Last Updated June 20, 2021
Learn the 3 ingredients that make Filipino BBQ so remarkable. Once you master the sauce, you can make authentic Filipino BBQ pork and chicken skewers.
Every culture has a celebratory dish cooked over fire that brings the family together. In the Philippines, this traditional barbecue dish is skewers upon skewers of pork and chicken marinated in a unique sauce that’s grilled until it’s charred.
My husband is half Filipino, so I’ve been lucky enough to attend dozens of parties with this delicacy. While the adults grab a skewer as soon as it comes off the grill, the kids are usually running around with red hot dogs on a stick topped with a marshmallow.
What’s special about Filipino BBQ sauce?
The basic components of Filipino BBQ sauce are similar to American ingredients. American sauces usually include ketchup, vinegar and sugar.
In the Philippines, instead of ketchup a common condiment is banana sauce. It tastes similar to ketchup and it’s red, but it is actually made with bananas. They are mashed and broken down with sugar, vinegar and spices. Surprisingly, it doesn’t taste like bananas at all.
You should be able to find it in the Asian aisle at your grocery. Or you can find banana sauce on Amazon.
Next for the acid. While you could use vinegar, traditional Filipino BBQ sauce uses clamansi juice. calamansi is a citrus fruit that is like a cross between a kumquat and a lime. It’s sweeter than a lime, but more tart than an orange.
If you search the internet for Filipino BBQ recipes, most will substitute lemon juice or vinegar for the calamansi, but to me, those really aren’t the same, because they lack the hint of sweetness that this fruit delivers.
You can find calamansi juice on Amazon. Or you can do what I do and just use lime juice and the juice of mandarin oranges. I find that combo gets pretty close. Be sure to use mandarin oranges instead of navel oranges, because they have a little more tartness.
For the sugar, I use brown sugar. Then, there is one more important ingredient – lemon lime soda. This acts as both an acid and a sugar. It helps tenderize the meat and accentuates the citrus juices. And because it’s not straight citrus juice, it doesn’t break down the meat too quickly.
What meat should I barbecue?
Filipino BBQ is almost always prepared on skewers with thin slices of meat. The go-to proteins are thin slices of pork shoulder and boneless skinless chicken thighs.
You can use leaner cuts such as pork loin or chicken breasts, but it just won’t be the same. You want the fat in the meat to char on the grill and become enveloped with the sticky, tangy sauce.
You could also go with beef. Again, look for fattier cuts such as short ribs or chuck – also thinly sliced.
Once you make the marinade, save about a cup of it for your basting sauce. And then add your proteins to a bowl and pour the marinade right on top. This recipe will marinade about 2 1/2 to 3 pounds of meat.
Let the meat marinate covered in the fridge for about 4-8 hours. Don’t go too much longer than that. Otherwise the citrus juice will start to cook the meat, which can create a rubbery texture when you grill it.
Time to skewer and grill the meat
While you can cook the meat straight on the grill, it’s more efficient and fun to cook it on skewers.
You can use bamboo skewers, but you’ll need to soak them in water first, otherwise they’ll burn on the grill.
Instead, I like these flat metal skewers from Steven Raichlen. They’re heavy duty, so they hold up to lots of meat. And because they’re flat, the meat doesn’t spin around as you try to turn them.
I can usually load 3-4 four slices of marinaded meat to each skewer.
Set your grill to medium. Remember, the marinade has some sugar in it. If you set your grill too high, the glaze will burn prematurely.
After about 5 minutes, I flip them over. You’ll see the bottoms will start to get crispy. That’s what you’re looking for.
After that flip, take the cup of marinade you saved and start basting the meat. Continue cooking for about 5 more minutes, basting and flipping periodically.
Make sure you have a big bowl of white sticky rice ready. And there you go.
Pork and Chicken Filipino BBQ
- 1 cup banana sauce
- 1 cup soy sauce
- 1 cup lemon lime soda
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 cup fresh lime juice (3 limes)
- 1/4 cup fresh mandarin orange juice (3 oranges)
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 tsp course ground black pepper
- 1 1/2 lbs pork shoulder thinly sliced
- 6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- Combine the banana sauce, soy sauce, lemon lime soda, brown sugar, lime juice, orange juice, garlic and pepper. Remove one cup and set aside.
- Place the pork in one bowl and the chicken in another bowl. Divide the sauce between the two bowls. Make sure the meat is coated. Cover and refrigerate 4-8 hours.
- Heat the grill to medium heat.
- Thread the meat onto metal skewers. Grill for 5 minutes. Flip.
- Grab the cup of marinade that you set aside earlier in the process. Brush on the meat and continue grilling for about 5 minutes.
- Serve with white sticky rice.