Koji-Brined Pork Shoulder


Shio koji is a fermented mixture of grain inoculated with mold (koji), water and salt that is used in marinades and brines. Chef Ben Bebenroth of Cleveland's Spice Catering loves how it gives this pork shoulder recipe funky umami flavor, while also helping to tenderize the meat. Miso, which also contains koji, is an easier-to-find substitute. Serve with Ginger Pickled Carrots (see Associated Recipe)--their acidity balances the richness of the dish.

Prep Time:
1 hr 15 mins
Additional Time:
2 hrs 30 mins
Total Time:
3 hrs 45 mins
12 servings


Brine & Pork

  • 4 cups water

  • 1/2 cup prepared shio koji (see Tip) or white miso

  • ½ cup packed light brown sugar

  • cup kosher salt

  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled

  • 5 bay leaves

  • 2 tablespoons whole peppercorns

  • 4 cups ice

  • 5 pounds boneless pork shoulder, trimmed and cut into 8 pieces


  • 1 tablespoon grapeseed or canola oil

  • 1 large onion, sliced

  • ¼ cup water

  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth

  • 1 15-ounce can no-salt-added whole tomatoes

  • ½ cup dry white wine

  • 2 tablespoons honey

  • Chopped fresh parsley for garnish


  1. To brine pork: Combine water, shio koji (or miso), brown sugar, salt, garlic, bay leaves and peppercorns in a large pot. Bring to a simmer. Cook until the sugar and salt dissolve. Transfer to a large bowl and add ice. When the ice is melted, add pork. Refrigerate for 24 to 36 hours.

  2. Remove the pork from the brine (discard brine) and let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.

  3. Preheat oven to 250 degrees F. Pat the pork dry.

  4. To braise pork: Heat oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add half the pork and cook until browned on all sides, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a clean plate. Repeat with the remaining pork. Add onion and water to the pot and cook, scraping up any browned bits, until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in broth, tomatoes, wine and honey; bring to a simmer. Return the pork to the pot. Cover and bake until the pork is fork-tender, 2 to 3 hours.

  5. Transfer the pork and vegetables to a serving dish and tent with foil to keep warm. Skim fat from the cooking liquid. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Cook until the sauce is reduced by half, 10 to 15 minutes.

  6. Spoon the sauce over the pork and vegetables and sprinkle with parsley, if desired.

To make ahead

Brine pork (Step 1) for up to 36 hours.


Primarily used as a marinade, shio koji has a similar taste to sake or miso, all of which contain the Japanese fermenting agent koji, usually made from rice. Purchase prepared shio koji at Asian markets or online. If you buy the powdered version, prepare it according to the package instructions before using it in this recipe.

Associated Recipe

Ginger Pickled Carrots

Nutrition Facts (per serving)

307 Calories
18g Fat
8g Carbs
25g Protein
Nutrition Facts
Servings Per Recipe 12
Serving Size 3 oz. pork & 3 Tbsp. sauce
Calories 307
% Daily Value *
Total Carbohydrate 8g 3%
Dietary Fiber 1g 2%
Total Sugars 6g
Added Sugars 4g 8%
Protein 25g 50%
Total Fat 18g 23%
Saturated Fat 6g 32%
Cholesterol 92mg 31%
Vitamin A 154IU 3%
Vitamin C 4mg 4%
Folate 3mcg 1%
Sodium 437mg 19%
Calcium 38mg 3%
Iron 2mg 11%
Magnesium 25mg 6%
Potassium 417mg 9%

Nutrition information is calculated by a registered dietitian using an ingredient database but should be considered an estimate.

* Daily Values (DVs) are the recommended amounts of nutrients to consume each day. Percent Daily Value (%DV) found on nutrition labels tells you how much a serving of a particular food or recipe contributes to each of those total recommended amounts. Per the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the daily value is based on a standard 2,000 calorie diet. Depending on your calorie needs or if you have a health condition, you may need more or less of particular nutrients. (For example, it’s recommended that people following a heart-healthy diet eat less sodium on a daily basis compared to those following a standard diet.)

(-) Information is not currently available for this nutrient. If you are following a special diet for medical reasons, be sure to consult with your primary care provider or a registered dietitian to better understand your personal nutrition needs.

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