This recipe is a true labor of love. There are quite a number of ingredients to prepare and it takes time to cook the different parts of it. Each time I’ve served this, though, it never fails to put a smile on people’s faces. So, so worth it!
It consists of tender, juicy shredded pork cooked for nearly 4 hours and marinated in a spiced dry rub. Sandwiched between toasted brioche buns, the burger is finished with homemade barbecue sauce and fresh coleslaw.
Every bite packs a punch and is bursting with flavor – savory, sweet, spicy, buttery, smoky, tangy. Just writing this now is getting me hungry.
There are four parts to this recipe: the pulled pork, the dry rub, the barbecue sauce, and the coleslaw (find the recipe for coleslaw here).
Let’s start with the spicy dry rub marinade:
- Kosher salt and black pepper – For general seasoning
- Spices – Smoked paprika, cumin, chili powder, and dry mustard make up the spice blend in this dry rub. It contributes to the smoky, spicy flavor of the pork.
- Herbs – Add a touch of oregano, either fresh or dried.
- Brown sugar – Balance out the strong spices with a bit of sweetness.
Ingredients for the BBQ pulled pork:
- Boneless pork shoulder blade – We will need 7 to 8 lbs of pork shoulder, cut into 3-inch pieces (See photos for size estimation). Pork shoulder is the best cut as it gets more tender with more time cooked, unlike tenderloin which dries up easily.
- Vegetable oil – To tenderize the meat even more. You can use canola oil, sunflower oil, or olive oil.
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- Apple cider – Measure 12 ounces of this liquid gold in a liquid measuring cup.
- Apple cider vinegar – We will also use ACV in this recipe, but only 1 tablespoon of it.
- Sauces – We will use a combination of low-sodium soy sauce, Worcheshire sauce, and liquid smoke (get a smoky flavor without decking out the BBQ wood).
- Garlic and sweet onion – The power duo of all burger patties! Mince the garlic and finely chop the onion using a food processor.
My barbecue sauce recipe leans towards a sweeter flavor profile. You will need:
- Ketchup – Measure 1 ¾ cups of your favorite tomato ketchup as the base of the BBQ sauce.
- Brown sugar and honey – Honey and brown sugar are the main sources of sweetness in this BBQ sauce.
- Liquid smoke and Worcestershire sauce – A combination of these will lend a crisp, hickory scent.
- Apple cider vinegar and lemon juice – Measure ½ cup of ACV and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice for a bit of tartness in each bite.
- Kosher salt, black pepper, garlic powder – To season and taste.
The final touch to this recipe is the coleslaw which I recommend to be made in advance. When you are ready to use it, simply remove it from the fridge and place it on this burger.
Step One: Trim the excess fat from pork and cut it into large 3-inch pieces to fit in a large Dutch oven or slow cooker. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Step Two: In a bowl, mix together all the seasonings for the dry rub. Mix well.
Step Three: Pat the pork roast dry using paper towels then rub the seasoning mixture all over the chopped pork pieces.
- Pro Tip: This marination step can be done the night before for better flavor.
Step Four: In a large Dutch oven, heat 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil over medium-high heat until hot and simmering. Working in batches, sear the pork on all sides, turning with tongs.
- Pro Tip: Spices can burn quickly so don’t leave them for too long. Be very careful during this process so the hot oil doesn’t burn you.
Step Five: Heat the remaining vegetable oil in the same Dutch oven, add more if needed and add the chopped onions and garlic, cooking for 2 to 3 minutes.
Step Six: Add the seared pork with its juices back into the Dutch oven. Then, pour in all the liquid ingredients (apple cider, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, apple cider vinegar, sesame oil, & liquid smoke). Scrape browned bits from the bottom of the Dutch oven. Once boiling, turn off the stovetop.
Step Seven: Transfer the covered Dutch oven to the oven and cook for 3 hours and 15 minutes. This step allows the meat to tenderize and soak in all the sauces.
Step Eight: Make the barbecue sauce. Whisk together all of the barbecue sauce ingredients in a medium bowl until it reaches a smooth consistency. Refrigerate until ready to use.
- Pro Tip: Store-bought BBQ sauce is always easier, but nothing beats homemade BBQ sauce!
Step Nine: After 3 hours and 15 minutes, take the Dutch oven out. The pork will be very tender and pull apart easily. I used a slotted plastic spoon to pull it apart, but use whichever you think works best.
Step Ten: Heat up the barbecue sauce in the microwave for 2 minutes and add it to the pulled pork in the Dutch oven.
- Pro Tip: If you are not serving the entire batch of pulled pork all in one meal, separate the portion you want to serve in a large bowl and add the BBQ sauce to coat the shredded pork. Use as much as your heart desires – I like mine extra saucy.
Step Eleven: Toast a few slices of buttered brioche buns and prepare the coleslaw according to my coleslaw recipe. Layer the BBQ pulled pork and coleslaw between the brioche and serve immediately. Bon Appetit!
Enhance the flavor of this BBQ pulled pork with toppings like dill pickles, jalapeño slices, cilantro, or cheddar cheese. I bet a medley of red onion slices and pineapple slices will taste amazing with this burger, too.
In the freezer:
Pulled pork freezes well for up to 3 months tightly kept in a freezer bag. Simply divide them into multiple freezer containers to make small portions. I also like to spoon the pork mixture into muffin tins to create individual servings of pulled pork burgers. Once the pork has frozen, I transfer the pan to a freezer bag. When ready to serve, simply thaw and microwave.
Keep the BBQ sauce covered in the fridge for up to 1 week and microwave before serving.
You can eliminate all of the active work involved in this pulled pork recipe by prepping the pork & the dry rub in advance.
Prep the dry rub and store it in an airtight container on your spice rack. It keeps well for up to 1 month. When you are ready to cook, season the pork with the dry rub, keeping it in the refrigerator. Seasoned pork can stay fresh for up to 3 days.
The day you’d like to make pulled pork, all you have to do is assemble it & let it cook in the Dutch oven (starting from step four).
Pulled Pork Burger Recipe
- ¼ cup brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
- 1 ½ teaspoon cumin
- 1 ½ teaspoon chili powder
- 1 ½ teaspoon dry mustard
- 1 ½ teaspoon oregano
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 7-8 lbs boneless pork shoulder blade roast cut into 3 inch pieces
- 4 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 12 ounces apple cider measured in a liquid measuring cup
- 1 ½ tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
- 1 ½ tablespoons worcheshire sauce
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon liquid smoke
- 8 garlic cloves freshly minced
- 1 sweet onion finely chopped (very very small pieces pulsed in food processor)
- 1 ¾ cups ketchup
- 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon liquid smoke
- 3 tablespoons honey
- 1 ½ tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- Trim excess fat from pork and cut into large 3 inch pieces to fit in a large Dutch oven. Then preheat the oven to 400 degrees fahrenheit.
- In a bowl mix together all the seasonings for the rub. Mix well.
- Pat the pork roast dry using paper towels then rub the seasoning mixture all over the chopped pork pieces. (This can be done the night before for better flavor.)
- In a large Dutch oven, heat 2 tablespoons of the vegetable oil over medium high heat until hot and simmering. Working in batches, add pork and sear on all sides. Turning with tongs. (Spices can burn quickly so don’t let it go for too long!) Be very careful during this process so that the hot oil doesn't burn you.
- Transfer the meat to a large bowl and set aside.
- Once all of the pork is seared, heat remaining vegetable oil in the same dutch oven adding more if needed until it begins to smoke, then add the onions and garlic. Allow the onion and garlic to cook for 2-3 minutes.
- Add the seared pork with its juices back to the dutch oven. Then add in all liquid ingredients – apple cider, soy sauce, worcheshire sauce, apple cider vinegar, sesame oil, & liquid smoke, scraping any browned bits from the bottom of the dutch oven. Bring to a boil over high heat. Once at a boil turn off the stovetop.
- Cover the dutch oven with a lid. Transfer to the oven and cook for 3 hours and 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile make barbecue sauce. Whisk together all of the barbecue sauce ingredients in a medium sized bowl. Refrigerate until ready to use.
Mix It All Together
- At the 3 hour and 15 minute mark, remove pork from the oven. The pork will be very tender and pull apart easily right in the dutch oven. I used a slotted plastic spoon but use whichever you think works best.
- Remove barbeque sauce from the refrigerator and heat barbecue sauce, uncovered, in Microwave for 2 minutes or until sauce bubbles and add to pulled pork mixture in the dutch oven.
- If you are not serving the entire pulled pork batch all at one meal- Add the amount of pulled pork being served to a large serving bowl. Then add the barbecue sauce to coat the shredded pork till covered to your liking (I like mine extra saucy)!
- Serve immediately between toasted buns and coleslaw