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Pork Belly Curry with Black Pepper

Pork belly curry loosely based on a recipe from Sri Lanka that’s loaded with black pepper, tamarind and whole slow-cooked garlic cloves.

This is a slow-cooked dish and it takes a couple of hours to prepare and cook, but the techniques are easy and you only spend around a quarter of that time in the kitchen.

Overhead pork belly curry with tamarind, black pepper and whole garlic cloves served with rice and chapatis.

Sri Lankan Influenced Pork Curry

Pork belly makes regular appearances here on my site.

It is probably my favourite cut of meat. Not only is it delicious but it is both relatively cheap and a really forgiving cut of meat which makes it very easy to cook.

I’ve used it in dishes with global influences, it’s flavour profile and fat content means that it plays wonderfully with big flavours.

I have Vitenamese-influenced glazed pork belly, Korean-influenced gochujang pork belly, a classic Indonesian dish called babi chin… and of course an old-school British roast joint of pork belly.

Here it gets used in a curry, curried pork is not as unusual as many believe. Pork vindaloo is an absolute classic and I even have a minced pork curry.

This dish is my take on a Sri Lankan black pork belly curry, and it is loaded with black pepper, curry leaves and whole garlic cloves.

Everything is cooked down slowly until it is rich and sticky. It is finished with a roasted curry powder that features even more black pepper and plenty of fennel.

If you are looking to do something different with your curry game, then give this a try!

Close-up pork belly curry with tamarind, black pepper and whole garlic cloves.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I use a leaner cut of pork?

The fatty nature of pork belly is very much needed to make this recipe. As a result, you can’t really make this recipe with many other cuts of meat.

You might be able to get away with using some pork blade which comes from the top of the shoulder although it is not an optimal choice.

Can I use store-bought curry powder?

Yes, but the flavour profiles will be very different and the difference between freshly ground toasted spices and store-bought mixes is night and day.

Is it ok to use whole garlic cloves?

Yes, definitely! There is a Sri Lankan garlic clove curry that influenced my use of them this dish.

They cook down fairly slowly and mellow out quite a lot and have a similar flavour profile to roasted or confit garlic.

Can I use tamarind concentrate?

Yes, although you will need to do your own calculations based on the concentration of the brand that you use.

I prefer to use tamarind pulp because I find that I get more consistent results.

Can I make this in advance?

Definitely, like so many heavily spiced recipes this improves with time. It will sit in the fridge for a couple of days and will freeze for up to 3 months.

Pop it in a saucepan with a splash of water, cover it with a lid and reheat over a medium heat.

Sri Lankan pork belly curry with tamarind, black pepper and whole garlic cloves.

Serving Suggestions

I’ve served this Sri Lankan influenced pork belly curry with plain rice and homemade chapatis in these pictures.

You could of course add a pilau rice or even better, a South Indian coconut rice instead.

A tandoori-style naan bread would also work well as a bread option, although I usually prefer them with a wetter curry.

I also love to serve dryer curries with potatoes, both my roasted Bombay potatoes and aloo methi (fenugreek potatoes) recipes work well with this dish.

Close-up overhead pork belly curry with tamarind, black pepper and whole garlic cloves served with rice.

Equipment Used

I only name-check brands of equipment if I think that they make a material difference to a recipe. But, if you have any questions feel free to ask them in the comments section below the recipe.

  • Stovetop.
  • 28cm or 11″ saucepan.
  • Stirring and serving spoons.
  • Kettle or other water boiling device.
  • Small mixing bowl.
  • Fine mesh sieve.
  • Pestle and mortar or spice grinder.
  • Kitchen knife.
  • Chopping board.
  • Weighing scales and or a combination of a measuring jug, cups and spoons.
Sri Lankan influenced pork belly curry with tamarind, black pepper and while garlic cloves.
Yield: 2 Servings

Sri Lankan Influenced Pork Belly Curry Recipe

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Marinade Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours 20 minutes

This thick and spicy pork belly curry has Sri Lankan influences and features the bold flavours of tamarind, black pepper and a whole head of unchopped garlic cloves and it tastes phenomenal!


  • 400g (14oz) Pork Belly
  • 35-40g (25-30mm or 1" Cube) Tamarind Pulp
  • 35-40g Boiling Water
  • 1 Tsp Black Peppercorns
  • 1 Tbsp Dark Brown Sugar
  • ½ Tsp Kashmiri Chilli Powder
  • ½ Tsp Ground Turmeric
  • ½ Tsp Salt
  • 30g (2 Tbsp) Ghee
  • 15-20 Curry Leaves
  • 10cm (4") Piece Cinnamon Bark
  • 1 Blade Mace
  • 6 Dried Red Kashmiri Chilli Peppers
  • 1 Black Cardamom Pod
  • 1 Stick Lemongrass
  • 1 Head of Garlic
  • 1 Medium (150g) Red Onion
  • 250ml (1 Cup) Water

For the Toasted Curry Powder:

  • ½ Tbsp Coriander Seeds
  • ½ Tbsp Black Onion Seeds
  • ½ Tsp Black Peppercorns
  • ½ Tsp Fennel Seeds
  • ½ Tsp Cumin Seeds


  1. Soak the tamarind in the boiling water for 10 minutes, then mash it and pass it through a fine mesh sieve.
  2. If your pork belly has the rind on, remove and discard it and then cut the meat into bite-sized pieces and place it in a bowl.
  3. Coarsely grind the black pepper (for the curry, do not grind the pepper for the curry powder) and add it to the pork along with the brown sugar, chilli powder, turmeric, salt, and tamarind, then mix well and set aside for at least 30 minutes, overnight is better.
  4. Bash the stick of lemongrass with the back of a knife to bruise it.
  5. Lightly crack the cardamom pod with the side of a knife.
  6. Break open the head of garlic and peel the cloves.
  7. Top and tail the red onion, peel it and then cut it into strips (top to bottom) that are around 2-3mm (⅛") thick.
  8. Heat a 28cm or 11" saucepan over a high heat and add the ghee, when the ghee has melted add the curry leaves, cinnamon bark, mace, dried chilli peppers, cardamom pod and lemongrass, then cook everything for 30-60 seconds.
  9. Add the onions, reduce the heat to medium and cook for 7-10 minutes or until the onions have softened.
  10. Add the marinated pork and garlic cloves, turn the heat back up to high and cook for 7-10 minutes stirring regularly.
  11. Pour in the water, stir then reduce the heat to low-medium and cook for 60 minutes, topping up with water if needed. You are looking for an almost dry curry at the end of this period with very tender pork.
  12. Whilst the pork is cooking place all of the ingredients for the toasted curry powder into small frying pan over a high heat and toast them until they are fragrant (2-3 minutes), then grind them whilst they are hot.
  13. Once the pork is tender pour in the toasted "curry powder", give everything a stir then add a splash of water and cook for a final 5 minutes. I find that it is easier to remove the cinnamon and lemongrass at this point.

Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 873Total Fat: 59gSaturated Fat: 25gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 31gCholesterol: 207mgSodium: 795mgCarbohydrates: 37gFiber: 4gSugar: 12gProtein: 50g

Calorific details are provided by a third-party application and are to be used as indicative figures only.

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