Carolina Slow Cooker Pulled Pork with rich spices and a tangy broth, made fork-tender in a slow cooker. This flaky pulled pork in a slow cooker is simple and guaranteed tender and juicy. Try it on buns or served with sides or salad for an easy southern recipe.
Easy Slow Cooker Pulled Pork
Within this post, you’ll learn how to make easy Carolina Style Slow Cooker Pulled Pork. Just a simple mixture of spices and liquids plus a slow cooker to make authentic Carolina pulled pork. You can even cook overnight or while you’re at work.
Why you should make slow cooker pulled pork
Slow cooking is one of the easiest ways to make pulled pork. Simply add all ingredients, cover and cook. It’s guaranteed tender, moist and flavorful. It literally shreds apart with a simple pull of a fork. Carolina Style Pulled Pork is a quintessential summer or cool weather recipe, and you can make it any time in a slow cooker
Ingredients for Carolina Pulled Pork
Most Carolina pulled pork recipes use the following ingredients. The key is to have a mixture of sweet and tangy flavors to compliment the pulled pork.
- Pork shoulder butt is used for pulled pork and provides the best texture and flavor
- A key ingredient is apple cider vinegar. This adds that familiar tang to the pulled pork
- Worcestershire sauce has an umami effect and enhances the flavor of pulled pork as well as other meats
- Spices such as paprika, cayenne, and crushed red pepper flakes add a hint of heat to balance the tang and sweetness of pulled pork
- Use brown mustard as well as dried mustard powder for authentic Carolina style flavor. Note: if you don’t have powder substitute with regular yellow mustard
- Slow cook on a bed of yellows onions to infuse more flavor and create a variety in texture
- Brown sugar adds sweetness and pairs well with the tang of cider vinegar
What meat to use for pulled pork?
The best cut of meat comes from the pork shoulder. It’s sometimes called pork shoulder butt or even Boston butt, however, is the same cut and does not actually come from the rear.
Pro tip: You can use bone-in pork shoulder butt for more juiciness and flavor, however boneless is totally fine as well. I used boneless in this slow cooker pulled pork recipe.
Tips for slow cooker pulled pork
- Cooking on LOW with a slow cooker is one of the easiest ways for tender, pull-apart pork (and other meats). This pulled pork recipe is best if slow cooked for at least 8 hours, preferably 10.
- I was a bit anxious and checked it at the 4-hour mark while cooking on low. It was completely cooked, but still a bit tough and not flaky at all. Cooking longer breaks down the protein in the meat, which creates that ideal fork-tender texture.
- For quicker pulled pork you can cook on HIGH for 3-4 hours.
- Place the pork shoulder over a bed sliced yellow onions to infuse more flavor.
- Slow cooking with liquid in the slow cooker keeps the meat moist and prevents drying out.
- Once cooked, shred the pulled pork and toss with the leftover Carolina sauce in the slow cooker to soak up flavors
- Use this recipe to make my Pulled Pork Sliders
Pro tip: Start pork shoulder in the slow cooker during the morning. Set on low for 8-10 hours and come home to a warm, ready to eat dinner. Most slow cookers have a stay warm setting that goes on after cooking.
Common answers for slow cooked pulled pork
- Why did my pulled pork come out tough? Pulled pork must be slow cooked on low at least 6 hours, but 8 is preferred. It will still be cooked at shorter times, but will not be fork-tender and flaky. Adding a bit of liquid flavors the pulled pork but also helps to moisten it.
- How to make slow-cooked pork fast? Cook in a slow cooker on high for 3-4 hours. It will still be very tender.
- What’s the difference between a slow cooker and a Crock-Pot? Not much, and they’re interchangeable according to the Kitchn. Crock pot pulled pork will come out just as tasty and tender as slow cooker pulled pork.
- Can I make pulled pork in an Instant-Pot? If you don’t own a slow cooker or crock pot, use an Instant-Pot on the slow-cooker setting for the recommended time.
One of the most important steps for Carolina Pork Sauce
After the pork has been cooked, remove from slow cooker but do not discard leftover liquid. Use a fork to press down on pork and break apart into flaky pieces. Then add pulled pork back to slow cooker and toss with liquid. This will infuse flavors into the meat and create an ideal moist consistency.
This recipe is especially simple, but don’t let that fool you into thinking the taste is simple. Carolina Style Pulled Pork is a mixture of bold spices rubbed onto the roast. It’s then slow cooked, partially submerged in liquid to keep it moist and tender. Once cooked simply shred with a fork and serve.
More Slow Cooker Recipes You Might Like:
- Slow Cooker Turkey Marsala
- Sweet Potato Carnitas Bowls
- Slow Cooker Philly Cheese Steak Dip
- Carolina Pulled Pork Sliders
Carolina Pulled Pork recipe at-a-glance:
Flavor profiles: Meaty, savory, slightly sweet and delightfully tangy.
Texture: Tender, moist, and pull-apart flaky.
Dietary Options/Substitutions: Make sure your Worcestershire sauce and mustard is gluten-free. Omit brown sugar for low-carb and Keto pulled pork, however the flavor will be tangier.
Leave a comment below and star rating if you made this recipe or want to share your thoughts.
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Carolina Slow Cooker Pulled Pork
- 3 pounds pork shoulder butt roast
- 3 tablespoons brown sugar, separated
- 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 large yellow onion, sliced
- 1 cup apple cider vinegar
- ¼ cup Worcestershire sauce
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 2 teaspoons crushed red pepper
- 1 tablespoon brown mustard
- 1 teaspoon ground mustard
- If pork roast shoulder is frozen, put in the fridge to defrost 2-3 days before cooking. Trim off any large sections of fat and discard.
- In a small bowl, combine 2 tablespoons of the brown sugar, smoked paprika, salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Rub the mixture all over pork until it's soaked in and evenly coated.
- Place onions in a layer on the bottom of slow cooker, place pork shoulder on top.
- In a small bowl, stir together remaining ingredients from apple cider vinegar to ground mustard, plus the leftover tablespoon of brown sugar. Gently pour the liquid over roast. You should have about 2 inches of liquid on the bottom; if not add a bit of stock or water.
- Cook covered on LOW for 8–10 hours or HIGH for 4 hours until pulled pork is fork tender. Important: Do not discard liquid after cooking.
- Use a fork to shred the meat in the slow cooker or on a plate. Toss shredded pork with the liquid until well coated. Slow cook on HIGH for 15 minutes more to infuse flavors.
- Use tongs or a slotted spoon to serve as desired, or use it to make my slow cooker Pulled Pork Sliders.
- Watch the recipe video within the post to learn just how easy this Slow Cooker Pulled Pork is
- You can use bone-in pork shoulder butt for more juiciness and flavor, however boneless is totally fine as well.
- Substitute extra brown mustard if you don't have mustard powder.
- Cooking the full 10 hours on LOW, or 4 hours on HIGH, will yield the most tender pulled pork. A longer cooking time breaks down the protein in the meat, which creates the ideal fork-tender texture.
- Cooking with liquid in a sealed slow cooker keeps the meat from drying out.
- If you don't have a slow cooker, use a crock pot to make crockpot slow cooker pulled pork. Or use an Instant-pot on the slow-cooker setting for the recommended time.