredients.
  • If you’re not going to use the pork tocino right away, store it in the refrigerator. You can keep it in the original packaging or transfer it to an airtight container. It can last for up to 3-5 days in the fridge.
  • If you want to extend its shelf life, you can freeze it. Put it in a freezer-safe container or a Ziploc bag and label it with the date. It can last for up to 3 months in the freezer.
  • When you’re ready to cook the pork tocino, remove it from the fridge and let it sit at room temperature for a couple of minutes. This will help it cook more evenly.

Preparing Pork Tocino for Storage

Proper preparation is key to storing pork tocino. Here are some tips to help you prepare your pork tocino for storage:

  • If you’re buying pork tocino from a local market, check the fat content. Some cuts of pork, like the shoulder, can be fatty, which can affect the taste and texture of the dish.
  • When preparing the pork tocino, make sure to mix the ingredients evenly. This will ensure that the flavor is evenly distributed throughout the meat.
  • If you prefer a spicy or sweet taste, you can add more sugar or soy sauce to the mixture. You can also substitute beef for pork if you prefer.
  • When slicing the pork tocino, make sure to cut it into even slices. This will help it cook more evenly.


So there you have it- everything you need to know about pork tocino. It’s a delicious Filipino dish made with pork and rice, and it’s perfect for breakfast or lunch. 

You can’t go wrong with pork tocino, especially if you’re looking for a delicious and easy meal.

Check out our new cookbook

Bitemybun's family recipes with complete meal planner and recipe guide.

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Joost Nusselder, the founder of Bite My Bun is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with Japanese food at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.