Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

This slow cooker pulled pork is easy to make with pork shoulder, aka pork butt, onion, beer, sugar, and spices, and it capably feeds a crowd. (Just be certain to stash some in the back of the fridge so you have leftovers.)

Partially shredded slow cooker pulled pork with two large forks shredding it.

Adapted from Nick Evans | Love Your Leftovers | Lyons Press, 2014

This slow cooker pulled pork recipe has a very different end product from a grilled or smoked pork butt recipe. Both will result in pulled pork, but this version is cooked in a liquid. It’s basically braised for hours and hours. It gets a lot of its flavor from the liquid, while the grilled version gets its flavor from a rub and the natural fats in the pork.

Have no fear, though; you can still use this pulled pork as you would any other. Just be sure to follow the step about removing all the liquid from the slow cooker and adding only a part of it back in, so your pork isn’t too soupy. Serve with toasted buns, barbecue sauce, and coleslaw for a classic meal.–Nick Evans


Why our testers loved this

As with all slow cooker recipes, our testers love the “set it and forget it” method used here. They also are thrilled that such an inexpensive, easy-to-prepare meal can feed a crowd or provide enough meat for several meals.

Notes on ingredients

  • Kosher salt–Not all kosher salt is created equal. If you are using Diamond Brand, use the full 1 tablespoon called for in the recipe. If you’re using Morton Brand, cut it back to 2 teaspoons. If you’re not certain of your brand of salt, use 2 teaspoons and adjust once the pork is cooked.
  • Pork butt (pork shoulder)–An 8-pound pork butt is perfect for the recipe. If you can get a bone-in pork shoulder, use that, but this will still work out well with a boneless roast. Don’t substitute with a different cut of pork, as pork loin doesn’t have enough marbling and fat to withstand the low and slow cooking method used here.
  • Beer–Use your favorite lager here, but avoid anything too malty or hoppy as it will impact the flavor of your pulled pork.
  • Soy sauce–The recipe calls for regular soy sauce. If you use low-sodium or tamari, check your seasoning after the pork is done cooking, and add salt if needed.

How to make this recipe

A piece of pork butt with spices on top and shredded pork in a roasting pan.
  1. Combine the spices. Mix the brown sugar, paprika, chili powder, salt, and pepper together in a small bowl.
  2. Prepare the pork. Cut the pork into chunks, rub with the spice mixture, and place in the slow cooker with the other ingredients.
  3. Cook the pork. Cover the pork and cook on low until falling apart, about 10 hours.
  1. Shred the pork. Transfer the pork to a roasting pan and shred with meat claws or two forks. Remove any large pockets of fat. Pour any juice left in the slow cooker into a heatproof measuring cup.
  2. Mix in the juices. Return the pork to the slow cooker. Stir enough of the leftover juice back into the shredded pork so that it is moist but not soupy.
Slow cooker pulled pork piled on a bun on a plate.
  1. Serve. Pile the pork onto toasted buns, tuck it into tacos, or pile it atop baked potatoes.

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork FAQs

How do I choose a pork butt at the store?

According to author Nick Evans, “use visual cues to help you buy pork shoulder. Look for meat that’s pinkish-red in color with some marbling in the meat.”

How can I tell if my pork is done?

The pork should be fork-tender and easy to shred. If you have a meat thermometer, the finished temperature should be between 200°F and 205°F (93°C and 96°C).

What should I serve with this shredded pork?

Classic sides like creamy coleslaw, mac and cheese with beer, or potato salad with dill are all welcome here.

How should I serve this?

The meat is usually tucked into toasted buns to make pulled pork sandwiches, but feel free to get a little creative. We love making pulled pork tacos, adding it to grilled cheese sandwiches, and piling atop baked potatoes.

Helpful tips

  • Don’t try to speed it along and set your slow cooker to high. You’ll get the best results by cooking it on low for about 10 hours.
  • If your pork butt is a little bigger or smaller than called for, the cooking time may be slightly shorter or longer. Monitor the internal temperature and remove it from the slow cooker once it reaches 200°F.
  • Each pound of pork will feed about 3 people.
  • If you prefer a saucier pulled pork, stir in some BBQ sauce before serving.
  • Leftover pulled pork can be stored in the refrigerator in a sealed container for up to 5 days, or frozen for 2 to 3 months.
A small pile of shredded slow cooker pulled pork.

More great pork butt recipes

☞ If you make this recipe, or any dish on LC, consider leaving a review, a star rating, and your best photo in the comments below. I love hearing from you.–David

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

Partially shredded slow cooker pulled pork with two large forks shredding it.
This slow cooker pulled pork is easy to make with pork shoulder, aka pork butt, onion, beer, sugar, and spices, and it capably feeds a crowd. (Just be certain to stash some in the back of the fridge so you have leftovers.)

Prep 15 mins
Cook 10 hrs
Total 10 hrs 15 mins
Mains
American
24 servings
233 kcal
4.84 / 6 votes
Print RecipeBuy the Love Your Leftovers cookbook

Want it? Click it.

Equipment

  • 6-quart or larger slow cooker

Ingredients 

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • One (8-pound) pork butt (aka pork shoulder)
  • 1 large onion grated
  • One (12-ounce) bottle beer (any good lager works)
  • 6 ounces store-bought or homemade tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1 large cinnamon stick

Directions
 

  • In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar, paprika, chili powder, salt, and pepper.
  • Cut the pork butt into 4 or 5 large pieces that will fit in a 6-quart or larger slow cooker. Cut off any large hunks of fat. (You don’t need that much fat since the pork is cooking in liquid.) Rub the spice mixture all over the pork.
  • Mix together the onion, beer, tomato paste, soy sauce, and cinnamon stick in the slow cooker. Add the pork to the liquid, cover, and cook on low for 10 to 10 1/2 hours.
  • Move the pork to a roasting pan and let it cool for a few minutes. Pour the cooking liquid from the slow cooker into a heatproof bowl or measuring cup, and discard the cinnamon stick.
  • Remove and discard any remaining visible hunks of fat from the pork. Shred the pork pieces using 2 forks or these nifty things that shred the meat for you known as meat claws or meat shredders. The pork should fall apart quite easily.
  • Return the shredded pork to the empty slow cooker. Pour the cooking liquid back into the slow cooker in 1-cup increments until the pork is moist but not soupy. You will probably need 2 to 3 cups of liquid, but feel free to add more or less to taste. Just remember that if your pork is too wet, it will be soggy later.
  • Keep the pulled pork warm while serving. Store leftovers in the fridge for up to a week or freeze in an airtight, freezer-safe container for up to a few months.
Print RecipeBuy the Love Your Leftovers cookbook

Want it? Click it.

Notes

  1. Slow cooker setting–We don’t recommend cooking this on high. The low setting on your slow cooker will give you the best results.
  2. Servings–One pound of pork butt will serve approximately 3 people.
  3. Reheating leftovers–Leftover pulled pork can be reheated in a skillet with a little oil over medium-low heat, or in the slow cooker for about 1 hour. If frozen, thaw in the fridge overnight before reheating.

Show Nutrition

Serving: 0.5cupCalories: 233kcal (12%)Carbohydrates: 8g (3%)Protein: 29g (58%)Fat: 9g (14%)Saturated Fat: 3g (19%)Trans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 90mg (30%)Sodium: 587mg (26%)Potassium: 617mg (18%)Fiber: 1g (4%)Sugar: 6g (7%)Vitamin A: 233IU (5%)Vitamin C: 3mg (4%)Calcium: 34mg (3%)Iron: 2mg (11%)

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Recipe Testers’ Reviews

For someone making their first foray into the world of pulled pork in the slow cooker, this recipe is great because it’s a simple, no-fuss preparation that you can customize to your own tastes.

I used an organic pork shoulder, Sleeman’s ale, and an 8-quart oval slow cooker. I removed all the external fat and any larger fat pockets when I cut the meat into chunks. I cooked everything for 10 hours, and the meat was very tender, shredding easily when cool enough to handle. I removed any other fatty bits that I saw when I shredded the meat.

At this point, I must say that the taste was okay but a little lacking. I added 2 cups cooking liquid back in, and this made the meat juicy but not overly so. I had pretty close to 12 cups shredded meat when all was said and done. We served this with creamy coleslaw, barbecue sauce, and ice-cold beer.

After dinner that first night, we still had about 5 cups pork left so when we warmed it up the next time, we added another tablespoon chili powder and 1/2 cup barbecue sauce directly to the meat. This vastly improved it. That time, we served it with shredded lettuce and cheese. I loved this recipe for the ease of preparation, but next time, I will probably double the seasoning before cooking, as it was too subdued after the long cooking time. Also I’d add only 1 cup of the cooking juices back in and 1 cup barbecue sauce before serving.

This is a handy slow cooker meal to have at my fingertips. Everything is simple to put together and takes about 5 minutes total. I mixed all the spices and sugar together and grated the onion the night before I cooked the pork. It was easy to mix the ingredients together in the morning and place the roast in the Crock Pot, set it on low, and head off to work.

When I returned home, I baked some potatoes, shredded the Crock Pot pulled pork, placed some pork in the baked potatoes, and had dinner. The meat shreds easily with two forks and tastes delicious. When I entered the house after work, the aroma of the meat had filled the house. I have a 6 1/2-quart oval slow cooker and cooked my pork on low for 10 1/2 hours. I halved the recipe and had enough meat for 2 dinners for 3 people each.

There is a lot of flavor packed into this slow cooker pulled pork recipe, and with such easy preparation, it could easily become a regular in my kitchen. I halved the amount of pork in the recipe because my slow cooker has only a 3-quart capacity, and also I didn’t need to feed 30 people, just two. Half the sauce recipe didn’t seem like it would be enough, so I used the whole amount of the sauce ingredients, and it turned out great.

The key to this was to put everything in the fridge overnight after cooking to let the flavors meld, and so that I could skim some of the excess fat off of the top. I found this to be crucial. Everything was super flavorful, and the sauce seemed to soak into the meat pretty well. I didn’t find it to be overly “soupy,” just sloppy and delicious.

It definitely took the whole 10 hours to cook, so this is certainly something to start early in the morning or right before bed. As far as flavors go, I wouldn’t call it traditional barbecue sauce, but it is jam-packed with flavor and depth and isn’t overly sweet as is so often the case. I froze half the leftovers and have had food all week. The recipe yielded about two quarts of sauce and meat. Cheap and easy!

I halved the recipe, using a 4-pound piece of pork butt. I cut it into 3 pieces. I cooked it in a 5 1/2-quart slow cooker for 10 hours. I ended up with 7 cups pulled pork and 2 1/2 cups liquid. I used about 2 cups of the liquid to pour over the pork. The pork was very tender but not particularly flavorful.

I served the pork with coleslaw. I am going to freeze portions of this for quick and easy lunches. I plan on serving the leftovers with barbecue sauce. I realize that the recipe suggests this, but I wanted to give the pork a chance on its own first.

And why did I decide to test this recipe just for the 4 of us? The good thing is that I can freeze it for a weeknight when we are in a rush but need an easy, homemade meal. This recipe couldn’t be any easier to make. 5 ingredients and that’s it! WOW… It took exactly 7 hours on high in a 5-quart oval slow cooker.

I removed as much of the fat as I could, so I am sure by the time all the fat was trimmed, I ended up with about 7 pounds of actual meat. The meat was extremely tender. I removed all the meat from the juices and shredded it all. Then I started adding the juices cup by cup and ended up using it all (which was 5 cups in total) and wished I had 1 more cup to make it nice and juicy. The taste is very good and simple—there are not too many ingredients to mask the pork taste.

This easy slow cooker pulled pork recipe really is a no-brainer, and when serving it in a bun, you can dress it up with barbecue sauce, mustard, or anything else you may enjoy. We actually decided to add it to pasta along with broccoli, and it worked very nicely.

HUNGRY FOR MORE?

Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Just learning to get over my fear of new recipes and broke out the slow cooker for its first run. This was not only easy but absolutely delicious. I froze a good chunk of the pork afterward and took out some for pulled pork and egg breakfast sandwiches. 10/10, so glad you shared this.

    1. You’re welcome, Jesse. Thank you so much for taking the time to let us know how much you enjoyed it. We hope you’ll try some other recipes from the site, too.

    2. Wonderful, jesse! I am so glad your first slow cooking adventure turned out deliciously and your breakfast sandwiches sound amazing. Please let us know what you make next.

    1. We haven’t specifically tried it in a 6 quart Instant Pot, Christi, but it should work. If any of our readers have tried this, please let us know!

  2. I wonder if I can duplicate the slow cooker process with a cast iron dutch oven and low oven? What temperature does a slow cooker maintain at the “low” setting? Thank you.

    1. Denise, you should be able to. A low setting on a slow cooker is typically about 200°F.

  3. 5 stars
    I just made this recipe yesterday and am very pleased with how it turned out. I threw in an extra cinnamon stick, and when I do it again I’ll probably up the spices a little. It was very easy to make, I put it in the slow cooker pot the night before, and set it cooking when I got up. I only had around 5 lbs of pork, it had a smallish bone in it, and I trimmed some of the fat off beforehand. We didn’t take any of the sauce out (my wife is from Chicago, so having meat sitting in the juices it’s been cooked in is normal to her), but I did skim off a bunch of the fat that had accumulated at the top. Very good. I think next time I’ll try slow cooker cacoila and see how that turns out.

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