Pork Belly Croutons with Kale Salad

Pork Belly SaladCrispy, crackling nuggets of pork belly are better than traditional bread croutons, any day of the week. Pork belly “croutons” add crunch and saltiness to salad, plus they have a succulent, fatty middle that a square of stale bread can’t compete with.

But you probably don’t need to be sold on loving meat croutons over bread croutons. So let’s get right down to the recipe. How does one turn a tough slab of pork belly into gorgeous layers of thin, crispy skin, velvety fat and tender meat? It’s easier than you think. Plus, pork belly is a relatively inexpensive cut of meat and easy + inexpensive + incredible flavor = Primal happiness.

In this recipe for seared pork belly, the belly is first seasoned, braised and chilled. The process is simple, but takes about 24 hours so plan ahead. The pork belly is edible and quite tasty at this point but the last step, searing it quickly in a pan, is what really transforms pork belly into something special.

But here’s the best part. Pork belly and kale are unbelievably good together. If you identify more as a meat lover than a kale lover, this pork and kale salad will help you see kale in a new way. Fatty pork and raw kale are a delicious yin-yang combination.

Serves: 4

Time in the Kitchen: About 24 hours to braise and chill, plus 30 minutes of hands-on cooking



  • 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns (2.5 ml)
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds (2.5 ml)
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds (5 ml)
  • 1 1/2 to 2 pounds pork belly, with skin (680 to 900 g)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 1 cup water (240 ml)
  • 2 large bunches of lacinato /Tuscan kale
  • 1 large lemon, juice and zested
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard (20 ml)
  • 2 small shallots, finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (2.5 ml)
  • 1/3 cup olive oil, or more to taste (80 ml)


Skin-on pork belly can be found at Asian grocery stores or be special-ordered from your butcher.

Preheat the oven to 250 °F (120 °C).

Combine the peppercorns, fennel and coriander seeds in a dry sauté pan and toast over medium-high heat until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board and crush with a rolling pin or pulse a few times in a coffee grinder.

Season the pork liberally with salt (1 to 2 teaspoons/5 to 10ml) then place skin side up in a baking dish, ideally one that’s not too much bigger than the belly. Sprinkle the crushed spices, bay leaves, onion, garlic and spices over and around the belly.

Pork Belly

Pour the cup of water in the baking dish then cover the dish tightly with foil, then a lid. This makes an extra airtight seal. If the baking dish doesn’t have a lid, then just make sure the foil is really tight.

Braise the pork belly until the meat is very tender, about 4 1/2 hours.

Take the dish out of the oven, remove the lid and foil and let the liquid cool completely. Then, transfer the dish to the refrigerator overnight.

Remove the chilled pork belly from the pot. Scrape off most of the seasonings and/or onion that are stuck to the meat. Discard the liquid the pork was braised in.

Cut the pork belly into small bite-sized squares, about 36 pieces. Taste the pork and season with salt if needed. Set aside.

Cooked Pork Belly

Pull the kale leaves off the inner stalk (discard the stalk) then tear or cut the leaves into small pieces. Put the kale in a large bowl.

In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice and zest, mustard, shallot, salt and olive oil. Add more olive oil to adjust the flavor and make it less tangy, if desired.

Pour the dressing over the kale leaves and massage it into the leaves with your hands. Massaging the kale leaves helps make them tender. Set aside.

Lightly coat a sauté pan with fat (lard or coconut oil are options) and put it over medium-high heat. (Pork skin can really stick to a hot pan, which will ruin your seared pork belly. For this reason, a non-stick pan works best for searing pork belly. However, if you don’t want to use non-stick then a well-seasoned cast iron pan is the next best choice for this recipe.)

Add pieces of the pork belly to the pan in small batches, skin side down. Placing the pieces close together in the pan so they can lean up against each other will keep them from tipping over. Sear until the skin is deeply browned and crispy, then continue to sear the pork on all sides until nicely browned. Beware of hot fat splattering while you cook. If you own a splatter guard, use it!

Frying Pork Belly

It will probably be necessary to drain fat out of the pan between batches. If too much fat collects in the pan, the pork won’t get crispy and the hot fat will splatter like crazy.

Toss the warm pork belly “croutons” with the kale and serve.

Pork Belly Salad

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25 thoughts on “Pork Belly Croutons with Kale Salad”

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  1. I’m loving all these pork belly recipes. I really need to get my hands on some.

  2. It’s times like these that I wished I lived in a more “pork-friendly” household haha. This looks divine, thank you!

  3. It must be fate. My butcher just got a whole pile of pork belly in!

  4. Grocers catering to Hispanic customers are also more likely to have pork belly, although Wal-Marts with a grocery side don’t despite often having such specialty meats as tripas (small intestines of beef, pre-cleaned) and tripe and oxtail. I have tripas in the fridge awaiting a steeling of my nerve.

    1. My (paleo) dogs love tripas, but I’ve never been able to bring myself to try it yet either.

      1. OK guys, tripe is gross. I have only had it once in a street taqueria in Monterrey, MX, but it tastes amazing. I can only liken it to the most beefy tasting piece of pot roast fat you will ever put in your mouth. So go find you a street truck selling tacos and order you a tripas and a bistek. Just close your eyes and dig in. (I include the bistek because you never want to pass up the opportunity and it is a respite from the exotic [sounding] tripas)

  5. This is a good idea. I don’t like croutons, never have. They are always dry and hard. ew. I rather a fresh baked French bread any time. 🙂 I always pick the croutons out. The pork rinds I’d keep in. 🙂

  6. Looks delicious.
    Pork belly…mmm fatty goodness.
    Kale is popular in Japan…and the many variations they have of it over here.

    Incidentally, Japan NOT the bastion of discipline people imagine..might post on it later.

  7. sounds delicious! I often use pork rinds as croutons in a salad. Never tried pork belly though. I will have to give it a try.

  8. Dear lord just dice up some pancetta that sounds way easier lol

    1. Or, you can make your own pancetta with that same pork belly!

  9. Oh this sounds so good. Going to have to hunt for some pork belly!

  10. Sweeeet recipe…You can do it minus the oil though-it cooks itself when in Low heat.Comes out perfect,minus the ‘smooth’ feel of the pork fat…

  11. Hmmm, sounds good. Salt pork is a Newfoundland staple. When salted it will last for weeks unrefrigerated and was a ready source of cooking fat, protein and seasoning in pre-refrigerator days. It took the place of lard, shortening, cooking oil, bacon and seasonings in Newfoundland kitchens. When fried up as you have here it is called “scrunchins” and was served separately on the plate or mixed with other foods such as fish or onions for seasoning. Back in those days people tended to be lean and muscular. Today with readily available wheat, corn and sugar products big waistlines are more the norm…

  12. oh. my. god. SIMPLE recipe, DAMN delicious. I can’t say it enough. WOW. Thanks for this fantastic, easy recipe! Those flavors! mmmm….. Do yourselves a favor people and make this ASAP.

  13. This looks and sounds incredible. What would be the best primal addition to this meal? I know i’ll need another flavor to be satisfied

  14. Nash what about some okra chips? Okra already goes good with pork. Just slice and lay on a baking sheet, 5 minutes in the oven. To some okra might sound disgusting because of the sliminess when cooked on the stove top (i have a recipe for that too) but not this way. Lightly dusted with Cajun seasoning is always good too. You will feel like you are eating potato chips except these are super addicting. Betcha can’t eat just one!

  15. I just picked up my 1/2 pasture raised hog from the butcher yesterday. Last year we thought we were going to build our own smoker so we got the fresh bacon (belly) in one slab. Didn’t get that smoker built so I thawed it out last night–8 pounds of it!!! Cut it in 2 and quadrupled the ingredients. It’s in the oven now. Lunch tomorrow at my house in Indy!

    1. Ok, so I cooked the 8# slab on a very large cookie sheet with sides. Since it was around 20 last night I put it out on top of my chest freezer on the back porch to cool overnight and the fat to congeal. But I poured off most of the liquid because it was slopping over the sides. DO NOT toss out this liquid. Strain and refrigerate. In the morning you will scrape off the pork fat-a tasty lard, indeed-and be left with a beautiful strong jellied pork stock to help flavor many dishes. Put it in 1/2 c sizes in the freezer.
      I have always been the one who ate the fat off the pork chop. I love pork fat and have eaten belly before. This time I ended up cutting off half the fat after a couple of bites. It was just too much. Could be this was more fat than usual but it actually looked kind of lean to me. I only had time to cook up a few morsels so my husband and I will have a big lunch tomorrow!