Gluten-free Japanese recipes: simmered fatty pork belly

For New Year’s Eve dinner, Hitoshi and I co-hosted a small party where most of the guests had food restrictions.

One that seemed overwhelming at first (but turned out to be an easy fix) was adapting Japanese recipes to make them gluten-free.

lovely floating angels from Finland

Finnish mobile for the holidays, circa 1996

Gluten-free simmered fatty pork belly on rice

The recipe below was translated from Japanese and altered. We doubled it, changed some of the ingredients and forgot the egg.

The easy changes to make it gluten-free were using gluten-free Japanese soy sauce and making sure the sake was pure with no additives.

Warning! This recipe is outstandingly delicious and very simple but it does take at least five (yes, five) hours or longer of boiling time on the stove. Don’t be scared off though. The time spent waiting is more than worth it.

For the pork belly, we have only seen an appropriate cut at Japanese, Korean or Chinese grocers or butchers. The shape of the meat is a box about 20 cm long, 6cm tall and 4cm wide. It doesn’t have to be these measurements but the cut should be large enough to get big chunks of meat with layers of fat and muscle.

Serves 4 to 6 people


  • ~800 grams of fatty pork belly cut into about 10 chunks
  • one bunch of green onions with the bottoms and tops trimmed and cut in half widthwise. (A substitute is Japanese negi. Use about 3 full stalks cut into big chunks.)
  • one large piece of ginger that will give you five large pieces, each about 5cm tall by 2cm wide and 1cm thick
  • water to cover ingredients in the first pot for boil time number one
  • 2.5 cups water for boil time number two
  • 1 cup pure sake – no additives!
  • 4 tablespoons gluten-free Japanese soy sauce
  • 4 tablespoons white table sugar
  • 2 pieces of dried star anise
steps for making simmered pork belly

Hitoshi’s cheat sheet for me


  • one large non-stick frying pan
  • one very large pot with a lid that fits
  • one large pot with a lid that is one size too small


  1. Fry just the surface of the chunks of pork in a non-stick frying pan. Make sure to fry on every side.
  2. Put the pork into a very large pot with the green onion, ginger slices and enough water to generously cover all the ingredients. Cover and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat and simmer gently with the lid on for three hours. Check on the pot every hour or so to make sure there is still enough water covering the ingredients.
  3. Get a new large pot. Transfer only the meat, add the 2.5 cups water, Japanese soy sauce, sake, sugar and star anise. Cover with a lid that is one size smaller than one that would fit. The lid should be sitting directly on top of the ingredients. Bring to a boil and then turn down to simmer gently for two to three hours.
  4. Remove the meat into a bowl and serve on top of freshly cooked Japanese rice.
simmered pork belly

gluten-free super fatty simmered pork belly

Have you tried a great pork belly recipe or a similar dish at a restaurant? What did you like (or not) about them?

13 thoughts on “Gluten-free Japanese recipes: simmered fatty pork belly

  1. My mother-in-law makes a similar dish during Chinese New Year. I am not sure if she boils it for that long, but the recipe sounds a little similar [only substituting rice wine for sake.] My husband’s younger brother loves pork belly and tells me I waste too much as I don’t eat the fat.

  2. This looks so nice. I notice I tend to eat pork mainly in Asian inspired dishes (with the exception of bacon…I love bacon), somehow the recipes appeal more to me than Western pork dishes.

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