There’s a “secret” ingredient in this Crock Pot pulled pork that adds delicious, subtle flavor! The sweet and savory combination of apricot preserves, apple cider vinegar, onion, and a zesty bbq dry rub yields tender, juicy, succulent slow cooked pork shoulder, Boston butt, pork butt, or picnic ham. Serve the shredded meat on sandwich buns, in tacos, on nachos, over rice, on salad, or alongside coleslaw, pickles, collard greens, potato wedges, and cornbread!
Crockpot Pulled Pork
This easy Crock Pot pulled pork recipe requires a handful of basic ingredients that you probably already have stashed in your kitchen. Best of all, after a few minutes of hands-on prep time, it’s an all-day slow cooker meal that cooks low-and-slow while you go about the rest of your business. Whether you enjoy the bbq pork as a weeknight dinner, or offer the meat to friends at your next picnic or cookout, this is one simple recipe that always wins rave reviews!
The Best Cut of Meat for Pulled Pork
The best cut of meat for pulled pork is called a “pork butt” or a “Boston butt.” Some grocery stores often label this as a “pork shoulder” or “picnic ham.” Boston butt comes from high on the hog, above the shoulder blade. It has a lot of juicy, marbled fat, which lends itself well to juicy, slow-cooked meat.
Can I use a boneless pork butt?
Yes! Using a bone-in pork butt adds even more flavor to your meat; however, you can certainly use a boneless pork butt instead. In general, a boneless pork butt will weigh less and will require slightly less cooking time than a bone-in piece of meat, so keep an eye on it and adjust accordingly.
Can I use pork tenderloin for Crock Pot pulled pork?
Yes, you can — but it’s not ideal. Pork tenderloin is a very lean cut of meat, which does best when cooked quickly at a higher temperature (like this grilled pork tenderloin with bbq rub). It doesn’t lend itself as well to the low-and-slow cooking process, and instead has a tendency to become dry or tough when it’s cooked for too long.
That said, if you’re looking for a leaner cut of meat for pulled pork, then slow cooker pork tenderloin just might be your answer! It will have a different taste and texture than the pork shoulder (since it’s a different cut with less fat), but if you cook it in the Crock Pot for about 8 hours on LOW, it should stay fairly moist.
Pulled Pork Crock Pot Ingredients
This is just a quick overview of the ingredients that you’ll need for a big batch of slow cooker pulled pork. As always, specific measurements and complete step-by-step instructions are included in the printable recipe box at the bottom of the post.
- Apricot Preserves: the “secret” ingredient that gives the pulled pork such delicious sweetness. The meat doesn’t actually taste like apricots at the end, but it has a nice, light, fruity flavor.
- Apple Cider Vinegar: an acidic component to balance the richness of the meat.
- Onion: adds great savory flavor to the meat, breaking down and becoming so tender and sweet during the long cooking process that you can shred it right along with the meat and sauce at the end.
- Pork Butt: also called “Boston butt,” “pork shoulder,” or “picnic ham,” this inexpensive cut has a lot of marbled fat, which keeps the meat juicy and tender during the long cooking process.
- BBQ Dry Rub: you’ll make your own barbecue rub, which includes brown sugar, chili powder, kosher salt, smoked paprika, garlic powder, cumin, and onion powder. It’s slightly sweet and zesty, but not too spicy. You can substitute with your favorite store-bought rub if you prefer.
- Barbecue Sauce: optional, for serving with your cooked, shredded pork. We love Stubbs sauce, but you can substitute with your favorite homemade or store-bought brand.
Do you need liquid in slow cooker for pulled pork?
No, you don’t need to add any extra liquid to the slow cooker for this pulled pork recipe. The preserves liquify as they’re heated, the vinegar provides some extra liquid, and the onions will release liquid as well. Additional liquid in the form of condensation will fall back into the pot as the meat cooks, too.
How to Make Pulled Pork in Crock Pot
The Crock Pot is such a handy tool for making pulled pork, because this dish really does best when cooked at a low temperature for a long period of time. Set it in the morning and let it go all day long. Dinner will be waiting for you when you get home from work!
- Whisk together the apricot preserves and the vinegar in a slow cooker. Add the sliced onion.
- Stir together the brown sugar and spices to make the bbq dry rub.
- Pat the pork dry, and then rub the seasoning blend all over the meat.
- Place the pork in the slow cooker, cover with a lid, and cook on LOW for 10-12 hours or on HIGH for 5-6 hours. You may need to adjust the cooking time, depending on how hot your Crock Pot runs (and how big your pork is). The pork will be fall-apart tender when it reaches an internal temperature of 205°F.
- Shred the meat with two forks, discarding any fatty pieces.
- Return the meat to the juices. Serve with barbecue sauce, if desired.
The Best Way to Shred Crock Pot Pulled Pork
Before shredding, allow the pork to cool enough so that you can easily touch it without burning your hands. When you have such a big piece of meat, it can be very juicy and messy, so I like to put the pork on a rimmed baking sheet. This helps to prevent the juices from spilling all over the counter. Since the meat is so tender, it should basically just fall apart when you shred it with two forks.
What to Serve with Slow Cooker Pulled Pork
This versatile meat can be served in a variety of ways! We prefer pulled pork sandwiches with a drizzle of barbecue sauce, but you can also serve the pork on top of a salad, in a wrap, stuffed into baked potatoes with barbecue sauce and cheese, as pulled pork sliders, pulled pork nachos, or as pulled pork tacos or carnitas.
Here are some sides that go well with crockpot pulled pork:
- Hush Puppies
- Coleslaw or Vinegar Coleslaw
- Hoe Cakes
- Baked Potato Wedges, Twice Baked Potatoes, 3-Ingredient Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes, Mashed Potatoes with Sour Cream and Chives, Skin On Mashed Red Potatoes, Baked Potatoes, or Easy Potato Salad
- Skillet Cornbread, Jiffy Cornbread with Creamed Corn, Bakery-Style Corn Muffins, Honey Cornbread, Old-Fashioned Corn Sticks, Sweet Cornbread Muffins
- Creamy Baked Mac and Cheese, Crock Pot Mac and Cheese, Stovetop Shells and Cheese, or No-Boil Easy Mac and Cheese
- Southern Buttermilk Biscuits, Flaky Biscuits, Aunt Bee’s 3-Ingredient Buttermilk Biscuits, Sweet Potato Biscuits, Cheese Biscuits, Easy Drop Biscuits
- Pumpkin Bread or Pumpkin Muffins
- Corn Salad, Jiffy Corn Casserole, or Fried Corn
- 3-Ingredient Sour Cream Muffins
- Wedge Salad, Classic Caesar Salad, House Salad with Candied Pecans, or a Green Salad with Red Wine Vinaigrette
- Refrigerator Dill Pickles, Cucumber Salad with Vinegar, Tomato Cucumber Onion Salad, or Cucumber Dill Salad
- Arkansas Green Beans with Bacon or Southern-Style Green Beans
- Broccoli Cauliflower Salad
- Fried Apples or Baked Apple Slices
- Southern Succotash
- Southern Collard Greens
- Fried Okra
- Broccoli and Cheese
- Easy Pasta Salad
- Homemade Baked Beans with Bacon
- Charleston Red Rice
- Okra and Tomatoes
- Southern Squash Casserole
- Cheese Grits
- Fried Cabbage with Apples and Onion, Braised Red Cabbage, or Roasted Cabbage
Leftover pulled pork will stay fresh in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. To extend the life of your leftovers, you can freeze the cooked meat in an airtight container for up to 3 months.
How to Reheat Pulled Pork in Crock Pot
If you want to reheat your cooked pulled pork in the Crock Pot, place the cooked pork (and all of the reserved juices) in the slow cooker on the “WARM” setting for 2-4 hours. This is a great option if you need to prep a meal in advance! You can also reheat cooked meat in a saucepan or Dutch oven on the stovetop over low heat, or smaller portions in the microwave.
- Use a boneless pork shoulder or pork roast in lieu of the bone-in pork butt. The boneless roasts tend to cook slightly faster, so adjust your cooking time accordingly.
- Instead of a regular barbecue sauce, try topping your pulled pork with this delicious Alabama White BBQ Sauce.
- Spicy pulled pork: add some cayenne to the dry rub, and serve the pork with crushed red pepper flakes, sliced jalapeños, or hot sauce.
- To make this pulled pork recipe in the oven, follow all of the same instructions, but place the ingredients in a large Dutch oven with a lid. Roast the pork at 325°F for about 5-6 hours.
Tips for the Best Crock Pot Pulled Pork Recipe
- You may need to adjust the cooking time, depending on how hot your slow cooker runs (and how big your pork is). The pork will be fall-apart tender when it reaches an internal temperature of 205°F on an instant-read meat thermometer.
- If your pulled pork is tough, it’s probably because you haven’t cooked it long enough. The collagen in the meat is what keeps it tough, so you need to allow plenty of time for those fibers to break down. Just extend the cooking time and make sure that there’s enough liquid to keep the pork moist as it simmers.
- Cooking for a smaller family? This meat freezes really well! I like to package leftovers in individual containers, label them, and stash them in the freezer for later meals. The pulled pork is delicious served on sandwich rolls, but it also works well on salads, tacos, stuffed in baked potatoes, nachos, in quesadillas, or on pizza! Get creative and enjoy the leftovers in a variety of ways.
- Shred the cooked meat on a rimmed sheet pan to catch any juices.