The train’s thunderous horn broke the silence of our early morning walk.  Stanford’s ears suddenly perked up to acknowledge the train that was rattling along its tracks a few blocks away. It must have been the 6:16 train, the old double-decker that used to ferry me to work everyday.  I remembered taking the train down the Peninsula, sitting comfortably and enjoying a canteen of coffee and a Jeffrey Eugenides or a Michael Chabon.  

But I also remembered all those hurried mornings. It was always a mad rush to get up early and get to the station in time to catch the train for the hour-and-a-half-long trek, door-to-door, if I was lucky. Breakfast was normally an overripe banana or a paltry piece of toast. It wasn’t the getting up early part that I hated. I am one of those morning-types who thrive in the early morning hours when my mind is clearest and I am most productive. It was the rush that I never liked, the rush that kept me from enjoying the best part of the day.

Stanford and I walked for another block up the hill, enjoyed the glistening skyline and the dramatic, deep blue sky, and headed home. My mornings have been a lot more flexible ever since I left Silicon Valley. There are days when I still feel rushed, of course, but there are days when I can choose to slow down a little and enjoy the morning — the cup of coffee and the walk with Stanford, maybe a three-mile run, or even breakfast! I can choose to make and actually enjoy breakfast, a rare luxury for most.

The kitchen soon reeked of garlic, which I used to fry the day-old rice that had been sitting in the fridge. I cracked an egg into a hot pan while sweet tocino [toh-see-noh] sizzled in another. Within minutes, I turned off my phone and emails, made myself a plate of tocino, rice and eggs and reveled in the promise of a fresh, new start.

Tocino is Filipino sweet cured pork. Think ham, bacon, or char-siu. Tocino is pork, usually butt and shoulder, thinly sliced, sweetened and cured for a couple of days, and then pan-fried or grilled. Traditionally, saltpeter or achuete is used to color the meat red but I use natural red beet powder instead. Serve tocino with garlic fried rice and fried eggs to make a variation of the popular Filipino breakfast silogs [see-log]. Or sandwich layers of pork tocino in between pan de sal for simple pork tocino sliders.

Pork Tocino Recipe, makes six servings

1 lb pork butt or pork shoulder, sliced thinly into 1/8-inch thick strips
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon salt
3/4 teaspoon red beet powder
1 tablespoon vegetable oil, plus more as needed

Combine sugar, salt and red beet powder in a small bowl. Liberally rub the pork with the curing mixture and place in a container or zip top bag large enough to hold everything together.  Add whatever is left of the sugar, salt, and red beet powder and refrigerate for two days.

After the second day, the cured pork can be either pan-fried or grilled. When pan-frying, heat the oil in a large pan over medium-to-high heat. Pan-fry the pork slices for two to three minutes on each side, until cooked through and browned. Transfer to a plate and continue frying the remaining pork slices. When grilling, grill the pork slices for two to three minutes on each side, until nicely charred.

Pork Tocino

Pork Tocino

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  • Anonymous

    Beautiful, as always, Jun! Rice with a sunny-side-up egg is one of my favorite things. The tocino looks great and I love that you use beet powder for that great color. I cherish mornings when I don’t have a million things to rush to or think about. Nowadays, they’re so rare I actually get pretty sentimental about them. ;)

  • Anonymous

    Looks lovely and yummy!

  • Out of the Kitchen

    Ohhhh….talk about comfort food!!!

  • Princess Gourmet

    Hi Jun! Where can I find red beet powder?

  • Slimcaco

    Your recipe brought back memories if my father’s tocino-making marathons. I’m trying this on Saturday!

  • Bianca Garcia

    Jun I’m forwarding this to my Pinoy friends :) I never used to like tocino but now after reading your post I am craving it!

  • brhau

    We try to make it a point to relax for breakfast in on the weekends. Such a nice way to spend the morning. I might make bulgogi instead of tocino, but the general idea is right on.

  • Jun Belen

    I buy it at Rainbow, a local grocery store here in the city,, but I believe you can also buy it online, I’ve never tried buying it online so I don’t know if it’s any good. The last time I checked, Whole Foods doesn’t carry them but they use red beet powder to color their corned beef red.

  • Jun Belen

    Thank you, Sefie. My mom didn’t use any coloring, too. Her homemade tocino has always been brown not red. But ever since I discovered red beet powder as a natural food coloring when we corned our own brisket, I’ve been using it in my kitchen and tocino is one of those things that gets a really deep red color from red beet powder.

  • Jun Belen

    Thank you for spreading the word out, Bianca!

  • Jun Belen

    Thank you, Samantha! I’m curious to know what you think of the salt-to-sugar ratio. Tocino’s very simple to make but it’s all about how much salt and sugar. I’ve seen recipes from cookbooks with more salt than sugar and I’ve scratched my head and have wondered how a ton of salt will make it sweet. Let me know how it goes.

  • Arnold Gatilao

    Love the simplicity of this recipe. It makes me realize that I was overthinking my own tocino. might have to give the red beet powder a try, but I generally have some achuete oil on hand. :)

  • Joy

    I just had store-bought longganisa yesterday, and now feel my breakfast had been inadequate because of your tocino! We tried making tocino before but it didn’t taste like the ones back home. I’ll have to try this (with the beet powder once I find it) sometime!

  • Beth (OMG! Yummy)

    The picture reminds me a bit of Hawaii – eating portuguese sausage, rice, and eggs. This I have to try. I think it would be a huge hit in our house. I would probably double this recipe — can imagine turning this into dinner in our family as well. Keep enjoying your un-commute!


    This so off the hook Jun! I’ve been looking for a tocino recipe and now I have one! Thanks so much

  • Min {Honest Vanilla}

    Breakfast is definitely a luxury I wish I have :) Lucky you! I’ve never had Pork Tocino before but it sure looks good!

  • Cherrie

    You can’t beat tocino for breakfast. YUM

  • Alvin

    This puts a smile on my face, a warm fuzzy feeling within, and a yearning for more innocent times. It brings me back to my childhood, when my grandma would cook tocino just for me because I wouldn’t eat anything else. Such a spoiled brat, eh! Lovely post as always.

  • Cusinera

    I like it! I like it!! I like it!!! I loveeee tocino=) Just had tocino the other day!

  • Jean

    It’s rare for me to have breakfast most days but this morning, I polished off two fried eggs. Would have loved some tocino and rice to go with it instead of the toast I had. My mom always had tocino marinating the fridge when I was younger–such a staple in our home. One of my nieces, referring to all meat as chicken when she was younger, used to call it red chicken and would often request it. Your post has started a craving and it won’t go away until I finally have a plate of this. Thanks, Jun!

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  • carolineadobo

    I need to get ahold of red beet powder. I haven’t had tocino in years since I find the commercially-made ones unappetizing (due to artificial colors and preservatives). Who knew the recipe is so simple to make–the most difficult part is waiting two days for them to cure! :)

  • Weng Dumlao

    Filipino food is such a rarity in Italy that looking at your tocino picture gives me hunger pangs that can never be remedied. I have to wait until I visit the Philippines again. I just found your blog and I find it so wonderful. I’m adding it to my blogroll, if you don’t mind. Keep on posting!

  • Jun Belen

    Thank you, Weng. I’m glad you found my blog. Thank you for your thoughtful note and please do stop by again.

  • Brownedgnat

    Hi Jun! Tried your recipe but instead of 1 lb of pork butt, I bought 2.66 lbs of pork butt at Whole Foods. Less 1/2 pound of fat trimmings, so I had about 2lbs of pork. Followed your sugar+salt ratio plus an extra teaspoon of beet powder, Tocino came out just the perfect sweetness and salt. Though with additional tsp of beet powder, miy tocino didn’t come out as red as yours.

  • Jun Belen

    Your note made my day! Thank you for writing back and I’m glad it worked out for you. I love the balance of sweetness and saltiness of this recipe. I’m sorry the pork didn’t turn really red. Maybe a little more would have turned it redder? The good thing about beet powder is that it’s flavor is very subtle. My mom always makes her tocino without any food coloring, natural or otherwise, so growing up we always had brown tocino. But tocino isn’t tocino if it isn’t red, right? The beet powder is a good substitute to atchuete and pink salt (or nitrites).

    Thank you so much for writing back. I’m always thrilled to hear back from readers about which worked and which didn’t. Have a good weekend!

  • rhodora lirio

    where can I buy the beet powder… I have no idea about beet power…

  • Jun Belen

    Where are you located.  You can get them in specialty grocery stores (Rainbow Grocery in San Francisco) and also spice stores in most cities but, I must admit, they are difficult to find.  You can also find them online,

    My mom never adds any food coloring to her tocino.  You can also try achuete oil but the color is more orange than red.  The red beet powder may not be a traditional Filipino ingredient but I’m more comfortable using natural food coloring than those artificial ones.

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  • Sar C.

    I’m so happy I stumbled upon your blog! I love our food, but as a 2nd gen Filipino-Canadian, I’m clueless when it comes to cooking it! I especially can’t wait to try this recipe, and I’m sure my husband will be pleasantly surprised, we haven’t had tocino in a very long time! Thank you!

  • Jun Belen

    Thank you, Sar! I’m so excited that you stumbled upon my blog.  The recipes are very simple and easy to follow. I hope you come back and try them out. Tocino with sinangag and fried eggs — tocilog — is one of my favorite Filipino breakfasts. Breakfast anytime of the day, if you ask me.  Thank you again for writing.

  • jgpunkista

    Salamat ng marami sa recipe mo, Mr. Belen.  I have been keenly interested in creating Pilipino dishes suitable to my vegan palate and decided to look up a recipe for tocino.  I am so happy to have found your blog.  Your food photography is gorgeous.  I substituted the pork butt for seitan.  The results were delicious. Thank you again for your recipe.  I attached two pictures.  The appearance of seitan is definitely deceiving.

  • Jun Belen

    Looks good to me!  I’m glad the recipe worked out for you.  Another recipe that you may find good to try with seitan is my chicken afritada recipe,  Instead of fish sauce season it with salt or soy sauce.  I’m interested to know if the recipes can be easily made vegan or vegetarian.  Thank you for writing!

  • Kip Hughes

    You didn’t use Prague powder (salt + sodium nitrite) in this recipe.  Isn’t there a danger of the bacteria “clostridium botulinium” growing in the food?

  • Jun Belen

    Kip, you are clearly missing the point.  There is no danger of botulism as long as you cook the meat to an internal temperature of 85 degrees C (185 degrees F)  Nitrites and nitrates are added as a preserving agent used to deter the growth of bacteria in cured meats and for the color — the familiar red hue that we all grew accustomed with.  But since pork tocino is NOT consumed raw adding nitrites and nitrates is a personal decision, That’s why I use a natural food coloring agent — red beet powder — to give the meat the pinkish hue without using nitrites and nitrates.

  • Kip Hughes

     Thanks for the clarification. Are there other natural food coloring agents you can recommend besides red beet powder?

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  • Jarrenancuna


    /. this is it !!
    ., i found it.
    .. coz later we will make a tocino/.
    .,wish it is sucess!!

  • Jun Belen

    Here is a good post on natural food coloring that I find very useful.

  • Monica_bayo

     yummy *^_^*

  • Melissa Pritchett

    Oh so excited about finding this! I’ve been craving this stuff since I left the Philippines as a child! Thanks for posting this! Need to make this ASAP! (only don’t know where to get red beet powder?! )

  • Melissa Pritchett

    Oh to live in San Francisco! No spice stores up here in Northern MI! Is there one online maybe? It’s just not the same without the redness! But I will try it without it…

  • Jun Belen

    Melissa, you can buy it online through Red Beet Powder, 2 oz.

  • Jun Belen

    Thank you, Melissa for writing. You can buy red beet powder online: I know, tocino is not the same without the vibrant red color. Let me know how it goes.

  • joy

    can’t find red beet powder , can i use anatto powder ?

  • Liz N.

    How I’ve longed to find a recipe for this that I can make on my own! Thank you! I just stumbled upon your blog and it is incredible. Thank you for bringing all my childhood favorites to life.


    hi Jun :) I just wanted to know the exact kls.of pork butt and other measurements of the ingredients because im planning to make this as a small business :) im thinking of 100 packs of pork tocino which is affordable to buy, like 60 pesos per pack i guess :) hope you can help me ASAP

  • Tamishelle

    This is such a great concept. It’s natural without the preservatives and it looks “traditional”. I will be making this, some achara ( I don’t know if I’m spelling that correctly) and making some type of bahn mi sandwich. Thanks for sharing your recipe.

  • Jun Belen

    The amount of ingredients are in the recipe, Ching: 1/2 kilo pork butt or pork shoulder, 1/3 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon salt. Best of luck in your business!