Instant Pot Pulled Pork

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This Instant Pot Pulled Pork recipe is your fast-pass ticket to delicious, tender BBQ pulled pork that can be made in a fraction of the time as the traditional slow-cooked method.

BBQ pulled pork in an Instant Pot with a pair of tongs.

This recipe was developed as part of our Make Ahead series, which features meal ideas that can be quickly made at home, easily stored in a cooler, and then reheated at the campsite.

Fork-tender and loaded with flavor, pulled pork is a guaranteed crowd-pleaser! We love that it’s so versatile and can be used to create a multitude of different meals. Whether served on pulled pork sliders, on top of nachos or mixed into a breakfast hash, there isn’t much that couldn’t be made better with a little pulled pork!

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While pulled pork is an amazing ingredient to have on hand—especially when car camping—making it using the traditional slow-cooked method can be time-consuming and tedious. So we developed this Instant Pot recipe that is super-fast and easy to make. You can easily throw this together the night before your camping trip, bring it with you in a cooler, and then reheat it wherever want.

So let’s make some quick and tasty pulled pork!

Pork shoulder on a blue cutting board.

Best Cut of Pork for Making Pulled Pork

Pork shoulder is the best cut to use when making pulled pork. The marbled fat of this section of the pig will yield the best flavor with maximum tenderness. Pork shoulder is often sold as “pork butt” (which is actually a specific part of the shoulder). If you want to dive deeper into the convoluted world of colonial-era butcher naming schemes Serious Eats has a good article on it.

So, look for Pork Shoulder and/or Pork Butt at the grocery store. These cuts can vary widely in size, so try to find one that works best for your needs.

Ingredients for pulled pork arranged on a counter.

Ingredients Needed

We intentionally kept this list stripped down to just the essentials. We wanted this recipe to be easy enough to throw together on a busy weeknight right before a trip, without many specialty ingredients.

Pork Shoulder / Pork Butt: This cut has the ideal ratio of marbled fat to meat, which will yield the best-tasting pulled pork.

Brown Sugar: The sugar adds a little sweetness to balance the richness of the pork.

BBQ Sauce: Make your life easy and use your favorite BBQ sauce. For pulled pork, we absolutely love the Carolina Gold sauce from Trader Joe’s.

Apple Cider Vinegar: The vinegar adds critical acidic brightness to the pork, which helps enhance its flavor and prevents it from tasting too rich.

Assorted Spices: You can get creative here, but this is where you can really punch up the flavor without a ton of effort. Our recipe uses a combination of garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, pepper, and salt.

What Size Instant Pot do you need?

This recipe, as written, will work for any size Instant Pot. We used our small 3-quart Duo and it was a snug fit (but worked for 3lbs of pork). There should be sufficient liquid for it to work with the larger sizes as well. If you want to double the recipe, you will need either the 6-quart or 8-quart Instant Pot.

How long to cook pulled pork in the Instant Pot?

Active pressure cooking time is 40 minutes, so including the approximately 10 minutes for it to come up to pressure and 10 minutes of natural steam release, you should budget about 1 hour. Thankfully it is all hands-free, passive cooking time, so you can do something else with your time (like prep this easy coleslaw recipe to serve on the side)!

How to Make Instant Pot Pulled Pork—Step by Step

We developed this recipe to make great-tasting pulled pork with minimal effort. Could the end product taste 10-20% better by smoking the meat for hours or using a homemade BBQ sauce from scratch? Sure.

But nobody will be thinking that when you’re out camping, enjoying a crackling campfire, and eating pulled-freaking-pork nachos you just whipped up out of nowhere.

Instant Pot Pulled Pork Step by Step part 1

1.) Mix the brown sugar and dry spices together in a large mixing bowl.

2.) Trim any excess fat off the pork shoulder and then cut the pork shoulder into 2-3 large(ish) pieces. Roll the pork shoulder pieces in the dry rub until well-coated.

Instant Pot Pulled Pork Step by Step part 2

3.) Set the Instant Pot to High and sauté and add a little cooking oil to the bottom of the pot. Working in batches, sear the pork pieces to form a browned outer crust as well as build up some browned bits on the bottom of the pot. Flip with a pair of tongs.

4.) Once all the pork has been browned, remove it and place it back in the bowl. Pour ¼ cup of water into the bottom of the Instant Pot to deglaze, using a wooden or silicone spatula to stir and lift all the brown bits up. Don’t skip this step, or you risk triggering the “Burn” warning on the Instant Pot.

Instant Pot Pulled Pork Step by Step part 3

5.) Return the pork to the Instant Pot. Add the ½ cup of BBQ sauce and ¼ cup of apple cider vinegar.

6.) Place the lid on the Instant Pot and set it to “sealing”. Select Pressure Cook, and set it for 40 minutes. It should come up to pressure relatively quickly because it was pre-warmed during the saute process.

7.) After the 40 minutes elapses, allow for a natural steam release for 10 minutes, then set it to quick release. Remove the lid.

8.) Using a fork, shred the pork into desired consistency. There will be some extra liquid in the pot, which should be used to store the pulled pork to help keep it moist.

Pulled pork in a plastic storage container.

How to Store

Store the pulled pork in a sealable container in a refrigerator or freezer. It’s best to store it with at least some of the leftover liquid, which will help it stay moist.

If stored in a refrigerator, it will last for 4 days. If frozen, pulled pork can still be good for up to 6 months.

To pack pulled pork in a cooler for camping, make sure it’s in a watertight container or zip-top bag. When storing meat, it’s important to keep your cooler at 41º or below. Here are our best tips for packing a cooler properly.

Six BBQ Pulled Pork Sliders on a white tray.

How to use BBQ pulled pork (Serving Suggestions)

So now you have a big batch of pulled pork sitting in your refrigerator ready to go! All you need to do is toss it in your cooler on the way out the door. So what are some ways to use it?

  • Pulled pork sandwiches or sliders
  • Toppings for nachos
  • Filling for tacos or quesadillas
  • Serve with home-fry potatoes and eggs for an easy breakfast hash
  • Make pulled pork migas
  • Topping for pizza
  • Add to soups like pozole or tortilla soup
  • Mix into mac & cheese or use for BBQ chili mac
  • Mix into a tomato ragu with pasta
  • Use in loaded baked potatoes (or sweet potatoes!)
  • Use for burrito bowls
A pair of tongs lifting BBQ pulled pork out of an Instant Pot.
BBQ pulled pork in an Instant Pot with a pair of tongs.

Instant Pot Pulled Pork

This Instant Pot Pulled Pork recipe is your ticket to mouthwatering and tender BBQ pulled pork made in a fraction of the time as the traditional slow-cooked method.
Author: Fresh Off The Grid
5 from 7 votes
Print Pin Rate Save
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Pressure (+/-): 20 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
6 servings

Equipment

  • Instant Pot

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 3 lbs boneless Pork Shoulder, or Pork Butt
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • ¼ cup water
  • ½ cup BBQ sauce
  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar

Instructions

  • Mix the brown sugar and dry spices together in a mixing bowl.
  • Trim any excess fat off the pork shoulder and then cut the shoulder into 2-3 large(ish) pieces. Roll the pork shoulder pieces in the dry rub until well-coated.
  • Set the Instant Pot to High and sauté and add a little cooking oil to the bottom of the pot. Working in batches, sear the pieces of pork shoulder to form a browned outer crust as well as build up some browned bits on the bottom of the pot. Flip with a pair of tongs.
  • Once all the pork has been browned, remove it and place it back in the bowl. Pour ¼ cup of water into the bottom of the Instant Pot to deglaze, using a wooden or silicone spatula to stir and lift all the brown bits up. Don’t skip this step, or you risk triggering the “Burn” warning on the Instant Pot.
  • Return the pork to the Instant Pot. Add the ½ cup of BBQ sauce and ¼ cup of apple cider vinegar.
  • Place the lid on the Instant Pot and set it to “sealing”. Select Pressure Cook, and set it for 40 minutes.
  • After the 40 minutes elapses, allow for a natural steam release for 10 minutes, then set it to quick release.
  • Remove the pork and place it in a clean bowl. Using a fork, shred into desired consistency. There will be some extra liquid in the pot, which should be used to store the pulled pork to help keep it moist.
*Nutrition is an estimate based on information provided by a third-party nutrition calculator
Main Course
American

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One Comment

  1. I modified
    I slather the full cut of pork with mustard then roll in season wrap and refrigerate over night.
    I put the full piece in pot without browning or cutting and it was amazing.
    Just shortcut due to time schedule