Leaner Pulled Pork Barbecue

By Ann Fulton

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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!

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.   

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!

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!

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!

You can make as much or as little as you’d like with this recipe. The average pork tenderloin weighs about one pound, and you can figure on 3-4 servings per pound.

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!

Helpful hint: I shred the cooked pork with two forks. Before I do so, however, I cut the tenderloins crosswise into about four shorter pieces. The pork is easier to pull apart this way, and you don’t end up with really long, stringy shreds.

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!

I like to coat the pork fairly lightly with barbecue sauce and then offer more sauce upon serving. I also mix in some of the flavorful pan juices. If preferred, the pork could also be eaten with no sauce at all.

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!

If you enjoy a crisp slaw served alongside your sandwich (or piled on top as I do), I highly recommend this quick and easy recipe for Cumin Lime Slaw. I make it regularly and serve with burgers, tacos (it pairs beautifully with fish tacos and the classic version), burrito bowls, pork, and more. It will even do wonders for a simple turkey sandwich.  

 

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!

Leaner Pulled Pork Barbecue
Yield: Plan on 3-4 servings for each pound of pork used; pork tenderloins average about 1 pound each
This incredibly easy, mouth-watering recipe may be tailored to whatever amount of pork is needed. While you may use your favorite store-bought barbecue sauce, I love the flavor of the recipe that follows--and it can be prepared in advance with basic pantry ingredients. Leftovers are delicious and freeze well!
Ingredients
  • 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
Instructions
  1. 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.
  2. 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.)
  3. 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.)
  4.  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.
  5. 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.
Notes

*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.

The Fountain Avenue Kitchen https://fountainavenuekitchen.com/
Classic Homemade Barbecue Sauce
Yield: 3½ cups (~28 ounces; recipe may easily be halved or doubled)
This basic barbecue sauce is a delightful balance of sweet and tangy with a touch of heat. Ginger and soy sauce are the secret ingredients that round out the flavors. Because the sauce relies on pantry ingredients and a quick, 5-minute simmer, preparing it is nearly as easy as running to the store to buy some!

For easy storage, pour into Mason jars or any condiment jars you happen to empty in the process, and label accordingly.
Ingredients
  • 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
Instructions

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.

The Fountain Avenue Kitchen https://fountainavenuekitchen.com/

Recipe first posted in October 2013.

A few older photos of a favorite meal…

This easy-to-make recipe can be adjusted to any number of diners and offers a healthier spin on what has long been a crowd favorite. With options for homemade or store-bought BBQ sauce!

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Comments

    1. Ann

      We also love pulled pork in a corn tortilla and it’s a great gluten-free option. It’s great with cole slaw or avocados, tomatoes and whatever veggies you like!

      Reply
    1. Ann

      Such good taste we have! Thanks for the comment, Valerie. This sauce is so easy and the flavor is wonderful: )

      Reply
  1. Susan

    This sauce is yummy GREAT! Served baby back ribs and extra sauce on the side. Wow! Tasty and good. Thanks for the great recipe.

    Reply
  2. Joan Hayes@chocolate and more

    Ann, any good southerner knows, slow cooking the pork is the best way! Love your plates and can’t wait to give your sauce recipe a try. I’m featuring you on Thursday’s Treasures tomorrow, can’t wait to see what you bring this week!

    Reply
    1. Ann

      Thank you so much for the thoughtful comment AND for the feature! I certainly appreciate it and look forward to seeing some other delicious recipes there! (Ohhh, and I have just the thing to bring with me!!!)

      Reply
  3. Christine

    I made this for dinner today. Delicious! I too loved using tenderloins for a more healthy option. Thanks for the recipe. I love your site. I am going to make the carrot cake muffins to take along for tailgating . Can’t wait to try them.

    Reply
    1. Ann

      Thank you for the comments, Christine. I am so glad you enjoyed this recipe and I am excited for you to try the muffins! They are one of my favorites: )

      Reply
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  5. Mary Lou Keller

    Super good and easy! I wound up not making a sauce, we had a jar of Moonlight BBQ sauce in the fridge and I used some of that.
    Moonlight BBQ is well known in Kentucky, they are located in Owensboro and are famous for their mutton BBQ. The sauce is kind of a cross between the real southern vinegar style and the more tomatoe-y northern style.

    Reply
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  7. Rila Hackett

    Hi dear Ann — As I mentioned at the Cross Country meet last week, we LOVE your barbecue sauce. I’d not previously made a homemade sauce and this is now a favorite for us. And you are a consummate story teller! Always a double treat to get a new recipe AND the life journey surrounding it. 🙂

    Reply
    1. Ann

      That is a much appreciated compliment coming from you–an incredibly gifted story teller! Thank you, dear Rila. I am so glad your family enjoys this recipe!

      Reply
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