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This easy Slow Cooker Pulled Pork is mouthwateringly juicy, fall-apart tender, sweet, smoky, and saucy. It’s inspired by the pulled pork sandwiches at one of our favorite local BBQ joints. It’s great for a crowd and is always fall-apart tender!

easy pulled pork recipe made in a slow cooker and served on a bun

Why You’ll Love This Juicy Pulled Pork Recipe

  • The Flavor is Phenomenal. This easy pulled pork recipe is the best of the best! It’s melt-in-your-mouth tender, ultra smoky, and savory. If you’re like us, you may even find yourself preferring this homemade recipe to your local BBQ restaurant.
  • So Many Ways to Serve It. We primarily enjoy ours as slow cooker pulled pork sandwiches topped with Healthy Coleslaw and a side of Air Fryer Potato Chips, but that’s not the only option! Try Pulled Pork Quesadillas or take note from Slow Cooker Carnitas (Mexican pulled pork) and make tacos.
  • It’s Wonderful for a Crowd or Meal Prep. Slow cooker pulled pork (and similarly, Crockpot BBQ Chicken) has become a go-to dish whenever I’m serving a crowd. It’s an inexpensive crowd-pleaser, I can prep it in advance, and guests can serve themselves. Not using it all? Portion and freeze it for meal prep!
  • It Cooks Hands-Free. This easy slow cooker pulled pork is a “set-it-and-forget-it” that cooks almost entirely unattended. It’s easy and impossible to goof up.
Pulled pork recipe served as a sandwich

5 Star Review

“Made this for a lake weekend and it was PERFECT. Everyone loved it and it was so easy to reheat leftovers.”

— Janie —

What is the Best Cut of Meat for Pulled Pork?

When making pulled pork, choose a fatter, tougher cut of pork that can stand up to long, slow cook times.

  • This is because fat adds moisture. As it renders and the meat breaks down, the excess fat helps the pork stay juicy (and delicious), resulting in the best pulled pork recipe.
  • Pork shoulder is the traditional and best choice for crock pot pulled pork.

Here’s how it compares to other cuts in a pulled pork recipe.

  • Pork Shoulder. If you want meat so tender you can shred it with a spoon, slow cooker pork shoulder is the way to go. You’ll also see this cut referred to as pork butt (which for all intents and purposes is the same thing).
  • Pork Loin. Leaner than pork shoulder, it doesn’t make for pulled pork that is as juicy and tender, but it is usable in a pinch. Honestly, I do not love slow cooker pork loin NEARLY as much as shoulder. If you want to use pork loin, then try this Instant Pot Pulled Pork instead! It uses pork loin, and the Instant Pot traps enough moisture to keep the pork juicy.
  • Pork Tenderloin. DO NOT make slow cooker pork tenderloin. Just don’t. It’s far too lean of a cut, will very likely taste dry, and the pork will be difficult to shred. Instead, try this lovely Instant Pot Pork Tenderloin, Grilled Pork Tenderloin, Baked Pork Tenderloin, or Stuffed Pork Tenderloin.
  • Pork Ribs. While not used for pulled pork, they’re delicious in this Crockpot Ribs recipe and Instant Pot Ribs.
Award winning pulled pork recipe in a bowl

How to Make The Best Crock Pot Pulled Pork

The Ingredients

  • Pork. The star of the show! For unparalleled juiciness and melt-in-your-mouth taste, make slow cooker pork shoulder. (See immediately above for an explanation.)
  • Onion. It breaks down so much you’ll almost forget it’s there, but it works quietly in the background to make this BBQ pulled pork recipe taste more complex.
  • Tomato Paste. Its concentrated flavor gives the sauce backbone.
  • Apple Cider Vinegar. Slow cooker pulled pork with apple cider vinegar is a MUST! The acid helps cut and balance the richness of the pork. Yum!
  • Honey + Brown Sugar. Try as you might to make slow cooker pulled pork without sugar, some sweetness is essential for BBQ flavor. At the end of the day, it’s a much better option than high fructose corn syrup too.
  • Hot Sauce. Spicy to balance the sweet.

Ingredient Note

Pulled pork isn’t very spicy as this recipe is written, but you can certainly add more hot sauce if you like your pulled pork with a kick.

  • Worcestershire Sauce. The umami ingredient.
  • Liquid Smoke. Such a fun ingredient to use! It gives the pork an “I spent all day fussing over this” taste, with zero fuss at all. (If you prefer, you can omit it, but I think you’ll be happy with your purchase.)
  • Smoked Paprika + Garlic Powder + Mustard Powder. To make the sauce taste boss.
  • Cornstarch. A slurry thickens up the pork’s own cooking juices and makes them a part of the sauce. You don’t lose a drop of goodness.

The Directions

spices and onions for slow cooker pulled pork bbq sauce
  1. Start with the Sauce Ingredients. Add everything to the slow cooker.
slow cooker pulled pork bbq sauce
  1. Whisk. Make sure everything is mixed well.
slow cooker pulled pork shoulder on butcher paper with salt and pepper
  1. Season the Pork. This is important for creating tender, flavorful meat.
pork loin in a slow cooker for bbq pulled pork
  1. Cook the Pork. Spoon the sauce over the top, then cook on HIGH for 5 to 6 hours or LOW for 8 to 10 hours.
  2. Thicken the Sauce. Remove the pork, then add the cornstarch slurry. Let cook. Shred the pork and stir it together with the thickened BBQ sauce. ENJOY!
BBQ pulled pork recipe served on a bun with coleslaw

Storage Tips

  • To Store. Refrigerate leftover pulled pork for up to 4 days.
  • To Reheat. Rewarm over the stovetop or in the microwave, with a splash of water or chicken broth to keep the pork from becoming too thick or dry.
  • To Freeze. Portion the pork into airtight, freezer-safe containers of your desired size. Freeze for up to 3 months (I’ve gone even longer). Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator.

Meal Prep Tip

Crockpot pulled pork reheats beautifully! You can make the shredded pork up to 1 day in advance. Reheat it in the crockpot with a splash of water or broth added to thin the sauce as needed.

The best pulled pork recipe served on a bun

Leftover Ideas

Pulled pork is delish for more than sandwiches!

Ways to Serve Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

What to Serve With Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

slow cooker pulled pork with bbq sauce on a bun with coleslaw and chips

Recipe Tips and Tricks

  • Use Pork Shoulder (Or Butt). This is the secret to juicy pulled pork. When preparing pork in the slow cooker, remember that fat = flavor, so use pork shoulder or pork butt.
  • Make Sure The Meat is Thawed. You can put raw pork in the slow cooker, but it does need to be thawed first. If it isn’t, it can become unsafe to eat, because the pork will spend so much time at room temperature as it thaws.
  • Pick Up Liquid Smoke. Liquid smoke is inexpensive and available in the spice section of most major grocery stores or online here. It makes a big difference in this recipe, so don’t skip it.
  • Let Guests Help Themselves. Let your guests serve themselves right out of the slow cooker for easy entertaining. Like this Italian Beef, people can make sandwiches to their preferences (no bun, extra slaw, etc.), and you’ll have your hands free to enjoy the gathering

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

4.56 from 244 votes
The BEST easy slow cooker pulled pork recipe! Juicy and tender, you can use it for sandwiches, tacos, and more. Perfect for a crowd!

Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 5 hours
Total: 5 hours 45 minutes

Servings: 8 servings

Ingredients
  

FOR THE PULLED PORK:

  • 1 small yellow onion finely chopped
  • 6 ounces tomato paste
  • 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons mustard powder
  • 2 teaspoons Sriracha or hot sauce of choice
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt plus additional for the pork
  • 1 teaspoon liquid smoke optional but super good
  • 1 (3- to 4-pound) boneless pork shoulder or pork butt
  • Ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch plus 3 tablespoons cold water to create a slurry

FOR SERVING:


Instructions
 

  • In the bottom of a 6-quart or larger slow cooker, whisk together the onion, tomato paste, apple cider vinegar, honey, water, brown sugar, Worcestershire, smoked paprika, garlic powder, mustard powder, sriracha, 1 teaspoon salt, and liquid smoke (if using), until smoothly combined.
  • Season the pork all over with a generous amount of kosher salt and ground pepper.
  • Add the pork to the slow cooker and spoon the sauce all over the top to cover it.
  • Cover the slow cooker and cook on HIGH for 5 to 6 hours or LOW for 8 to 10 hours, until the pork is fall-apart tender. Transfer the pork to a large bowl, leaving the cooking liquid in the slow cooker.
  • In a small bowl, stir together the cornstarch with 3 tablespoons cold water to create a slurry. Pour into the slow cooker, then whisk to combine. Cover the slow cooker and cook on HIGH, whisking every so often, until the sauce is thickened to your liking, about 20 to 30 minutes.
  • While the sauce thickens, shred the pork with two forks or, if it is cool enough to handle, with your fingers.
  • Stir the shredded pork back into the thickened sauce in the slow cooker. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired (you may need an extra pinch of salt or some additional hot sauce if you enjoy a kick). Spoon pork on top of buns with coleslaw and pickles to create a sandwich, or serve it any way you like.

Video

Notes

  • TO STORE: Store slow cooker pulled pork for up to 4 days.
  • TO REHEAT: To reheat slow cooker pulled pork, warm on the stovetop or in the microwave, with a splash of water or chicken broth to keep the pork from becoming too thick or dry.
  • TO FREEZE: Portion the pulled pork into freezer-safe containers of your desired size. Freeze for up to 3 months (I’ve gone even longer). Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator.

Nutrition

Serving: 1(of 8) without bun or slawCalories: 313kcalCarbohydrates: 24gProtein: 40gFat: 6gSaturated Fat: 2gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 102mgPotassium: 957mgFiber: 1gSugar: 18gVitamin A: 576IUVitamin C: 7mgCalcium: 35mgIron: 3mg

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Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the Best BBQ Sauce for Pulled Pork?

The spectacular flavor of this easy crock pot pulled pork actually comes down to a homemade BBQ sauce that will convince your friends that you are a meat whisperer. Instead of using bottled barbecue sauce or ketchup (both of which are usually loaded with corn syrup or similar sugar), I worked off of my easy homemade Barbecue Sauce.

Do You Need Liquid in Slow Cooker for Pulled Pork?

Yes. Aim for about 1/4 cup of cooking liquid per pound of pork. You want enough to keep the pork moist while it cooks without it swimming in liquid (remember we’re slow cooking not boiling the pork).

Can You Overcook Pulled Pork in a Slow Cooker?

Technically yes. However, if you’re using a fatty, well-marbled cut of pork (like the shoulder) it’s really difficult to overcook the pork in a slow cooker. You’ll know if your slow cooker pulled pork is overcooked if it becomes mushy. This happens when the acid (e.g. vinegar) in the sauce breaks down the meat too much. If your slow cooker pork is not tender, however, it likely needs to be cooked longer (or you used a less fatty cut of meat). This may also be why your pork won’t shred in the slow cooker.

Is Slow Cooker Pulled Pork Best Cooked on High or Low?

While this pulled pork recipe will be delicious cooked on either HIGH or LOW, you’ll typically always get a more tender, moist, and flavorful result when cooking crockpot pulled pork on LOW as opposed to HIGH.

Should I Flip a Pork Shoulder in a Slow Cooker?

No. Unless the pork shoulder is very large and you’re concerned about even cooking, generally it’s not necessary to flip or rotate slow cooker pork shoulder. Just set it and forget it!

Related Recipes

Pork is so versatile, so you can do so much with different cuts and preparations. Here are some of my favorite pork recipes:

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Erin Clarke

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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84 Comments

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  1. Made this for about 30people after our Padel tournament at the Padel and Tennis club at La Sella, Denia Spain.
    I was trialing it for the day after our daughters wedding garden party in July for 80 guests.
    Went down a treat at n Spain, now we move onto Porto in Portugal fur the July event.

  2. Made this recipe for the first time for Memorial Day dinner. Turned out very well, just the right balance of flavor. Makes a large quantity of pulled pork, freezing so for leftovers. This recipe is definitely a keeper! Will make this again. By the way, goes really well with corn muffins.5 stars

  3. Great recipe for first timers. This was very good but for some reason I found it a tiny bit bitter. Maybe I did not sweeten it enough. I did make one substitution (raw blue agave for the maple syrup). I also would like it spicier. I will make this again adjusting the recipe a bit to make it more of what I like. Thanks!4 stars

  4. I used raw apple cider vinegar, and the dish had a very strong vinegar smell and taste. The vinegar flavor sort of overwhelming. Do you know if the raw apple cider vinegar is much different from the regular stuff?

    1. Hi Carey! I haven’t tested the recipe with raw apple cider vinegar, so that could be what caused the intense vinegar flavor. I hope you enjoyed the recipe otherwise!

  5. Quick question, your homemade bbq sauce recipe is linked at the top, but in the pulled pork recipe it has a different sauce.

    Is there one that you could recommend?

    thanks!

        1. Hi Jax! I’m sorry to say, but I am unsure. I’ve only tested the recipe as written. If you decide to make it with a bigger pork butt, I’d love to know how it turns out!

    1. Hi Jess! I probably wouldn’t double it. Maybe weigh it again once the bone is removed to see the exact weight and then decide if you need to double it or not. Hope you enjoy it!

    1. Hi Nancy! I’m so confused too because I see it on my end! It’s located in the recipe card right above where you commented. You can even click the “jump to recipe” button at the top of the page to get you there faster. Could you please check again? Thank you!

  6. Hi Erin! swear you use to have a honey pulled pork with cornbread like pancakes recipe!! Am I losing my mind? I love all your recipes especially especially this honey pulled pork one I can’t find! Help me!

      1. Thank you! I actually Just made this tonight in our slow cooker. I could only get a bone-in pork butt, but It turned out delicious!! So tender and yummy!5 stars

  7. Best pulled pork recipe. I omitted the liquid smoke and the cornstarch. Amazing taste. Even my husband was impressed! And he’s not a pulled pork fan.5 stars

  8. I didn’t make this recipe, but my daughter in-law did for Father’s Day and it was WONDERFUL. I know for a fact that the crock pot was empty. I loved the sweet/tangy vibe in the sauce. My daughter is a picky eater and she had extra. 2 thumbs up.

  9. This crockpot pulled pork was so easy and very taste ,definitely will make again .only thing I found was very rich ,so you don’t need to have to much .5 stars

  10. I made this for 4th of July and it was a hit! Instead of tomato paste I used barbecue sauce and regular vinegar sub apple cider vinegar. It was phenomenal, juicy, and easy prep.5 stars

  11. Can you double this recipe for 1 cook time in large crock or do you need to cook it twice & then add the results together to serve double portion from crock pot?

    1. Hi Beverly! I think what would determine if you could double it, is if your pork will fit into the slow cooker? If it does, then you should have no problem doubling it. Enjoy!

  12. Hello! Can i skip the mustard powder, as i dont have it on hand? Or is there anything I could use to substitue for it? Thanks!

    1. Hi Val! You could but it could change the flavor some. Do you have bottled mustard? You could use that instead. I’d use 2 tablespoons. Enjoy!

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