This apple cider pulled pork recipe is easy autumn meal prep at its best. It’s sweet but not cloying, savory but still cidery, and ready for the slow cooker in just 20 minutes. This recipe is gluten free, paleo, and whole 30, and makes enough protein for dinner, leftovers, and a freezer stash. And my kids loved it. So. Much. Winning.
Let’s play a game called “How many recipes can Danielle make with apple cider this fall?” I’ve done brined and grilled chicken, and a hot toddy, and both were so awesome that I couldn’t resist round three. I know, I have a problem. But let’s just set that aside so we can talk about today’s recipe – crock pot apple cider pulled pork.
As much as I love the flavor and texture that results from classic dutch oven braised pulled pork, sometimes a lady needs to bust out her slow cooker, and that time has arrived for this Mama. This crock pot edition of apple cider pulled pork is the very definition of easy, kid friendly autumn meal planning. It takes just twenty minutes to prep, and then the crock pot does all the heavy lifting. (If you prefer tradition or simply don’t have a slow cooker, this recipe totally works with my classic recipe for dutch oven braised pulled pork).
You can stash half in the freezer and still have oodles of leftovers for endless lunch prep all week. This recipe is gluten-free, paleo, and whole 30 (as long as you used unsweetened cider), so it’ll make carnivores of every diet persuasion happy. For an easy paleo or whole 30 lunch prep salad, combine about a cup of pulled pork with an equal portion of my apple cider vinegar autumn slaw.
Other suggestions for leftovers? Sprinkle it on flatbread or stuff into a grilled cheese sandwich with apple slices and brie, tuck it into tacos, or toss it into a salad (this kale pomegranate salad would be amazing with apple cider pulled pork). My kids are weird, so they ate this pork solo with some green beans and apple slices. The adults in our house had it on sandwiches with autumn slaw, made with Sprouted Ancient Grain Buns from Silver Hills Sprouted Bakery. I found these at my local Mom’s Organic Market and they’re the BEST sprouted buns I’ve ever had – chewy, nutty, and tender, but dense enough to hold up to saucy pulled pork.
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Crock Pot Apple Cider Pulled Pork Recipe Notes
So, step one – obtain a boneless pork shoulder or boston butt. These are a little harder to come by in a traditional grocery store, but I can always find this cut at my local coop, Whole Foods, and of course directly from a farmer or butcher shop.
Pat it nice and dry with some paper towels (this helps to distribute the rub uniformly) and then truss it up with some cotton kitchen twine. I tie it every few inches. Trussing the meat will ensure it cooks evenly and again, it helps with equal distribution of the rub. Using your (clean) hands, rub the spice mixture on all sides of the pork, pressing and patting it into the flesh.
Next you’ll layer the sliced onions in the bottom of the pot, sprinkle the thyme and smashed garlic over the onions, then top it all off with a couple cups of apple cider (unsweetened to keep it whole 30) and a glug of apple cider vinegar (don’t skip the vinegar, or your resulting sauce will be too sweet). Nestle the spiced pork on top, cover, and cook on low for 8 hours. Easy peasy apple cider squeezy.
Once the pork is done cooking you have two options. You can cut the twine and shred the pork directly in the pot, then gently incorporate it into the sauce and onions. This this by far the easiest way to finish off the dish, but the sauce will be a bit thin (though still just as delicious).
The other option is to remove the pork with tongs and set aside, and then strain the apple cider into a sauce pan. Bring it to a boil, then reduce to low heat and simmer until the sauce is reduced by about half (this takes about 20-25 minutes). This will give you a thicker, richer sauce that’s a bit on the sweeter side. I’m usually lazy, but I ended up straining and reducing the sauce while I made a batch of slaw and some green beans for the kids. But you do you.
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Apple Cider Pulled Pork
This slow cooker apple cider pulled pork recipe is easy and versatile autumn meal prep at its very best. It's sweet but not cloying, savory but still cidery, and ready to cook in just 20 minutes. This recipe is gluten free, paleo, and whole 30, and makes enough protein for dinner, leftovers, and a freezer stash.
- 4 lb boneless pork shoulder or boston butt
- 1.5 tsp kosher salt
- 1.5 tsp cracked black pepper
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tsp ground mustard
- 1 large vidalia onion thinly sliced
- 4 cloves garlic smashed
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme chopped, tough woody stem pieces removed
- 2 c apple cider unsweetened for pale or whole 30
- 2 tbsp unfiltered apple cider vinegar
In a small bowl, mix the salt, pepper, paprika and mustard. Using cotton kitchen twine, tie the pork widthwise, leaving about 2” between each section. Spread the rub over the pork evenly, coating all sides.
Spread the onions over the bottom of the crock pot, top the onions with the thyme and garlic, then pour the apple cider and vinegar over the onions. Nestle the trussed pork shoulder on top of the onions. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours.
With scissors, cut the kitchen twine and gently remove it from the pork. Using two forks, gently shred the pork directly in the pot into large chunks. With tongs, toss the pork with the onions and the sauce. Alternatively, remove the pork from the crock pot with tongs and set aside. Strain the liquid into a sauce pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer until the sauce is reduce by half. While the sauce is reducing, shred the pork and return it to the crock pot with the cooked onions. Pour the reduced sauce over the onions and pork, and toss to combine.
This pulled pork can be served hot, room temperature, or cold. Store the leftovers in a sealed container in the fridge for up to a week, or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
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