Using a pork shoulder, pantry spices, and coke, this slow cooker recipe is ideal for feeding a large crowd or a family gathering.
I like to make this in the summer time when it’s too hot in the kitchen to make a full meal. It’s something I can put together in the morning and leave to forget and have a delicious pulled pork dinner by the evening. A few sides and you are good to go.
What is the best cut of meat for pulled pork?
A lot of people like to use the tenderloin for pulled pork because it’s easy to find and sometimes a cheaper cut. I’ve grabbed it myself, but it is one of the leaner cuts of pork and can be dry and sometimes tough even when used in a slow cooker. It is actually best to roast it in the oven and have it sliced up. A pork roast with lots of nice fat throughout helps your pork to become very tender and turns out beautifully in a slow cooker A lot of people like to use the tenderloin for pulled pork because it’s easy to find and sometimes a cheaper cut. I’ve grabbed it myself, but it is one of the leaner cuts of pork and can be dry and sometimes tough even when used in a slow cooker. It is actually best to roast it in the oven and have it sliced up. A pork roast with lots of nice fat throughout helps your pork to become very tender and turns out beautifully in a slow cooker.
Depending on your location, the best cut of pork for this recipe is pork shoulder. When looking for a cut of meat, you should look for pork that is boneless. You can, of course, use a pork shoulder with the bone in, but it will need more time to cook. Here are a few cuts of pork that you might be familiar with:
- Shoulder butt roast
- Shoulder roast
- Pork butt
- Boston butt
- Picnic roast
- Pork: star of the show. Look above for more information on the different types of pork that can be used.
- Onion: The onion is a flavor that’s in the background. It cooks down a lot to the point that you barely notice it.
- Tomato Paste: This is the basis of your sauce for the pulled pork.
- Apple Cider Vinegar: Apple cider vinegar is a must in making slow cooker pulled pork because it helps to cut down on the richness of the pulled pork.
- Honey & Brown Sugar: Some sugar is required when making a BBQ sauce. Brown sugar is a much better option than, say, high fructose corn syrup. I know some people have asked if you can make it a sugar-free option, but I have not found one that works.
- Worcestershire Sauce: It balances the sweetness with some savory flavor
- Liquid Smoke: This is an ingredient I’ve only just started using recently. It gives you the flavor that it’s been on the BBQ all day but with zero fuss.
- Hot Sauce: This is an optional ingredient if you do not want some spice, but I like a bit of spice to balance the sweetness.
- Paprika & garlic powder & mustard powder: This gives the sauce that great BBQ flavor.
- Cornstarch: To thicken up the sauce and some of the pork’s juices, you mix water and cornstarch together to create a slurry.
The Best Toppings for Pulled Pork
My family loves a good pulled pork sandwich, but for me, the pulled pork is delicious, but it’s even better with some great toppings like these:
- Horseradish Sauce: I personally love the hot flavor of horseradish, and this sauce is a great topping. Mix together sour cream or Greek yogurt and your favorite prepared horseradish.
- Creamy Coleslaw: This is the classic topping for pulled pork; a simple coleslaw with a creamy vinegar-base sauce.
- BBQ Sauce: I like to reserve some of the sauce that the pulled pork is cooked in and use it as a dipping sauce.
- Caramelized onions
- Melted cheese
- Homemade pickles
- Pickled jalapeños
- Sauteed mushrooms
- Roasted Peppers
Pulled Pork Sandwich Alternatives
There are quite a few other ways to have pulled pork other than in a bun or a sandwich. Here are a few ideas.
- Pulled Pork Burrito
- Pulled Pork Nachos
- Pulled Pork Poutine
- Pulled Pork Mac & Cheese
- Pulled Pork Quesadilla
- Pulled Pork Pizza
- Grilled Cheese
- Pulled Pork Tacos
How To Make Slow cooker pulled pork
- 1 slow cooker or instant pot
- 1 small onion finely chopped
- ¾ cup tomato paste
- ⅓ cup honey
- ¼ cup water
- 2 tbsp brown sugar
- 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 2 tsp smoked paprika
- 2 tsp garlic powder
- 2 tsp mustard powder
- 2 tsp sriracha or hot sauce
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp liquid smoke
- 1 boneless pork shoulder 3-4 pounds
- 2 tbsp cornstarch
- In the bottom of a 6-quart or larger slow cooker, whisk together the onion, tomato paste, apple cider vinegar, honey, water, brown sugar, Worcestershire, smoked paprika, garlic powder, mustard powder, sriracha, 1 teaspoon salt, and liquid smoke (if using), until smoothly combined.
- Season the pork all over with a generous amount of kosher salt and ground pepper.
- Add the pork to the slow cooker and spoon the sauce all over the top to cover it.
- Cover the slow cooker and cook on HIGH for 5 to 6 hours or LOW for 8 to 10 hours, until the pork is fall-apart tender. Transfer the pork to a large bowl, leaving the cooking liquid in the slow cooker.
- In a small bowl, stir together the cornstarch with 3 tablespoons cold water to create a slurry. Pour into the slow cooker, then whisk to combine. Cover the slow cooker and cook on HIGH, whisking every so often, until the sauce is thickened to your liking, about 20 to 30 minutes.
- While the sauce thickens, shred the pork with two forks or, if it is cool enough to handle, with your fingers.
- Stir the shredded pork back into the thickened sauce in the slow cooker. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired (you may need an extra pinch of salt or some additional hot sauce if you enjoy a kick). Spoon pork on top of buns with coleslaw and pickles to create a sandwich, or serve it any way you like.