Make BBQ flavored pulled pork in either an electric pressure cooker (like Instant Pot) or a slow cooker (like Crock Pot) using a pork shoulder, pickle juice, seasoning and BBQ sauce. Pulled pork leftovers are perfect for Cuban sandwiches, quesadillas, burrito bowls, sandwiches or nachos.

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Tips and Tricks

What do you serve with pulled pork? I like to make them into sandwiches like these Leftover Pulled Pork Cuban Sandwiches and serve it with a crunchy salad with a good vinaigrette (the acid will help cut through the richness!). You can also serve pulled pork with coleslaw, baked beans or with different vegetables like corn or roasted broccoli

How do you half this recipe? If you have a smaller portion of pork shoulder, then you should keep the same level of liquid in the pressure cooker and slow cooker so nothing dries out. Once you remove the pork you can discard some of the cooking liquid and so it isn’t pulled pork soup. 

How do you double this recipe? I’d be careful doubling this recipe because it may overwhelm your pressure cooker. If you double this recipe in the slow cooker it may take longer to cook. This recipe already makes a lot but if you need to double it, I’d do it over two days/batches. 

What do you do with leftover pulled pork? We like to make my version of Cuban sandwiches, Freezer Friendly Burrito Bowls for lunches, quesadillas, nachos, sandwiches with coleslaw. It’s a very versatile recipe leftover. I’ve even seen people put it on mac and cheese!

Pulled pork quesadilla with guacamole, salsa and sour cream on the plate. Behind the plate is fresh tomatoes and an avocado.

Storage

Can you freeze pulled pork? This recipe makes a lot of pulled pork, so unless we are entertaining a large crowd of people (this recipe would be perfect for that!) we end up freezing a lot of pulled pork. Make sure you don’t just freeze it in a giant block of pulled pork unless that is how you want to use it next time. I like to freeze it in smaller portions so it’s easier and quicker to defrost and perfect for a quick dinner of nachos or quesadillas. 

How do you store cooked pulled pork? Store already cooked pulled pork in an airtight container in the fridge for three to four days or in the freezer for up to three months. 

Ingredients

Is pork butt the same as pork shoulder? They are from a similar place on the pig but one is above the other. You can use either piece for this recipe. 

What’s your favorite kind of BBQ sauce? I always use Sweet Baby Ray’s Original BBQ sauce but you can use your favorite. 

What type of apple juice do you use? I always use Martinelli’s apple cider which comes in a big glass container. I’d avoid an apple juice or cider that has added sugar or preservatives. Sometimes I’ll use a 12 oz bottle of hard cider if it’s in the house. 

What’s the best cut of meat for pulled pork? I personally like to use pork shoulder because it is a tougher cut of meat that has plenty of fat. This makes it perfect for the pressure cooker or slow cooker because it won’t dry out during the cooking process. You can also use pork butt or even pork loin. Avoid leaner cuts of pork like pork tenderloin or pork chops. 

Shredded BBQ pulled pork in a glass bowl.

Method

How do you make pressure cooker pulled pork? 
Searing the Meat 
In a small mixing bowl combine all the seasonings. Set the pressure cooker to saute/brown and allow it to heat up. Next cut the pork shoulder in three to six manageable pieces. Remove any large fat caps and bones at this point. Coat each piece liberally in the spice mix. Once all pieces are coated, add oil to the hot pressure cooker and sear each piece for two or three minutes on two or three sides. 
Cooking the Pulled Pork 
After all pieces are seared, add in the rest of the seasoning, apple juice and bbq sauce. Stir to combine and cover/seal the pressure cooker. Cook on high for 60 minutes. Do a quick release and remove the pork from the pressure cooker. 
Finishing the Pulled Pork
Shred with two forks and then add the pulled pork back to the liquid. Set pressure cooker to saute/brown for 8-10 minutes and allow the sauce to reduce down. Add in the pickle juice and stir with a wooden spoon to combine and then serve with your favorite sides. 

How do you make slow cooker pulled pork?  
Searing the Meat
On the stove, preheat a cast iron pan over medium high heat. In a small mixing bowl mix all dry rub ingredients together. Cut pork into three large pieces and coat well with dry rub. Add in neutral oil to the cast iron pan and sear each piece of meat for two minutes on two to three sides.
Cooking the Pulled Pork
Remove the pork from the pan and turn off the heat. Deglaze the pan with apple juice and use a wooden spoon to scrape up any of the fond (the brown bits). Pour into the slow cooker and add in the rest of the dry rub, pork chunks, and BBQ sauce. Cover and heat on low for 8-10 hours or on high for 4-6 hours (time will depend on how big your pieces of meat are) until meat is tender enough to easily shred. 
Finishing the Pulled Pork
Remove as much of the pork as you can into a heatproof large mixing bowl (it is easier to see what you’re shredding). Shred with 2 forks until desired consistency.  Add the remaining sauce to a medium saucepan on the stove. Reduce the sauce for 6-8 minutes over medium heat and continue to stir with a wooden spoon until the sauce thickens. Finish the sauce with pickle juice and stir well. Pour sauce over the shredded pork and stir well to combine. Eat and enjoy in your favorite recipe. 

Do you add BBQ sauce to pulled pork? It may not be traditional BBQ style pulled pork on a smoker, but this is a great home adaptation with BBQ sauce. Add BBQ sauce to the pork and seasoning before cooking and let it reduce down after cooking down to coat every piece of pork. 

Do you have to use pickle juice? If you don’t have pickle juice, you should add some type of acid like apple cider vinegar. This really brightens up the recipe and helps a lot with the flavor. 

How long do you cook pulled pork in a slow cooker? This recipe takes a lot longer in a slow cooker than pressure cooker. It takes about 10-12 hours in a slow cooker to make this pulled pork recipe. 

How long do you cook pulled pork in the pressure cooker? This recipe is done in about 90 minutes in an electric pressure cooker from start to finish. 

How do you shred pulled pork? After the pulled pork has been cooked in either the pressure cooker or slow cooker, take out the large chunks of meat and put it in a large bowl or on a sheet tray. Shred it with two forks until it is all shredded. Some large chunks are okay but you want most of it to be shredded. 

Equipment

Is an Instant Pot and pressure cooker the same thing? Yes! The Instant Pot is an electric pressure cooker. It also can be used as a slow cooker. Crockpot also makes a great electric pressure cooker and slow cooker combo, and that is what I use. It is a 6 quart pressure cooker.

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Shredded BBQ pulled pork in a glass bowl.
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5 from 1 vote

Pressure Cooker or Slow Cooker BBQ Pulled Pork

Make BBQ flavored pulled pork in either an electric pressure cooker (like Instant Pot) or a slow cooker (like Crock Pot) using a pork shoulder, pickle juice, seasoning and BBQ sauce. Pulled pork leftovers are perfect for Cuban sandwiches, quesadillas, burrito bowls, sandwiches or nachos.
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time1 hr 20 mins
Total Time1 hr 35 mins
Author: Samantha

Ingredients

  • Ingredients:
  • cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons onion powder
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • ½ tablespoon kosher salt
  • ½ tablespoon fresh black pepper
  • 2-3 lb pork loin or pork shoulder or pork butt
  • cup neutral oil like canola oil,omit if not searing
  • 1 1/4 cups apple juice Martinelli's Gold Medal 100% Pure Juice or a good quality brand
  • 1 cup BBQ sauce
  • 1/2 cup pickle juice or apple cider vinegar

Instructions

Pressure Cooker Instructions

  • In a small mixing bowl, measure out and mix the brown sugar, garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder, paprika, kosher salt and black pepper.
  • Set pressure cooker to saute/brown and allow to heat up.
  • Cut away any large fat caps on your piece or pork and discard. Cut pork into three to six pieces depending on how big the pork shoulder is. Remove the bone if it is present, it’ll take less time to cook without the bone.
  • Coat each piece of pork in the dry rub. Ensure that each piece is completely covered. You will have leftover dry rub. It will be added later.
  • Once the pressure cooker has heated up, add the neutral oil. Add in the pieces of pork (now covered in the dry rub) and allow to sear for 2-3 minutes on each side. You should hear a solid sizzle when the meat hits the pan. If you don’t, remove the pork and allow the cooking vessel to come to temperature. The pork should develop a brown sear after 2-3 minutes. Continue until 2 or 3 sides are seared on all pieces of the meat.
  • After the meat has been seared, add in the remaining dry rub mixture, apple juice and BBQ sauce.
  • Close and lock the pressure cooker according to your manufacturer’s guidelines. Ensure that the steam vent is closed and set the pressure to high for 1 hour.
  • After the pork is cooked, do a quick release of the pressure using the steam valve.
  • Remove as much of the pork as you can into a heatproof large mixing bowl (it is easier to see what you’re shredding). Shred with 2 forks until desired consistency. Add the pork back to the cooking vessel and switch to the saute/brown function to reduce the sauce.
  • Reduce the sauce for 8-10 minutes and continue to stir with a wooden spoon until the sauce thickens. Finish with the pickle juice and stir well.
  • Eat and enjoy in your favorite recipe.

Slow Cooker Instructions

  • On the stove, preheat a cast iron pan over medium high heat.
  • In a small mixing bowl, measure out and mix the brown sugar, garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder, paprika, kosher salt and black pepper.
  • Cut away any large fat caps on your piece or pork and discard. Cut pork into two or three separate pieces
  • Coat each piece of pork in the dry rub. Ensure that each piece of completely covered. You will have leftover dry rub. It will be added later.
  • Once the cast iron has heated up, add the neutral oil and add in the pieces of pork (now covered in the dry rub) and allow to sear for 2-3 minutes on each side. You should hear a solid sizzle when the meat hits the pan. If you don’t, remove the pork and allow the pan to come to temperature. The pork should develop a brown sear after 2-3 minutes. Continue searing until 2 to 3 sides are seared on all pieces of the meat.
  • Remove the pork and add to the slow cooker. Turn off the heat and remove the cast iron pan to a cold burner. Deglaze the pan with the apple juice and scrape up any of the fond (the brown bits from the seared pork). Pour into the slow cooker.
  • Add in the the rest of the dry rub and the BBQ sauce.
  • Cover and heat on low for 8-10 hours or on high for 4-6 hours (time will depend on how big your pieces of meat are) until meat is tender enough to easily shred.
  • Remove as much of the pork as you can into a heatproof large mixing bowl (it is easier to see what you’re shredding). Shred with 2 forks until desired consistency.
  • Add the remaining sauce to a medium saucepan on the stove. Reduce the sauce for 6-8 minutes over medium heat and continue to stir with a wooden spoon until the sauce thickens. Finish the sauce with pickle juice.
  • Pour sauce over the shredded pork and stir well to combine.
  • Eat and enjoy in your favorite recipe.

Notes

  • Leftover pulled pork freezes very well.
  • Use pulled pork in Cuban sandwiches, quesadillas, burrito bowls, nachos, on mac and cheese or on a sandwich roll.

Originally posted February 25, 2019. Republished with new photos and tips and tricks on January 23, 2020.

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  1. Reply

    Jessica Lupo

    May 21, 2019

    One of my favorite recipes! It’s delicious and it freezes so easily, I get 2-3 dinners of it.

    • Reply

      Samantha

      June 9, 2019

      So glad you enjoy it Jess!

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