Slow-Cooker Carolina-Style Pulled Pork (Crock-Pot Recipe Five Ingredient Friday)

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Carolina-Style Pulled Pork

As a heat wave covers nearly the entire U.S. now with blazing hot temperatures and high humidity, not a single person I know wants to heat up the kitchen, or stand over a fire smokin’ meat. This Slow-Cooker Carolina-Style Pulled Pork recipe is perfect for times like this, when it’s so darned hot. Then, when the weather cools off, the liquid that is used to cook this pork in the slow-cooker can be used as a marinade prior to grilling or smoking the meat for a more authentic barbecue. And! It’s only five ingredients. 

I love my smoker, but I don’t love tending the fire on my smoker when it feels like entering a blast-furnace when I open the door to the house. All the same, it’s summer and we’re supposed to be enjoying our fill of delicious BBQ. This recipe for Slow-Cooker Pulled Pork is great to beat the heat, and while it’s not “authentic” barbecued meat, it’s close enough given this weather we’ve been having. Additionally, it’s a super recipe for those of you who don’t have smokers, but who want to enjoy fabulous pulled pork.

First a little bit about BBQ. I know people who aren’t from the South think we’re a bit manic about our BBQ, and they’d be right. Around here, “Q” is serious business. First:

        • BBQ is not a verb
        • A BBQ is not a cookout
        • A BBQ is not a grill

BBQ is a way of preparing meat (this can be pork, lamb, beef), normally smoked. The style of the BBQ varies from region to region, sometimes even within the same State. For instance, over in West Tennessee, most barbecued meat is treated with a dry rub before cooking and served with a sauce on the side; here in East Tennessee, most barbecued meat is treated with a dry rub then slathered with a sauce as it it cooking.

John Shelton Reed is credited with saying, “Southern barbecue is the closest thing we have in the U.S. to Europe’s wines or cheeses; drive a hundred miles and the barbecue changes.” That is true for the meat, the method used, and even the sauce that is served with it. In the Carolinas, vinegar-based barbecue is King. North Carolina sauces are vinegar-based with some tomato; South Carolina sauces are vinegar-based with mustard. The thing both have in common, of course, being the vinegar.

That brings me to this recipe. Now, you’ll notice I didn’t call this recipe barbecue. The reason is the method I’m giving for cooking it is not “true Q.” The super thing about this recipe is, though, it can be used to make “true Q” if it is used as a marinade for the pork before it is cooked over smoke. And like I said, this is a beat-the-heat recipe for pulled pork, so I utilized my (very much underused) crock-pot.

Slow-cooking of this pork brings it closer to barbecue (since the slow-cooking method keeps the meat tender, juicy and falling off the bone), and the vinegar/hot sauce base brings the Carolina-Style flavour. By cooking this pork in the vinegar/hot sauce, that vinegar-based flavour seeps into every morsel of this meat while it simmers. Using your slow-cooker makes little to no heat in the kitchen. You can put this on to cook in the morning, leave it and come back to a no-heat-in-the-kitchen meal! Win/Win/Win!

I’m pretty picky when I pull my pork, no matter how I’ve cooked it. I let it cool so I can pull it by hand; doing that I am able to remove all of the fat, gristle, veins and membranes that are in the meat. You don’t have to be that particular, if you don’t want to do so. Shredding it with two forks works just fine.

This meat freezes really well! So, you can cook up a big bunch and freeze some for later. I’ll have a “leftovers” recipe coming up soon for a different way to serve it.

I used a five pound pork shoulder…pork butt works nicely too. As I said, it’s only five ingredients and here they are:

        • Pork Roast
        • Apple Cider Vinegar
        • Tabasco sauce (or any similar hot sauce)
        • Sugar
        • Water

It could not be simpler and it is just delicious! Without a doubt, it is a way to enjoy pulled pork while not sweltering in the heat outside, or heating up your kitchen. I hope you’ll try it.


p.s.: I served ours with my BBQ Sauce that has a tomato/vinegar base, and which I always keep on hand in the refrigerator. Give it a try if you would like to make your own sauce.

5.0 from 8 reviews
Slow-Cooker Carolina-Style Pulled Pork (Crock-Pot Recipe Five Ingredient Friday)
This slow-cooked pulled pork is "Carolina-Style" because of the vinegar base it is cooked in. Slow cooking makes for tender and juicy meat infused with the tang of vinegar and hot sauce. Serve with your favourite BBQ sauce.
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: Southern
  • 5 pound Pork Shoulder (or butt) Roast
  • 4 cups apple cider vinegar
  • 4 cups hot water
  • ½ cup Tabasco (or other similar hot sauce-Frank's would be good too)
  • ½ cup sugar
  1. Place the pork in the crock-pot, fat side up.
  2. In a large bowl, combine all the remaining ingredients and stir until the sugar is dissolved.
  3. Pour the liquid over the pork in the crock-pot (if the liquid doesn't cover the pork completely, add a bit more water).
  4. Cover and cook on high for 4-5 hours (mine took 5) or until the meat pulls away from the bone easily (cooking on low, I'm guessing this would take 8-9 hours and you really can't overcook this meat).
  5. Remove from the liquid and allow to cool a bit. Using two forks, or your fingers, pull long shreds of the meat, discarding the fat.
  6. Serve with your favourite sauce.


About P ~ The Saucy Southerner

I started cooking when I was ten years old. For me, the process of cooking, from inception of a dish, to the execution, to the washing of the pots is sheer delight. I am now retired from a business I still own, in partnership with my husband. I used to work six days a week and still cook every night. Now, I'm gardening, still cooking, always having fun and hoping to share my joy with you. Thank you for reading...and commenting! P~
This entry was posted in Entrée, Five Ingredient Friday, Picnic Fare, Sauces, Southern. Bookmark the permalink.

80 Responses to Slow-Cooker Carolina-Style Pulled Pork (Crock-Pot Recipe Five Ingredient Friday)

  1. Oh I like this! I didn’t realize that you needed to use so much vinegar in the pulled pork but I bet it makes for amazing tasting meat! Gonna try this one 🙂

    • P~ says:

      Addie, both the vinegar and the hot sauce kind of fall off into the background and are very subtle, but very favourful. It is neither too hot nor too tangy from the vinegar. This is a SUPER recipe. For a more vinegary taste, it wouldn’t hurt to use some of the liquid it cooked in after it’s pulled. I hope you do try it! Let me know what you think!

  2. Andie says:

    Making as we type!

  3. Hollis Lilley says:

    Cooking this now,,,,, sure seems like a lot of liquid in there….. more like boiling it than cooking it….. are those liquid measurements right ????

  4. Susan Davis says:

    Now this is my idea of pulled pork. Made with vinegar is definitely what we had in South Carolina. Sure can’t find that here in FL!!! Can’t wait to make it. Thank you.

  5. Sheila says:

    I don’t have a slow cooker. Can this been made in a regular oven? If so, at what temperature and for how long? Thanks.

    • Sheila, thanks for asking and what a great question! I would probably cook this on the stove top in a large stockpot. Cover the pot and start it on medium heat until it starts to boil, reduce the heat to medium-low and it should be done in 4-5 hours, or when the meat starts falling off the bone. P~

  6. Mountainjack says:

    Maybe I missed it but ‘how many’ does this serve? Assuming bone-in roast, what’s the estimate of ‘how many’ hamburger bun pulled pork sandwiches might we expect to get out of a five pound piece of meat? Thanx.

    • Mountainjack, with five pounds of meat, you can estimate that you will have a pound of bone and fat lost when it comes time to pull it. So, four pounds of pulled meat would likely result (varying, of course). If your portion was 1/4 pound of pulled pork per bun, that would yield 16 servings.

      This meat freezes really well, too. So, it’s great to pull, package and have for later. Thanks so much for commenting! P~

  7. Bruce Berberich says:

    I would suggest to the assembled masses that they use ONLY Frank’s Hot Sauce. Frank’s actually has flavor in addition to heat. My cooking advisers at Cook’s Illustrated said it best: “Frank’s is a condiment; Tabasco is an ingredient.”

    Here’s a recipe for a quickie East Carolina-type sauce: Pour off eight ounces of vinegar from a bottle of Heinz cider vinegar. Add two tablespoons crushed red pepper to the cider in the bottle. Add 2 ounces lemon juice and six ounces of Frank’s sauce to the bottle. Temper in the fridge for at least 24 hours. This keeps for a year or more in the fridge.

    Bruce Berberich, Greenville, NC

    • Bruce, Thank you so much for the comment and the sauce recipe! I will make definitely make some of the sauce. Today!

      I adore Frank’s Hot Sauce and have used it since the 80’s…I couldn’t agree more. I have found that it’s hard to find in some areas, hence the Tabasco suggestion. P~

    • Dan Rosenblum says:

      Anyone from Greenville, NC giving tips about BBQ or BBQ sauce has my attention. That was the first place I had Eastern North Carolina style BBQ and I fell in love! (B’s BBQ is the best around) Prepping the sauce today and executing this BBQ recipe tomorrow. I’ll let you know how it turns out. Thanks Bruce and especially P~!

      Dan Rosenblum, East Carolina alum & Pirate for life
      Raleigh, NC

    • Janine Thornton says:

      Are using 8 oz of vinegar or pouring OFF 8 oz from a larger bottle? This sounds incredible and I would love to get this made tonight for a family get together this Sunday.

    • Denise says:

      What size bottle of vinegar do you use? Confusing to read to pour out 8 oz, then add other ingredients to the bottle of vinegar remaining?!!

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  9. Jan says:

    Making this recipe as we speak, smells divine, Can’t wait to try it. In a climate like we have in Alberta Canada, any BBQ style meat makes for a happy family around the dinner table! Having mine with Coleslaw and sweet rolls. Yum, Thanks for sharing recipe.

  10. Margie says:

    Does this come out “fatty”? We usually do the pork on the smoker where the fat drains into a drip pan and is awesomely good but looking for an indoor way for the Super Bowl…have you ever used a dab of liquid smoke?

    • Margie, thank you so much for commenting! The trick to this pork is to remove the fat when you pull it. I do this process by hand so ensure I get all the fat, membranes and any gristle in the roast. If you do that, it’s very lean. I do a lot of smoking, too, and this does make an excellent marinade for smoking of the pork.

      I have never added any liquid smoke, but just because I don’t care for it. I’d love to hear if you do and if you like the addition! It’s PERFECT for Super Bowl snacking, and thank you…I now need to head to the market for a pork roast! *smile* P~

  11. Julie says:

    Thank you so much for the explanation of BBQ and for the recipe. I wast recently in VA Beach and had the best North Carolina BBQ I have ever eaten and I once lived in N. Carolina. This recipe sounds like just the ticket since I don;t have a smoker handy. I will let you know how it turns out. My mouth is already watering just thinking about it.

  12. Alan says:

    I already have a 3.5 lb pork roast ready to go. I’m thinking about cutting the vinegar back to 3 cups and leaving everything else the same. Do you think that will work? If not, any suggestions?

  13. Dan Rosenblum says:

    Just ate some of it. WOW. Felt like I was back at college and ready to go tailgate. I highly recommend using this recipe and Bruce’s (above) recipe for the sauce. If you like traditional Eastern NC pulled pork, then stop wasting time and execute this recipe.

    Dan Rosenblum, East Carolina alum & Pirate for life
    Raleigh, NC

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  15. Brisa says:

    I was wondering what the sugar does to this recipe? Could you leave it out or only put in 1/2 the amount it calls for? Thanks!

    • Brisa, thank you for asking. The sugar helps to balance out the acidity of the vinegar and hot sauce. It also adds a bit of sweet flavor to the pork. Half a cup of sugar in 8 1/2 cups of liquid isn’t a lot and it doesn’t make it super sweet at all. Use your best judgement in reducing the amount, though. If you do reduce the amount, I’d love to know how it goes! P~

  16. Roy says:

    I’m trying this for the first time tonight. Going to let it slow cook over night and pull it in the morning. Used the Franks Hot from reading the comments. Will let you know what the family thinks…

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  18. Caleb says:

    I after reading this post & the comments I have decided to make this recipe and the sauce that was described in one of the comments. But I had a couple questions. Have you gotten any feedback from people who have used liquid smoke and how much they added to the mix? Also, usually when I make pork in the slow cooker I put onion and garlic in with it but I have never made it this way using vinegar and I don’t want to add something that takes too much away from those flavors. Any thoughts on adding that?


    • Caleb, I have never used liquid smoke myself, just because I’m not a fan. I haven’t gotten any feedback from anyone who has tried it with this recipe, either. I’m sorry. I can’t think that onion or garlic would hurt this recipe at all. If you try it with it, I’d love to know how you liked it. P~

  19. says:

    Im trying this right now but I started with another recipe last night. So I rubbed my pork with a dry rub I made up and covered overnight in the refrigerator with a sliced onion on it. Now my only issue is my shoulder is 9 lbs and with the liquid, I could only use about two cups of each- vinegar and sugar water. Now it’s all to the top of crockpot. I’m not worried about flavor as much as leaving my home for the day and it possibly overflowing. I’ve used ,y crockpot for chili and soups and occasionally a pot roast but I usually never leave the house. I guess I have two questions, should I alter my cook times and temp setting? Is m crockpot too full?

  20. Terry Montgomery says:

    Absolutely delicious!! I didn’t have time to make the BBQ sauce so used Sweet Baby Ray’s. Next time I’ll make sure the try your BBQ sauce recipe. Thanks for sharing!!


  21. Michele says:

    Just turned the crockpot on- using a 6lb bone-in pork shoulder. This will go in the freezer after its shredded for transport to the beach- have my DH and 7 teenagers to feed. Looking very much forward to serving this to my family.

  22. Justin says:

    Added honey instead of sugar, used two teaspoons of garlic also. Slap me and call me sweet, I never knew good Q was this easy to make.

  23. KateTheReluctantCook says:

    I made it with approx. the same ratios of ingredients but I used:
    Bragg Raw Apple Cider vinegar because I like to pretend it’s gonna somehow make the pork healthy LOL! (also had to use some Champagne vinegar bc I ran out of the apple)

    Red pepper flakes. I just shook them in until the amount looked right. (instead of hot sauce)

    Light brown sugar (I think white sugar can be bitter or have a kind of “burn” effect and I thought the light brown sugar would lean towards a more rich sweetness)

    And each time I’ve made this I needed almost double the amount of water to cover the meat.

    Other than that, her cooking method, time and high heat recommendations were a good jumping point for me.

    I have not made her bbq sauce but I want to give it a try soon 🙂

  24. robertobean says:

    Hey P,

    Thanks for the recipe. I liked your preface as well. Here’s what I did: I used pork tenderloin (2 strips), reduced your amounts and added a little bit of the Liquid Smoke, which I think makes a difference. Also, I thought it needed some salt toward the end. I threw in some dashes of Lawry’s Seasoned Salt and that helped. It was my second attempt at using a crockpot and thanks to you I am 2 for 2.

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  26. Michele says:

    I have made this five times since first discovering your website this summer. Each time using Frank’s hot sauce, served with creamy coleslaw and sweet pickles. It will always remain favorite of my family.

  27. Jessica says:

    I ate BBQ for the first time 15 years ago in South Carolina and ever since then I have NEVER seen anyone make it WITHOUT BBQ sauce, so I have been DYING to have some similar to what I had tried back then. To me the BBQ hides the flavor of the meat. I can not wait to try this recipe, my 15 year old son is the one who brought up the idea for us to make BBQ and it has taken me HOURS to find the BEST sounding recipe….and your recipe does sound the best!! I will come back in a few days after I have made this and let you know what my 2 children and I think and THEN I will “rate” your recipe!! Take care!!

  28. Anita Harris says:

    I’m 2 for 2 with this recipe! I also made Bruce’s sauce recipe, but found it TOO vinegary (if that’s even possible ! 🙂 ) So I cut it with a little water.

    I fell in love with Eastern NC ‘cue when I moved to the Raleigh area from New England 24 years ago.

    I always buy a few Boston butts when they go on sale, most recently at Harris Teeter for $1.49 per lb. (Smithfield brand), and chuck ’em in my freezer in the garage. It’s only my son and I eating it, but he can easily rip through 4 pounds of the stuff no problem. Ah, to be a 19 year old with the metabolism of a hummingbird!

    Thanks for the easy recipe with only 5 ingredients.

  29. Tonya Strong says:

    Trying this now …. I have a good feeling 🙂

  30. Crystal says:

    Well I’m convinced! Making this for a baby shower. Was a little nervous with the hot sauce and liquid, but after reading all these great comments can’t wait to try.I will decrease a little.(the hot sauce only) Will check for the franks in Maryland too

  31. Willy Stapp says:

    I grew up in south Florida, Miami to be exact and they use a similar type of vinegar based sauce on wild boar down there. I have always wanted to recreate this sauce and Eastern NC sauce is as close to it as I have found. Thanks for the recipe I like to use Franks hot sauce also. Tonight I am experimenting with my Crock Pot method by coating the Shoulder with a good rub first ,then browning the whole thing well , before placing in the crock pot. Hopefully some crispy will remain and this will seal the juices in a little better while still letting the vinegar and franks soak in well. heading to the market to get some red pepper for the agin I thanl you for the great recipe…wish me luck Yall.

  32. Shelia Mendez says:

    I have tried is recipe yesterday and oh my goodness it’s like you died and went to heaven! Love love love this recipe. I’m going to send this to my daughter right now. Again thanks for sharing this with us.

    • Shelia, We must be on the same wavelength! I made this recipe the day before yesterday. Mr. Saucy and I just finished eating it again tonight for supper. Thanks so much for taking the time to let me know you liked it! P~

  33. jay addis says:

    I made this last week! I died and went to Heaven!

  34. Lisa says:

    I’m from Pennsylvania so the pulled pork I grew up on is saucy, not a bad thing but as an adult I’ve always preferred Carolina style. 🙂 I’ve been looking for the perfect recipe with few ingredients and finally found it. I scaled it way back for my 3 quart slow cooker and cooked a 1 lb pork tenderloin on low 4-5 hours. Delicious, thanks for my new go-to pulled pork!

  35. Wendy says:

    Hi! This sounds great! I’ve been trying to find a recipe that is a copycat of the pulled pork at Mission BBQ. Ran across this and thought I’d try it. I would like to try this in my Instant Pot instead of crock pot. Do you have any suggestions for time in instant pot? I thought maybe manual 110 minutes?? Thanks for any input you have. Maybe its best to just do it in the crock pot but I have to say I am LOVING the instant pot 🙂

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