Our extended family gatherings have an unspoken rule of engagement: there will be barbecue. This Slow Cooker Pulled Pork is sweet, smoky, saucy, and inspired by the pulled pork sandwiches at one of our favorite local BBQ joints.

easy slow cooker pulled pork and slaw on a bun

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My sisters live in Kansas City, and whenever Ben and I visit, a stop for barbecue isn’t a suggestion. It’s a direct order.

The competition is fierce and hotly debated between top-rated spots.

Over the course of a few years, I’ve managed to try a pulled pork sandwich at every single one of them (all in the name of research of course).

My absolute favorite is made by a spot that operates out of a gas station (really!).

It’s melt-in-your-mouth tender, ultra smoky and savory, and topped with a crisp, creamy coleslaw that brightens it up.

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

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 —

Back home in Milwaukee, slow cooker pulled pork (and similarly, Crockpot BBQ Chicken) has become a go-to dish whenever I’m serving a crowd.

  • It’s inexpensive and a crowd-pleaser.
  • I can 100% prep it in advance.
  • PLUS leftovers (ha!) are easy to portion, freeze, and use later in a variety of ways (ahem, Pulled Pork Quesadillas).

In our house, our favorite way to enjoy this recipe is as slow cooker pulled pork sandwiches topped with Healthy Coleslaw and a side of chips.

It NEVER fails to satisfy.

easy slow cooker pulled pork with homemade bbq sauce, slaw, and chips

How to Make The Best Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

This easy slow cooker pulled pork (like my Chile Verde Pork) cooks away all day almost entirely unattended.

It’s easy, low-fuss, and near impossible to goof up.

The Best BBQ Sauce for Pulled Pork

The spectacular flavor of this slow cooker pulled pork 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.
  • It’s made with pantry spices, tomato paste, honey, and a dash of hot sauce for some kick.
  • Combined with the pork’s own cooking juices, these ingredients make for a slow cooker pulled pork taste that is lightly smoky and rich, with just the right amount of vinegar to balance it and cut the fattiness of the pork.
slow cooker pulled pork sandwiches on a plate

Which Cut of Meat is Used for Pulled Pork

Long, slow cooking is best for fattier, tougher cuts of pork such as pork shoulder, which is the traditional choice.

TIP!

When preparing pork in the slow cooker, remember that fat = flavor.

  • Cuts of pork with higher fat content tend to be more flavorful.
  • This is because fat adds moisture. As it renders and the meat breaks down, the fat helps the pork stay juicy (and delicious).
  • Pork Shoulder. If you want meat so tender you can shred it with a spoon, slow cooker pork shoulder is the way to go. (Taste Instant Pot Carnitas for further proof!) 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, or Stuffed Pork Tenderloin.

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.)

Ingredient Note

Another reason I prefer to use pork shoulder is that thanks to its high fat content, it’s nearly impossible to cook pulled pork too long in a slow cooker when you use it. Unlike leaner cuts like tenderloin or Crock Pot Pork Chops, it becomes more tender the longer it cooks.

a large serving bowl of slow cooker pulled pork for a crowd
  • Onion. It breaks down so much you’ll almost forget it’s there, but it works quietly in the background to make the pork 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! (I love it for Instant Pot Ribs.) 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.)

TIP!

Liquid smoke is inexpensive and available in the spice section of most major grocery stores or online here.

  • 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. Add the onion, tomato paste, vinegar, honey, and spices to the slow cooker.
slow cooker pulled pork bbq sauce
  1. Whisk together.
slow cooker pulled pork shoulder on butcher paper with salt and pepper
  1. Season the pork with salt and pepper.
pork loin in a slow cooker for bbq pulled pork
  1. Add the pork to the slow cooker and spoon the sauce all over the top.

Tip!

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.

  1. Cook pulled pork on HIGH for 5 to 6 hours or LOW for 8 to 10 hours.
  2. Remove the pork. Add the cornstarch slurry, stir, and cook for 20-30 minutes until it thickens. Shred the pork and stir it together with the thickened BBQ sauce. ENJOY!

TIP!

For easy entertaining, let your guests serve themselves right out of the slow cooker.

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.

What to Serve With Pulled Pork

slow cooker pulled pork shoulder with slaw on bun
  • 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.

Leftover Ideas

Pulled pork is delish for more than sandwiches!

What to Serve with Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

Recommended Tools to Make this Recipe

The Best Slow Cooker

This 6-quart crockpot has an easily programmable timer and a locking lid for transporting meals on the go.

slow cooker pulled pork easy sandwich

Did you make this recipe?

Let me know what you thought!

Leave a rating below in the comments and let me know how you liked the recipe.

Keep this crockpot pulled pork recipe handy.

Once you try it, I suspect it will become a go-to in your family too!

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork Video

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Frequently Asked Questions

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.

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!

slow cooker pulled pork easy sandwich

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

5 from 5 votes
An easy slow cooker pulled pork shoulder recipe with homemade BBQ sauce and slaw. It's the BEST slow cooker pulled pork for a crowd.

Prep: 15 mins
Cook: 5 hrs
Total: 5 hrs 45 mins

Servings: 8

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.

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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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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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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18 Comments

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  1. This was fantastic! I made it for dinner tonight and my 2 year old son (who eats NOTHING) had seconds!!! I made regular cornbread and piled the pork on top and it was delish! My husband said “Can this be a weekly staple!?”5 stars

    1. Amanda, I can say enough how happy comments like these make me! I’m thrilled to pieces that your family loved this meal, and honored that you gave the recipe a try! Thanks for letting me know and have a wonderful evening. Enjoy the leftovers, if you have any :-)

  2. Despite my best intentions, the first meal my fiancé and I shared in the house he just bought was from Panda Express. But this was the second meal, and it MORE than made up for it. Thanks so much for the idea!5 stars

    1. Jessica!!! I’m so excited you guys liked this and totally honored that it was the first home cooked meal to come out of your new kitchen. Thanks so much for letting me know (and enjoy any leftovers

  3. Have you tried this recipe with other proteins? I’m not a huge fan of pork, but I’m wondering how the flavors would work with chicken? Any thoughts? My husband loves pork though, so I might just have to make this for him anyway ;) 

    1. Hi Courtney! I haven’t, but I think that chicken thighs would be a great substitution. You will likely have to adjust the cooking time, but the flavor should be tasty!

  4. I made this for dinner last night.  Everyone seemed to like it for the most part but we all agreed the amount of added salt is a bit much.  Next time I’ll add less.  It was my first time doing pork loin and I should have monitor it’s progress closer  as it cooked a bit long and was tougher than I hoped.  But I will  definitely try again.  Instead of pancakes,  I made regular cornbread to top with the pulled pork. 5 stars

    1. Hi Amy! Thanks so much for trying this recipe and for the feedback. I’m glad you liked it enough to give it another shot, and serving it with corn bread sounds fabulous!

  5. We are North Carolina barbecue lovers, but this recipie had us from the word “go.” Funny that you originally served it with roasted veggie; we served it on a bed of roasted cauliflower and broccoli, and loved it. Thanks for making our cold winter Sunday so special.5 stars

    1. I’m so happy to hear that this recipe was perfect for your Sunday meal, Jeff! Thank you so much for taking the time to share your feedback. :)

  6. This looks tasty! Would pork tenderloin work with this recipe? Also, the pancakes in the photo are on a sheet pan but you made them on a griddle?

    1. Hi Lisa! I recommend using pork shoulder (or at least pork loin) for this recipe, as pork tenderloin can very quickly overcook and become tough. I hope you enjoy the recipe!

  7. Made this for a lake weekend and it was PERFECT. Everyone loved it and it was so easy to reheat leftovers. Flavor is spot on. Thanks!5 stars

  8. Just prepped this in my crockpot so I can set it cooking before work tomorrow, and I am already so excited to eat it! The sauce alone was absolutely delicious before I added the pork to it.