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Dinner

Slow-Cooker Pulled Pork Sandwiches, Made Super Simple

Luscious pork shoulder and tangy barbecue sauce can be part of your clean eats plan – if you follow our easy slow-cooker method, that is.

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Little is more convenient than dump-and-go recipes you can toss in your slow cooker. They’re hugely time-saving, allowing you to cook a whole meal while you’re at work or running errands. And the recipes themselves are so simple, you don’t have to worry about turning, stirring or removing anything from the oven. One of our favorite ways to use a slow cooker for an almost-effortless meal? Making these Slow-Cooker Pulled Pork Sandwiches.

The pulled pork sandwich is a classic, but it traditionally requires hours of cook time over a barbecue, with plenty of flavor added via smoke. Our version is meant to be a time-saver – just put the pork shoulder in your slow cooker, season it well and let it cook under it’s fall-apart tender over 5 to 7 hours. It’s totally hands off (well, until you whip up the easy, tangy BBQ sauce!) and a great meal idea for busy weekdays.

Plus, once you master this super simple slow cooker recipe, you can adjust and adapt it in different ways. You can turn the shredded pork shoulder into an ingredient for tacos, serve it over sweet potatoes, use it over leafy greens and in salads, enjoy it without the buns – the options are almost endless. And you can adopt this same cooking method for other meats, too, like chicken. Dishes like Pulled Barbecue Chicken and Southern Spicy Pulled Chicken are great places to start, if you need some inspiration and variety.

In addition to be super easy to make, these Slow-Cooker Pulled Pork Sandwiches are also better for you. While the classic recipe is high in sodium, fat, sugars and calories, our version slashes all of these to make a healthier meal – with all of the same flavor! This recipe shaves 473 calories, 35 grams of total fat, 33 grams of sugars and 2,941 milligrams of sodium off of traditional pulled pork sandwiches.

Slow-Cooker Pulled Pork Sandwiches

Servings
10
Prep Time
55 min
Cook Time
300 min
Duration
355 min

Ingredients

  • 2 tsp ancho chile powder (or other mild chile powder)
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp fresh ground black pepper
  • ¾ tsp sea salt, divided
  • 3 ½-lb bone-in pork shoulder, trimmed of fat, at room temperature
  • Neutral-flavored oil cooking spray (such as safflower or grape seed oil)
  • 1 1⁄3 cups unsalted tomato sauce
  • ½ tsp potato starch
  • ¾ cup plus 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar, divided
  • ¼ cup plus 2 tbsp Sucanat
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tsp onion powder
  • 2 tsp mustard powder
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • ⅛ to ¼ tsp ground cayenne pepper, optional
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • ¾ cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 tbsp raw honey
  • 1 tbsp poppy seeds
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and shredded (NOTE: Shred using the shredding disk on a food processor or using the large holes on a box grater.)
  • 1 large zucchini, trimmed and shredded
  • ¼ head red cabbage, cored and thinly sliced (about 1½ cups)
  • 10 whole-wheat buns or kaiser rolls

Preparation

  1. In a small bowl, combine chile powder, cumin, black pepper and 1/2 tsp salt. Rub all over pork. Mist a large, heavy skillet with cooking spray and heat on medium-high. Add pork and cook without moving until browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Turn pork and repeat until all sides are browned. Transfer to slow cooker. Add 1 cup water, cover and cook on low for 5 to 7 hours, or until meat easily separates from the bone and internal temperature reaches 145°F on an instant read thermometer. Let pork rest in slow cooker, uncovered, for 20 minutes.
  2. While pork rests, prepare sauce: In a small saucepan, whisk tomato sauce and potato starch until smooth. Add 3/4 cup vinegar, Sucanat, Worcestershire, onion powder, mustard powder, paprika, cayenne (if using) and remaining 1/4 tsp salt; whisk to combine. Turn heat on stove top to high and bring to a simmer, whisking occasionally. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, whisking frequently, until flavors blend, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and cover to keep warm.
  3. Prepare coleslaw: In a large bowl, stir together lemon zest, yogurt, honey, poppy seeds and remaining 2 tbsp vinegar until combined. Place grated carrot and zucchini on two layers of paper towel (or use a clean kitchen towel) and press down firmly with additional paper towels to absorb as much water as possible. Transfer to bowl with yogurt mixture. Add cabbage and stir until combined.
  4. Transfer pork to a work surface and shred pork with 2 forks, discarding any fat. Transfer to a large serving bowl, add about three-quarters of the sauce and toss well with tongs. Add additional sauce, to taste, or reserve for another use. Add 3/4 cup pork and about 1/2 cup coleslaw to each bun.

Nutrition Information

  • Serving Size 1 sandwich
  • Calories 401
  • Carbohydrate Content 40 g
  • Cholesterol Content 77 mg
  • Fat Content 12 g
  • Fiber Content 5 g
  • Protein Content 32.5 g
  • Saturated Fat Content 4 g
  • Sodium Content 551 mg
  • Sugar Content 17 g
  • Monounsaturated Fat Content 0 g
  • Polyunsaturated Fat Content 0 g