This easy slow cooker (or instant pot) Brown Sugar Balsamic Pulled Pork is healthier than most, takes minutes to put together and is a delicious crowd pleaser!
I love a meal that requires no last minute prep, especially when we're entertaining guests. This Brown Sugar Balsamic Pulled Pork can be made early in the day (or a day in advance) and simply warmed before eating. Tote it in your slow cooker to a party, potluck or picnic for a super easy, crazy delicious meal that young, old, and all ages in between, will enjoy.
I dropped off a container of this pulled pork and a package of my Easy Buttermilk Brioche Buns to a friend this past week. Later that evening, I got this text: "For sure, drool worthy!!! Oh my word, that was so good!!! Dad and I both loved it!!" Everyone else who's tried it has had the same response.
Pulled pork - done a little healthier
I'm always a little hesitant to make recipes that call for pork butt or pork shoulder. It's not that I don't love the succulent, moist, super tender meat this cut of pork produces. The problem for me is that it tends to have a really high-fat content, and that fat goes right into whatever sauce the meat is cooking in. Not so with this Brown Sugar Balsamic Pulled Pork recipe. As dumb as that may sound, it really thrills this health-conscious crazy cookin' girl!
How does that work, you ask? Fabulously moist and tender meat without all the extra fat? Easy! But it's just something I never thought of before. The pork is cooked in a simple mixture of chicken broth and garlic salt. You can either use a slow cooker or instant pot. I've done both with wonderful results. Once the meat is tender, it's drained and the fat-ridden cooking liquid is discarded. Voila!
A super easy, super tasty sauce
And the sauce? Towards the end of the cooking time, you simply throw all the sauce ingredients into a saucepan on the stovetop and simmer it for 10-15 minutes till it's nice and thick. Pull apart the meat and combine it with the sauce. I like to pull the pork with my fingers, as it's easy to see and feel any areas of fat between the juicy, tender meat. I separate the meat from the fat as I go and discard the fat once the task is completed. This is much harder to do in most pulled pork recipes, where the pork is cooked in the sauce.
Have a picnic, cookout, party or potluck coming up? Buy some good rolls or whip up a batch of these Easy Buttermilk Brioche Buns, then put together a pot full of this Brown Sugar Balsamic Pulled Pork. A perfect side for this delicious meal would be a big bowl of Black Bean Mexican Corn Salad.
Café Tips for making this Brown Sugar Balsamic Pulled Pork
- This recipe calls for pork butt or pork shoulder. Instead of buying a whole or half pork butt or shoulder, I like to purchase boneless pork shoulder ribs. I find these ribs much easier to work with than a huge piece of pork butt or shoulder. They're a bit more expensive but are often trimmed of some of the excess fat, so you're not buying as much fat. Not every grocery store carries this cut, but several in my area do. You might have to check around a bit or ask your butcher. Just make sure that the ribs are "shoulder" ribs and not "loin" (which is a much leaner cut of meat and will get tough when cooked for a long time).
- One of the easy secrets to the delicious flavor in this Brown Sugar Balsamic Pulled Pork recipe is a generous amount of Worcestershire sauce. Although the final result, doesn't have a strong Worcestershire sauce flavor, the ingredients for this classic sauce include vinegar, molasses, anchovies, tamarind extract, salt, sugar, onions, garlic, and spices - a super easy way to add lots of wonderful flavor. Look for a good quality Worcestershire sauce. I really like the Lea and Perrin brand.
- Chili garlic sauce adds a touch of heat to this pulled pork. You can adjust the heat level by adding more or less. Chili garlic sauce is readily available in the Asian section of most larger groceries or online.
- Other than serving this Brown Sugar Balsamic Pulled Pork in buns or rolls, there are lots of other ways to use it:
- Serve in a bowl with rice and a side of broccoli or corn on the cob.
- Make quesadillas by layering it with your favorite cheese between flour or corn tortillas. Sauté till golden brown on both sides. Serve with a side of Mexican Chopped Salad.
- Serve over mashed potatoes.
- Serve on its own with a simple green salad.
- Make tacos with flour or corn tortillas - top tortillas with pork, shredded red or green cabbage, avocado slices, pickled red onions and a scatter of Cotija cheese.
- If you're serving this pulled pork as sandwiches at home, toast the buns before serving. This easy step takes this already delicious pork to another level. To toast the buns, simply drizzle a tablespoon of olive oil onto a sheet pan. Rub the oil to coat the pan with your fingers. Place the buns, cut side down on the prepared pan and bake at 350˚F. for 10-15 minutes, until the undersides and edges are a beautiful golden brown. Serve immediately.
- 4-5 pounds trimmed pork shoulder I use boneless shoulder ribs, (see tips above
- 2 cups low sodium chicken broth
- 2 teaspoons garlic salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ⅔ cup dark brown sugar
- ⅔ cup Worcestershire sauce
- ⅔ cup aged balsamic vinegar
- ½ cup ketchup
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2-3 teaspoons chili garlic sauce
- 2 teaspoons onion powder
- 3 3-inch rosemary sprigs
- 6 medium cloves garlic minced
- kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
If using a whole pork butt or shoulder, cut meat into 4-6-inch long and approximately 3-inch wide strips. If using the boneless ribs, cut them in half. Set aside.
Combine chicken broth, garlic salt and pepper in a 5 to 6-quart slow cooker. Add the pork and stir. Cover and cook until fork-tender, 6-7 hours on low (depends on the heat of your slow cooker). (See “Notes” below for instant pot method.) Drain the pork and discard the liquid.
When pork is cool enough to handle, shred the meat into bite-size pieces, with your fingers, discarding any fat. Return meat to slow cooker or a storage container (if making ahead).
Combine all sauce ingredients in a medium-size saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a steady simmer. Continue to cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until liquid is thickened and starting to become syrupy. Remove rosemary stems.
Combine half of the sauce with the shredded pork. Taste and season with kosher salt and pepper, if needed. Save the rest of the sauce to drizzle on the pork when serving. Pork can be made ahead and warmed in the slow cooker before serving. Meat also freezes well. Thaw and warm before serving.
See Café Tips above in the post for more detailed instructions and tips.
To make in the instant pot, add chicken broth and garlic salt to the IP pot, add the pork and stir. Set instant pot to high-pressure setting and cook for 35 minutes. Allow pressure to release naturally, then drain the pork and discard the liquid. Proceed with step #3 in the recipe directions.
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