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

Easy Slow Cooker Pork

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.

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:

Homemade Coleslaw — I love the crunch of coleslaw with pulled pork. If you don’t like mayo-based salads, try our mayo-free coleslaw.

Herb Potato Salad — This mayo-free potato salad is perfect served cold or warm. Here’s our classic creamy potato salad if that is more your style.

Quick and Easy Pasta Salad — This fresh and easy pasta salad packed with crisp vegetables, fresh mozzarella, and tossed with a simple homemade dressing.

Ultra Creamy Baked Mac and Cheese — You’ll love this ultra creamy mac and cheese recipe! With the perfect ratio of milk to cheese to sauce, this macaroni and cheese is at the top of my favorites list!

More Easy Pork Recipes

Ultimate Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

  • PREP
  • COOK

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


Barbecue sauce, see our bacon bourbon barbecue sauce recipe

Hot Sauce


  • 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. 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. Naturally release (this takes 15 to 30 minutes) then 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: 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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75 comments… Leave a Comment
  • Kamilia July 26, 2020, 5:51 am

    Thank you for a fantastic recipe. I just discovered your blog. The pork was so flavoursome, and I love that there is no added sugar. I mixed the shredded pork with some of the cooking liquid, and I didn’t add any barbecue sauce at the end. My children loved it!

  • Zara July 26, 2020, 4:18 am

    Goto recipe, so easy to make, and pleases everyone! Works perfectly with coleslaw and wraps, leftovers are great.

  • Debbie July 1, 2020, 10:46 pm

    I have always hated pulled pork BUT this recipe has converted me. Now I can’t wait for pork butt to go on sale at our local butcher/grocery. I will make 2 large ones in my large crock pots then split the meat up for different meals. We BBQ some. Use taco seasoning on some for pork tacos/fajitas; some we leave plan. It’s just veritable! Thank you so much for sharing!!

  • joanna June 28, 2020, 2:01 am

    I love that this recipe doesn’t have brown sugar like most other recipes. I was looking for something keto friendly. I can use my sugar free bbq sauce with this and it will be perfect!

  • Carolyn May 23, 2020, 6:27 pm

    Easy and delicious! I didn’t have fish sauce and was out of Worcestershire sauce, so I substituted 1Tablespoon of liquid smoke. I can’t imagine it turning out any better. Will definitely make again!

  • Brigid Priebe January 11, 2020, 10:37 pm

    Made this today in the pressure cooker!! Sooo good and super easy. I didn’t have any apple cider vinegar so I substituted white wine and used Worcestershire sauce,served on toasted ciabatta rolls. Delicious!!! This recipe is a winner!! Thank you Joanne and Adam ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

    • Donna January 25, 2021, 7:28 pm

      Brigid, how long did you cook it for in the pressure cooker? Thank you

  • Debbie November 30, 2019, 7:53 am

    This recipe is so easy and fool proof that even a novice like me could make it so delicious. The chilli powder gave it a kick and I don’t think it’s overpowering. Every element in it works so well together. My family loved it! Will definitely make it again.

  • Laura November 8, 2019, 1:22 am

    This dish was amazingly good. The flavors melded beautifully and it was delicious. This is a definite keeper – my family loved it!

  • Denise Freitas October 26, 2019, 12:24 pm

    Well, made this earlier this week and I’m not crazy about it. Both the chili powder flavors are overpowering. DH said it is okay, but agrees that it has more the flavor if pork carnitas than pulled bbq. I won’t make it again.

  • Lisa August 6, 2019, 8:31 am

    Excellent! It didn’t even need barbeque sauce. I brought it to a party and it got many compliments and so easy to make!

  • Angela Sprenkle March 24, 2019, 5:25 pm

    Just made this recipe today. I followed the recipe to a T. It was absolutely amazing. My family devoured the pork. This will be my one and only pulled pork recipe. Thanks for sharing!

  • Gayle March 16, 2019, 10:25 pm

    The finished product is awesome!! We ate it for days and did not get tired of it at all. The only ingredients I didn’t use was the apple cider vinegar as I didn’t have any. You will not be sorry in any way if you try this recipe.

  • Laurene Carnall March 11, 2019, 4:25 am

    My husband discovered this recipe and makes it for me all the time, we love it, the pork tastes amazing, thanks for a fantastic recipe

  • bruce edwards March 8, 2019, 12:09 pm

    well i went and cooked this recipe now i am in trouble, we are a family on the hill of around 15 adults an 20 young ones. Bruce will you fix this for my sons birthday party, oh i have to tell you i slow cook and smoke 40 lbs at a time this is the best BBQ thanks for the info. I add a little liquid smoke but that is all

  • Staci February 26, 2019, 9:02 am

    I don’t own a slow cooker or pressure cooker. How long would you recommend cooking this in a regular dutch oven and at what temperature? Thank you.

    • Joanne March 13, 2019, 1:26 pm

      Hi Staci, I’d use a low oven 275 to 300 degrees F and cook, covered in the Dutch oven until tender (4 to 5 hours).


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