This Pulled Pork Sandwich is a classic sweet, tangy sandwich made with homemade Instant Pot or slow cooker pulled pork, BBQ sauce, and homemade coleslaw. You can make it all ahead of time and put the sandwiches together when needed. Whether you serve it at a backyard barbecue or when tailgating, these incredible sandwiches are sure to satisfy everyone who eats them.
Pulled Pork Sandwich
Summer’s just around the corner, which means one thing – it’s barbecue season! When friends and neighbors come together to celebrate the sunny days, I always find myself serving these tried and true pulled pork sandwiches.
So, what makes these sandwiches a step above the rest? Just about every element of them is made from scratch! And don’t let that scare you off – all of the steps to make the slow cooker pulled pork, homemade BBQ sauce, and coleslaw are very simple. You can also very easily make it all ahead of time!
The taste of these truly homemade pulled pork sandwiches is hard to beat! They’re perfectly balanced with sweet, yet tangy BBQ sauce, crunchy coleslaw, and tender, perfectly seasoned pulled pork.
If sweet and tangy isn’t really your thing, but you love smoked pork, definitely check out my Smoked Pork Shoulder recipe! It could also easily be shredded and used in this easy sandwich recipe.
Ingredients You’ll Need:
Ingredients for Pulled Pork:
- Pork – Pork butt or pork shoulder will both work. A 4-4.5 lb of pork will yield 10-12 sandwiches, or double the amount of sliders.
- Canola Oil – Can be substituted with vegetable oil.
- Apple Juice
- Chicken Stock – preferably, use stock for deeper flavor.
- Apple Cider Vinegar
Ingredients for Pork Rub:
- Brown Sugar – this will give you a more aromatic, molasses flavor than regular sugar. If you want, use dark brown sugar for deeper flavor.
- Paprika – For an extra smoky flavor, use smoked paprika.
- Salt – Coarse salt works best.
- Garlic Powder
- Onion Powder
- Black Pepper – Freshly ground pepper provides the best flavor.
Ingredients for Homemade BBQ Sauce:
- Juices from Cooked Pork
- Brown Sugar – Use dark brown sugar for the richest flavor.
- Worcestershire Sauce – Add an extra tbsp for added tanginess.
- Paprika – Can be regular or smoked paprika.
- Garlic Powder
- Onion Powder
- Black Pepper
- Salt – Just a dash, to taste.
Ingredients for Coleslaw:
- Cabbage – This is the base to your coleslaw! Make sure it’s nice and fresh for best results. You can use a combination of purple cabbage and regular cabbage if you want.
- Mayonnaise – Plain mayo works best, but also can be substituted with low fat mayo.
- Apple Cider Vinegar – you can also use white wine vinegar.
- Lemon Juice – Juice from a fresh lemon will always give better results than the bottled, store-bought version.
- Dijon Mustard – For best results, do not substitute this with plain yellow mustard.
- White Granulated Sugar – a little bit of balance out tangy and sour flavors.
Can I Use Bone-In Pork?
Absolutely! Just give it a little more time to cook.
If you cook the bone-in pork in an Instant Pot, add another 10-13 minutes. In a slow cooker, add another hour.
Also, remember that a bone will account for some of the weight, so be sure to get a larger piece of pork or you will get less pulled pork.
How to Make Pulled Pork Sandwiches
I always start off by making the fresh, homemade coleslaw. It holds up well in the refrigerator, so I like to make it first to get it out of the way.
Start by discarding the damaged outer leaves of the cabbage. Then, wash the cabbage before cutting it in half lengthwise. Cut it in half a second time. Be sure to cut the core off each cabbage quarter.
Slice the cabbage thinly, then wash, peel, and shred the carrots.
Combine all coleslaw dressing ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Mix the vegetables and coleslaw dressing thoroughly, until evenly coated.
Refrigerate the coleslaw, covered, until ready to use!
How to Make Pulled Pork in a Slow Cooker
Combine all of the seasoning ingredients, then season the uncooked pork on all sides.
Sear the pork on your stovetop before adding it to the slow cooker. Combine the apple juice, apple sauce, and chicken stock, then pour it all over the pork.
Cover with a lid and cook on low for at least 8 hours, preferably 10.
Remove the pork from the slow cooker and shred it. Discard of any excess fat as you go.
Be sure to reserve enough of the cooking liquid from the pork to make the BBQ sauce!
How to Make Pulled Pork in an Instant Pot?
This recipe can be easily converted to an Instant Pot recipe! Both the slow cooker and Instant Pot method yield delicious results. It really just depends on how much time you have on your hands!
You would start the pork the same way and slow cooker, with seasoning and then searing the pork right in the Instant Pot. Then, add the mixture of liquids to the pot, close the lid, and make sure to turn the valve to “seal.” Cook pork on high pressure for 70 minutes and do a natural release for 10 minutes.
Check out my foolproof Instant Pot Pulled Pork recipe for more details.
How to Make the BBQ Sauce
Combine all of the ingredients for the sauce in a small sauce pot. Bring it to a simmer.
Allow the sauce to simmer for approximately 10 minutes and make sure to stir often.
Toppings for Pulled Pork Sandwiches
I’ve always preferred my pulled pork sandwiches with just a dollop of homemade coleslaw. However, there are so many other delicious topping ideas!
Creamy horseradish, caramelized or pickled onions, fresh or pickled jalapeños, and sliced avocado are all amazing add-ons to these sandwiches.
Sides to Serve with Pulled Pork Sandwiches
When I think of pulled pork sandwiches, my mind immediately jumps to all of my favorite backyard barbecue side dishes! Here are just a few that I love seeing alongside these sandwiches:
The best advice I can give you is to not assemble the sandwiches until you’re ready to serve them! The coleslaw, barbecue sauce, and even the pork will seep into the bun and make them soggy if made too far in advance.
So if preparing these sandwiches ahead of time, make and store everything separately and then warm up the pork and assemble the sandwiches when needed!
To store the pulled pork in the refrigerator, keep it in an airtight container, and it’ll stay fresh for up to 5 days. If you want to keep it fresh even longer, keep it in the freezer, where it will stay fresh for up to 3 months.
Store coleslaw in the refrigerator in a separate air-tight container. It should be good for 3-5 days.
For homemade BBQ sauce, store it in the refrigerator, in a glass jar with an air-tight lid. It should be good for up to 10 days.
More Recipes to Serve at the Backyard Barbecue:
BBQ Chicken Skewers – grilled BBQ chicken skewers are made with chicken thigh meat, marinated in an easy BBQ sauce, and grilled with a little more sauce on top.
Pineapple Grilled Chicken Kebobs – a delicious sweet and salty combination of marinated chicken and fresh pineapple chunks cooked on a grill.
The Best Burgers – learning how to make the best burgers is a key to making a lot of people at your party very happy.
Pulled Pork Sandwiches
- 4-4.5 lb pork butt or pork shoulder*
- 2 tbsp canola oil for searing pork
- 1 cup apple juice
- 1/2 cup chicken stock
- 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
To rub the pork:
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1 1/2 tbsp paprika
- 1 tbsp coarse salt
- 2 tsp garlic powder
- 2 tsp onion powder
- 2 tsp black pepper
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 1/2 cups ketchup
- 1 1/2 cups juices from cooking pork
- 3 tbsp brown sugar
- 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 2 tsp paprika
- 2 tsp garlic powder
- 2 tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1 small head of cabbage
- 2 carrots
- 3/4 cup mayo
- 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 1/2 tbsp Dijon mustard
- 2 tbsp white granulated sugar
- 10-12 hamburger buns**
- pulled pork
- BBQ sauce
- any other toppings of choice
- Discard dark green and damaged outer leaves off the head of cabbage and wash it. Cut the cabbage in half, lengthwise, through the core, and then cut each half through the core again. Cut out the core off each cabbage quarters. Wash and peel the carrots.
- Slice each quarter of cabbage into thin slices and shred the carrots.
- Combine all remaining ingredients for the coleslaw dressing in a bowl. Add sliced cabbage and shredded carrots to the mixing bowl and mix thoroughly with the dressing.
- Refrigerate in a food storage container with a lid until ready to use.
Slow Cooker Pulled Pork:*
- Combine all the seasoning ingredients for the pork in a bowl and mix well. Place pork shoulder on a sheet of parchment paper and season it generously on all sides.
- Preheat a large skillet over medium to medium-high heat and add oil. Sear pork on all sides until it gets a nice sear and then place it into the slow cooker.
- Combine apple juice, apple sauce, and chicken stock and pour it all around the pork.
- Cover with a lid and cook on LOW for 8-10 hours. (Until internal temperature is between (190° and 203°).
- Take the pork out and let it cook a little before pulling. Pull pork apart once it's cooled enough to be handled. As you're working through it, discard excess fat and membrane.
- Save enough of the liquid from cooking pork to make the BBQ sauce and discard the rest.
- Combine all the ingredients for the sauce in a small sauce pot and bring it to simmer over medium heat.
- Let is simmer for about 10 minutes and make sure to sir often.
- You can stir all of the sauce with pulled or stir half into pork and serve additional sauce on the side.
- If you like extra BBQ sauce, spread some on the bottom bun and then, top it off with 1/3-1/2 cup of pulled pork and about 1/4 cup of coleslaw.
- You can add some more toppings to the sandwiches if you wish.***