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!
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.
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.
How to Make The Best Crock Pot Pulled Pork
- 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.
- 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.
- Start with the Sauce Ingredients. Add everything to the slow cooker.
- Whisk. Make sure everything is mixed well.
- Season the Pork. This is important for creating tender, flavorful meat.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
Pulled pork is delish for more than sandwiches!
- Enjoy it over a salad (this BLT Chopped Salad would be delish).
Ways to Serve Slow Cooker Pulled Pork
- Sandwiches. The classic! You can use regular buns or make pulled pork sliders with small buns.
- Tacos. Tuck it into tortillas for slow cooker pulled pork tacos (you’ll love Instant Pot Carnitas too!).
- Rice Bowls. Swap it for the chicken in these Burrito Bowls (here’s how to cook brown rice and white rice).
- Salad. Add protein to a salad like this BLT Chopped Salad or use it instead of chicken in this BBQ Chicken Salad.
- Hash. Turn it into a breakfast hash with these Cauliflower Hash Browns and a fried egg, or add it to Sweet Potato Hash.
- Baked Potato. Pile it onto a Baked Potato (or Air Fryer Baked Potato) or an Air Fryer Sweet Potato.
- Pizza. Do a spin on BBQ Chicken Pizza, using pulled pork.
What to Serve With Slow Cooker Pulled Pork
- Baked Beans. CLASSIC with barbecue. Make Easy Baked Beans if you’re in a hurry or Boston Baked Beans for something long and slow.
- Slaw. The Picnic Slaw in The Well Plated Cookbook is fresh and fabulous.
- Grilled Vegetables. Perfect for a summer meal! Grilled Corn Salad or Grilled Potatoes would be tasty. For some green, try Grilled Asparagus or Grilled Brussels Sprouts.
- Sweet Potato Salad. A unique and scrumptious cookout classic. Plus, bacon! You can also stick with classic Healthy Potato Salad too.
- Mac and Cheese. Add Instant Pot Mac and Cheese to the mix and you’ll have an award winning pulled pork recipe.
Recommended Tools to Make this Recipe
- Glass Mixing Bowls. Stackable, durable, and microwave-safe.
- Magnetic Measuring Spoons. So easy to keep organized in your kitchen drawer.
- Whisk. Smaller size for easier storage and less splashing when mixing.
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
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
- 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.
- 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.
Join today and start saving your favorite recipes
Create an account to easily save your favorite recipes and access FREE meal plans.Sign Me Up
Frequently Asked Questions
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.
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).
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.
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.
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!