We make pulled pork frequently at our house. It’s great because it feeds a crowd, it’s cheap, it’s versatile, and everyone LOVES it. I almost always do it in the slow cooker which makes it great for hosting since it leaves the oven free to do other things.
Because we make pulled pork so often I’ve tried a number of different recipes to keep things fresh. Recipes for ribs work amazingly with pork shoulder as a substitute. (It’s also called “pork butt”. Shoulder/butt – it’s all the same thing here.)
Most recipes I’ve found when searching are for BBQ Pulled Pork. Which is all well and good if BBQ is what you’re looking for. And there are endless variations on BBQ but sometimes I want something a little different. I need a recipe that will go well with southwestern flavors – chiles and lime and cilantro and all that.
After a little digging online I created this dry rub. I’ve made it three times now, tweaking the ratios until I felt I had it right . And oh man it IS. This pulled pork could be used for sandwiches, on nachos, in tacos or burritos, wherever. It is soooo good and so easy.
My favorite way to serve this pulled pork is with Pioneer Woman’s Cilantro-Jalapeno Slaw. The recipe as written below is slightly modified from hers but I’ve posted the link above if you want to check out the original. She was the first food blogger I started following years ago and is one of the reasons I started this blog. I have both of her cookbooks and love them to death. I actually created this dry rub to go specifically with this slaw. It’s that good.
Here’s what we need to start. 1/4 cup brown sugar, 1 Tbsp Kosher Salt, 1 Tbsp Black Pepper, 1 Tbsp Ancho Chile Pepper Powder, 1 Tbsp Ground Coriander, 1 tsp Ground Mustard, and 1 tsp Ground Cumin. That’s our dry rub right there. Just mix that all up in a small bowl…
…and rub it all over your well trimmed pork shoulder. It’s okay if not all of it sticks, it will get picked up in the juices later on.
Now, this is half a pork shoulder. About 3 1/2 to 4 lbs. The ones you buy at the store are normally bone-in, 7-8 lb monsters. I only ever do half at a time and put the other half in the freezer for later. A whole shoulder never seems to cook up as well in the slow cooker, I don’t know why. (Even half is still a ton of meat though! Unless you’re serving guests you’re still probably gonna have leftovers.)
Now, just set the crockpot on low if you want it to be done in about 8 hours. Set it on high if you need it done in about 5. The pork is done when you can stick a couple forks in there and easily shred the meat. It should just fall apart. (But not disintegrate. That’s what will happen if you leave it in for MUCH longer than it needs. You want to cook it long enough to break down most, but not all, of the connective tissue.)
Okay, you can totally tell this is not my shot because the photo quality is like 1000x better than any of my pictures. No, this shot comes directly from thepioneerwoman.com I make my slaw slightly differently from hers in that I use only the red cabbage (in the convenient bags) and I chop up my cilantro instead of leaving it pretty much whole like she does.
In about the time it takes to pull the meat and grab some buns out of the cupboard (gluten free or otherwise!), you can pull together your slaw. That being said, cole slaw is really much better if you make it a couple hours in advance and let the flavors come together before you eat it. So do that. If you think of it.
Just mix up some mayonnaise, milk, white vinegar, sugar, salt, pepper, and cayenne in a small bowl (see recipe below for exact amounts). In a larger bowl, empty out a 10oz bag of shredded red cabbage, add a chopped jalapeno, and two big handfuls of cilantro, chopped (most of a bunch – you want a lot this time) and toss. Pour the dressing over and mix to coat.
Pile some pork and some slaw on a bun and you’re done. I was so starving and going mad from the wonderful smell permeating the house that I couldn’t be bothered to take a picture before this moment. Even that shot at the beginning was just taken from the other side of this half eaten sandwich. Insanely delicious. This pork would also be great in any number of southwest flavored dishes like tacos, burritos, nachos, you name it. So so good.
So what are you waiting for? Go make some!
Southwest Pulled Pork Sandwiches
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 Tbsp Kosher Salt
1 Tbsp Black Pepper
1 Tbsp Ancho Chile Pepper Powder
1 Tbsp Coriander
1 tsp Ground Mustard
1 tsp Ground Cumin
Half a pork shoulder, well trimmed (a little over 3 lbs after trimming)
Sandwich rolls (GF or regular)
Cilantro Jalapeno Slaw (recipe below)
Halve your pork shoulder and trim off any large sections of fat. Don’t worry about the bone if you’re using that half. You can remove it at the end when you pull the meat. Wrap up the other half in plastic wrap, put in a ziplock and store in the freezer for future use.
Put prepared meat in the crockpot.
Combine first seven ingredients in a small bowl. Rub all over meat until all surfaces are coated. Set the crockpot to Low if you want to eat in about 8 hours, High if you need it sooner (about 5 hours).
After the requisite amount of time, remove the lid and try prying the meat apart with two forks. If it shreds easily it’s done. If not, put the lid back on and turn it up to High if it was on Low before. (Crock pots are not opened until the food is done, ideally, because they don’t regain temperature quickly, hence the changing of the setting.)
Shred meat and serve on buns with Cilantro Jalapeno Slaw.
Cilantro Jalapeno Slaw
(adapted slightly from thepioneerwoman.com)
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 Tbsp white vinegar
1 Tbsp sugar
a dash of cayenne pepper
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 10oz bag Shredded Red Cabbage
1 jalapeno, chopped
2 large handfuls fresh cilantro, chopped (most of a bunch)
Combine milk, mayo, vinegar, sugar, cayenne, salt, and pepper in a small bowl.
In a large bowl, combine cabbage, jalapeno, and cilantro. Pour dressing over cabbage mixture and toss to coat.
Serve over top of pulled pork on buns (or any way you like!)
Serves a crowd (at least 8)