This easy Pulled Pork recipe features flavorful, juicy pork that’s absolutely fork-tender. Made in the oven, Instant Pot, or slow cooker, the result is hands down the best pulled pork recipe out there!
Easy Homemade Pulled Pork
Pulled Pork that’s flavorful and absolutely fork-tender is a meal I dream about. Pork that’s cooked so perfectly that you barely have to touch it to shred it. That’s what this recipe is all about!
With this easy pulled pork recipe, I share how to make it in the oven, Instant Pot, and slow cooker, with easy directions for each method.
And no matter the method, you’ll end up with perfectly tender and delicious pork. I think it’s the very best pulled pork recipe!
Enjoy pulled pork in sandwiches with barbecue sauce or any variety of dishes. Here you’ll find my favorite ways to eat it, including a bunch of delicious side dishes – just scroll down for all that deliciousness!
Why You’ll Love This Pulled Pork Recipe
Pulled pork is a hearty, tasty protein option that my family adores. Here are a few reasons why we love it:
- Easy. This pulled pork recipe is super easy to throw together. Each cooking method has a similar philosophy, which is to let the meat simmer and cook undisturbed. So you can get busy doing other things!
- So flavorful. Pork has its own unique flavor and it’s enhanced by the perfect blend of spices and seasonings, plus the particular liquid you choose to cook it in. Cooking the meat long and slow results in amazingly flavorful meat.
- Versatile. I’ve included a list of ways you can serve pulled pork below, as well as suggestions for using leftovers. I appreciate having leftover pulled pork in the fridge because it helps me throw together a quick meal!
What You’ll Need
Here’s a quick overview of what you’ll need to make this easy pulled pork.
For the exact ingredient amounts and full instructions, go to the recipe card at the end of this post!
- Pork – You can use boneless pork shoulder, pork butt, or Boston butt for this recipe.
- Brown sugar – Just a little bit, to contrast with the other savory flavors.
- Spices & flavorings – A mixture of chili powder, cumin, onion powder, smoked paprika, salt & pepper, and bay leaves create delicious layers of flavor.
- Butter & oil – I like the richness that butter adds to the searing process and the oil has a higher smoke point for the searing.
- Beer – I most often use a light-bodied beer or low-sodium chicken broth for this recipe, but if I’m looking for a little bit of sweetness I use hard cider, Coke, Dr. Pepper, or root beer instead.
How to Make Pulled Pork
You can make pulled pork in the oven, Instant Pot, or slow cooker.
Each method results in wonderfully tender, flavorful pulled pork. I’ve outlined each cooking method below.
Prep & Season
For all methods, you’ll start by first prepping and seasoning the pork.
- Prep the pork. Trim off any excess fat and cut the pork into 4 pieces.
- Season the pork. Stir together all spices and flavorings except for the bay leaves, then rub this mixture all over the pork pieces.
- Preheat the oven. Preheat the oven to 300° F to make oven-cooked pulled pork.
- Warm the butter and olive oil. Heat a large Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Add the butter and olive oil and let the butter melt.
- Sear the meat. Add seasoned pork and sear on all sides until browned, about 3-4 minutes per side.
- Add liquid & bay leaves. Pour in the beer (or whatever liquid you choose) and add the bay leaves.
- Cook the pork. Cover the pot and place in preheated oven. Cook for 2 hours, without peeking.
- Spoon liquid over the top and cook more. At this point, the pork should already be very tender. Spoon some of the liquid over the top of the pork, cover, and cook for 1 more hour, or until it’s absolutely fork-tender and breaks apart easily by simply pressing on the meat.
- Let the pork rest. Once the pork is completely tender, remove it from the pot and place it on a cutting board or in a rimmed pan. Let it rest for 15 minutes.
- Shred the pork. Using two forks, shred the pork into bite-sized pieces.
- Serve. Either transfer the shredded pork back to the pot and stir it into the pan juices or transfer the shredded pork to a serving dish and drizzle with some of the pan juices. Enjoy hot.
Instant Pot Directions
- Prepare the Instant Pot and melt the butter. Heat the Instant Pot using the Saute function. Add the oil and butter.
- Sear the pork. Add the seasoned pork to the Instant Pot and sear for 2-3 minutes per side, or until a brown crust forms. Remove the pork and set it aside.
- Add the liquid. Slowly pour in the beer (or your liquid of choice) while scraping the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon. Remove all of the browned bits from the bottom of the pot – so you don’t get a burn notice from the Instant Pot.
- Add the pork. Add the pork back to the Instant Pot, plus the bay leaves.
- Close the lid and cook. Attach the lid and ensure the valve is in the “sealing” position. Set the Instant Pot to Pressure Cook Manual (on normal pressure) for 1 hour.
- Release the pressure naturally. When the Instant Pot has finished, allow the pressure to release naturally for 15 minutes.
- Release remaining pressure. Switch the valve to the “venting” position to release any remaining pressure.
- Shred the pork. Remove the pork to a cutting board or rimmed pan, let it rest for 15 minutes, then shred it into your desired size pieces.
- Serve. Either transfer the shredded pork back to the Instant Pot and stir it into the juices or transfer the shredded pork to a serving dish and drizzle with some of the juices. Enjoy hot.
Slow Cooker Directions
- Prepare the slow cooker and melt the butter. If your slow cooker has a saute function, turn it to the highest setting and add the oil and butter. When the butter has melted, sear the seasoned pork for 2-3 minutes per side or until a crust forms.
- Or use a cast iron pan. If your slow cooker does not have a saute function, add the vegetable oil and butter to a large cast iron skillet set over medium-high heat. When the butter has melted, add the seasoned pork in a single layer and sear it for 2-3 minutes per side, or until a brown crust has formed. Then transfer the seared pork to the slow cooker.
- Add the liquid and bay leaves. Pour in the beer (or your liquid of choice) and add the bay leaves.
- Cook the pork. Set the slow cooker to low and cook for 8 hours.
- Shred the pork. When the pork is fork tender, transfer it to a large cutting board or rimmed pan, let it rest for 15 minutes, then shred it to your desired size.
- Serve. Either transfer the shredded pork back to the slow cooker and stir it into the pan juices or transfer the shredded pork to a serving dish and drizzle with some of the pan juices. Enjoy hot.
Tips for Success
These tips will help you make the very best pulled pork!
- Use quality pork. Look for a fresh, meaty piece that’s bright red-pink and well marbled with fat, and without large chunks of fat. For best flavor, look for pork that is labeled “all-natural” or “no added ingredients”.
- Remove excess fat. This doesn’t mean that you should remove every bit of fat that you can, because the fat is what cooks down and makes the shredded pork so delicious and tender. Just remove any big chunks of fat.
- Cook the pork until it’s absolutely tender. The goal with pulled pork is for it to always be melt-in-your-mouth tender. And different factors can play into how long the cooking will take to get these results – such as the pork quality and its marbling, the size of the pot/Instant Pot/slow cooker, the type of liquid used, etc. Sometimes it takes less time than specified, sometimes it takes more to get that wonderful tender texture.
- Let the pork rest. Before shredding the pork, wait 15 minutes for it to cool down a bit. This resting time lets the flavors sink in and helps retain the juices
- Add the pork back to the pot for extra flavor. If you want even juicier meat with even more flavor, you can return the shredded pork back to the pot and stir it into the cooking liquid. Sometimes this can be a little too much liquid for my liking – so I often remove some of the liquid from the pot first. Otherwise just transfer the shredded pork to a serving dish and drizzle some of the cooking liquid over the top.
What to Serve With Pulled Pork
Most often, we serve pulled pork on buns with barbecue sauce. You can make pulled pork a meal with these tasty additions – the first two, coleslaw and pickles, are an absolute must for me!
- Coleslaw. Whether it’s my mom’s vinegar coleslaw or this creamy coleslaw, you simply cannot lose with these salad sides. Cranberry coleslaw is also wonderful!
- Pickles. Gosh, where would my life be without pickles?! I love ’em! My mom’s sweet refrigerator dill pickles have been a longtime favorite. And everyone LOVES my pickled red onions recipe. Also check out pickled squash, pickled jalapenos, and this wonderful medley of pickled vegetables. Be sure to check back this summer, as I’ll be sharing some easy recipes for dill pickles, sweet & spicy pickles, AND bread & butter pickles – YAY! 😋
- Potato salad. Dill pickle potato salad is PERFECT with pulled pork. We will also never turn down this warm, vinegar-y German potato salad.
- Macaroni salad. This Hawaiian macaroni salad was MADE FOR pulled pork. And if you haven’t yet tried my mom’s macaroni salad with ham and peas, you MUST!
- Vegetable salad. A hearty meat dish welcomes some vegetables to balance it out. Try serving this with a creamy cucumber salad or vinegar cucumber salad. Or with family-favorites strawberry salad or grilled romaine with buttermilk ranch dressing. Everybody always ask for these recipes, too – broccoli salad and grilled vegetable salad.
- Rice. My cilantro lime rice recipe is great with pulled pork. You also can’t go wrong with plain rice, either white rice or brown rice.
- Salsa. We like to make rice bowls with cilantro lime rice and pickled red onions, plus pulled pork and salsa. Watermelon salsa is super fun for summer. Pineapple salsa is also wonderful. Or go more traditional with this easy restaurant style salsa or cowboy salsa.
- Tortillas or cornbread. A big pile of fresh flour or corn tortillas go perfectly with pulled pork. Use the tortillas to scoop up the meat or make DIY soft tacos. Or make a batch of these moist, tender honey cornbread muffins or this irresistible corn bake!
- Corn. Corn is extra good with pulled pork. My sweet corn salad mixes fresh corn and mango for a fun mix of flavors and textures, and grilled creamed corn has more smoky-sweet flavors. Cheesy skillet scalloped corn is a family favorite. And Mexican corn salad carries over some of the same flavors as the pork. This zesty sweet corn refrigerator relish could fit into both the pickles and corn categories, so it’s an obvious win for me!
Pulled pork originated in the southern U.S., a dish where pork is slow-cooked, often over a barbecue, and then shredded and mixed with a sauce.
Plan on 1/3-1/2 pound of uncooked meat per person.
The USDA recommends keeping leftover pulled pork in the fridge for no more than 4 days.
How to Store and Reheat Extras
Here’s how to store any leftover pulled pork:
- Fridge – Place cooked, cooled pulled pork in an airtight container and store in the fridge for up to 4 days.
- Freezer – Place cooled pulled pork in an airtight container or freezer-safe bag in the freezer for up to 3 months. Defrost in the fridge overnight before using.
- To Reheat – Leftover pulled pork can be used straight from the fridge in whatever recipe you wish.
Ways to Use Leftover Pulled Pork
Here are some of my favorite ways to use leftover pulled pork:
- Tacos. Leftover pulled pork is fantastic in tacos. Tuck it into your favorite tortillas or use it in my grilled pork and pineapple tacos or mole pork tacos recipes.
- In a salad. Add pulled pork to a salad for extra protein. My Vietnamese noodle salad with pork can be easily adapted to include pulled pork.
- Top a baked potato or sweet potato. This is such a great way to use the leftover meat. We use our favorite baked potato recipe. Or we use the pulled pork in this taco stuffed sweet potato recipe.
- Make a sandwich. Why not swap in leftover pulled pork for my slow cooker sloppy joes recipe? I also love spicy pulled pork on sweet buns with a little homemade guacamole to balance out the heat.
- Sliders. (Basically, small sandwiches!) Pulled pork is wonderful in sliders. You could substitute pulled pork for the chicken in Buffalo chicken sliders, or just make your own version of sliders using this easy pulled pork recipe
- Add it to chili. Stir leftover pulled pork into my slow cooker chili for more variety in flavor and texture. Or substitute pork for the ground meat in my creamy enchilada chili recipe.
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- 4 pounds boneless pork shoulder (or pork butt or Boston butt), trimmed of excess fat and cut into 4 pieces - look for a meaty roast that's well marbled
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 2 teaspoons cumin
- 2 teaspoons Morton kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil or olive oil
- 12 ounces light-bodied beer (or substitute hard cider, Coke, Dr. Pepper, or root beer soda for a slightly sweeter flavor - or just use low sodium chicken broth)
- 2 large bay leaves
- Place pork on a rimmed pan or large plate.
- In a small bowl, stir together brown sugar, chili powder, cumin, salt, onion powder, paprika, and black pepper. Rub spice mixture all over the pork pieces.
- Place a Dutch oven over medium to medium-high heat. When heated, add butter and oil, and let heat for 30 seconds. Add seasoned pork and sear for a few minutes on all sides, until a nice golden crust forms on each side.
- Now follow the directions for the Oven, Instant Pot, or Slow Cooker method:
- Preheat oven to 300° F. Pour beer around the pork in the Dutch oven, then add the bay leaves to the beer. Cover and place in the oven to cook for 2 hours.
- Uncover and check the pork - it should be very tender at this point. Spoon some of the liquid over the top of the pork, cover, and cook for 1 more hour, or until it's absolutely fork-tender and breaks apart easily by simply pressing on it.
- Remove from the oven and transfer pork to a cutting board or rimmed pan and let pork rest for 15 minutes. Then use 2 forks to shred the pork. Discard any larger pieces of fat. If desired, add shredded pork back into Dutch oven and mix with the juices. Or transfer the pork to a serving dish and drizzle some of the juices over the stop. You can also mix with your favorite barbecue sauce, if desired.
Instant Pot Method:
- Heat the Instant Pot using the Saute function. Add the oil and butter.
- When the butter has melted, add the spice rubbed pork in a single layer. Leave enough room between the pork so the pieces sear and don’t steam. You can always sear the pork in batches if needed.
- Sear the pork for 2-3 minutes per side, or until a brown crust forms. Remove the pork from the Instant Pot and set it aside.
- Slowly add the beer to the Instant Pot while scraping the bottom with a wooden spoon. Make sure to remove all of the browned bits from the bottom of the pan so you don't get a burn notice from the Instant Pot.
- Add the pork back to the Instant Pot, making sure it is mostly covered with beer. Add the bay leaves.
- Attach the lid and ensure the valve is in the “sealing” position. Set the Instant Pot to Pressure Cook Manual (on normal pressure) for 1 hour.
- When the Instant Pot has finished, allow the pressure to release naturally for 15 minutes.
- Release any remaining pressure by switching the valve to the “venting” position.
- Remove the pork to a cutting board or rimmed pan and let rest for 15 minutes. Then shred it into your desired size pieces.
- Either transfer the pork back to the Instant Pot and stir it with the pan juices or transfer the pork to a serving platter and drizzle with the pan juices. Enjoy immediately.
Slow Cooker Method:
- If your slow cooker has a saute function, turn it to the highest setting and add the vegetable oil and butter. When the butter has melted, sear the pork for 2-3 minutes per side or until a crust forms.
- If your slow cooker does not have a saute function, add the vegetable oil and butter to a large cast iron skillet set over medium-high heat. When the butter has melted, add the pork in a single layer and sear it for 2-3 minutes per side, or until a brown crust has formed.
- Transfer the pork to the slow cooker. Add the beer and bay leaves.
- Set the slow cooker to low for 8 hours.
- When the pork is fork-tender, transfer it to a large board or rimmed pan and let it rest for 15 minutes. Then shred it to your desired size.
- Either transfer the pork back to the slow cooker and stir it with the pan juices or transfer the pork to a serving platter and drizzle with the pan juices. Enjoy immediately.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 10 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 600Total Fat: 44gSaturated Fat: 16gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 24gCholesterol: 169mgSodium: 401mgCarbohydrates: 3gFiber: 1gSugar: 1gProtein: 43g
Nutrition information is automatically calculated by Nutritionix. I am not a nutritionist and cannot guarantee accuracy. If your health depends on nutrition information, please calculate again with your own favorite calculator.