When you are hosting a gathering, recipes that (a) feed a crowd, (b) are budget-friendly, (c) show from-scratch effort but (d) are easy to make is like searching for a comfortable pair of jeans: way harder than it should be. Instant Pot Pulled Pork is the perfect fit!
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Fall-apart tender pork in a lightly sweet-and-smoky homemade barbecue sauce, this pressure cooker recipe is ideal anytime you need a big-batch meal, much like my Slow Cooker Pulled Pork.
Be it a gathering of guests with multiple tastes (I have yet to meet someone who, in their heart of hearts, does not like BBQ), dietary restrictions (that friend who doesn’t eat carbs can skip the bun), or you happen to have a pulled-pork loving husband who delights in eating it three nights in a row, Instant Pot pulled pork hits the spot.
It’s also incredibly freezer friendly.
Even for a small household, you can make the full amount, then portion and freeze the leftovers. Future you is already grateful.
When it comes to cooking pulled pork (or really any type of meat for a gathering—these Instant Pot Ribs are a favorite among my friends), I love using the Instant Pot.
The pressure cooker keeps the meat moist, you can use it to keep the pork warm, and guests can help themselves directly (Italian Beef works in much the same way).
Real-Deal Instant Pot Pulled Pork
I am serious in my focus on upping the nutritional value of recipes without compromising flavor or blowing your budget (a reason my cookbook, which has my best recipes yet, has more than 2,500 5-star reviews and counting!).
That’s why instead of making a 3-ingredient Instant Pot pulled pork Sweet Baby Ray’s (or using any other bottled barbecue sauce that’s loaded with high fructose corn syrup), I used simple ingredients that I bet you have in your pantry right now.
My other healthy swap for this recipe is to use pork loin, instead of the pork butt/pork shoulder that is typically used for pulled pork.
- Using pork loin cuts down on Instant Pot pulled pork calories, while still tasting saucy and moist.
- If you prefer, like connoisseurs of Instant Pot Carnitas do, you can use pork butt/shoulder.
How to Make Easy Instant Pot Pulled Pork
The list of spices here might look long, but they are basic ones that would be in most well-stocked spice cabinets (think onion powder and garlic powder).
I based the ingredients for the pulled pork sauce on my homemade Barbecue Sauce.
It’s easy to make and once you try it, you’ll never want to go back to the bottled stuff again.
- Pork. This affordable meat is ideal for serving a crowd. Once it’s shredded and sauced, you can use it for sandwiches, wraps, salads, and more.
- Pork Rub. Garlic powder, onion powder, smoked paprika, salt, and black pepper create our smoky and richly-flavored pork spice rub.
- Beef Broth. Gone are the days of wondering how much water you should put into your Instant Pot for pork, we’re using flavorful beef broth instead. It imparts deep flavor into the pork. For a 6-quart Instant Pot, you need at least 1 cup of liquid.
- Tomato Sauce + Paste. Important flavor builders for our homemade barbecue sauce.
- Apple Cider Vinegar. Adds that beloved tanginess to the sauce and helps tenderize the pork.
- Maple Syrup + Molasses. Both maple syrup and molasses give the barbecue sauce its sweetness and help it thicken. With a slight smokiness, molasses takes this sauce to the next level. You could also use brown sugar and molasss if you prefer.
- Worcestershire. Adds complexity and umami goodness.
- Sauce Spices. A blend of smoked paprika, chili powder, dry mustard, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, salt, and black pepper adds depth to the barbecue sauce. The mixture has an array of savory notes and adds a hint of spice without being too spicy.
- Cut the pork into a few large pieces, removing any large pieces of fat. Stir the pork rub together, then rub the the spice mixture all over on the chunked pork.
- Brown the largest pork piece in the Instant Pot. Remove the pork.
- Repeat with the remaining pork. Deglaze the pot to remove any stuck on bits, then add the rest of the broth and onion.
- Return the pork to the pot. Using a HIGH setting, 40 minutes is how long you cook pork in the Instant Pot (using pork loin). If you’re using pork shoulder/butt, you’ll cook on HIGH for 1 hour. Let the pressure release naturally for 15 minutes.
- Transfer the pork and onions to a bowl. Turn the Instant Pot to saute and reduce the cooking juices.
- Shred the pork, then stir it and the onions into the Instant Pot. Serve as desired and ENJOY!
How to Serve Instant Pot Pulled Pork
Classic sammie? Pulled pork hash? Instant Pot pulled pork onions combo? You have tasty options!
- Sandwich. A pulled pork sandwich with coleslaw (especially this Healthy Coleslaw) is a classic, can’t-miss option!
- Salad. Make your favorite salad extra hearty and flavorful by adding some pulled pork. Or, pair with a fresh Fruit Salad for a delicious meal.
- Quesadilla. Take a note from these Pulled Pork Quesadillas and turn your pork into a scrumptious new meal with tortillas and a sprinkle of cilantro.
- Hash. Adding this pulled pork to a hash would be delicious (especially the Sweets ‘n’ Beets Hash from The Well Plated Cookbook).
- Tacos. Give pulled pork a creative new spin by serving it taco style (like in these Slow Cooker Asian Pulled Pork Tacos and Slow Cooker Butternut Squash Pulled Pork Tacos).
- To Store. Refrigerate pork in an airtight storage container for up to 3 days.
- To Reheat. Rewarm leftovers in a Dutch oven on the stovetop over medium-low heat or in the microwave.
- To Freeze. Freeze pulled pork in an airtight freezer-safe storage container for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
Meal Plan Tip
Cut the pork and chop the onion up to 1 day in advance. Store them separately in the refrigerator.
Recommended Tools to Make this Recipe
- Instant Pot. Perfect for making pulled pork whenever the craving strikes!
- Whisk. This small-sized whisk won’t splatter sauce everywhere.
- Measuring Spoons. These double-sided measuring spoons are ideal for recipes like this one.
Who else is feeling saucy?
Frequently Asked Questions
While it is possible to overcook pulled pork in the Instant Pot, it’s very unlikely if you are using pork shoulder or butt. The pork should get more tender the longer it cooks. If using pork loin, which is leaner, you can overcook it.
No matter which cut of pork you use, DO NOT release the pressure right away. The slow release will keep the meat tender. An immediate release can be why your Instant Pot pulled pork is tough. It will cause the meat to seize and toughen.
I don’t recommend swapping in chicken, as the cook time is different. However, my Pulled Chicken Sandwich is a perfect alternative.
Instant Pot Pulled Pork Video
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Instant Pot Pulled Pork
FOR THE PORK:
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon onion powder
- 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 4 to 5 pounds boneless pork loin or pork shoulder/butt*, cut into 3 evenly sized chunks
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 (15-ounce) can low sodium beef broth or chicken broth, divided
- 1 yellow small onion chopped
- Whole wheat hamburger buns for serving
- Your favorite coleslaw for serving (check out this Asian Slaw for a homemade option)
- Pickled Onions for serving
FOR THE SAUCE**:
- 1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
- 1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
- 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
- 3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
- 2 tablespoons molasses
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon dry mustard
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 3/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- COOK THE PORK: In a bowl, stir together the garlic powder, onion powder, smoked paprika, salt, and black pepper. Rub it all over the outside of the pork.
- Add the oil to the Instant Pot and turn to SAUTE. Once the oil is hot, add the largest of the pork pieces and brown on two sides. This will take about 2 minutes per side. If your Instant Pot issues a “hot” or “burn” warning, turn the heat down (if you have that option), or if not, turn it off entirely and sear the pork in the residual heat. If the pot cools too much to brown, turn it back on. Remove the pork to a plate. Repeat with the remaining 2 pieces—you can cook the last 2 pieces at the same time as long as they do not overlap. Remove to the plate.
- Add half of the broth to the Instant Pot. With a wooden spoon, scrape up all of the stuck-on bits of food and seasoning.
- Add the remaining broth and the onion.
- Return the pork to the Instant Pot. Cover, seal, and cook on HIGH (manual) pressure for 40 minutes (for pork loin) or 1 hour (for pork shoulder/butt).
- Once the pressure has built and the cook time has elapsed, allow the pressure to release naturally for 15 minutes (do not open right away or the meat may be tough). Vent to release any remaining pressure then carefully open the Instant Pot.
- Remove the pork to a large bowl. With a slotted spoon, scooped out most of the onions and add them to the bowl with the pork. Carefully pour all but 1 cup of the pork cooking juices into an extra-large measuring cup or bowl with a spout. Keep the extra liquid handy.
- PREPARE THE BBQ SAUCE: Turn the Instant Pot to SAUTE. Whisk in the tomato sauce, tomato paste, vinegar, syrup, molasses, Worcestershire, paprika, chili powder, mustard, garlic powder, black pepper, salt, and cayenne. Cover the pot loosely with the Instant Pot lid, still leaving some room for steam to escape (this sauce loves to splatter). Let simmer, whisking every few minutes, until thickened, about 5 minutes.
- Once cool enough to handle, shred the pork with two forks or with your fingers. Stir the shredded pork, onions, and any juices at the bottom of the bowl into the pot with the sauce. If the sauce is too tight to easily coat the pork, splash in additional cooking juices so that the pork is nicely coated with sauce. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired. Pile onto buns, top with slaw, and enjoy!
- *Pork shoulder (or depending upon what your grocery store calls it, pork butt) is the fattier cut of meat and will result in the most moist pulled pork. For a leaner option, use pork loin (it will be slightly dryer and not fall apart as easily but will still be tasty—this is the cut we use most often at home). I do not recommend pork tenderloin for pulled pork, as it is too lean and will turn out tough prepared per this recipe. Make my Instant Pot Pork Tenderloin instead.
- **This sauce recipe is based on my Homemade Barbecue Sauce. If you prefer to skip the homemade version, you can shred the pork, then stir it together with 1 1/2 to 2 cups of your favorite barbecue sauce instead.
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