Crockpot BBQ Pulled Pork

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The absolute BEST honey BBQ pulled pork sandwiches made simple in the CROCKPOT! Recipe via chelseasmessyarpon.com

Serve these spice-rubbed Crockpot BBQ Pulled Pork sandwiches with a delicious sweet honey chipotle sauce and a simple coleslaw. Add a toasted bun with a side of this corn salad for the ultimate summer meal!

Image of Crockpot BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich on a plate, ready to be eaten.

Crockpot BBQ Pulled Pork

There’s nothing that compares to a good smoked pork butt, but if you don’t have a smoker or you just don’t want to babysit it for the greater part of 15-20 hours, this is your recipe!

You’ll still get succulent, tender pork, worthy of any summer barbecue, and in a fraction of the time with minimal effort. The entire pork butt fits nicely into a crockpot* and slow cooks all day requiring no extra effort as it cooks (like spritzing pork in a smoker every few hours or wrapping and unwrapping it in butcher paper). It also makes your home smell incredible while allowing you to stay in the air conditioning all day long!

(*Crock pot is the trademarked brand of slow cooker made by  Sunbeam Products, but it’s often used generically in the English-speaking world when referring to any slow cooker appliance.) 

And just as the pork is simple to make, the sauce is equally easy. While you can skip a step and grab some store-bought BBQ sauce, this homemade chipotle barbecue sauce is one of our favorites! It’s so flavorful, sweet, a little smoky, and a bit spicy. And before you stray away from the spicy aspect of this BBQ sauce, it can easily be tailored to your personal spice tolerance. So, let’s talk about the sauce first!

Process shot-- image of the chipotle bbq sauce ingredients being assembled in a blender; blending ingredients together to create the sauce.

Crockpot BBQ Pulled Pork sauce

  • Ketchup: I recommend Heinz® ketchup — it’s our favorite in this sauce (not sponsored).
  • Brown sugar: Light or dark brown sugar work great; we typically use light brown sugar
  • Honey: Between the honey and brown sugar — these two ingredients really sweeten the sauce– the sweetness is offset a bit with the chipotles, but the sauce is intended to be a bit sweet. If you’d prefer to have it more on the spicy side, either increase the chipotles (see below) or decrease the amount of honey and/or brown sugar.
  • Chipotle chilies in adobo: These chilies are what give the sauce its spice. Since we’re only using a bit of the can, be sure to read this chicken tinga tacos post for how to save and store leftover chipotles. Also, make sure to check out the quick tip below on adjusting spice levels.
  • Apple cider vinegar: The vinegar helps to balance the sweet and spicy blend of this sauce.
  • Worcestershire sauce: We use this ingredient to add to the depth of flavor.
  • Garlic: Either pre-minced garlic or a coarsely chopped clove work well.
  • Salt and pepper: Add to personal preference, remembering that the pork can be fairly salty!

QUICK TIP

Taste and adjust the sauce to personal preference; the chipotles are important to balancing the sauce (so it isn’t too sweet), but add slowly and taste as you go, so you don’t end up with an overly spicy sauce. Remember also that the bun and coleslaw tame the spiciness of the sauce.

How much chipotle?

  • Little to no spice: Use 1-2 tablespoons of the sauce surrounding the canned chipotle peppers.
  • Light spice: Use 2 tablespoons of the chipotle sauce and 1 tablespoon peppers.
  • Medium spicy: Use 2 tablespoons chipotle sauce and 2 tablespoon peppers.
  • Spicy: Use 2 tablespoons chipotle sauce and 3 tablespoons peppers.

Note that if you do make this sauce in advance (and put it in the fridge), it gets spicier as it sits. I love making the sauce in the morning, along with starting the pork in the crockpot, because come dinner time, there is literally nothing to do but assemble the sandwich (unless you’re also making coleslaw).

Process shots-- images of the seasoning rub for the pork; onions and apple juice added to the bottom of the crock pot; seasoned pork going into the crockpot; cooking all day; shredded and covered in the BBQ sauce.

Let’s talk pork

I’ve tried all kinds of pork and all different weights in my slow cooker. I’ve gotten the best results from using a 5 to 5.5-pound bone-in pork shoulder or butt roast. Some of the different labels you might see: butt roast, Boston butt, shoulder roast, picnic shoulder, or a pork shoulder butt blade roast. (There is a difference between butt and shoulder pork roasts, but sometimes the names are confused or misleadingly named; check out the differences here). My personal favorite is a Boston Butt, but without going to a butcher, I typically can only find a pork shoulder butt roast in regular grocery stores. And just in case you were wondering, butt refers to the butt-end of the shoulder roast, not the location on the pig!

A few notes on the pork:

  • I recommend bone-in: The bone adds loads of flavor and once cooked, it pulls out easily. Bones add flavor and juiciness to the Crockpot BBQ Pulled Pork. 
  • Fat cap: A fat cap is the white layer of fat on the top of the meat. Most pork butts will have this fat cap; don’t cut it off! Instead, put it facing upwards in the slow cooker. As the pork cooks, this fat will render and drip down making the pork more flavorful and more tender. Also, once the pork is cooked, it pulls off super easily and can then be discarded.
  • Cook the pork on low heat. I don’t recommend cooking the pork on high; it tends to dry it out and won’t end up as tender or juicy and does not shred as easily.
  • Don’t over-work the pork when shredding: There are few things worse than mushy meat after spending money and time on it! Use two forks to gently pull the meat apart. Don’t throw it in a food processor or stand mixers; that will disintegrate or make it mushy.

Process shots-- images of the coleslaw dressing being made and poured over the shredded veggies.

Brioche buns

Our absolute favorite way to serve this Crockpot BBQ Pulled Pork is on toasted brioche buns. (Here’s how to toast buns — on a grill, in a pan, or in the oven). Before toasting the buns, I recommend buttering both of the insides (use softened butter or butter in a tub).

Coleslaw

Toasted brioche buns, succulent BBQ pulled pork, and finally some coleslaw! The coleslaw adds the perfect contrasting crunchy texture to the tender pork and toasted buns; it’s no wonder they’re paired together so often!

I recently shared this coleslaw recipe, so you can use that recipe to top this crockpot BBQ pulled pork. That said, if you’re wanting a quicker prep time, grab a bag of coleslaw mix and some fresh (refrigerated) coleslaw dressing (I like Marie’s® best; not sponsored) and toss the two together until the coleslaw mix is sufficiently mixed.

Add a generous scoop of coleslaw right on top of the Crockpot BBQ Pulled Pork, top with a bun, and dig in!

Up-close image of Crockpot BBQ Pulled Pork sandwich showing off the pork and coleslaw layers.

Crockpot BBQ Pulled Pork side dish suggestions

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Crockpot BBQ Pulled Pork

5 from 2 votes
Spice-rubbed Crockpot BBQ Pulled Pork sandwiches with a delicious sweet honey-chipotle sauce and a simple coleslaw.
Print Recipe

Crockpot BBQ Pulled Pork

5 from 2 votes
Spice-rubbed Crockpot BBQ Pulled Pork sandwiches with a delicious sweet honey-chipotle sauce and a simple coleslaw.
Course Dinner, Main Course, Sandwich
Cuisine American
Keyword crockpot BBQ pulled pork
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 9 hours
Total Time 9 hours 30 minutes
Servings 10 -12 sandwiches
Calories 651kcal
Cost $11.12

Ingredients

Pork in the crockpot

  • 2 medium yellow onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 cup 100% apple juice (or chicken broth works)
  • 4.5-6.5 pounds bone-in pork butt shoulder roast (or Boston butt) (See Note 1)
  • 2 tablespoons tightly packed light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon EACH: chili powder, paprika (sweet), garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons EACH: onion powder, dry mustard powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • salt and pepper

Chipotle Honey Sauce

  • 1 cup (263g) ketchup
  • 1/2 cup (95g) brown sugar
  • 2/3 cup + 1 tablespoon (232g) honey
  • 1 and 1/2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1-2 tablespoons canned chipotle chilies and surrounding adobo sauce (+ 2 tablespoons sauce surrounding chipotles) (See Note 2)
  • salt and pepper

For Serving

  • brioche buns and softened butter
  • coleslaw for serving, (See Note 3)

Instructions

Into the Slow Cooker

  • Coat a large 6-quart slow cooker with nonstick spray. Line the bottom with the thinly sliced onions (2 medium or 1 very large). Pour in the apple juice and minced garlic.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, chili powder, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, mustard powder, ground cumin, salt, and pepper (I add 1 tablespoon salt and 1 heaping teaspoon cracked pepper). Remove pork from packaging and dab all over with a paper towel. Rub the spices into the pork -- all sides.
  • Place the pork on top of the onions; if there is a white layer of fat, place that facing up (the fat will render down and make the pork more tender).
  • Cover, and cook for 8-11 hours on low setting (a 5.5 pound pork is always done around 9 hours for me); I don't recommend cooking on high.
  • Once the meat is completely cooked through and shreds really easily, drain the liquid. Pull off the layer of fat on top (it should just easily pull off), and pull out the bone and discard both (or save the bone and the drained liquid to make homemade stock!)
  • Using two forks, shred the pork.

Sauce

  • In a blender, combine the ketchup, brown sugar, honey, apple cider vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, minced garlic, 1/4 teaspoon salt and a 1/4 teaspoon pepper (or to taste).
  • Add in 2 tablespoons of the adobo sauce surrounding the chipotle chilis and then 1 tablespoon of an actual chipotle chili (cut chili if needed). If concerned about heat, add chilies and sauce gradually tasting after additions. (Add VERY slowly because it's always easy to increase if you want more heat. If you are very sensitive to heat just add the sauce around the chilies in small quantities.) Blend sauce until smooth.
  • Pour the sauce over the pork (you may not use it all if using a smaller pork roast) and gently mix until pork is well coated and saucy.

Coleslaw And Buns

  • Spread butter on the insides of the buns. Add to a skillet or griddle and lightly brown the buns over medium heat.
  • Top the bottom bun with a generous amount of the BBQ pulled pork and a big spoonful of coleslaw (See Note 2). Add top bun and serve right away.

Video

Recipe Notes

Note 1: I've tried all kinds of pork and all different weights in my slow cooker. I've gotten the best results from using a 5-5.5 pound bone-in pork shoulder or butt roast. Some of the different labels you might see: butt roast, Boston butt, shoulder roast, picnic shoulder, or a pork shoulder butt blade roast. (There is a difference between butt and shoulder pork roasts, but sometimes the names are confused or misleadingly named; check out the differences here). My personal favorite is a Boston Butt, but without going to a butcher, I typically can only find a pork shoulder butt roast in regular grocery stores.
Note 2: Chipotle peppers can vary, but below is generally what I'd add to the BBQ sauce depending on how spicy (or not spicy) I'd like it to be. If not adding a lot of spice, you'll want to reduce the honey.
  • Little to no spice: Use 1-2 tablespoons  adobo sauce surrounding the chipotle peppers.
  • Light spice: Use 2 tablespoons adobo sauce  and 1 tablespoon peppers.
  • Medium spicy: Use 2 tablespoons adobo sauce and 2 tablespoon peppers.
  • Spicy: Use 2 tablespoons adobo sauce and 3 tablespoons peppers.
Note 3: Here's a homemade coleslaw recipe. For a quicker coleslaw, grab a bag of coleslaw mix and some fresh (refrigerated) coleslaw dressing (I like Marie’s® best) and toss the two together until the coleslaw mix is sufficiently mixed.

Nutrition Facts

Serving: 1sandwich | Calories: 651kcal | Carbohydrates: 63.1g | Protein: 57.1g | Fat: 18.3g | Cholesterol: 159.9mg | Sodium: 656.8mg | Fiber: 1.9g | Sugar: 33.4g

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16 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    i didn’t make the coleslaw, but the pulled pork is delicious. The bbq sauce has the perfect amount of sweetness and slight kick from the chipotle. I’m sure i’ll be making this again…and sharing it!

    1. I’m sorry Whitney, I’ve never tried freezing this particular dish so I have no idea how it does after being frozen. Wish I could be of more help!

  2. Sounds delish. I think if I were to make a big batch of this I would buy some pork shoulder and cut it into 2″ pieces, then brown it on the grill first. I love to brown the meat first as it adds an extra layer of flavor. I also like a dash of molasses in the cooking sauce! Thanks for the awesome recipe.

  3. I was a little worried, as the sauce was so sweet, but it all worked together wonderfully! I wanted to let you know that you forgot to add the season salt to the rub ingredients list. You have it in the written instructions – but not in the listed ingredients – so I almost missed it!
    Thanks for a great recipe !

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