Ultimate Slow Cooker Pulled Pork Recipe

How to easily make slow cooker pulled pork perfect for sandwiches, salads, and tacos. For a quicker version, we have also shared how to make this pulled pork using a pressure cooker or Instant Pot. Jump to the Slow Cooker Pulled Pork recipe or read on to see our tips for making it.

Pulled pork is absolutely perfect for the slow cooker. It’s easy to do and is the ultimate make-ahead meal. Our recipe makes pulled pork that’s tender, full of flavor, and juicy. It’s delicious served alone or can easily be stirred into your favorite barbecue sauce.

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How to Make the Best Pulled Pork Using a Slow Cooker

The slow cooker really shines in this recipe. We start with a pork shoulder — also called pork butt or Boston butt.

How to easily make slow cooker pulled pork perfect for sandwiches, salads, and tacos. Juicy, tender and flavorful!

It’s a relatively tough cut and does well when cooked over a long period of time. 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 crock pot 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.

Season the Meat

This is important no matter what you are cooking, but it is especially important in a slow cooker. Once you hit start, you really don’t want to lift the lid, so taking some time to think about flavors and seasoning up front is a good idea.

How to Make the Best Pulled Pork in a Crock Pot

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.

Cook 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.

How to Make the Best Pulled Pork in a Slow Cooker

When I said the slow cooker shines in this recipe, I really meant it. It’s pretty difficult 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 easily 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.

Easy Slow Cooker Pork Recipe

Skim the Cooking Liquid then Save it

When the pork is done, not only will you have juicy, tender pulled pork, but you will also have a rich, 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 really easy to scrape off with a spoon.

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Easy Slow Cooker Pork Sandwiches

Ultimate Slow Cooker Pulled Pork Recipe

  • 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. This is a base recipe and while it is delicious as-is, you should feel free to stir in your favorite barbecue or other sauces at the end of cooking.

Makes approximately 3 1/2 pounds, 10 servings

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, stirring occasionally, until they are sweet and browned around the edges. Stir in the tomato paste, chili powder, and cumin. Cook, stirring often, 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.Pulled Pork Step 1

    • 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. If the mixture needs to be thinned out a little, add back some of the reserved cooking liquid. If you’re not using barbecue sauce, add the shredded pork back to the slow cooker and stir in enough cooking liquid so that the pork is moistened. 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. If you have an Instant Pot, this can be done using the Sauté function. Add the seasoned pork and onion mixture to the pressure cooker/Instant Pot, seal the lid and cook on high pressure for 1 hour. Allow the cooker to naturally release (this takes 15 to 30 minutes). Shred the pork then skim and discard the excess fat from the cooking liquid. To serve, combine the skimmed cooking liquid and shredded pork.
  • Fish Sauce: Fish sauce can be found in the international aisle in 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 sear 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 in. Searing will leave some browned stuck bits to the bottom of the skillet that will be picked 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: 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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21 comments… Leave a Comment
  • Nicole June 11, 2018, 9:42 pm

    I am trying this recipe as we speak. I put it in my instapot for an hour. I also added a bay leaf and a cinnamon stick for a little sweetness. Thank you! Can’t wait till it’s done!

    Reply
  • Lori June 11, 2018, 12:08 am

    I made this today. I used smoked paprika instead of the chili powder. The meat has a smoky flavor which I like because some bbq sauces people put on their pulled pork can be overpowering. I put the leftover juice in the blender and then poured some over the pulled pork. Excellent recipe. This is a keeper!

    Reply
  • Joy Gresham June 7, 2018, 12:43 am

    This was by far the best slow cooker pulled pork I’ve ever made. It was so tender and just fell apart when I took it out of the slow cooker. I prepped it the night before, put it in the crock and put the crock in the fridge so all I had to do was to throw the crock into the pot before leaving for work. I set it on low for 10 hrs. That was the perfect amount of time for a 5.5 lb butt.

    Reply

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