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!

A sandwich with Instant Pot pulled pork

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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.

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 (this recipe’s cousins Slow Cooker Honey Pulled Pork with Cornmeal Pancakes and Italian Beef work in much the same way).

Pulled pork in a pressure cooker

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 2,000 5-star reviews and counting!).

That’s why instead of making a 3-ingredient Instant Pot pulled pork with Sweet Baby Ray’s (or 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, you can use pork butt/shoulder.

A Note on Cooking Liquids

  • I prefer broth to Instant pot pulled pork with Dr. Pepper, Coke, or other sodas. While pop is popular, as with bottled sauces, it makes the pork much higher in sugar than is needed.
  • Instead, I rub the pork liberally with spices. Once it’s shredded, I reduce its cooking juices to create a sauce, then sweeten it to taste with pure maple syrup and molasses. The flavor is better, and it’s better for you too!
  • I do not recommend bottled barbecue sauce as a cooking liquid for Instant Pot pulled pork, as thick, sugary, tomato-based products can trigger a “BURN” warning (the worst!).

My favorite cooking liquid for pulled pork is beef broth.

How Long to Cook Pulled Pork in the Instant Pot

The amount of time you need to cook pork in the Instant Pot will vary based on the cut.

  • Pork Loin. For a 4-to-5-pound pork loin, pressure cook for 40 minutes on high, then let the pressure release naturally for 15 minutes.
  • Pork Shoulder/Butt. For a 4-to-5-pound pork shoulder or pork butt, cook the pork for 1 hour on high pressure, then let the pressure release naturally for 15 minutes.
  • Pork Tenderloin. I do not recommend this cut for pulled pork, as it will be too dry. See more in the ingredients section below.

TIP!

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 cause the meat to seize and toughen.

How to Make 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 off of 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.


The Ingredients

  • 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.

Ingredient Note

When it comes to making pulled pork, you know you need a big piece of meat, but the options can be confusing. Here’s the low down:

  • Pork Shoulder/Pork Butt. Although the two cuts are slightly different, for all intents and purposes, you can use them the same way (and your grocery store likely only labels them one way or the other). This is a tough, heavily marbled cut of pork that benefits from long cook times and does well in the pressure cooker. It is the fattiest cut, and thus many would argue the most delicious. If I REALLY want to go all-in, this is the cut I use.
  • Pork Loin. This is a leaner cut. It still has adequate fat to come out satisfyingly juicy and moist (just not *as* moist as pork shoulder/butt). When I am making pulled pork, this is the cut I use most often. It is delicious and I appreciate that it’s a little lighter.
  • Pork Tenderloin. NOT the same as pork loin. This is the leanest cut of them all. I do not recommend pork tenderloin for pulled pork, as it is too dry when shredded. Instead, try my succulent Instant Pot Pork Tenderloin or Stuffed Pork Tenderloin.
  • 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.
  • 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 add depth to the barbecue sauce. The mixture has an array of savory notes and adds a hint of spice without being too spicy.

The Directions

Three pieces of meat on a cutting board
  1. Stir the pork spices together, then rub them on the pork.
Pork in a pressure cooker with spices
  1. Brown the largest pork piece in the Instant Pot. Remove the pork.
Meat in a pressure cooker
  1. Repeat with the remaining pork.
  2. Pour in part of the broth, scraping the bottom of the pot. Add the rest of the broth and onion.
  3. Return the pork to the pot and cook on HIGH for 40 minutes for pork loin or 1 hour for pork shoulder/butt. Let the pressure release naturally for 15 minutes.
  4. Transfer the pork and onions to a bowl. Reserve most of the cooking juices.
  5. Turn the Instant Pot to saute, and whisk all the sauce ingredients together. Loosely cover the pot with the lid, simmer, and let thicken for about 5 minutes.
Instant Pot pulled pork in a bowl
  1. Shred the pork, then stir it and the onions into the Instant Pot. Serve as desired and ENJOY!
Instant Pot pulled pork sandwiches

How to Serve Instant Pot Pulled Pork

Classic sammie? Pulled pork hash? You have tasty options!

Storage Tips

  • 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.

Leftover Ideas

Utilize leftover pulled pork on pizza, in a pasta dish, or piled onto Crock Pot Baked Potatoes. It would also be tasty tucked into an Air Fryer Grilled Cheese.

An Instant Pot pulled pork sandwich

What to Serve with Pulled Pork

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.

The Best Instant Pot

This high-quality Instant Pot is incredibly easy to use and clean. It will shave cooking time off of so many of your favorite recipes (including pulled pork!).

A sandwich with Instant Pot pulled pork

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A sandwich with Instant Pot pulled pork

Instant Pot Pulled Pork

This easy, juicy Instant Pot Pulled pork is fall-apart tender pork in a sweet and smoky barbecue sauce, and perfect for a crowd!

Prep: 10 mins
Cook: 1 hr
Total: 1 hr 10 mins

Servings: 8 servings

Ingredients
  

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)

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
  • ⅛ to 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Instructions
 

  • 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!

Notes

  • *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 ½ to 2 cups of your favorite barbecue sauce instead.

Nutrition

Serving: 1(of 8); with sauceCalories: 416kcalCarbohydrates: 19gProtein: 54gFat: 13gSaturated Fat: 6gCholesterol: 143mgPotassium: 1475mgFiber: 2gSugar: 13gVitamin A: 1033IUVitamin C: 8mgCalcium: 60mgIron: 3mg

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Hi, I'm Erin Clarke, and I'm fearlessly dedicated to making healthy food that's affordable, easy-to-make, and best of all DELISH. I'm the author and recipe developer here at wellplated.com and of The Well Plated Cookbook. I adore both sweets and veggies, and I am on a mission to save you time and dishes. WELCOME!

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8 Comments

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  1. I have hypertension and am supposed to monitor/limit my sodium intake. I wish you would include the amount of sodium in your recipes.

    thanks!

    Kevin

    1. Hi Kevin! I stopped including sodium info because it can vary so much depending upon what products you used, and I found a lot of conflicting info online, so ultimately I didn’t feel comfortable publishing it because sometimes it wasn’t even in the ballpark. If you’d like to calculate it yourself, there are lots of free tools online (myfitnesspal.com is popular). I hope that helps!

    1. Hi Tammy! I’ve only tested the recipe as written, so I don’t have any specific advice to offer for the slow cooker. However, I do have crockpot pulled pork recipes in the pork section of my website that you might enjoy trying!

  2. So I accidentally bought bone in pork shoulder.. is there a way to use it instead of boneless for this recipe?

    1. Hi Allison! I’ve only tested the recipe with boneless pork, so you’d be experimenting. If you decide to try it, I’d love to hear how it goes!

  3. I am confused with step 7. I understand that you may need juices for pork and sauce if too dry… But….. you pour ALL but one cup into a spouted bowl… for use later. What do you do with the ‘all but one cup’ .. ie the one cup ? very confusing… do you throw it away or what ?

    “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”

    1. Hi Greg! You will use the remaining of the juices in step 9. Only if you need it. Step 9 says “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.” Hope that helps!