Lechon Belly Roll is an easy way of preparing our favorite Philippine lechon by slow roasting pork belly in the oven stuffed with savory herbs and spices like lemongrass, scallion or red onion and garlic.
If prepared and roasted properly, this homemade Lechon Belly Roll is succulent with crispy crackling skin.
Cebu City is known for their stuffed roasted pig while Manila-style is seasoned with a simple salt and pepper which is delicious as well.
Lechon is a Spanish word and also a popular pork dish in Spain and in Latin America.
It is an all-time favorite in the Philippines all year round. When craving for lechon you can easily buy per kilo which is economical. It is still common to find a whole lechon (roasted pig) on special occasions like fiesta, reunion, birthday and other gatherings.
It is roasted for hours in a bamboo spit over charcoal and constantly turned to achieve crispy skin on all sides.
You have the option to purchase a fully grown mature roasted pig or a baby suckling pig known as "lechon de leche" which is more expensive as it is super moist and tender.
The best part of lechon are the skin and belly. These are the desired parts and usually the first to go when serving a whole roasted pig. So it is best to chop the lechon ahead of time so everyone gets a piece of the good stuff.
The carcass of lechon or leftover is made into another delicious dish called paksiw na lechon. As you can see, nothing goes to waste.
Tips to Make Lechon Belly Roll
(1) In the US, it is NOT common to find a whole slab of pork belly sold in local grocery stores. They are sold sliced without the skin.
The best place to get it would be at the Asian store. You have to request and tell them the size you need. If you are lucky and show up early, they might have it available.
PORK SHOULDER PICNIC WITH SKIN is commonly sold in local grocers here in the US. Due to our current situation, I would rather use this than run to the Asian store which is quite far with no guarantee if I can get it.
Pork Shoulder Picnic is well layered with fat but not as moist and tender as Pork Belly. It is great for slow roasting for long period of time. When on sale, they are a great deal!
If you think about it when ordering a whole lechon, don’t you consume this part too!
They are well packaged and can be stored in the freezer right away. I usually cut them in pieces and before storing.
Here in my area, they are sold with skin on one side so it is a perfect alternative for pork belly. Again, it is NOT as tender as pork belly.
(2) Cut the lemongrass into pieces so lechon belly roll is easier to slice. I have it in my garden so I was able to get the most tender stalks.
Store-bought lemongrass are hard long stalks. Use a meat tenderizer to soften and release it aromatic oil. If adding long stalks in pork belly and have a hard time slicing after baking, pull out the lemongrass.
(3) Skin should be thoroughly dry to crisp up when baking.
(4) For a smooth skin, BAKE all the way. Some people prefer a textured bubbly skin, switch to BROIL 2 to 3 minutes before turning off oven.
How to Make Crispy Lechon Skin?
Make sure the skin is dry. Season skin with salt and leave in the fridge uncovered for a few hours or overnight (much better).
Turn lechon belly roll twice while baking and towards the end lightly brush with oil a few times.
This is how I achieve a crispy pork belly skin.
Note: I’ve experimented before by poking skin with fork and without doing it and both yielded crispy skin.
How to Make Lechon Belly Roll
Use Pork Shoulder Picnic if Pork Belly is not available. If using Pork Belly, the same procedure applies.
(1) Wash meat and dry thoroughly with paper towel. If using pork shoulder picnic, cut the side with skin and make 4 slices on meat so you can easily roll it. Estimate how much stuffing to prepare by rolling it.
(2) Season skin with salt then season meat with garlic powder, salt and fresh ground pepper.
(3) Place on a tray or pyrex SKIN SIDE UP to keep it dry and DO NOT COVER. Refrigerate for a few hours or overnight to absorb spices. Keeping the skin dry yields a crispy crackling skin.
Tip: Place a paper towel on top of skin for 15 minutes then discard to absorb excess water.
(4) Put pork belly or pork shoulder SKIN SIDE DOWN in a dry cutting board, spread or place at center chopped lemongrass, chopped onion and minced garlic.
(5) Roll into a log and tie with a kitchen twine.
If having a hard time tying this way, another alternative is to secure, tie then cut. Repeat process until fully secured.
(6) If you want to bake it right away, I suggest that you dry the skin with paper towel in case it got wet otherwise place in fridge uncovered for an hour. I prefer the latter.
(7) Place in a rack with a drip pan. Bake at 350 degrees F for 2 to 2.15 hours. Insert a thermometer but optional. Temperature should reach between 165 to 180 degrees F.
(8) If meat is extending outside skin, cover with foil after an hour of baking.
(9) At the same time, turn meat so skin bakes evenly. After 2 hours, brush skin with milk. I used almond milk. Turn meat again. Bake for 2 minutes then lightly brush skin with oil. After a few minutes, turn meat and brush again with oil.
Tip: For SMOOTH SKIN – Bake all the way.
For BUBBLY SKIN – BAKE then BROIL for 2 minutes before turning off oven.
(10) Continue baking for another 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from oven. Set aside for 10 minutes.
(11) Slice with a sharp knife. Serve with spicy vinegar dip or liver sauce like Mang Tomas. Enjoy
Tip: Any leftover, make paksiw na lechon.
How to Cook Lechon Belly Roll
- 3 pounds pork belly or pork shoulder picnic
- kitchen twine
- 1 teaspoon salt more if needed depending on your taste
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
Lechon Belly Roll Stuffing
- 1 medium red onion chopped
- 6 cloves garlic minced
- 2 lemongrass stalks bruise or soften
Roasting and Basting
- 1 tablespoon milk
- 2 tablespoons oil
- Wash meat and dry with paper towel. Make 4 shallow slits in the pork belly meat area (NOT FAT AND SKIN) especially when using pork shoulder to absorb spices and easy rolling.
- Rub skin with salt and season pork belly meat with garlic powder, onion powder, ground pepper and salt.
- Place on a tray or pyrex uncovered, SKIN SIDE UP. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight. This will dry the skin and meat will absorb the spices. When baked, a dry skin yields a crispy crackling rind or skin.
- Lay pork belly or pork shoulder in a dry surface MEAT SIDE UP keeping the skin dry. Spread or place lemongrass, red onion, garlic at the center.
- Roll pork belly or pork shoulder into a log. Do not overlap so all sides can cook evenly with crispy skin.
- Secure and tie with kitchen twine.
- Pat dry skin with paper towel. I suggest to refrigerate for 1 hour to thoroughly dry the skin.
- Pre-heat oven at 350 degrees F and bake between 2 to 2.15 hours.
- Place pork belly in a rack with drip pan at the center rack of oven.
- After an hour, FLIP pork belly to the other side, cover ends with foil if meat is extending outside skin and place a baking sheet at the top rack to slow the cooking.
- Between 1.45 to 2 hours of baking, remove pork belly and quickly brush skin with milk. FLIP pork belly to other side. Note: I used almond milk.
- Put back in the oven and continue baking for 2 minutes. While in the oven, brush pork belly with oil. This will crisp up the skin. Continue baking for another 10 minutes then brush again with oil. Bake for another 3 minutes or until skin is crispy. If you prefer a bubbly skin (NOT SMOOTH), BROIL for 2 minutes before turning off oven.
- Remove pork belly from oven and set aside for 10 minutes.
- Slice and serve with your favorite dip, spicy vinegar or Mang Tomas. Enjoy!
- Thoroughly dry the skin before baking. Drier skin yields crispy crackling skin.
- I suggest to refrigerate pork belly overnight instead of only a few hours before baking. DO NOT COVER to dry. Place and remove paper towel above skin for 15 minutes to absorb excess water while refrigerated.
- Bruise and soften lemongrass with meat tenderizer or rolling pin so it can release it’s aromatic oil and flavor the meat well.
- I chopped the lemongrass for easy slicing. If you decide to add whole lemongrass stalk, pull it out before slicing.
- I discarded drippings (too much fat) but you can skim out fat and add to your sauce.
- If using a thermometer, temperature should reach between 165 to 180 degree F depending on your cooking preference.
- Refer to blog to see images of SMOOTH and BUBBLY pork belly skin or rind.