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.
Are you following me on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter? Also, sign up for our newsletter to get all our recipes and cooking tips.
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.
Products used in this recipe:
Stainless Steel Measuring Cups and Spoons Set
3-Piece Mixing Bowl Set, Blue/Green/Yellow
Victorinox Fibrox 8-Inch Chef’s Knife
Set ‘n Forget Programmable Slow Cooker, 6-Quart
Made this for parents weekend gathering at my sons college. Probably the best pulled pork I have ever had. It was so full of flavor and the meat was so moist! Def even better than some of the BBQ places we have gone to over the years!
Thank you so much for the comment Ann. I love hearing great feedback and glad the recipe was such a hit!
This recipe is AMAZING coming from a Carolina girl! I’ve now made this twice, so easy and SO good! Thank you so much
Wow your feedback means so much Lauren, especially coming form a Carolina girl! Glad you like the recipe!
Jamie T says
Hi! I want to make this ahead of time, will it taste as good a day later, if I refrigerate and reheat?
Great question Jamie. Pulled pork is perfect for leftovers. You can reheat in the microwave or oven and the taste and texture won’t be affected. I’ve even frozen my leftovers!
Rosemary Tunney says
This was fantastic! If I double the recipe, should I double everything (liquid and spices)? Thank you.
Thanks Rosemary! I would suggest doubling everything. You may end up with extra liquid, so you could experiment with 1.5 times liquid.
This roast looks amazingly delicious! I love using my slow cooker and this recipe is on my list for this week! Thanks for the share!
My slow cooker is my best friend in the kitchen and I’m always looking for new recipes to make in it. The sauce has the perfect balance of flavors and it’s so easy to make. This recipe is a keeper.
Thank you so much for sharing this amazing recipe! Will surely have this again! It’s really easy to make and it tasted so delicious! Highly recommended!
I’m 50 years old and have made a handful of pulled pork recipes. This is hands down the best I’ve ever had….period! Needless to say, I will never make it any other way. I’m sharing this recipe with everyone I know. You rock Matthew!
Wow Brady. I can’t tell you how happy I was to see your comment! Thanks so much for the amazing feedback and glad you found a new favorite pulled pork recipe. Thanks!
My kids just LOVE this!
I don’t even leave out the cayenne and they still demolish this.
It makes such an easy dinner stuffed into soft bread rolls!
Thanks for such a great recipe 🙂
Kim at Three Olives Branch says
This was a huge hit for game day! I love how easy it is. Makes great pulled pork sliders
Made this to take over to my in-laws. Everyone enjoyed it immensely. My father in law, who was born and raised in North Carolina, raved about it! Any worries about him just being overly kind or polite went out the window when he went back for seconds and then thirds. He’s since has asked both myself and my husband when I’m bringing it over again – no pressure, of course!
Emily J Wildes says
How spicy will it be I’m worried my 4 year will not eat it if it’s to spicy?
That’s a great question. It’s not spicy at all but to be safe you could remove the cayenne pepper.
michael clardy says
i have a 6lb pork butt do i double the ingredients
Hi Michael. That’s a great question. There should be enough liquid in the sauce for that amount. You could 1.5 times the recipe but will probably end up with extra liquid once it’s cooked.
I’ve never made pulled pork before, but I have eaten it. This recipe was very easy, and it is the best pulled pork I have ever had!! Thank you.
Wow I’m flattered to hear that! Thanks so much for the great feedback!
It’s in the crockpot now and can’t wait to have it. I’m from North Carolina but live in England now, so very excited!
Just one question: do you discard the onions or do you shred them in with the pork?
Hi Sharon. That’s exciting and thanks for the great question! Keep the onions and stir them into the meat once it’s shredded. Will add some nice texture and flavor. Enjoy!
Why don’t you have to add barbecue sauce?
Great question Kristy. There’s different types of pulled pork. This recipe uses a tangy sauce instead of a traditional tomato-based BBQ sauce. You’re welcome to add BBQ sauce once it’s cooked or if you make this into sandwiches.
Can I make this on the oven instead of a slow cooker? Any estimate what the cooking time would be for a 3 pound roast? Thanks.
Hi Caroline. That’s a great question. I haven’t baked it myself. Based on other recipes you could bake in a Dutch oven or covered dish at 300 for 3-4 hours, then another hour with the lid removed until tender.
I make pulled pork every year for are family vacation. My recipe has a lot of cutting up the roast and cooking the ingredients before putting in the meat, and then cooking and stirring for 4 hours. I was trying to get away from making pulled pork and the family looked at me like I lost my head. I came across your crock pot recipe which had similar ingredients you mine. I have never done a rub before so that was fun. It was a welcome break from my cooking. I am excited to see if the family will notice the difference. It was very simple and I didn’t have to chop the meat up. We leave for vacation in a couple of days. Thank you for making this so easy!!
Hi Joyce. Thanks so much for the feedback and glad the recipe was such a hit! I’ve heard of people cutting the meat before, and have even done it for Chile Verde, but totally not necessary here. There’s still tons of flavor, especially with the dry rub.
Have a 7lb pork shoulder butt with bone in…..What are your changes to the crockpot time and the increases to the marinade? This looks amazing… have a larger crew to feed.
That’s a great question Beth. Bone-in won’t affect the cooking. For that size I’d double the broth. Cooking time might not change much. I’d maybe add an hour, but check if it’s fork tender after the recommended time. Enjoy!
Really yummy. I did all my prep work the night before . I let the dry rub sit on the meat overnight in the frig with the onions I cut up. Then all I had to do was drop it in the slow cooker and pour the sauce over the meat (I did add a little extra brown sugar to the sauce) turn it on low for 8 hours and WOW!! Delicious!!! So glad I found this recipe.
Hi Amy. So happy made this recipe and liked it! That’s a great idea to add the rub and let it sit in the fridge. I bet it infused even more flavor!
I don’t have a slow cooker but I’ve thought about getting one for some time. What size of slow cooker would one need to do this pulled pork recipe? I’ve seen from 4qt to 8qt. There may be even larger ones. Any recommendations/guidance would be appreciated.
Hey Chuck. That’s a great question. I own a 6 quart slow cooker and it’s been perfect for my needs. Plenty of room to cook a large piece of meat or big batch of soup, chili, etc.
Lea Ann Smullin says
What do you do with the onions. I’m from NC and there was never onion in the pulled pork. Do you discard after cooking or shred up with the pork?
I’ve only visited South Carolina so maybe it’s different. I like to keep them in there and stir together at end. The texture isn’t that noticeable and they add great flavor. You could also cut them bigger, slow cook, then remove before serving if you prefer. Thanks for the great question!
They cooked down and were barley noticeable when I made it.
Love pulled pork! I lived in the Carolina’s for quite a bit and have had my share of pulled pork. I got to say, You nailed it Matt! YUM!
This is an easy handsfree recipe. I love using my slow cooker. I am new to slow cooking and looking for any recipe to try out. I love this recipe already and can’t wait to try it. Between I always thought crockpot was a brand of slowcookers 🤷🏽♀️. Thanks for sharing this recipe
I love pulled pork. I’ve never made it in a slow cooker before, will be using this recipe next time.
Yes! The way pulled pork should be. My husband’s family is from Carolina and Tennessee, and this is pretty close to how we make it.
Wow that’s great feedback and thanks so much Michelle! I’ve only visited Charleston but absolutely loved it.
I really liked how you have written a detailed post covering all the ifs and buts and pro tips about this recipe. These are going to be so handy when following your recipe.
Nathan Wyper says
Such a great and easy way to do pulled pork in the slow cooker! I need to give it a go!
Dianne Linscott says
I lived in southeast Virginia for 28 years. Moving back north, Carolina pulled pork is foreign. I have been looking for a recipe like this for years. So glad that I have. Going to buy the pork today. Thanks
That’s great Dianne and hope you like it! Thanks!
Shay Golden says
I’m southeast Virginia too…. there are so many great BBQ joints around here though- not foreign! Try Dave’s, Malbon brothers, whitners, or beach bully. For real Carolina style I also love Uncle Als! That being said- I’ve got my butt in the crockpot now- so excited to see how it turns out.
Jacqueline Debono says
I got a new slow cooker for Christmas and this could well be THE recipe I’m going to christen it with! Sounds delicious!
I made this and it was fabulous!!!! I was missing a few things but still it was a hit. I was wondering about the mustard called for. I used dijon but was wondering if the ground mustard was a powder or is the kind with the little seeds that is still a wet ingredient?
Thanks so much for the feedback Shayla! This recipe is pretty adaptable so glad it still worked out well. I used mustard powder.
If you’re reading these comments & debating making this recipe, wondering if it’s going to come out like “real” Carolina BBQ.
All I can say is do it! Make this! It’s on par with some of the tastiest lowcountry BBQ I’ve had in SC.
I will be making this often. Thank you for the awesome recipe!
Wow Carrie, thanks so much for the glowing feedback! It means a lot and glad you like it so much!
Could I use a pork loin for this?
Hi Ashley. You probably could as far as flavor. If you slow cook it then it would come out tender, but most likely not shred like pulled pork. I highly recommended the suggested cut of meat. Thanks!
Hi, what should I use to substitute the vinegar? I’m not fond of vinegar.
Hi Evelyn. Vinegar is one of the main flavors for this type of pulled pork. Not sure how it would come out with a substitute, but maybe try fresh squeezed orange juice? That way you still get some tanginess.
If I were doing a 5lb roast instead of 2-3lb would I add more time?? I totally wasn’t thinking and got a really big roast by accident!!!
Hi Jessica, I think you’d be fine at suggested time. I’ve cooked a 4+ pound roast at 7.5 hours and it came out perfect.
This is my go-to pulled pork recipe. It is absolutely delicious and such a refreshing change from the barbeque sauce laden options.
Thanks so much Liz! I make it often myself and glad you like it!
hello! i have been searching for a pulled pork recipe that isn’t a gooey bbq sauce base, and this one sounds so perfect. are there any substitutions that could be made for the brown mustard and ground mustard? neither are items i would have in the kitchen, nor would i be using them often for other recipes. would dijon work as a replacement? thanks!
Hi Kaleigh! I’m so glad you found my recipe and it’s what you were looking for. You could totally substitute Dijon for brown mustard. If you omit the ground mustard it’ll still be tasty too. Thanks!
Oh my goodness!!! .. my favorite!! I love the spice line-up, I dont normally use apple cider vinegar but I will definitely give that a try. Great recipe!
The cider vinegar is absolutely critical to this recipe. Some of the spices are a bit more forgiving. Thanks Heather!
Natalie Uy says
Mmm, you always make excellent slow cooker recipes. Nice work!
Thanks Natalie! Honestly this is the first slow cooker recipe I’ve posted but it sure won’t be the last. I usually grill or roast meats but looking forward to experimenting with this new method!
Carlyn Bullock says
Hey guys! Thanks for stopping by my blog, I am happy we connected! I LOVE this recipe. Bill was shown how to make authentic Cuban Pulled Pork by an old cuban woman here in Tampa before she passed. In honor of her we made it once a week when we ran the restaurant at our local Little League. Bill is at the grocery store at the moment, I can’t wait to show him this recipe. She had us making two HUGE roasts in the oven all through the night, I am going to try that with this recipe and let you know how it works out. Can’t wait!! Thank You – With a BIG smile, from OffTheSidewalk in Tampa – Carlyn 🙂
I was happy to stop by and thanks for checking us out and commenting Carlyn! I’d love to try some authentic Cuban pork! Not even sure what spices make it but sure it’s wonderful. I’ve tried pork roast in the oven and it didn’t come out nearly as tender as a slow cooker. Maybe I needed to do less heat for a longer time. Hope you guys like the recipe, thanks!
I love doing pulled pork in the slow cooker, it’s so easy and always comes out perfect. Your version looks delicious!
I’m new to the whole slow cooker and pulled pork thing, but it did come out super moist and tender. I think I’m hooked! Thanks Sara!
Cassandrea @ chewsandbrews.ca says
My husband is a nut for pulled pork and I know he is going to be raving over this recipe! Great pictures!! And I love that it’s in the slow cooker!!
Thanks so much Cassandrea! I’m pretty sure he will be too. Slow cooker definitely makes it.
Rosemary Tunney says
This was wonderful! When I tried a bite of pork after it was cooked, I was a little disappointed because it wasn’t as flavorfull as I hoped it would be. After the pork was shredded and soaked up that delicious sauce, it was a different story! This pulled pork, some coleslaw and a little Texas Pete on a bun and I was in heaven!
Christopher Kimball says
We do love our pulled pork here in the Carolinas. It is one of our best regional foods! This looks yummy too!
Ooh I’d love to try some authentic Carolina pork! This is probably the next best thing. Thanks Christopher!
J @ A Hot Southern Mess says
Oh wow! I am drooling now! This looks and sounds so good! I will have to try this one for sure! Guaranteed to be a win with the hubby!
Kathryn Doherty says
As a North Carolina native, I just say YES to this! Love some pulled pork and using a slow cooker is definitely the way to go! Perfectly tender and delicious!
I’m pretty sure that makes you the expert on the subject so glad you agree! It definitely did come out perfect. Thanks Kathryn!
Dawn @ Words Of Deliciousness says
The pulled pork sounds wonderful and full of flavor. Congratulations on getting a slow cooker, they are so nice to have. I loved your pictures.
Thanks Dawn! That’s so nice of you to say. I am pretty happy about the slow cooker for sure!
Claudia | Gourmet Project says
OMG, pack & send here, pleeease!!!!
Haha Claudia. I think it would be safer and cheaper if you make it yourself. Hope you do!
Paige @ Where Latin Meets Lagniappe says
This looks awesome! I LOVE my slow cooker too! Nothing like coming home from work to a dinner already cooked!
I totally agree Paige! I’m realizing the joys of a slow cooker one recipe at a time. Thanks!
Julie @ Tastes of Lizzy T says
Wow…for your first slow cooker recipe, it looks amazing! Have fun with it! 🙂
Thanks Julie! I did have fun with it and enjoyed sliders throughout the week!
Nothing like a good pulled pork recipe. This one looks a m a z i n g – seriously. The color on the pork butt before it’s shredded is gorgeous and then aftermath….can I have some?!
It is amazing! To be honest the photo before it’s shredded was taken before it’s cooked. Whatever it takes to get good looking photos right?! You totally can, thanks Sarah!
Brian Jones says
Sit down for this one… I have never cooked or even eaten pulled pork! Yes there is at least one of us out there and I have been meaning to try it for ages but it feels like summer dish to me with a bit of BBQ sauce on buns and forked through some salad with a nice dressing but the thought of slowly braising it in the oven is a massive turn off. Love the idea of chucking it in the slow cooker and not turning my kitchen into a sauna!
I’ve eaten pulled pork but never made it till now Brian. It’s super easy this way and wonderful as a slider on a Hawaiian bun. I happen to be posting that recipe soon. Thanks!
Bam's Kitchen says
Your Carolina style slow cooker pulled pork looks so tender with delicious spices. It has it all going on! I used to have a slow cooker when I lived in the States, but have not yet purchased one in Hong Kong. This recipe might have been the one that sends me to Fortress this weekend to get one. Sharing, pinning and sending smoke signals.
Thanks so much! I’ve been wanting a slow cooker forever and just barely got one. This slow cooker pork totally makes it worth it!
Tania | My Kitchen Stories says
If this recipe produces that pork than I am in . !
It produces that exact same pork. Thanks Tania!