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Ultimate Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

How to make the best slow cooker pulled pork that’s perfect for sandwiches, salads, and tacos. For a quicker version, we have also shared how to make this pulled pork using a pressure cooker (like an Instant Pot). Jump to the Slow Cooker Pulled Pork Recipe

Watch The Video

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork Recipe Video

How to Make the Best Pulled Pork Using a Slow Cooker

Pulled pork is perfect for the slow cooker. It’s easy to do and is the ultimate make-ahead meal. Our recipe makes pork that’s tender, full of flavor, and juicy. It’s delicious served alone or add a bit of your favorite barbecue sauce. The slow cooker shines in this recipe. We start with a pork shoulder — also called pork butt or Boston butt.

You May Also Like: Here’s our recipe sharing How to Make Tender Pulled Pork in the Oven and our Crisped Up, Tender and Juicy Carnitas!

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

It’s a relatively tough cut and does well when cooked over an extended period. It’s also well marbled with fat, which prevents the pork from drying out while cooking. As the pork cooks, the fat melts and sort of self-bastes during cooking.

Making pulled pork in a slow cooker or crockpot is easy, but we still have a few tips for you, so you make it best. [If you love cooking with your slow cooker, try our Ultimate Slow Cooker Lemon Chicken, it’s delicious.]

INSTANT POT© UPDATE: Since sharing this recipe, we have tested it using a pressure cooker (we have the Instant Pot). Check the recipe notes section below for our method. By using a pressure cooker, you can make this pulled pork in under 2 hours.

Step 1: Season the Meat

Seasoning the pork is essential, especially when using a slow cooker. Once you hit start, you don’t want to lift the lid, so taking some time to think about flavors and seasoning up front is a good idea.

We’re pretty heavy handed with salt and pepper in the beginning and like to rub the pork with it, getting the salt into all the nooks of the meat. We also season 15 to 20 minutes before adding it to the slow cooker.

Rubbing pork with seasoning

Step 2: Cook the Pork on Low and Cook it Slow

After seasoning the meat, we put together a mixture of cooked onions, garlic, tomato paste, and spices. That’s poured over the pork, and we’re ready to cook.

Added onions, garlic, tomato paste, and spices on top of pork.

When I said the slow cooker shines in this recipe, I meant it. It’s pretty tricky to overcook pork shoulder. It’s because of this that we happily cook the pork on low for many hours.

In our recipe below we call for at least 8, but you really can go beyond that. The pork should be so tender that a spoon can cut through it. Doing all of this in a slow cooker makes it easy. Do it overnight or while you are away from the house.

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

Step 3: Skim the Cooking Liquid then Save it

When the pork is finished, you have juicy and tender pulled pork as well as a rich and flavorful broth. It’s pure gold. Remove the cooking liquid from the slow cooker and skim as much fat as possible — remember, pork shoulder is well marbled with fat, so that’s all going to melt into the liquid. Discard the excess fat (which will float to the top) and then stir the liquid back into the pork to keep it extra moist and flavorful.

Another alternative is to refrigerate the pork in its cooking liquid. When it’s cold, the fat will have solidified, making it easy to scrape off with a spoon.

Step 4: Shred the Pork and Combine with Skimmed Cooking Liquid

After skimming the cooking liquid, place it back into the slow cooker. Then simply shred the pork — I just use two forks to do it. Since it’s so tender, the pork literally will fall apart on you.

Place the shredded pork back into the slow cooker with the skimmed cooking liquid then serve!

What to Serve With Pulled Pork

We love pulled pork since it’s perfect for so many occasions. Here are some of our favorite sides to go alongside the tender, tasty pork:

More Easy Pork Recipes

Easy Slow Cooker Pork

Ultimate Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

  • PREP
  • COOK
  • TOTAL

Pulled pork is perfect for the slow cooker. Cooking the pork low and very slow is the secret to the juiciest and most tender pulled pork. Serve the pork as is or feel free to stir in your favorite barbecue or other sauces at the end of cooking.

Makes approximately 3 1/2 pounds, 10 servings

Watch Us Make the Recipe

You Will Need

1 (4 1/2 to 5 pound) boneless or bone-in pork shoulder (also known as pork butt), twine or netting removed

2 teaspoons salt, plus more as needed

1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

2 tablespoons neutral flavored oil

1 medium onion, peeled and chopped small

4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 tablespoon ancho or mild chili powder, see our homemade chili powder recipe

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 cup water

3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon fish sauce or 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

For Serving (Optional)

Bread rolls

Coleslaw, see our mayonnaise based coleslaw recipe or our mayo-free coleslaw

Pickles

Barbecue sauce, see our bacon bourbon barbecue sauce recipe

Hot Sauce

Directions

  • Prepare Pork
  • Rub the pork with salt and pepper, and then set aside while you prepare the remaining ingredients. (See notes below if you plan to sear the pork first).

    Heat oil in a wide skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic then cook, occasionally stirring, until they are sweet and browned around the edges. Stir in the tomato paste, chili powder, and cumin. Cook, stirring until the tomato paste turns from bright red to orange in color; about 3 minutes. Add the water, apple cider vinegar, and fish sauce and cook for about 1 minute, scraping up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan.

    • Cook Pork
    • Rest the seasoned pork in the bottom of a slow cooker then pour the onion and spice mixture on top. Wiggle the pork around the bottom of the slow cooker so that some of the onion and spice mixture slides underneath. Cover with lid and cook until the pork can be easily shredded; LOW for 6 to 8 hours or HIGH for 4 to 6.

      • To Finish
      • Turn off the slow cooker and transfer the pork to a cutting board. If the pork has a bone in it, remove and discard it. Use two forks to shred the meat, discarding any connective tissue, and large clumps of fat.

        Remove the cooking liquid and skim most of the fat from its surface. Discard the fat then set the cooking liquid aside.

        If using barbecue sauce, add it to the slow cooker and stir in the shredded pork. For even more flavor, add back some of the reserved cooking liquid. If you’re not using barbecue sauce, add the shredded pork and the cooking liquid back to the slow cooker. Taste and season with salt, additional vinegar, or hot sauce as needed.

Adam and Joanne's Tips

  • Can I make this Pulled Pork in an Instant Pot© or pressure cooker? Yes! Cook the onions, garlic, spices, tomato paste, water, vinegar, and fish sauce as shared in the recipe above. This can be done using the Sauté function if you have an Instant Pot. Add the seasoned pork and onion mixture to the pressure cooker/Instant Pot, seal the lid and cook on high pressure for 1 hour. Quick release based on the manufacturer’s instructions, shred the pork, and then skim and discard the excess fat from the cooking liquid. To serve, combine the skimmed cooking liquid and shredded pork.
  • Fish Sauce: Find fish sauce in the international aisle of most grocery stores, in international markets, or online. It has a salty-sour flavor and is something we use to elevate flavors in savory dishes or dishes with lengthy cooking times. On Inspired Taste, you see us use it in our Homemade Pho recipe. If you do not have any, Worcestershire sauce is a good substitute.
  • Searing the pork: Some readers have asked why we don’t brown the pork first. We’ve tried it, and while it adds a bit more flavor, in this case, the difference isn’t overwhelming. We skip the step. If you prefer, you can sear the outside of the pork in the same skillet you plan to make the onion-garlic mixture. Searing will leave some browned stuck bits to the bottom of the skillet that you can scrape up when you add the water later on.
  • Nutrition facts: The nutrition facts provided below are estimates. We have used the USDA Supertracker recipe calculator to calculate approximate values.

If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #inspiredtaste — We love to see your creations on Instagram and Facebook! Find us: @inspiredtaste

Nutrition Per Serving: Serving Size 1/10 of the recipe (assumes 10 servings) / Calories 404 / Protein 28 g / Carbohydrate 2 g / Dietary Fiber 0 g / Total Sugars 1 g / Total Fat 31 g / Saturated Fat 11 g / Cholesterol 109 mg
AUTHOR: Adam and Joanne Gallagher

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92 comments… Leave a Comment
  • Rachel January 15, 2023, 10:24 pm

    This recipe was out of this world!!! First time making pulled pork and I am blown away 1. How easy it was 2. Minimal ingredients and prep required 3. The mouthwatering taste!! I tweaked the recipe ever so slightly and replaced the cumin and chilli powder with 1/2 tablespoon of smoked paprika and 1/2 tablespoon of ground paprika. I also slow cooked it for 9 hours and once I shredded the meat I just added about 5 ladles of the liquid onto the meat and placed in the fridge. I have since shared this with all my family. Thanks so much for the incredible recipe 🙂

    Reply
    • Adam January 16, 2023, 2:45 pm

      You are very welcome. We are so glad you enjoyed it!

      Reply
  • Mark January 9, 2023, 9:43 am

    This recipe turned out excellent. I didn’t follow it to a “T” because I didn’t have available all the ingredients. But I followed 98% of it and it still turned out excellent. Very moist meat. Very tender. All our guests commented how tasty it was. By the way, Inspiredtaste.net is my go to web-site for recipes. Hats off to Adam & Joanne because everything I have made from your recipes was well worth it! Plus, you make more complex recipes rather simple. Thank you for your passion in sharing high quality and very tasty recipes!

    Reply
    • Joanne January 10, 2023, 5:00 pm

      Hi Mark, We are thrilled that you enjoyed the pork so much and thank you very much for all of your kind words!

      Reply
  • Jennifer October 23, 2022, 8:42 pm

    This really is the best pulled pork recipe! I have made it twice and it is just delicious! Made it in a Crockpot – cooked on low for 9 hours – first with tenderloin, then with pork shoulder – both delicious. Tenderloin gave it a leaner taste – the shoulder tasted richer and more flavorful.
    Followed the recipe; the second time added some tabasco and a little BBQ sauce before it cooked 🙂

    Reply
  • Carrie October 21, 2022, 5:26 pm

    Have you ever made this in a roaster oven? If so, what temp would you recommend? Thanks!!

    Reply
  • Amelie October 20, 2022, 9:26 am

    This recipe is excellent! I have made it 4-5 times. I brought it over to a pot luck once with sourdough buns and coleslaw, it was the favourite dish. I tried other recipes and they don’t even come close.I have made it without fish sauce only, still very good. It reheats beautiful in the sauce, we skim some fat from the top and I have kept it to cook other foods.

    Reply
  • Stephanie September 22, 2022, 9:40 am

    Is it best to pull the pork right away after taking it out of the pot? My daughter made this, flavor was there, but slot of fat

    Reply
    • Joanne September 23, 2022, 11:56 am

      Hi Stephanie, You can pull the pork and then add it to all of the juices. Then place into the fridge. Any fat will rise to the top and you can scrape it away before reheating.

      Reply
  • Janet August 31, 2022, 5:06 am

    This pulled pork recipe was absolutely delicious. I followed the recipe exactly and it was tender and juicy and full of flavour. I will definitely be making it again.

    Reply
  • Wovenpaua August 10, 2022, 1:45 am

    This is the absolute best recipe I’ve tried for pulled pork. I get given a lot of wild pork and the slow cooker is the best way to cook it. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  • Joanna Maloney July 14, 2022, 9:39 am

    Just a quick mention: With the exception of the apple cider vinegar, this recipe is Keto and could be adapted for those on a ketogenic diet. Some pulled pork recipes are full of sugar. Great to find one that is not.

    Reply
  • Linda July 3, 2022, 6:25 pm

    Excellent pulled pork recipe- the best I have ever made. Used a 7 pound pork shoulder in the crockpot. Cooked on low 12 hrs. It literally melted in our mouths. My family is a fan!

    Reply

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