Apple bourbon pulled pork is slow-cooked until fall apart tender. Boneless pork butt is coated with a dry rub, then placed in the Crock-Pot with apple cider and bourbon. Combine tender, shredded pork with your favorite BBQ sauce for the perfect pulled pork sandwiches.
I’ll give you variations and substitutions where I can, plus helpful tips and tricks for success. Read on for this info as well as the recipe. If you’d like to skip straight to the recipe, use the jump to recipe button at the top of the post.
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Apple bourbon pulled pork
This slow cooker apple bourbon pulled pork is perfect for game day, a cookout, or any day, really.
While this does make excellent sandwiches, don’t stop there. It is delicious in tacos, piled on top of nachos or use it in a hash for breakfast.
Use whatever burger buns you prefer, but I highly recommend brioche. It pairs so well with the pork! And, to make it even more delicious, don’t forget to toast them before serving.
I’ve used my dry rub recipe as well as my apple bourbon BBQ sauce on this boneless pork butt.
To make this apple bourbon pulled pork recipe, you’ll need the following:
- Steak dry rub recipe – kosher salt, brown sugar, chili powder, espresso powder, dry mustard, paprika, black pepper, onion powder and garlic powder.
- Apple bourbon BBQ sauce – onion, garlic, apple, brown sugar, apple cider vinegar, apple cider, bay leaf, ketchup, bourbon, salt, pepper and crushed red pepper flakes.
- Boneless pork butt (or pork shoulder)
The liquid that the pork will cook in is a combination of apple cider and bourbon. You can omit the bourbon if you like and use all apple cider.
How to make apple bourbon pulled pork
First, remove most of the excess fat from the pork, then score the thin layer of fat that remains. Rub the pork with seasoning blend, then sear it on all sides until browned. Searing the meat is a step many people skip, but it makes a big difference.
What happens is called the Maillard reaction. In it’s most basic definition, it is the browning that happens when proteins and sugars are introduced to heat. By searing the pork before it goes into the slow cooker, you’ve already developed flavor by forming a crust on the outside.
Once the pork has browned all over, add a little extra seasoning and your liquid to the Crock-Pot with the pork.
Because there is so much connective tissue that needs to break down in order for the pork butt to be easily pulled apart, I like to cook mine low and slow. If you’re in a hurry, you can cook it on high heat, or do a combination of the two – start on high, then turn it down.
Here are a few helpful tips and some answers to frequently asked questions about pulled pork.
I prefer a pork butt over a pork shoulder for this recipe, but either works great.
Pork butt generally has good marbling throughout to keep the meat moist and tender. You can cut away most of the fat on top, leaving a thin layer that will help to baste the meat as it cooks.
Absolutely. Browning the meat gives the outside a flavorful crust that makes a noticeable difference in the end result.
Variations and substitutions
I’ve used pork butt, but you can use a pork shoulder, also called Boston butt, if you prefer.
To make this in the oven instead of the slow cooker, roast at 300°F // 150°C // Gas mark 2, covered for 2 1/2 hours, then uncover for an additional 30 – 45 minutes.
Here are a few recommendations for what to serve with apple bourbon pulled pork:
- Any kind of slaw is always a great idea, especially an apple slaw. Whether you eat it on the sandwich, or as a side.
- Grilled potato wedges are a delicious and easy side that goes well with pulled pork.
- Try mango lime quinoa salad for something out of the ordinary.
Helpful tools and equipment
- Slow cooker – This is the Crock-Pot that I own. It’s not fancy, but it gets the job done and it won’t break the bank.
- 12-inch fry pan – The same pan used in the recipe. It’s not inexpensive, but it is great quality.
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- Score the thin layer of fat on the top of the pork butt with a sharp knife. Make a crisscross pattern over the fat only, be careful not to cut into the meat below.
- Sprinkle 3 tbsp. of dry rub over entire pork butt and rub seasoning into the meat.
- Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Sear pork on all sides until deep brown all over, about 8 minutes total.
- Pour apple cider and bourbon into slow cooker and turn on low. Place pork butt into slow cooker, fat side up. Sprinkle an addition 1 - 2 tbsp. (or to taste) dry rub over meat and lock lid.
- Cook on low for 6 - 7 hours (or high for 3 - 4 hours). If pork does not easily fall apart after cooking time, cook an additional 30 minutes, or until pork easily separates with a fork.
- Remove pork from slow cooker and set aside to rest for 10 - 15 minutes (tent with foil to keep warm). Then, gently pull apart while warm and toss with 2 cups of BBQ sauce.
If serving on buns for pulled pork sandwiches - brioche buns are HIGHLY recommended. Go a step further and toast the buns in a pan with butter (like you would for a grilled cheese sandwich). It is unbelievably tasty.
Store pulled pork in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Freeze leftovers for up to 3 months.
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Serving Size:6 ounces
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 645Total Fat: 150gSaturated Fat: 55gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 80gCholesterol: 683mgSodium: 577mgCarbohydrates: 8gFiber: 1gSugar: 6gProtein: 184g
Nutrition information calculated by a third-party company as a courtesy. It is intended as a guideline only.
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