Slow Cooker BBQ Pulled Pork | Whole30 & Paleo
Whole30 BBQ Slow Cooker Pulled Pork Recipe
How to Make Pulled Pork in Slow Cooker / Crock Pot with Pork Shoulder
This deliciously tender slow cooker pulled pork recipe is such an easy and tasty protein option! Not only is it super simple and great for meal prep, but it’s also so versatile. Toss it in your choice of BBQ sauce then pile it onto a bun, into tacos, or serve it up in whole30 pulled pork lettuce wraps! I’ll show you how to make pulled pork in the slow cooker or crock pot, plus my favorite BBQ sauces—including paleo & whole30 compliant options.
The best part about this slow cooker pulled pork recipe is it’s straightforward and very forgiving. Made with pork shoulder / pork butt—which are both relatively tough and fatty cuts—the meat is meant to be cooked for a long time to get that tender, melt-in-your-mouth texture. Honestly, the biggest challenge with making crock pot pulled pork is waiting 9 hours for it to cook and smelling it all the while!
Once it’s cooked, you’ll have irresistibly juicy, flavorful meat that can feed the entire family, or feed yourself all week. I’ll share some of my favorite slow cooker pulled pork meal ideas below, including my go-to whole30 BBQ pulled pork meal with a side of paleo coleslaw.
What Can I Use for Pulled Pork in the Slow Cooker?
Cooking pulled pork in the slow cooker is one of the easiest protein preparations that you can do. All you’ll need is your cut of pork, salt, pepper, and your slow cooker / crock pot. That’s it! So, which cut of pork should you use?
What is the best cut of meat for pulled pork?
Generally, your best bet for crock pot pulled pork is to use pork shoulder or pork butt—either bone-in or boneless cuts works great. Both of these are pretty tough cuts that are rich in fat, so they do best when cooked slowly, for a long time, and on low heat. Hence, why they’re ideal for a slow cooker pulled pork recipe! Slow cooking allows the proteins in pork shoulder / butt to break down properly, creating that tender, juicy meat that we crave.
Now, although it may sound like these cuts come from opposite ends of the animal, both actually come from the shoulder of the pig. In other words, “pork butt” doesn’t come from the animal’s rear end. The entire shoulder is divided into 2 sections: “pork butt” is higher on the foreleg, while “pork shoulder” is further down. The actual hindquarters of the pig are carved into fresh “hams.”
Ultimately, the best cut of meat for pulled pork is either pork shoulder or pork butt, and they can go by many other names:
- shoulder roast
- shoulder butt roast
- blade roast
- Boston butt
- picnic roast
What can I use instead of pork shoulder for pulled pork?
Some folks want to use pork center cut loin roast for pulled pork, but I don’t recommend it. Unlike pork shoulder or pork butt, pork loin is much lower in fat, so it isn’t ideal for slow cooker pulled pork. Yes, it is possible, but you’d have to try roasting at a lower temperature to avoid overcooking it—otherwise you’ll end up with pulled pork that’s very dry.
How many pounds of pork do you need per person?
On average, a 4-5-pound cut of bone-in pork shoulder / butt will yield around 2-3 pounds of pulled meat, which could feed anywhere from 6-12 people. Of course, this will depend on you, who you’re feeding, and your preferences! Some people may want 4oz of meat, others may want 8oz.
For gatherings, I recommend overestimating and assuming each person will eat around ⅓-pound (5.3oz) of meat. So, think of it as though each 1 pound of slow cooker pulled pork will feed 3 people. If you’ve got a 5-pound bone-in pork shoulder, I’d estimate that its ~3 pounds of pulled meat will feed ~9 people.
Do you need liquid in slow cooker for pulled pork?
No, you don’t need to cook your pork shoulder / butt in any liquid! The beauty of pulled pork is that it’s so juicy and tender, thanks to the rich fat content of the pork shoulder. Some of that fat also renders off as liquid as it cooks, so the pork ends up cooking in the deliciousness of its own broth. Now, keep in mind, if you use a leaner cut like pork loin, you may want to consider adding some liquid to the slow cooker.
How Long to Cook Pork Shoulder in Slow Cooker
Generally, the best way to cook pork shoulder in the slow cooker is on low heat, for 9 hours. Cooked on low heat, the pork shoulder will get more tender the longer that it cooks! Yes, you can cook the meat on high heat for 4-5 hours if you’re in a time crunch. But, just know that your pulled pork recipe won’t turn out nearly as juicy or tender with the high heat method. I know, the hardest part is the waiting—but it’s well worth it!
Should I drain fat from pulled pork?
Before cooking, do not trim the fat from your pork. The fat is essential to keeping the meat juicy and flavorful as it cooks! After cooking, you’ll be left with a slow cooker full of tender pork shoulder, as well as liquid that’s rendered off. At this point, remove the pork from the liquid, shred the meat, and transfer it into a container. BUT, don’t throw away that liquid just yet!
How do you moisten pulled pork?
Once your slow cooker pulled pork is in its container, ladle several spoonfuls of the liquid that’s left in your slow cooker on top of your pulled pork. You don’t need to use all of it, but add a good amount into the container. This is the best thing that you can do after cooking to keep your pulled pork moist. The added moisture and fat will ensure that the meat is just as delicious with every reheat.
How to Make BBQ Pulled Pork
With your crock pot pulled pork shredded and ready, simply select the portion you intend to eat or serve and toss it in your favorite BBQ sauce! I find that around 1 cup of BBQ sauce per 1 pound of pulled pork is a pretty good ratio to start with. If the pulled pork is still warm and fresh out of the slow cooker, you may not need to reheat it. But if the meat is coming from the fridge, toss it in barbecue sauce and then heat it in the microwave or over the stove.
Personally, my favorite BBQ sauce brand is Stubb’s. The Stubb’s Original BBQ Sauce is delicious, it’s pretty “clean,” and it’s only got 4g of added sugar per serving. Or, when I’m craving a sweeter option, I love Stubb’s Sticky Sweet BBQ Sauce! Of course, the idea is to use whichever barbecue sauce that you enjoy! For those looking for paleo or whole30 BBQ pulled pork options, I share some of my favorites below.
For Paleo & Whole30 BBQ Pulled Pork
If you’re a BBQ lover on paleo or doing the whole30, you’ve probably learned by now: most mainstream barbecue sauces come with added sugars and generally are not compliant. Thankfully, in recent years, more and more brands have started to create paleo & whole30 compliant BBQ sauces! Below, I’ve listed several BBQ options for whole30 pulled pork that contain no added sugars or other additives. My personal top choice is Tessemae’s, which has a milder flavor, but I also enjoy Primal Kitchen when I want a more peppery, vinegary flavor.
- Tessemae’s Organic BBQ
- Primal Kitchen Classic BBQ Sauce
- The New Primal Classic BBQ
- Good Food for Good Classic BBQ
How to Serve Crock Pot Pulled Pork
Whether you serve your slow cooker pulled pork plain, tossed in BBQ sauce, or otherwise, there are plenty of fun meal options to explore!
- Add to scrambled eggs
- Bake into a breakfast casserole
- Toss into a creamy sweet potato soup
- Serve on top of a salad
- Saute into a stir fry or pork fried cauliflower rice
- In BBQ pulled pork tacos
- Make a BBQ pulled pork sandwich or BBQ sliders
- In whole30 pulled pork lettuce cups (see below!)
To see how this recipe is made, along with the rest of this bento lunch box, check out my Quick & Easy Bento Box Lunch Ideas video!
Paleo & Whole30 Slow Cooker Pulled Pork Dinner
Slow Cooker Pulled Pork
- 4-5 lb pork butt / shoulder, bone-in or boneless
- 1 tsp salt, to taste
- ½ tsp pepper, to taste
- Yields 2-3 lbs pulled meat.
Ideas for Serving
- romaine or butter lettuce leaves
- whole30 & paleo coleslaw
To Cook Pulled Pork in Slow Cooker / Crock Pot
- Rub pork butt with salt and pepper, to taste.
- Add to slow cooker and cook on low heat for 9 hours. (If you’re short on time, high heat for 4-5 hours will work—but slow-and-low will yield the most tender result!)
- Once finished, remove from slow cooker and shred meat with 2 forks, leaving the rendered liquid fat behind.
- Store shredded meat in an airtight container, adding ½ cup of the rendered liquid fat from the slow cooker back into the meat. (This will help retain flavor and moisture when you reheat.)
- Lasts 5-7 days in the fridge.
To Make Whole30 BBQ Pulled Pork Dinner
- When ready to enjoy, toss shredded meat in BBQ sauce of choice, to taste. (Be sure to use a paleo or whole30 compliant option as needed!)
- Heat BBQ pork in the microwave or over the stove, serve with desired accompaniments, and enjoy!
- For a whole30 dinner or paleo meal, try serving your slow cooker BBQ pulled pork on lettuce leaves, with a side of paleo coleslaw made with avocado oil mayo.
- Personally, I prefer Tessemae’s for a paleo & whole30 BBQ sauce option. It has a milder flavor, but it’s a bit thicker in texture—sometimes I’ll thin it out with 1-2 Tbsp of broth.
- Primal Kitchen also as a paleo & whole30 BBQ sauce, but it has a more peppery & vinegary flavor—sort of like A1 steak sauce.
- For a sweeter paleo BBQ sauce option (not for whole30), you can add a bit of coconut sugar until you get your desired sweetness!
- My personal favorite BBQ sauce that’s NOT paleo or whole30 is Stubb’s Original Barbecue Sauce. It does contain 4g added sugars (which is 1 tsp of sugar) per 2 Tbsp of sauce, but the added sugar is worth it for me because I love and enjoy the taste so much!