Perfect Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

This is the best slow cooker pulled pork recipe we’ve made. When the pork is finished you have juicy and tender pulled pork as well as a rich and flavorful broth. Easy and unbelievably delicious!

Watch the Video

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork Recipe Video

This slow cooker pulled pork is a favorite in my house! The slow cooker is the perfect tool for cooking pork shoulder, which is what we’ll use to make this recipe.

Cooking the pork low and slow makes it incredibly tender. If you’d prefer to make this in the oven, see our oven pulled pork recipe.

Best Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

Key Ingredients

  • Pork: Use boneless or bone-in pork shoulder for this recipe (sometimes called Boston butt or pork butt). It’s a 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.
  • Onion and garlic: Are the base of our simple sauce.
  • Tomato paste: Adds some color, richness, and umami to the cooking liquid.
  • Chili powder and cumin: Add a little spice. I don’t use a lot, just enough to make the pork extra delicious.
  • Apple cider vinegar: Adds a little tanginess and helps to tenderize the pork. Without it, the pork tastes flat. Adding the vinegar wakes everything up.
  • Fish sauce or Worcestershire: Seasons our cooking liquid and adds a nice burts of umami, which makes the pulled pork even more delicious.

How to Make Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

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

We’re pretty heavy-handed with salt and pepper initially and like to rub the pork with them, getting the salt into all the nooks of the meat. We also season the pork about 20 minutes before we turn the slow cooker on.

Seasoning pork shoulder with salt and pepper before adding to the slow cooker.

After seasoning the pork, we combine cooked onions, garlic, tomato paste, and spices. We then pour the mixture over the pork, and we’re ready to cook.

Adding onions, garlic, tomato paste, and spices on top of pork in a slow cooker for slow cooker pulled pork

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

In our pulled pork recipe, we call for at least 8 hours in the slow cooker, 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. You can do it overnight and wake up to perfect pulled pork!

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. 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.

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork - so tender and juicy!

After skimming the cooking liquid, place the pork back into the slow cooker. Then, shred the pork. I use two forks to pull the pork apart. Since it’s so tender, it literally will fall apart on you. When shredded, stir the pork back into the liquid in the slow cooker.

Storing and Reheating Pulled Pork

Pulled pork lasts in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days. You can also freeze it for up to 3 months. Freeze your pulled pork in airtight containers or freezer-safe bags. Thaw overnight in the fridge before reheating.

To reheat pulled pork in the slow cooker, place it in the slow cooker and cook on LOW for 2 to 3 hours. Or reheat on the stove in a pan over medium-low heat until heated through. If it seems dry, add a splash of water to the pan.

What to Serve with Pulled Pork

Slow cooker pulled pork is such a delicious main dish, and there are so many options for goes well with it. I love making pulled pork sandwiches with a spoonful of creamy coleslaw on top. Other cold salads like potato salad, pasta salad, and bean salad are great, too.

For something warm, try homemade mashed potatoes, creamy mac and cheese, or roasted potatoes. And to soak up all the delicious sauce, consider a side of homemade cornbread!

If you want to serve your pulled pork with barbecue sauce, try our homemade BBQ sauce or for a different spin, serve with some homemade hoisin sauce (trust me, it’s delicious).

Best Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

Perfect Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

  • PREP
  • COOK

This slow cooker pulled pork recipe guarantees juicy and tender pork. Serve the pork as is or feel free to stir in your favorite barbecue or other sauces at the end of cooking. I especially love this homemade BBQ sauce.

Makes 10 servings

Watch Us Make the Recipe

You Will Need

1 (4 ½ to 5 pound) boneless or bone-in pork shoulder (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, try homemade chili powder

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 cup water

3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon fish sauce or 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce


    1Rub the pork with salt and pepper, then place it into your slow cooker.

    2Heat 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.

    3Stir in the tomato paste, chili powder, and cumin. Cook, stirring, until the tomato paste turns from bright red to orange, about 3 minutes.

    4Add 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.

    5Pour the onion and spice mixture over the pork, then move the pork around the bottom of the slow cooker so that some of the onion and spice mixture slides underneath.

    6Seal the slow cooker with its lid and cook until very tender, LOW for 6 to 8 hours or HIGH for 4 to 6 hours.

    7Turn 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.

    8Remove the cooking liquid and skim most of the fat from its surface. Discard the fat, and then set aside the cooking liquid.

    9If 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 to the slow cooker. Then, taste and season with salt, vinegar, or hot sauce.

Adam and Joanne's Tips

  • Instant Pot pulled pork: Using the saute function of your Instant Pot, cook the onions, garlic, spices, tomato paste, water, vinegar, and fish sauce as shared in the recipe above. Add the seasoned pork and onion mixture to the 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.
  • Searing the pork: We skip searing the pork for this recipe. 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 at the bottom of the skillet that you can scrape up when you add the water later.
  • The nutrition facts provided below are estimates.
Nutrition Per Serving Serving Size 1/10 of the recipe (about 6 ounces) / 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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102 comments… Leave a Review
  • Angela March 19, 2024, 7:47 am

    Hi, I really loved this recipe. It was quick and easy to prepare, and absolutely delicious.

    • Joanne April 13, 2024, 3:57 pm

      Thanks for coming back to let us know, Angela!


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