Real Food Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

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This slow cooker pulled pork is a perennial favorite in our family! It's moist, scrumptious, and easy to prepare. We love it for quick weeknight dinners and parties too!


If you love real food and your slow cooker as much as I do, be sure to follow our Slow Cooker Recipes for Real Food Lovers board on Pinterest!

AT LONG LAST! You asked, I have delivered. ๐Ÿ™‚
Click here to see our recipe for perfect coleslaw.


My family LOVES pulled pork and pulled pork just might be THE dish for which the slow cooker was invented.

The long, slow cook is ideal to creating meat that is moist, tender, and shreds easily. Now imagine that piled high on a bun (like these soft and easy homemade hamburger buns or these 1-hour dinner rolls)!

Yes, indeed, pulled pork is the ideal of comfort food in my house.

Now, when it comes to real food, however, pulled pork might seem like a conundrum. Doesn't it require barbecue sauce in order to cook properly, which is typically packed with preservatives and corn syrup and lots of other undesirables?

Besides, there's an on-going debate about whether or not pulled pork even requires barbecue sauce, so this recipe delivers regardless of which method you prefer.

If you believe pulled pork ain't worth the bun it's served on without that bold-smoky-saucy taste, then simply make your own barbecue sauce with our easy recipe. Get the recipe for Bold & Smoky Barbecue Sauce here.

If, however, you prefer your pulled pork unadulterated by sauce, then this recipe will serve up a wallop of flavor without any saucy distraction.

This slow cooker pulled pork uses a spice rub to become fragrant and flavorful and exactly the essence of what slow cooker pulled pork ought to be, whether you add barbecue sauce or not.

Also, if you want moistened meat but don't want to make a barbecue sauce, just thicken the liquid from the slow cooker and add that to the shredded pork as desired. (See directions below.)


(Side note: I've written two books stuffed full of homemade condiment recipes, so if you want serve your family wholesome, nourishing foods, you've got options!

Restocking the Pantry is a digital book and features nearly 120 condiment recipes.

The DIY Pantry is a paperback available in bookstores everywhere that features 160+ recipes for a whole variety of pantry staples, including baking mixes, cereals, freezer convenience foods, and condiments.)

Love slow cooker recipes? Click here to check out our MEGA round-up of more than 145 delicious slow cooker recipes (they're paleo and grain-free to boot!)



Print Recipe
5 from 2 votes

Real Food Slow Cooker Pulled Pork


  • 1 onion, quartered
  • 3 - 3 ยฝ pounds pork shoulder or pork loin, NOT tenderloin
  • 2 tablespoons sea salt
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 4 tablespoons smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • ยฝ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
  • โ…“ cup apple cider or red wine vinegar
  • ยฝ teaspoon additive-free liquid smoke
  • 1 teaspoon molasses
  • ยพ cup raw honey
  • 1 tablespoon arrowroot powder, optional
  • 1 tablespoon cold water, optional


  • Scatter the quartered onion over the bottom of whatever size slow cooker your cut of meat fits best in. Place the pork on the onions, keeping the fat layer on the bottom.
  • In a medium bowl, mash the salt and garlic together. Add the smoked paprika, black pepper, cayenne, and thyme and whisk together to mix well.
  • Pour in the vinegar, liquid smoke, and molasses and stir until fully mixed. Add the honey and stir until completely mixed.
  • Pour the paprika-honey mixture over the pork, scraping the bowl to get out every last bit of smoky-sweet goodness, then cook on low for 8-9 hours or on high for 6-7 hours until the pork is tender and pulls away easily with a fork.
  • Remove from the slow cooker and shred using two forks.
  • To thicken the pan drippings (if desired), strain all the liquid from the slow cooker into a saucepan, being sure to remove all the solids, then bring to a simmer. Dissolve the arrowroot powder in the cold water and whisk it into the sauce. Simmer just for a minute or so to thicken.
  • Toss the shreds with barbecue sauce or the thickened pan drippings (if desired) and pile on top of your favorite soft buns or ciabatta bread.



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  1. Hi Kresha

    I have just put this together and I am just worried about the fluid levels, when i poured the paprika-honey mixture over the pork it only comes up the sides of the pork about an inch should it not be covered over with liquid????? As a slow cooker novice I am still learning to trust it to be left alone while i go out and with this i think i will stay close by in case I have to add some liquid.

    Thanks in advance

    1. Robert,

      Actually, about an inch or so up the sides is just right. The pork releases quite a bit of liquid and also, slow cookers don’t need much moisture to cook because all the moisture is retained – none is lost. I know the feeling though!!!

      I hope this turned out great and was enjoyed by all. ๐Ÿ™‚

      1. Thanks for your reply and yes it worked perfectly after about 5 hours I took the lid off for a proper look and all was well then after 9 hours in total it was Perfect and i now plan on making this for family and friends, Thanks for making me look good!


    1. Let’s see… if you’re going to do pulled pork sandwiches, I would estimate it makes 10-12 sandwiches. If you’re going to serve it as an entree over rice, I would estimate between 6-8 servings. If you’re going to use it on a buffet for carnitas or something similar, I would estimate that it makes 8-10 servings.

      I hope that helps! ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. You can use pork tenderloin, but it tends to be much more expensive and the fat is the secret to keeping it extra-moist while cooking. ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Pingback: 44 Saucy BBQ Recipes & Ideas DIY Projects & Creative Crafts โ€“ How To Make Everything Homemade - DIY Projects & Creative Crafts โ€“ How To Make Everything Homemade
  3. 5 stars
    This recipe is DELICIOUS. One of my all time favorites for a party. One question: Is the weight of pork shoulder called for in your recipe with or without the bone in?

    1. The weight I call for is without the bone. ๐Ÿ™‚

      I’m so glad you enjoy it! It’s a perennial favorite in our house too.

  4. 5 stars
    Hi Kresha,

    I just tried this recipe and it’s soooo good! I could barely resist stuffing myself. I did thicken the liquid from the slow cooker as you suggested for mixing with the meat. I still have about 2 cups of the thickened liquid left, and it seems like a bit of a waste to dump it. Any recommendations for recipes this could be used in or added to?

    Thanks for the inspiration!


    1. Yay! I’m so glad you enjoyed it. ๐Ÿ™‚

      I typically just save the extra to serve as a sauce over rice or baked potatoes some night when I need a fast meal. Not at all fancy, but it saves the sauce and makes for easy meal prep. It freezes fine, although I typically use it within a few days, as just refrigerating it is easier.

      As for adding it to something else, I’ve never used it that way, but I wonder if it would make a good base for a bean soup of some kind?

      Sorry I can’t be of more help. ๐Ÿ™ I hope whatever you makes turns out great! ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Do you have a slow cooker that will hold that much meat, or will you be slow roasting it in the oven or another appliance?

      Basically, with most of those methods, I recommend keeping the ratios the same for the dry ingredients, but only using about half of the liquid ingredients. (For example, since 25 pounds of meat is about 8 times as much as the amount of meat called for in the recipe, multiply the dry ingredients by 8, but only multiply the wet ingredients by 4.) That’s a rough guide and only if that 25 pounds will be cooked all together. If you’ll be cutting it up into smaller pieces, calculate the ratios according to the size of each piece in relation to the original recipe, keeping in mind that you may not need the full amount of liquid. The general rule of thumb I use when sizing recipes up is that the liquid should come about 2 inches up the side of the meat, so it’s more the size of the pan that determines the amount of liquid than the size of meat.

      I hope that helps!

      1. Hi Kresha, I had to add more meat for more people. Itโ€™s alreadyin the crock pot. About 5 lbs, do you think I have enough liquid?? Thank you

  5. Do you just pour the raw honey as is from the jar? Plus that honey was expensive to buy. I couldnโ€™t find a pork shoulder without the bone either I will have to see if I can cut it out myself.

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