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Traeger Pork Belly Burnt Ends with Chinese 5 Spice

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This melt-in-your-mouth tender and zesty Chinese Five Spice pork belly burnt ends recipe for Traeger grills is a unique Asian-inspired twist on regular BBQ burnt ends that everyone will love!

traeger pork belly burnt ends garnished with green onion in white bowl.

At some point in time, we ended up with several pasture-raised pork bellies in the freezer. I don’t know how or why (okay, I guess I do… I got some through a meat subscription, some as a gift, and some when we purchased a half share of a whole hog from a local farmer).

Initially, I had the best intentions of making bacon. However, with the Super Bowl looming a few weeks ago, I wanted to find a way to turn one of them into a delectable appetizer.

I’ve mentioned this before in my Cranberry-BBQ sauce recipe, but I’m not actually the biggest fan of typical BBQ sauce. I just find it a bit, oh, I don’t know… boring? Uninspired?

But I truly appreciate a delicious re-imagined aromatic barbecue sauce with an east Asian twist, and that’s what I have created in this Chinese 5 Spice Orange-flavored BBQ sauce for this pork belly burnt ends recipe on Traeger (or other pellet smoker)!

Why You’ll Love This Delicious Recipe

The GREAT thing about these tender pork belly burnt ends is they are enveloped in smoky flavor and caramelized in the delicious orange 5-spice BBQ sauce to become sticky bites of savory meat candy. So incredible!

What is Chinese 5 Spice?

Chinese 5 spice is a blend of 5 spices used often in Chinese cuisine, including star anise, Szechuan peppercorns, cinnamon, fennel seeds, and cloves. Occasionally, you can find slight variations on the exact makeup of 5-spice, but these are the typical spices in the blend.

You can buy Chinese 5 Spice as a pre-made blend at your local grocery store or make it yourself with the individual spices. If you need a substitute for the Chinese 5 spice, check out the “Swaps & Variations” section of this post.

​What is Pork Belly?

Pork belly is a boneless but fatty cut of meat that comes from the belly of the pig. Bacon is pork belly that is cured either with natural nitrites (like celery salt) or with curing salt and then sliced. Even “uncured” bacon is actually still cured, they just use different curing salts with “naturally occurring” nitrites.

Uncured pork belly is just that–pork belly. Not bacon. But this pork belly recipe is still tender and delicious and makes for an amazing BBQ appetizer that everybody will keep reaching for.

traeger pork belly burnt ends garnished with green onion in white bowl.

Ingredients

To make this delicious Chinese 5 Spice pork belly burnt ends recipe on Traeger, you need:

  • Pork Belly – You need a 2-3 lb slab of skinless pork belly. If your pork belly has skin, cut that off first. I like pasture-raised pork for the best possible fatty acid profile.
  • Spices – We use an array of spices in the seasoning for this pork belly, including sea salt, black pepper, Chinese 5 Spice powder, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, and chili powder. If you need a substitute for the Chinese 5 spice, check out the “Swaps & Variations” section.
  • Apple Cider Vinegar​ – You can use apple cider vinegar mixed with some water to spray the pork belly during the smoking process to keep it from drying out, but this is optional.
  • BBQ Sauce of Choice – Use a good quality store-bought BBQ sauce. I use a sugar-free sauce for this recipe to keep the added sugars down, but you can use whatever kind you want.
  • Navel Orange​ – You need the orange for its zest and its juice.
  • Green Onion​ – Sliced green onion makes a great garnish!
pork belly burnt ends traeger ingredients on wooden backdrop.

Instructions

Smoking your pork belly burnt ends on your Traeger couldn’t be easier!

cutting pork belly into cubes.

1. Prep Pork Belly

Preheat your Traeger temperature to 275F. Cut your pork belly into 1-inch cubes using a very sharp knife and place in a large mixing bowl.

pork belly getting seasoned for the traeger.

2. Season Pork Belly

Mix together your seasonings–salt, pepper, Chinese 5 Spice, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, and chili powder. Whisk together and pour over the pork belly cubes. Use your hands to help mix and so all sides of the pork belly cubes are coated in seasoning.

smoking pork belly burnt ends on the Traeger grill.

3. Smoke the Pork Belly

Place the cubed pork belly evenly spaced apart on a wire rack, fat side down. Place the wire rack directly on the grill grates. Smoke for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours (depends how big you cut the cubes) or until the internal temperature reaches 190F-195F when a thermometer is inserted.

spraying pork belly cubes with apple cider vinegar.

4. Spritz Pork if Needed

Check on the cubes of pork belly every half hour to ensure they’re not drying out. If needed, mix the 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar and 1/4 cup water together in a spray bottle and spritz the pork belly to help it stay moist.

whisking the orange 5 spice bbq sauce in glass bowl.

5. Mix BBQ Sauce

As the pork is cooking, mix your BBQ sauce. Add the 1 cup BBQ sauce to a medium bowl. Zest the navel orange into the sauce, then quarter the orange and squeeze the juice into the bowl. Add the Chinese 5 Spice powder and whisk together. This is a delicately sweet sauce perfect for our pork belly. Set aside.

placing bbq sauce and burnt ends in a foil pan on the traeger.

6. Toss Pork in BBQ

When the pork belly reaches 190-195F internal temperature, use tongs to pick each piece off the rack and place in a 9×13 disposable pan (or use a regular pan lined with aluminum foil). Remove the wire rack from the smoker grates and replace it with the foil pan. Pour the BBQ sauce over the pork belly pieces and gently toss to coat.

scooping burnt ends out of a foil pan with blue spoon.

7. Reduce Sauce

Close the Traeger and let the pork belly cook for another hour or until the sauce has reduced and caramelized.

traeger pork belly garnished with green onion in white bowl.

8. Serve

Garnish these tender chunks of pork belly burnt ends with sliced green onions and serve!

Quick Tips

Keep an eye on the internal temperature. The smoking time can vary quite a bit depending on how big you cut your pork belly cubes. I kept mine on the smaller side and they took less than an hour and a half to reach 190F. If you cut them large, they may take up to 3 hours. I love my Meater thermometer, but any meat thermometer will do.

Swaps & Variations

If you do not have access to a Chinese 5 Spice blend, there are two options for replacement:

  1. You can make your own blend using what you do have from the following: cinnamon, star anise, fennel seeds, sezchuan peppercorns, and cloves. Use equal amounts of what you do have to get 3-4 teaspoons of total spice.
  2. Another option is to use allspice. Allspice is the unripe fruit of a Jamaican tree dried and ground into a spice. It has warm flavoring with similar notes to the unique spices in Chinese 5 Spice, and it would taste great as a substitute. It’s also easy to find at most stores.

If you want a spicier rub, add a pinch of cayenne pepper to your seasoning mix.

Serving Suggestions

These make a delicious appetizer to serve alongside my sausage stuffed mini peppers and roast beef & cheddar Hawaiian Roll sliders. If you’d like to eat them as part of a meal, serve them with some warm rice and steamed vegetables!

Want some other delicious smoker recipes? Try my Citrus Rubbed Spatchcock Chicken or my Traeger Chicken Drumsticks with Chimichurri Sauce.

Nutritional Information

This recipe makes 8-12 servings. The details below are estimated based on my 2-lb pork belly and sugar-free BBQ sauce. Your stats may vary.

  • Calories: 406
  • Protein: 12 grams
  • Fat: 61 grams
  • Carbs: 19 grams

This pork belly burnt ends recipe on the Traeger is not a low-calorie meal. Rather, these are an indulgent snack or appetizer to be enjoyed as part of a balanced lifestyle. They’re absolutely delicious and a great use for any pork belly you may have stashed in your freezer!

Recipe Notes

These burnt ends probably won’t last long, but if you have leftovers, store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

You can gently reheat these the next day or beyond in the microwave or air fryer, but make sure you don’t overcook them in a way that makes them rubbery or dry.

To reheat in the microwave, start with 30 seconds to 1 minute, check on them, stir, and then add increments of 30 seconds at a time as needed. For the air fryer, preheat to 360F and start with 5 minutes. If they need more, add 1 minute at a time until they’re heated to your liking.

traeger pork belly burnt ends garnished with green onion in white bowl.

FAQ

What type of wood chips/Traeger pellets should I use?

You can use your favorite Traeger pellets for this recipe! I love the Kirkland (Costco) brand pellets and you can’t beat the price. The Traeger signature blend is also great. If you’d like a blend specific to pork, try the apple wood pellets.

Do you cut the skin off pork belly for burnt ends?

This recipe uses skinless pork belly. Much of the time, you can buy it that way. If yours has skin on it, you can cut it off. Sometimes people make pork belly with the skin on, but the cooking method in this recipe isn’t suited for that.

Why are my pork belly burnt ends on Traeger too hard?

Your burnt ends are probably hard because you cooked them too long. Keep an eye on the internal temperature and spritz them with the apple cider vinegar/water mixture to keep them moist as they smoke.

Did You Make This Recipe?

Please leave a comment and review! It means the world!

traeger pork belly burnt ends garnished with green onion in white bowl.
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BBQ Orange Pork Belly Burnt Ends on the Traeger with Chinese 5 Spice

These tender and delicious pork belly burnt ends on Traeger are carmelized in an orange-flavored Chinese 5 Spice BBQ sauce.
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time3 hours
Total Time3 hours 10 minutes
Course: Appetizer, Main Course, Snack
Cuisine: American
Keyword: pork belly burnt ends, traeger, Traeger pork belly, traeger recipes
Servings: 8
Calories: 406kcal
Author: Holly Lee
Cost: $20

Equipment

Ingredients

Pork Belly

  • 2-3 lb pork belly
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 2 tsp Chinese 5 spice powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup water

BBQ Sauce

  • 1 cup BBQ sauce of choice
  • 1 navel orange for zest and juice
  • 1-2 tsp Chinese 5 spice powder
  • 1/4 cup sliced green onion for garnish

Instructions

  • Turn on your Traeger grill (or other smoker) and preheat to 275F. Cut your pork belly into 1-in cubes and place in a large mixing bowl.
  • Mix together your seasonings–salt, pepper, Chinese 5 Spice, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, and chili powder. Whisk together and pour over the pork belly cubes. Use your hands to help mix and make sure each piece is evenly coated.
  • Place the pork belly cubes evenly spaced apart on a wire rack, fat side down. Place the wire rack directly on the Traeger grates. Smoke for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours (depends how big you cut the cubes) or until the internal temperature reaches 190F-195F when a thermometer is inserted.
  • Check on the pork belly every 30-45 minutes to ensure it's not drying out, and if needed, mix the 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar and 1/4 cup water together in a spray bottle and spritz the pork belly to help it stay moist.
  • As the pork is cooking, mix together your BBQ sauce. Add the 1 cup BBQ sauce to a medium mixing bowl. Zest the navel orange into the sauce, then quarter the orange and squeeze the juice into the bowl. Add the Chinese 5 Spice powder. Whisk together and set aside until the pork is ready.
  • When the pork belly reaches 190-195F internal temperature, remove the wire rack from the smoker. Use a set of tongs to pick each piece up and place in a 9×13 aluminum pan. Pour the BBQ sauce over the pork belly pieces and gently toss to coat.
  • Place the uncovered pan back on the Traeger grates and cook for another hour or until the sauce has reduced and caramelized.

Video

Notes

** Nutrition Stats are an estimate based on my chosen ingredients, including a sugar-free BBQ sauce and 2-lb pork belly.
Store leftover pork belly in an airtight container in the fridge. It is good for up to 4 days.
 

Nutrition

Calories: 406kcal | Carbohydrates: 19g | Protein: 12g | Fat: 61g | Saturated Fat: 22g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 7g | Monounsaturated Fat: 28g | Cholesterol: 82mg | Sodium: 993mg | Potassium: 388mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 14g | Vitamin A: 370IU | Vitamin C: 12mg | Calcium: 43mg | Iron: 2mg

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