This slow cooker pulled pork recipe takes just minutes to prep and slowly cooks to become the juiciest, most flavorful pork.
You can never go wrong with something cooked in a slow cooker. Set it and forget it, that’s what they say, right!? Pulled pork can be eaten so many ways from tacos, to wraps/sandwiches, to simply eating as is. This pulled pork recipe is perfect for just about everything.
Which Pork Cut is Best for This Pulled Pork Recipe?
The most common cut for pulled pork is a pork shoulder or pork butt. But don’t be fooled by the term “butt”; pork butt actually comes from the shoulder as well. So, rest assured, you aren’t eating the pig’s rear end!
Pork butt is from higher up on the shoulder and is typically best for pulled pork as it has a better distribution of fat and tends to stay less dry.
I look for pork butt for this recipe, but if that’s not an option, pork shoulder does the trick too!
What to Know About Keeping Pork Clean
If you’re up with the latest food lingo, you’ve probably heard a lot about grass-fed beef and pasture-raised chickens, but what about pigs? Here’s what you should know when it comes to pork.
To start, pigs are meant to eat grass, fruit, scraps, bugs, leaves, nuts… pretty much anything they can find. In conventionally raised/factory farmed pigs, their diet consists of mainly corn and soybean meal. They are kept indoors, mainly in crates or pens, with no fresh air or exercise. These poor pigs are treated inhumanely and the use of antibiotics is wide-spread.
Now that the depressing news is over, let’s talk about labels to look for which ensure a more humane standard of care, better health of the pigs, and higher quality meat.
Pork Labels and What They Mean
Here are specific labels to look for that will ensure a cleaner and higher quality of pork.
Animal Welfare Approved – an independent, non-profit farm certification with the highest standards for animal welfare and sustainability. Guarantees animals are raised outdoors on pasture or range, no antibiotics, and no cruel treatment of the animals (ex: tail docking).
Certified Humane – requires adequate indoor space for pigs to move around, no crates, and has the addition of environmental enrichments (like straw, sawdust, woodchips), no antibiotics, and no tail docking. Only downside is that there is no requirement for outdoor access.
Animal Welfare Certified – this is a 5+ step certification program with each step having different requirements. Step 1 has the least amount of requirements with 5+ being the most rigorous. Regarding pork, ideally you want to look for level 3 or above. Starting at level 3 they have access to the outdoors. But at minimum, level 1 means no antibiotics are used, there is indoor space requirements (no crates), and no tail docking.
USDA Organic – pigs have year round access to the outdoors (although not strictly defined), animals fed only organic feed, and the use of antibiotics is prohibited. However, there is no indoor space requirements and the pigs could still be kept in crates.
In addition to these labels that actually mean something, don’t be fooled by the label “all natural”. This doesn’t necessarily have any bearing whatsoever on how the animal was actually raised. It simply means that it does not contain added color, artificial flavors, or synthetic substances (note: the pork could still contain antibiotics).
I feel like pork is a little more confusing than other meat sources. But my recommendation is to start by looking at labels and certifications, understanding what they mean, and deciding what is most important for you. The cleaner the pork, the better quality of meat. My intention is simply to educate you so you can make an informed decision when buying pork.
TIP: Whole Foods is a great place to start as all of their meat is Animal Welfare Certified. The steps vary by location & type of meat, but it’s a great starting point and I know the butchers are more than happy to talk about what’s in their meat case. And if you have a local butcher, ask them about where their pork is from/how it is raised.
What to Make With This Slow Cooker Pulled Pork Recipe
Pork Tacos – one of my favorite things to do with this recipe is make BBQ pulled pork tacos. They are so simple! Add some mango salsa, fresh limes, cilantro, radish and voila… delicious pulled pork tacos.
Pork Rice bowls – you can never go wrong with food in a bowl. Throw in the pulled pork, brown rice, cabbage, avocado, roasted sweet potatoes, and green onion.
Or, simply eat as is with some BBQ sauce if that’s your thing, and add some healthy veggie side dishes.
What Kind of BBQ Sauce is Cleanest?
When in doubt on store bought condiments, just look for Primal Kitchen! They make a great classic BBQ sauce that is organic, made from ingredients you would use at home to make BBQ sauce, and is sugar-free!
If not Primal Kitchen, look for organic, no/or very low sugar, minimal ingredients, and ingredients you would use at home to make your own.
I will get a good, clean version of homemade BBQ sauce on the blog at some point. But for now, if you want homemade, I won’t be offended if you find a recipe somewhere else 🙂
Looking for more ideas for dinner? Check out the below!
Did you make this slow cooker pulled pork recipe? Please let me know what you think! Leave a comment below, give me a star rating, and/or share a photo on Instagram and mention @CleanPlateMama.
Eat Clean.Be Healthy!
- 4 lbs. pork butt or pork shoulder see notes
- 1 yellow onion, quartered
- 2 tbsp. coconut sugar optional
- 1 tbsp. paprika
- 2 tsp. fine sea salt
- 1 tsp. garlic powder
- 1 tsp. ground pepper
- 1/2 tsp. dry mustard
- 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
- Turn slow cooker on low if you are planning for a longer cook time (about 8 hours) or high if you need a shorter cook time (about 5 hours).
- Place pork butt (or shoulder) and onions in slow cooker with onions placed around the outside edges.
- Mix all seasoning ingredients (coconut sugar through cumin) in a small bowl. Take the seasoning and rub what you can on the outside of the pork. Sprinkle the remaining seasoning mix on top/over the onions.
- Cover the slow cooker and cook on low for about 8 hours, or on high for about 5 hours. You'll know its done when you can easily shred with a fork.
- Once cooked through, remove the pork from the slow cooker and place on a cutting board or large baking sheet. Using 2 forks, shred the meat until fully shredded. If your pork had a bone it it, discard the bone.
- There will be a lot of liquid left in the slow cooker. You will want most of this for the pork. I recommend draining all but about 1.5 cups of the liquid. Add shredded pork back to the slow cooker and mix with the left over liquid and cooked onions.
- Turn slow cooker to warm if you aren't going to eat right away. Store leftovers in the fridge. Pulled pork will stay good in the fridge for up to 5 days.
- I prefer pork butt for pulled pork, but pork shoulder is also a great option.
- Pulled pork is also great for freezing, so if you don’t eat it all, you can easily freeze and take out at another time.