Slow Cooker Pulled Pork — The EASIEST recipe for pulled pork because your Crock-Pot does all the work for you! Set it and forget it for this AMAZING pulled pork that’s super flavorful and so tender and juicy! Great for pulled pork sandwiches and tacos!
Table of contents
- Easy Slow Cooker Pulled Pork Recipe
- Ingredients in Slow Cooker Pulled Pork
- How to Make Pulled Pork in a Crock-Pot
- How to Tell When Slow Cooker Pulled Pork is Done
- What Is the Best Cut of Meat for Pulled Pork?
- How to Served Pulled Pork
- Recipes to Use Pulled Pork
- Pulled Pork Slow Cooker Recipe FAQs
- Tips for the Best Slow Cooker Pulled Pork
- More Easy Slow Cooker Pork Recipes:
Easy Slow Cooker Pulled Pork Recipe
Pulled pork is one of everyone’s favorite recipes because it’s just so tasty!
I’ve got an incredibly easy recipe for the most tender, fall-apart, melt-in-your-mouth pulled pork and it’s virtually work-free because it’s made in the slow cooker. This is truly a set it and forget it type of recipe!
The pork cooks low and slow in your Crock-Pot which allows it to become tender while staying moist and juicy.
Whether you want to serve this as Pulled Pork Sliders, in tacos, or just about any way you can think of, this budget friendly slow cooker pulled pork recipe is a winner.
For get-togethers like Mother’s Day or Father’s Day events, graduation parties, easy weeknight dinners that you can start before you leave for work in the morning, or summer days when you don’t want to run your oven, this simple pulled pork recipe is so versatile!
Ingredients in Slow Cooker Pulled Pork
For this extremely satisfying slow cooker recipe for juicy pulled pork, you’ll need a variety of spices to create the dry rub including the following spices and seasonings – and of course the pork inself!
- White onions
- Light brown sugar
- Chili powder
- Garlic powder
- Ground cumin
- Achiote or Achiote Paste (also known as Annatto Seeds or Annatto Paste)
- Ground black pepper
- Smoked paprika
- Onion powder
- Dried Mexican oregano
- Pork butt
Note: All ingredients amounts are listed in the recipe card section when you keep scrolling down.
How to Make Pulled Pork in a Crock-Pot
When I say this is the easiest recipe for pulled pork, I’m not kidding! Follow these extremely easy and straightforward instructions.
Step 1: Cut the onions in half and lay them cut side down in the slow cooker.
Step 2: Combine the brown sugar and all the spices and seasonings in a small bowl and stir to combine.
Step 3: Coat all sides of the pork with the spice rub and press it in well.
Step 4: Lay the pork over the onions, fatty side up.
Step 5: Cook in the slow cooker for about 4 hours on high OR 6 to 8 hours on low. Let it rest for 15 minutes and reserve the drippings.
How to Tell When Slow Cooker Pulled Pork is Done
If you’re cooking a 4 to 5-pound pork butt or pork shoulder in your slow cooker, it will be done after approximately 4 hours on HIGH or 6-8 hours on LOW. But these are estimates because all slow cookers vary in their heat intensity and output, and so do all cuts of pork.
The best clue for knowing when it’s done is that if the meat starts to pull apart easily when you check it. And once you begin shredding it with just two forks, it will shred very easily with almost no resistance.
If you want to go by internal temperature as measured with a digital thermometer, the National Pork Board has a range of temps from 145 to 160F, depending on the cut of pork. However, other sources such as the Food Network suggest a temp of 190-195F. There seems to be a consensus though that 200F is the maximum temp you should go with because you can overcook the pork, at which point it’ll be chewy, stringy, dry, and simply not that tasty.
I always check my meat after 3 to 4 hours if I’m slow cooking on HIGH, and if a thermometer reads at least 170F or so, and it pulls apart easily when I insert a fork, it’s done. And I don’t cook it any longer so that it doesn’t dry out.
Step 6: Shred the cooked pork with two forks or just pull it apart by hand.
Step 7: Put the shredded pork back into the Crockpot and mix it with the drippings or pour the reserved drippings over the pork in large bowl and serve!
What Is the Best Cut of Meat for Pulled Pork?
If you’re like me, or most anyone who’s not well versed in butchering, cuts of meat and when to use which particular cut, can be a bit confusing!
For this recipe, I recommend that you use pork butt (or Boston Butt) as it’s sometimes called. It can be boneless or bone-in.
Bone-in will take slightly longer to cook than boneless, but this is a non-rushed, slow cooking type of recipe anyway. Another 30-60 minutes isn’t a big deal.
Cook’s Illustrated has an excellent graphic that shows you the difference as well as a handy chart indicating when to use either pork butt (higher up on the pig’s body) or pork shoulder (farther down).
- Pork Butt (also known as Boston Butt) – Well marbled with intramuscular fat which adds great flavor. Usually sold with the fat cap on. Use it when you are stewing, braising, or want fall-apart tender pulled pork!
- Pork Shoulder (also known as Picnic Roast or Picnic Shoulder) – Less intramuscular fat and marbling. Usually sold with the skin on. Use it when you want crispy skin. If you’re using boneless pork shoulder, it’ll likely be sold with a net which you can keep on. Bone-in pork shoulder doesn’t come with netting.
Bottom line, if a recipe calls for either pork butt or pork shoulder, go with pork butt because the extra fat = extra flavor!
How to Served Pulled Pork
After you’ve allowed your Crockpot pork butt to rest for about 15 minutes which allows the natural juices to redistribute, you can go ahead and shred it with two forks. Or just pull it apart with your fingers. Truly pulled pork!
Reserve any drippings and juices from the bottom of the slow cooker and pour that right over your shredded pork. So much concentrated flavor from the spices as well as the rendered fat. Don’t throw that excess fat away!
Leftover pulled pork will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 4 months. Reheat it gently in the microwave.
Can I Double the Pulled Pork Recipe with a Slow Cooker?
If you want to serve this for a party and you know you need to feed a bigger group, you can use a bigger piece of pork butt and essentially “double” the recipe, or nearly double it.
Depending on how much bigger the cut of pork is that you’re using, you should increase the amount of dry spice rub accordingly.
For example, if you’re using 7.5 pounds rather than 5 pounds of pork, you’ll want to use 1 1/2 tablespoons (rather than 1 tablespoon) of spices such as cumin and 2 teaspoons rather than 1 teaspoon of spices such as dried oregano.
Cooking time will also increase. It will not likely double, but it’ll take many hour(s) longer. Possibly 6 hours on high OR 8 to 10 hours on low. Keep an eye on it so that it’s done, but not overdone!
Recipes to Use Pulled Pork
You can serve your slow cooker pulled pork as Pulled Pork Sliders!
Or Pulled Pork Tacos complete with homemade taco toppings like Pickled Red Onions, Lime Cilantro Slaw, and Avocado Crema.
I also have a great Slow Cooker Hawaiian Pulled Pork recipe which I like to serve as sandwiches on a toasted bun with coleslaw.
What to Serve with Pulled Pork
Some great side dish ideas for Crockpot pulled pork include the following:
- Borracho “Drunken” Baked Beans – These “drunken beans” are simmered with a can of BEER and can be made in your SLOW COOKER OR INSTANT POT! The bacon, sausage or chorizo, jalapenos, tomato, onion, garlic, herbs, and beer make these the BEST beans ever!
- Bourbon Maple Slow Cooker Baked Beans — The BEST baked beans ever! The flavors of bourbon, maple syrup, brown sugar, molasses, and BBQ sauce intensify and concentrate over time, and the resulting beans have incredible depth of flavor. Sweet with a bit of heat, robust yet smooth, and extremely satisfying!
- Bacon Potato Salad – This no mayo Potato Salad with Bacon is ready in just 30 minutes! It’s a vinegar potato salad the whole family will love!
- Grilled Corn and Avocado Salad – An EASY and HEALTHY salad that’s ready in 10 minutes and you won’t be able to stop eating it! Juicy corn, creamy avocado, cilantro, and fresh lime juice is a FIESTA in your mouth!
- Grilled Corn and Black Bean Salad – An EASY corn salad with black beans, zucchini, red onions, cilantro, lime juice, and more!
- Skinny Mexican Bean and Corn Salad – Two kinds of beans, juicy corn, tomatoes, peppers, and more tossed in a light chili-lime-cumin vinaigrette! Healthy, easy, ready in 5 minutes, and loaded with flavor!
- Mexican Rice, Beans, and Quinoa Medley – Hearty enough to be a meal or makes a FANTASTIC side dish with loads of textures in every bite!! A super FLEXIBLE recipe that’s HEALTHY and makes a big batch for planned leftovers!
- Very Veggie Rice and Beans — EASY, ready in 15 minutes, and amps up rice and beans with an abundance of vegetables!! Healthy, Mexican-inspired food that tastes like comfort food and keeps you satisfied for hours!
Pulled Pork Slow Cooker Recipe FAQs
I’ve tried making pulled pork both searing and not searing the meat. It’s quite a task to sear a big slab of pork butt and frankly, I don’t find the final result to taste any different. So you can go ahead and skip searing it. One less step is always nice!
You can use either depending on what’s available in your supermarket. I don’t find them to appreciably change the flavor or texture of the final pulled pork, so go with what you can find. I used bone-in for this one.
If you do use pork shoulder rather than pork butt, and it’s boneless, it’ll often have netting on it. You can add it into your slow cooker with the netting on.
This is up to you, but for this recipe and preparation, I don’t add any BBQ sauce. That’s because the combination of spices and seasonings I use in the dry rub lend enough flavor. And there’s enough fat and reserved drippings and juices that I mix back in with the pulled pork for moisture that I don’t find it needs barbecue sauce.
However, if you’d like to add your favorite barbecue sauce to some, or all, of your slow cooker pulled pork, go for it.
This is entirely up to you. If you want some extra smokey flavor, feel free to add a few drops, and if you don’t care for the flavor or don’t have it on hand, simply omit it.
They be soft, supple, and super flavorful. My family adores onions so we eat them alongside or on top of the shredded slow cooker pork. However, you can discard them I suppose – but I wouldn’t. They’re so tasty!
Yes of course you can make pulled pork in the oven. You’ll want to use a low oven temp, about 275-300F, season the pork as I recommend for the slow cooker method, and cook it covered in a large Dutch oven in the oven for about 3 hours, or until done. However, you should research oven-cooking on your own and cook until it’s done since all ovens, and cuts of pork, vary.
I recommend a slow cooker that’s at least 6 to 7-quarts for this recipe. If you’re cooking a bigger piece of pork, you may need an even bigger slow cooker. However, the recipe is written for a 6 or 7-quart Crock-Pot.
The pork can be left in the slow cooker for up to 12 hours. It only needs to cook for 6 to 8 hours on low, but if you end up coming home late from work or forget about the pork (oops!) it’ll stay perfectly moist and tender for up to 12 hours.
If you cooked the pork for too long on too high of a heat, it can become tough and rubbery. If cooking the pulled pork on high, you need to start checking it at the 4-hour mark. There’s much less room for error when cooking on low in a Crockpot!
Your pulled pork also might be tough if you forgot to cook the pork fat-side up. The fat melts as the pork cooks, which essentially bastes the meat in its own juices and keeps it super moist.
Reheating pulled pork in a Crockpot is so easy! Just add the pork to the Crockpot, set it to high, and wait for it to heat through (it could take a while!).
I recommend using the Crockpot to reheat larger amounts of pulled pork. For individual servings, use the stove or microwave.
Tips for the Best Slow Cooker Pulled Pork
As I mentioned, this is the easiest recipe for Crock-Pot pulled pork!
And it’s virtually foolproof, but in addition to the FAQs above, make sure to read my tips.
What Is Achiote?
Achiote is a spice blend commonly used in Mexican cuisine. It’s bright red in color and contains a mixture of annatto seeds, cumin, coriander, garlic, Mexican oregano, and more.
You can find it in most well-stocked supermarkets either in the spice section or the Mexican aisles.
I recommend using it because it really adds a great depth of flavor to the Crockpot pulled pork that you just can’t get without it. However, if you absolutely don’t want to use it or for some reason can’t find it, you can omit it.
Is Achiote The Same as Tomato Paste?
Both are bright red in color but the flavor is nothing alike. In my opinion, I wouldn’t substitute tomato paste for achiote paste but you could try it if you’re feeling like experimenting.
What Temp Should You Cook Crockpot Pulled Pork?
It’s up to you whether you want to slow cook on low or high. I tend to cook on high simply because I need my pork done sooner rather than later and 4 hours is what I can budget, rather than 8 hours, but it’s up to you and your schedule.
What Temperature Should Pulled Pork Be Cooked To?
It is possible to overcook your slow cooker shredded pork which isn’t good because it’ll be dry, stringy, and not that great.
There are a wide variety of temperature ranges that various internet sources suggest as I mentioned above. But I first insert a digital thermometer, check to make sure it reads at least 170F.
Then, I go by the visual look and feel of the pork when I check it. If I insert a fork after the indicated cooking time, and can feel very little resistance and tender meat, I then let it rest for 15 minutes before shredding it.
Should the Fat Be Strained?
Don’t discard the cooking juices! That’s pure flavor from the spice mixture as well as from fat that has rendered out! Plus, it’s welcome moisture that’ll keep your shredded slow cooker pork nice and juicy!
I don’t strain out the fat because again, that’s where the richness and finger lickin’ goodness comes from in this pulled pork. However, if you are really concerned, you can chill the cooking juices in a container in the fridge, the fat will harden and rise to the top, and you can discard some of it.
Pin This Recipe
- 2 medium white onions, peeled and halved vertically
- one 4 pound boneless or 5 pound bone-in pork butt (also called Boston butt)**
- 1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 1 tablespoon achiote or achiote paste (also known as annatto seeds or annatto paste)*
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika (or regular paprika)
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano (or regular oregano)
- To a large 6 to 7-quart slow cooker, add the onions, cut side down.
- To a small bowl, add all the spices, salt, pepper, and stir to combine.
- Sprinkle the dry spice rub evenly over the pork on all sides, and use your fingers to press it in well.
- Add the pork with the fatty side up, over the top of the onions.
- Place the lid on the slow cooker and cook on HIGH for about 4 hours, or on LOW for about 6 to 8 hours. Tips - Start checking for doneness about 1 hour earlier than the recommended cooking time. As mentioned in the blog post, there are a wide range of internal temperatures listed online for when pork is done, but the best clue for doneness is that when you insert a fork into the pork, that it inserts with very little resistance and you can see the pork is ready to easily just pull or fall apart. You can also insert a digital thermometer. I do this first, check to see that it's about 170F, and from there, go by the visual clues of it looking and feeling like it's ready to easily shred.
- Allow the pork to rest on a cutting board for about 15 minutes.
- Reserve the cooking juices and liquid. Tips - There will be about 2 to 3 cups, but if there is a lot more, you can potentially discard some of it (I don't) but reserve at least 2 cups. We also love the onions and serve them alongside the pulled pork, but you can discard them if you prefer.
- Shred the pork with 2 forks, or just pull it apart with your fingers.
- Pour the reserved cooking juices (as much as desired) over the shredded pork, or add the pork back into the slow cooker and mix it around with the cooking juices before serving the pulled pork as desired, such as in a pulled pork sandwich or pulled pork taco. Tips - If you want to add barbecue sauce, add it now. If adding BBQ sauce, you can add less of the reserved cooking juices, maybe about 1 cup + 1 cup of BBQ sauce, or as desired to taste.
- Leftover pulled pork will keep airtight in the fridge for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 4 months. Reheat leftovers gently in the microwave. Tip - Check out my Pulled Pork Sliders and my Pulled Pork Tacos recipes for great ways to use your pulled pork.
*Achiote or achiote paste is a spice blend commonly used in Mexican cuisine. It’s bright red in color and contains a mixture of annatto seeds, cumin, coriander, garlic, Mexican oregano, and more. Buy it on Amazon, Target, Walmart, Target, or in the spice section or Mexican aisles of your local grocery store. It's not totally essential if you can't find it or don't but it, but I highly recommend it for the extra overall depth of rich flavor it lends.
**For this recipe, I recommend that you use pork butt (or Boston Butt) as it's sometimes called. It can be boneless or bone-in.
Bone-in will take slightly longer to cook than boneless, but this is a non-rushed, slow cooking type of recipe anyway. Another 30-60 minutes isn't a big deal.
Cook's Illustrated has an excellent graphic that shows you the difference as well as a handy chart indicating when to use either pork butt (higher up on the pig's body) or pork shoulder (farther down).
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 808Total Fat: 54gSaturated Fat: 20gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 29gCholesterol: 244mgSodium: 1017mgCarbohydrates: 11gFiber: 1gSugar: 7gProtein: 66g
More Easy Slow Cooker Pork Recipes:
Slow Cooker Hawaiian Pulled Pork — Pork is slow cooked to perfection and has Hawaiian-inspired flavors from pineapple and teriyaki sauce! Sweet, tangy, tender, and juicy! It makes the best pulled pork sandwiches that everyone loves!
Slow Cooker Pork Tenderloin — Tender and juicy boneless pork tenderloin is slow cooked with hearty vegetables for a complete and EASY meal! Reminiscent of a hearty and rustic recipe, yet fancy enough for a special dinner or holiday entertaining!
Slow Cooker Ham and Bean Soup — An incredibly EASY and comforting soup that can be made with leftover holiday ham or deli ham! Your slow cooker does all the work to meld the flavors together.
Slow Cooker BBQ Ribs — Tender, juicy, fall-off-the-bone baby back pork ribs that are finger-lickin’ good! With just 5 minutes of active prep, your slow cooker does all the work in creating ribs that your friends and family will beg you to make over and over!
Slow Cooker Mississippi Pot Roast — A foolproof recipe for tender, juicy pot roast with just FIVE main ingredients! Your slow cooker does all the work in this comfort food classic pot roast that the whole family will adore! EASIER than any pot roast you will ever make and with more robust flavor!