Slow Cooker Espresso Pulled Pork

This Slow Cooker Espresso Pulled Pork is an easy, savory recipe full of juicy meat in an irresistible sauce.

It makes enough servings to feed a crowd AND it’s gluten-free, grain-free, dairy-free, refined sugar-free, keto and Whole30 compliant!

But none of that will even matter once you try it. This crockpot pulled pork is good no matter what your preferences are.

espresso pulled pork in a white dish on a wooden table next to a slow cooker

Slow Cooker Espresso Pulled Pork on mashed sweet potatoes on white plates by coffee beans, all on a wooden table

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Slow Cooker Espresso Pulled Pork

Mix spice rub. Apply to pork in slow cooker. Set timer. Shred. Done. That’s it.

You marry the dark buzz of espresso with savory spices like chili powder and garlic powder. You rub them over a boneless pork butt. And you crockpot it for 9 hours. Then just shred and eat!

Your effort is minimal, making this a quick and easy pulled pork recipe for anyone, regardless of cooking experience.

And no turning on your oven, which makes it perfect to make in the summer or any time of year.

 

Ha. You said pork butt.

Indeed I did and I’ll say it again – pork butt! Because a) I’m immature enough to say it as many times as possible and b) that’s actually what we’re using here.

What’s confusing is that it’s not from…where you think it’s from. It’s actually from the shoulder, which is why it’s often called pork shoulder. But pork shoulder is actually its own cut of meat. While they’re similar and can be used interchangeably sometimes, there are differences that are explained well here.

For this recipe, you’ll be pretty safe asking for pork shoulder or pork butt. Unlike a loin or tenderloin, the butt is marbled with fat that keeps the meat juicy. Which is good because the meat itself is tough and usually needs hours of cooking to break it down.

 

What you need for this Slow Cooker Espresso Pulled Pork

Ingredients:

  • 2.5-3 pounds boneless pork butt or shoulder (if offered a choice, go for the butt)
  • 1.5 tablespoons instant espresso powder
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1.5-2 teaspoons fine sea salt (depending on size of the pork)
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon mustard powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne powder or red pepper flakes

Equipment:

How to make this slow cooker espresso pulled pork

If the has a thick slab of fat along one side – called the ‘fat cap’ – you should probably slice that off. You want some fat to keep the meat juicy, but that fat cap won’t really render. You’d end up throwing it away, tossing out all the spices and flavor you rubbed on it.

You just put the whole piece into your slow cooker.

In a small bowl, mix all the spices.

Massage the spice blend into every nook and cranny. Lid on. High for 5 hours or low for 9 hours.

Walk away.

Which means – yep, no added liquid! The meat will release enough that it basically creates its own sauce, making this an easy pulled pork recipe without barbecue sauce (although if you want a sauce, see below for ideas).

Adding liquid would water down the flavor and create waste. We’re basically using the slow cooker to roast, not braise.

You can shred the meat one of two ways. You can shred it directly in the slow cooker with two forks. But when you transfer it to a serving bowl or container, you probably won’t need all of the sauce. Leave about half behind.

Stir to blend the meat with the liquid, taste, and add more liquid if you think it needs it. If you want to serve directly from the slow cooker, leave as is. The liquid will help keep it moist.

Or you can transfer the meat to a bowl, shred it with two forks, and stir in about half the liquid. Taste the meat and add more liquid if it’s a bit too dry, no more than 2 tablespoons at a time.

This can easily be doubled. If using a 6 quart slow cooker, two 3 lb. pork butts should fit.

 

Pulled pork variations and substitutions

If I dare may be so bold, this may be the best pulled pork recipe because the seasoning blend is pretty straightforward but also endlessly customizable. It creates a deep, almost smoky flavor with that wonderful bitter edge from the espresso powder. But feel free to customize:

  • Adjust the amount of ground cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes to make it as spicy as you like
  • Add 1-2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder – it’s dark smoothness will tame the espresso somewhat
  • Add 1-2 tablespoons coconut sugar for a salty-sweet rub (but obviously it wouldn’t be Whole30 compliant anymore)
  • If you don’t have instant espresso powder, grind up coffee beans as finely as you can until you have the same amount for the recipe. Coffee rubbed pulled pork is just as savory and delicious.
Slow Cooker Espresso Pulled Pork on mashed sweet potatoes on white plates by coffee beans, all on a wooden table

the best pulled pork in a slow cooker with two forks and a white serving spoon

Great. I made it. Now what? (i.e. serving suggestions)

First, take a moment to reflect on your smart life choices that led to this moment.

Second, if you don’t just eat it all straight out of the bowl, you can make a pulled pork sandwich! Sure, that makes the “grain-free” part null and void. But hey, everyone wants options and at least there are gluten-free buns. Plus, pulled pork sandwiches are good. Maybe slap some slaw on top for fresh crunch.

If you forgo the sandwich, there’s also pulled pork tacos or nachos. If you’re grain-free, Siete has tortilla chips, soft tortillas and hard taco shells and they’re all irresistible.

It’s also fantastic served on top of a baked potato or mashed veggies like mashed sweet potatoes, mashed parsnips or mashed butternut squash.

To keep this a keto pulled pork meal, aim for mashed cauliflower or cauliflower rice instead.

And I know I said it doesn’t need a sauce, but I happen to know from personal experience that it pairs very well with this Tequila Pineapple Barbecue Sauce. Its vibrant, citrusy, smoky zing mingles well with the deeply savory meat.

Or go more traditional with this 10-minute easy Paleo BBQ sauce.

A vinegar-y barbecue sauce for Carolina-style pulled pork would cut through the fatty succulence pretty well, too.

If you’re not Whole30-ing, a honey barbecue sauce would create a sweet pulled pork that would be pretty irresistible. But really any barbecue sauce would work.

And you can’t have pulled pork without cornbread so this Paleo cornbread is calling your name.

crockpot pulled pork in a white dish with 2 forks with a crockpot behind it

Make ahead

The pork can be covered with the spice rub and kept in the fridge up to 1 day in advance.

Leftovers can be kept in the fridge for up to 5 days.

Leftovers can be frozen in an air-tight container for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the fridge.

Reheat for a few minutes in the microwave or on the stove over low heat.

 

Other slow-cooker recipes:

  1. Apple Cider Pulled Pork
  2. Italian Chicken Stew
  3. Creamy White Chicken Chili
  4. Mulled Apple Cider
Slow Cooker Espresso Pulled Pork on mashed sweet potatoes on white plates by coffee beans, all on a wooden table
slow cooker pulled pork in a white dish with two forks
crockpot pulled pork in a white dish with 2 forks with a crockpot behind it
Print Recipe
5 from 9 votes

Slow Cooker Espresso Pulled Pork

Juicy, succulent meat with an espresso buzz! Easy to make and easier to eat.
Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time9 hrs
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: pork, slow-cooker
Servings: 5 servings
Author: Don Baiocchi

Ingredients

  • 2½-3 pounds boneless pork butt or pork shoulder (if offered a choice, go for the butt)
  • tablespoons instant espresso powder (finely ground coffee beans also work)
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1½-2 teaspoons fine sea salt (depending on size of pork butt)
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon mustard powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground cayenne or red pepper flakes (optional, adjust to your liking)

Instructions

  • Slice off the thick slab of fat (known as the fat cap) along one side of the pork butt. Place the whole butt into the slow cooker insert.
  • In a small bowl, mix together the espresso powder, chili powder, salt, black pepper, garlic powder, mustard powder, onion powder, paprika, cinnamon and cayenne or red pepper flakes. Rub all over the meat, making sure to cover both ends and get into the nooks and crannies. You might think you don't need all of the rub but keep massaging it all over the meat until it's all used.
  • Set your slow cooker to high for 5 hours or low for 9.
  • Once it's done, you can shred the meat one of two ways. You can shred it directly in the slow cooker with two forks. But when you transfer it to a serving bowl or container, you probably won't need all of the sauce. Leave about half behind. Stir to blend the meat with the liquid, taste, and add more liquid if you think it needs it. If you want to serve directly from the slow cooker, leave as is. The liquid will help keep it moist.
    Or you can transfer the meat to a bowl, shred it with two forks, and stir in about half the liquid. Taste the meat and add more liquid if it's a bit too dry, no more than 2 tablespoons at a time.
  • Optional step: if you want crispy bits of meat, spread the shredded pork out onto a baking sheet. Broil for 5-8 minutes, or until some parts are crisp.
  • Serve is as, with Tequila Pineapple Barbecue Sauce, or sauce of your choice.

Notes

The pork can be covered with the spice rub and kept in the fridge up to 1 day in advance.
Leftovers can be kept in the fridge for up to 5 days.
Leftovers can be frozen for up to 3 months.
This can easily be doubled. If using a 6 quart slow cooker, two 3 lb. pork butts should fit.
Substitutions
  • Adjust the amount of ground cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes to make it as spicy as you like
  • Add 1-2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder - it's dark smoothness will tame the espresso somewhat
  • Add 1-2 tablespoons coconut sugar for a salty-sweet rub (but obviously it wouldn't be Whole30 compliant anymore)
  • If you don't have instant espresso powder, grind up coffee beans as finely as you can until you have the same amount for the recipe. Coffee rubbed pulled pork is just as savory and delicious.

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