This easy-to-make recipe can be adjusted to any number of diners and offers a leaner spin on what has long been a crowd favorite. With options for homemade or store-bought BBQ sauce!
When I had my first baby, I remember struggling to get the stroller through a double set of doors, only to be assisted by a kind woman who seemed to understand my inability to easily do this myself.
She remarked that fellow moms are often the ones who hold the doors, having struggled with a few in their day.
Over the years, I’ve noticed that this willingness to come to the rescue, so to speak, frequently translates to the kitchen.
While chatting with a friend on the phone a while back, she suddenly changed the subject to report that she had a new, three-ingredient recipe to pass along.
She mentioned that another friend relayed the recipe at their sons’ baseball game the week before. It was so easy. There was no need to write anything down.
So it goes with a much-loved recipe. Fellow parents, coworkers, friends, and family members so often pass along a recipe that they enjoy, be it a newfound success or a tried-and-true favorite that has long been in the weekly rotation.
The thoughtful gesture can feel like a helping hand. It’s like holding that door and inviting someone to go through in hopes of making their day a little easier…and, in this case, a little more delicious!
Beyond the inherent ease of the following pulled pork dish–the ingredients are minimal and the cooking is hands-off–the recipe offers an added perk.
By using the tenderloins instead of the more commonly used pork shoulder, the end result is leaner yet every bit as tender. A choice of several braising liquids ensures plenty of moisture and flavor.
While this pork is delicious as is, my family most often enjoys it on a roll, topped with an extra spoonful of barbecue sauce and, in three out of four instances, a scoop of Cumin Lime Slaw, as shown in these photos. (My husband likes his slaw on the side.😉) I’ve also grilled the sandwiches panini-style with cheddar cheese.
While there are many worthy store-bought barbecue sauces, a homemade version offers impressive flavor with ingredients you can control–and surprisingly little effort.
If you make it, the leftover sauce will keep indefinitely and can be used in so many ways. Try it instead of ketchup in your favorite meatloaf recipe or create a barbecue chicken pizza. (I’ve included more easy ideas in the post for Classic Homemade Barbecue Sauce.)
Any leftover pulled pork is delicious as is or can be repurposed in tacos or as a protein addition to a Tex-Mex salad. For a tasty dressing for the latter, combine equal parts salsa or barbecue sauce and ranch dressing.
And for the record, it is not only the moms who hold the doors. I remember a thoughtful grandfather who literally picked up my heavy stroller and carried it up a small flight of steps so I didn’t have to bump my way over them. Funny how the subject of food has the ability to spark all sorts of old memories!
Pork shoulder may be the traditional cut of meat used for pulled pork, but you can make this crowdpleaser with tenderloins. The result will be every bit as tasty with a fraction of the fat and a quicker cooking time!
- Pork tenderloin(s)
- Beer, chicken broth, or root beer (½ cup per pound of pork)
- Barbecue Sauce (your favorite store-bought variety, or see the printable homemade option that follows)
- Options for serving: hamburger buns, additional barbecue sauce, coleslaw, pickles, shredded cheddar cheese, pickled onions
Place the desired number of pork tenderloins in a slow cooker along with a ½ cup of beer*, broth, or root beer per pound of pork.
Cook for 6-8 hours on low or 3-4 hours on high. (Note: larger, newer slow cookers may cook the pork faster, especially when cooking on high. Check early the first time you make this.)
Remove the pork to a cutting board, platter, or large bowl. Reserve a cup or so of the liquid to stir into the pork later. Cut the tenderloins crosswise into 3-5 shorter pieces (this will make the meat easier to shred and avoid long, stringy pieces) and then shred the pork with two forks. (Alternatively, you may pour off the liquid in the cooker and shred the pork right in the cooker.)
Mix in the barbecue sauce, coating to your liking.** If desired, you may stir in some of the reserved cooking liquid and thin to your desired level of sauciness.
If desired, you may heat the sauced pork in the slow cooker on low for about 30 minutes. This may be desirable when using cold sauce. The pork can also be made in advance, refrigerated, and reheated. It freezes well, too.
*If using beer, avoid IPAs and other hoppy varieties, as they often turn bitter when slow cooked.
**Preferred level of sauciness varies so much from person to person. I start with ¼ to ⅓ cup per pound of meat and then serve with additional sauce. Drizzling in some of the cooking juices keeps the meat loose and juicy.
For easy storage, pour into Mason jars or any condiment jars you happen to empty in the process, and label accordingly.
- 1½ cups (408g) ketchup
- 1 cup (240ml) apple cider vinegar
- ¼ cup (60ml) soy sauce (use GF soy sauce or tamari, as needed)
- ¼ cup (60ml) Worcestershire sauce
- 1 cup (200g) packed brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger (or 1 teaspoon ground ginger)
- 2 tablespoons ground (dry) mustard
- 4 tablespoons ancho chili powder (may substitute regular chili powder)
- 2 tablespoons (28ml) olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced (may sub ½ teaspoon garlic powder)
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper (may add more to taste)
- 2-3 thin slices lemon
Mix all ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
Remove the lemon slices and store in the refrigerator, where the sauce will keep for several weeks. The flavor will also improve as the sauce rests.
Recipe first posted in October 2013.
A few older photos of a favorite meal…