Tender, Flavorful Pulled Pork Is Easy Thanks to These 8 Recipes
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, pork is the most widely consumed meat in the world, accounting for more than 36 percent of the population’s meat intake. While there are innumerable ways to enjoy this meat — from pork belly and pork chops to bacon and sausage — pulled pork is a perennial favorite worldwide, with a particular prominence in American barbecue.
Pulling pork involves cooking a tough cut of meat for several hours over a low temperature, writes the Kitchn, resulting in tender meat that can be teased apart with fingers or a fork to yield mouthwatering results.
Try any of these eight recipes to dress up this slow-cooked favorite at home — we promise you won’t be disappointed.
1. Authentic Cochinita Pibil (Spicy Mexican Pulled Pork)
Inspired by the zesty foundations of Mexican cuisine, this spiced, slow-cooked pork from All Recipes calls for a traditional Central American ingredient called achiote paste (also known as recado rojo), available in the international section at most grocery stores. The paste is a distinctive blend of earthy flavors, consisting of bold annatto seeds, cumin, chiles, and vinegar, writes Silk Road Spices. Despite the dish’s complex taste, it takes just 25 minutes to prepare — then, pop it into the slow cooker for around 6 hours and 20 minutes. Recipe serves 6.
- 1 red onion, sliced thin
- 3 habanero peppers, sliced
- 10 limes, juiced
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 3 ounces dried guajillo chile peppers, seeded and deveined
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 3 pounds boneless pork shoulder, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 3 cups fresh orange juice
- 1 cup white vinegar
- 1 bulb garlic, peeled
- 7½ ounces achiote paste
Directions: Combine the onion, habanero peppers, lime juice, and salt in a bowl; cover and refrigerate while preparing and cooking the pork. Use rubber gloves when preparing the habanero peppers, and avoid touching eyes, nose, or skin while slicing peppers. Place the guajillo peppers in a bowl; pour enough hot water over the peppers to cover. Allow to soak until the peppers are softened, about 10 minutes.
Heat the oil in a large skillet at medium-high heat. Season pork with salt and pepper; cook in the hot oil until completely browned, 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer the pork to a slow cooker.
Combine the guajillo peppers, orange juice, vinegar, garlic, and achiote paste in a blender; blend until smooth. Pour the sauce over the pork cubes in the slow cooker. Cook on high until the pork easily falls apart, 6 to 8 hours. Remove the pork to a serving dish and shred with two forks. Pour the achiote sauce over the shredded pork. To serve, top with the onion-habanero salsa.
2. Mustard-Rubbed Pulled Pork
Great news! You are just five ingredients away from the tangy, tender pulled pork of your dreams. Emily Bites shares this idea for a simple, zingy dish that can be served on its own, stuffed in a roll, on top of a potato — simply put, any way you please. The addition of brown sugar in this dish takes a bit of the edge off a sharp combination of apple cider vinegar and mustard, while Cajun seasoning lends it a pointed kick at the end. Recipe takes 30 minutes to prepare and should be cooked through over about 8 hours, yielding 16 (half-cup) servings.
- 5 pound bone-in pork shoulder
- ½ cup yellow mustard
- ⅓ cup packed brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning
- ½ cup apple cider vinegar
Directions: Pork shoulders generally have a layer of fat covering one side. Using a sharp knife, remove this layer of fat and trim off any additional significant pieces of fat from the outside.
On a cutting board, coat the outside of the pork shoulder in mustard. Once covered, sprinkle brown sugar over the mustard and pat into the mustard coating. Sprinkle the Cajun seasoning over the top.
Place the coated pork shoulder into your slow cooker and make sure any residual mustard-brown sugar coating remaining on the cutting board gets drizzled on top. Cook on low for 8 hours until pork shreds easily and falls off the bone. Remove the bone and discard.
Remove the pork to a cutting board and shred using two forks. Taste the cooking liquid and add the cider vinegar. Transfer the liquid from the slow cooker to a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for about 10 to 15 minutes. Serve the liquid alongside the pork and drizzle over pork before eating — whether eating it straight, on a bun, or otherwise. Refrigerate and store sauce separately from any leftover pork.
3. Hawaiian BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich With Grilled Pineapple Relish
According to Dole, a pineapple can take up to two full years to mature — but these luscious and tangy fruits are certainly worth the wait. Sweeten up tonight’s dinner with a grilled pineapple relish to complement your tender, flavorful pulled pork — but the dish’s sweet and spicy chili sauce is what truly makes it a standout. Food Network‘s recipe takes 6 hours and 50 minutes, including slow-cooking time, and yields 4 sandwiches.
- ¼ cup light brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon ground coriander
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon onion powder
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 boneless pork butt or shoulder, fat cap scored (about 5 pounds)
- Sweet chile sauce, warmed (recipe follows)
- Unsalted butter, softened, to toast rolls
- 4 soft potato rolls or sweet Hawaiian bread rolls
- Grilled pineapple relish (recipe follows)
- Shredded red cabbage, to garnish
Sweet chile sauce
- 2 cups rice vinegar
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon crushed red pepper
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 4 cloves garlic, smashed
Grilled pineapple relish
- Oil, for grilling
- 1 fresh pineapple, skinned, cored, and cut into 1-inch slices
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
- 1 tablespoon peeled and grated fresh ginger
- 1 lime, juiced
- 1 jalapeño, seeded and diced
- ½ red onion, diced
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Directions: For the roast pork – In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar, coriander, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, black pepper, cinnamon, and cumin to make a dry rub. Massage the rub over the pork, making sure to rub it in between the scored fat cap. Wrap the pork in plastic wrap and let it sit for 2 hours or overnight in the fridge.
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit with the oven rack in the middle position. Remove the plastic wrap from the pork and place in a Dutch oven with a lid. Cover and place in the oven to roast for 3 hours. After 3 hours, uncover and cook for another 45 minutes to brown the fat and cook until the pork registers 200 degrees Fahrenheit on an instant-read thermometer. Remove from the oven and let rest for 20 minutes.
Using two forks or your hands, pull apart the warm pork. Toss with the chile sauce. Butter and toast the buns until golden brown. Place ample quantities of pork on the bottom bun and top with grilled pineapple relish and shredded red cabbage. Do your best hula dance and enjoy.
Sweet chile sauce — Bring the vinegar, sugar, crushed red pepper, salt, and garlic to a boil and cook until the sugar and salt dissolve. Simmer for 5 to 10 minutes, and then set aside until the pork is ready. Right before you toss in the pork, remove the smashed garlic cloves.
Grilled pineapple relish — Preheat a grill pan or grill over high heat. Rub the grill with a bit of oil and grill each side of the pineapple slices until dark grill marks appear, 3 to 5 minutes a side. Roughly chop the pineapple and add it to a bowl with the cilantro, ginger, lime juice, jalapeño, and onions. Season with salt and pepper.
4. Asian Oven Roasted Pulled Pork
Southeast Asia is the next stop on our pulled pork world tour: White On Rice Couple‘s recipe adds ginger, fish sauce, soy sauce, and spicy mustard to the mix, winding up with a complex and creative blend of flavors. The tender pork and its piquant sauce are a dazzling departure from your typical pulled pork dish, complementing to anything from rice to tacos to pasta. Recipe takes 5 hours to complete and yields 6 to 8 servings.
- 1 (4 to 5 pounds) pork butt or pork shoulder
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 5 to 6 medium cloves garlic, minced
- 1 (15-ounce) can diced or crushed tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons finely grated fresh ginger
- ¼ cup fish sauce or soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons chili garlic sauce
- 1 tablespoon spicy brown mustard
- ¼ cup brown sugar, packed
- 1 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Heat a medium sauce pan over medium-high heat. Then add oil, onion, and garlic. Cook onions and garlic until soft and fragrant.
Add tomatoes, ginger, fish sauce, chili garlic sauce, mustard, brown sugar, and black pepper. Gently stir the sauce and simmer on low heat for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
Heat large cast-iron pan or deep oven-proof skillet on medium-high heat. Lightly coat the pork shoulder with oil and season all sides with salt and pepper.
Sear each side of the pork shoulder on the hot pan until the pork is brown, about 3 to 5 minutes per side. Remove the pan or skillet from the heat and lay the pork in the pan. Pour the tomato sauce mixture over the pork into the oven proof pan. Cover the pork with aluminum foil.
Bake the pork for about 3 to 4 hours, or until the pork is tender and easily shreds with a fork. Allow the pork to rest for about 15 minutes before shredding the whole shoulder. Keep foil over the shredded pork to keep it warm before serving.
5. Cheesy Pork Enchiladas
Patience is a virtue, and allowing tomatoes, chilies, and pork to transform into a luscious medley of flavors over the course of 8 to 10 hours in the crockpot will most definitely prove rewarding in this final product. After the meat has cooked through, you’ll roll this hearty filling into saucy tortillas and top it all off with gooey cheddar and Monterey cheese. Chow’s recipe takes about 10 hours to complete and yields 10 (7-inch) enchiladas. To save yourself some time, try cooking the pork shoulder up to two days before serving.
- 2½ to 3 pounds pork shoulder
- 2 large tomatoes, cored and quartered lengthwise
- 10 whole dried New Mexico chiles, stems and seeds removed
- 6 whole dried arbol chiles, stems and seeds removed
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup cilantro leaves and tender stems, plus more for serving
- 1 large yellow onion, peeled and quartered through the root end
- 2 medium garlic cloves, peeled and lightly smashed
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 1 tablespoon dried Mexican oregano
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 10 (7-inch) flour or corn tortillas
- ½ cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
- ½ cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
- ½ cup sour cream, for serving
Directions: Put the pork shoulder, tomatoes, dried chilies, vinegar, and water in the crock of a large slow cooker. Cook on low until the meat is tender and easy to pull apart, 8 to 10 hours. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Carefully lift the cooked pork out of the slow cooker crock and transfer to a large bowl. Use a large spoon to skim the fat from the surface of the cooking liquid in the crock, removing as much as you like. With two forks, shred the meat into large bite-sized pieces, pulled-pork style.
Transfer the skimmed cooking liquid, including the chiles, to a blender jar. Add the cilantro, onion, garlic cloves, cumin, oregano, and salt. Blend sauce until thick and smooth (should make about 3 cups). Measure ¾ cup of the sauce and add it to the shredded pork in the bowl, mixing to achieve a nice, moist consistency. Spread 1 cup of the sauce into in the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking dish.
Pour the remaining sauce into a wide, shallow dish. Dip a tortilla into the sauce, submerging it so both sides are coated. Drain off excess sauce, then lay out the dipped tortilla to a work surface. Spoon some of the pulled pork down the center and roll to enclose the filling. Transfer to the baking dish, seam side down. Repeat with the remaining tortillas. Evenly distribute the remaining sauce over the rolled enchiladas and top with the cheese.
Bake, uncovered, until heated through and bubbling, about 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and let the enchiladas rest for 10 minutes before serving, so they’re easier to handle. Serve with sour cream and cilantro.
6. Slow Cooker Apple and Onion Pulled Pork
The U.S. apple crop was valued at nearly $3.1 billion as of 2012, according to the Agricultural Marketing Resource Center, and these fruits are popular for a reason. They’re crispy, sweet, and versatile, qualities that make recipes such as this one from Baked By Rachel so irresistible. Cumin and paprika offer the recipe a distinctive kick, and a bottle of beer is thrown in for an added earthy flavor. Recipe takes 8 hours and 15 minutes to complete and serves 15.
- 1 (3-pound) boneless pork shoulder
- 2 tablespoons smoked paprika
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons garlic powder
- 2 tablespoons cumin
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 2 medium apples, sliced
- 1 large onion, sliced
- 12 ounces beer
Directions: In a small bowl, mix together spices: smoked paprika through pepper. Coat the pork shoulder with the dry rub and refrigerate for 12 to 24 hours. Place apple and onion slices in the bottom of a slow cooker and top with the pork shoulder. Add beer and cook on low for 8 hours or high for 4 hours.
When cooking time is complete, remove pork from the slow cooker and let rest. When pork is cool enough to handle, begin shredding the meat and disposing of any excess fat. Place shredded, lean pork meat back in to the slow cooker and mix with the apples, onions, and cooking juices. Serve on a whole-grain bun with apple slices.
7. Pulled Pork Shepherd’s Pie
After using a straightforward pulled pork recipe such as this one from Alton Brown of the Food Network, follow several simple steps from the Black Peppercorn to create a hearty Shepherd’s Pie. The dish combines pork, savory and sweet barbecue flavors, potatoes, vegetables, and cheese into one luscious loaded casserole dish. Recipe takes 1.5 hours to complete and yields 6 to 8 servings.
- 5 to 6 cups pulled pork
- 2 cups barbecue sauce
- 1 cup frozen peas
- 1 cup frozen corn
- 3 to 4 pounds potatoes
- 2 tablespoons butter
- ¼ cup milk
- 1½ cups grated cheddar cheese
Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Peel potatoes and, if they are large, cut in half. Place in a pot and fill with water. Boil until tender. Drain the water. Add the butter and milk to the potatoes. Mash until the potatoes are creamy.
Toss pulled pork with BBQ sauce until evenly coated. Spread on the bottom of a 13-by-9-inch baking dish. Sprinkle frozen peas and corn on top of the pork. Spread the mashed potatoes on top of the frozen veggies. Top with the grated cheese.
Bake in the oven for 45 to 60 minutes. The cheese should be starting to brown and some barbecue sauce should be bubbling up the sides.
8. Pulled Pork with Strawberry Barbecue Sauce
Feeling adventurous? Incorporating strawberries into a pulled pork dish will bring a light, refreshing flavor to your typical vinegar- and ketchup-based barbecue sauce. Recipe‘s fruit-infused offering will give your barbecue dish a twist in several easy steps. This recipe takes 3 hours to complete and yields 8 servings, each containing 359 calories and 35 grams of protein.
- 1 (2½ to 3 pounds) boneless pork sirloin, shoulder, or butt roast
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon cooking oil
- 4 cups strawberries, halved or quartered
- ½ cup ketchup
- ¼ cup cider vinegar
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed
- Bottled hot pepper sauce (optional)
- 8 rolls or buns, split
- Fresh parsley leaves (optional)
- Green tomato wedges (optional)
Directions: Trim fat from pork. Sprinkle pork with salt and pepper. In large Dutch oven over medium heat, brown pork in hot oil on all sides. Add half the strawberries, the ketchup, vinegar, garlic, rosemary, and several dashes hot pepper sauce. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, 2 hours or until pork is tender. Remove pork from Dutch oven; loosely cover with foil. Let stand 10 minutes.
For strawberry BBQ sauce, skim fat from cooking liquid. Return liquid to Dutch oven; bring to boiling. Reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, for 8 minutes or until reduced to about 2 cups.
Using two forks, shred pork; discard fat. Stir 1 cup strawberry BBQ sauce into pork. Stir remaining strawberries into BBQ sauce. Serve pork on buns. Top with additional sauce and parsley. Pass remaining sauce. Serve with tomato wedges. Makes 8 sandwiches.