Recipe: Healthy Crockpot Pulled Pork (Slow Cooker Recipe)

Lunch Recipes, Pork + Beef Recipes, Sandwiches and Wraps Recipes

By: Deborah Murphy, MS, RD, LDN


Thanks to a few simple swaps, your favorite pulled pork sandwich is getting a healthier makeover. This healthy crockpot pulled pork recipe is so simple and packed with flavor.

We love these healthy pulled pork sandwiches made in the slow cooker with just a few simple ingredients. A super recipe that is guaranteed to give you a pork that comes out tender and juicy every time!

These BBQ sandwiches are filled with protein and so delicious I started making twice the amount since leftovers can be frozen for future meals. (Also a great option for those that love to meal prep.)

You are just 4 steps away from a delicious meal everyone will love!

This healthy pulled pork is perfect for busy weeknights since dinner basically cooks itself in the crockpot while you are at work. Having people over to watch the game? This slow cooker recipe is great for serving a crowd.

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    Ingredients You’ll Need

    • Pork Tenderloin: for a lower fat version of pulled pork sandwiches, we like to use pork tenderloin instead of pork shoulder. It also cuts down on prep-time since you don’t need to trim off excess fat. 
    • Onion: adds extra flavor to the pork. We use white onion, but you can use red onion if that is all you have on hand.
    • Broth: both chicken and beef broth will work. We add just a cup of broth to the meat in the slow cooker for extra moisture and tender cooked pork.
    • Garlic & Onion Powder: gives the meat extra flavor when cooking. We keep it simple with these two ingredients, but you could also add others like dry mustard, red pepper flakes, or smoked paprika.
    • BBQ Sauce: use your favorite low sugar or sugar-free BBQ sauce. We use about 2-3 tablespoons of BBQ sauce per serving of pulled pork.
    • Liquid Smoke (Optional): add more smoky flavor to your pulled pork by adding 1-2 tablespoons of liquid smoke to the slow cooker when cooking.

    How to Make Healthy Pulled Pork

    dual image of pulled pork in crock pot before and after cooking
    • Combine Meat and Seasonings in Crockpot: slice the onion and add to the bottom of a 6-quart crockpot. Place pork on top of the onion and add the broth. Sprinkle garlic powder, onion powder, sea salt, and pepper over the meat and cover with a lid. Cook on low heat for 6-8 hours. 
    • Shred: remove the pork from the crock pot and use two forks or a meat claws to shred the pork. Transfer to a bowl or storage container.
    • Add BBQ Sauce: Add BBQ to the shredded pork and stir to combine. 
    • Serve: Add pulled pork to hamburger bun and top with extra bbq sauce, coleslaw, pickles, or other desired toppings. (You can also serve this pulled pork in lettuce wraps if you want something lower carb.)
    • Storage: store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3-4 days. Pulled pork can also be stored in containers or a freezer bag in the freezer for up to 3 months. Allow to thaw in the fridge overnight before reheating.

    How to Choose a Healthier Barbecue Sauce

    If you are trying to limit the added sugars in your diet, finding a lower sugar barbecue sauce can be difficult. Making your own homemade bbq sauce gives you the most control over the sugar added, and we happen to have a great BBQ sauce recipe!

    If you have the time to make your own, try our sweet and sassy reduced sugar BBQ sauce

    If you’re too short on time to make your own BBQ sauce, here are a few store-bought BBQ sauces that are lower in sugar but still packed with flavor.

    What Is The Best Cut of Pork for Pulled Pork?

    Most pulled pork recipes call for a pork shoulder or pork butt, both of which you can find at most grocery stores. Both boneless pork shoulder and pork butt have a higher fat content to yield a tender, juicy result in the end.

    However, for our version of a healthy pulled pork, we like to use pork tenderloin since this cut is lower in fat. Since we’re cooking it low and slow in the crockpot, it is just as tender and juicy as a traditional pulled pork made with pork shoulder.

    Can You Overcook Pulled Pork?

    Yes, it is possible to overcook pulled pork. Typically, pork should be cooked to 145 degrees. However, since this healthy pulled pork recipe uses a slow cooker, it retains much of the moisture and doesn’t dry out as quickly.

    And in fact, to really yield tender pull-apart pork, you can (and should) actually cook this pulled pork to 190-195 degrees. The low and slow method will not result in dry meat cooked to this temperature.

    healthy crockpot pulled pork sandwich on white plate with pickle

    How Do You Shred Pulled Pork?

    There are a few different methods for shredding pulled pork. The easiest is just to take two forks and pull the meat apart. Sometimes this can take some time, so if you make pulled pork time and time again, you might find these meat claws useful.

    They are able to grab hold of more meat at a time than forks, and pull through it easier.

    Is Pulled Pork Healthy?

    Yes, pulled pork can be a healthy option for a weeknight dinner. It’s packed with protein and you cut down on the saturated fat in the recipe by using a leaner cut of meat like pork tenderloin instead of pork shoulder.

    Swapping a traditional BBQ sauce for a sugar-free one also makes this pulled pork healthy since professional organizations like the American Heart Association recommend limiting added sugar to no more than 6 teaspoons (25 grams) per day.

    What To Serve With These BBQ Pork Sandwiches

    We love serving our healthy pulled pork sandwiches with something fresh and bright that pairs with the smokiness of these sandwiches. A healthy coleslaw and/or fruit salad rather than a potato salad are great options.

    Here are some of our favorites:

    Leftover pulled pork? Make sure to check out our delicious pulled pork Asian salad.

    Total Time: 365 minutes

    Yield: 8 serving(s)

    Ingredients

    • 1 large yellow onion sliced
    • 1-2 pork tenderloins approximately (2-3 lbs)
    • 1 cup chicken or beef broth
    • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
    • 1 teaspoon onion powder
    • 1 teaspoon black pepper
    • 1 teaspoon sea salt
    • 1-2 tablespoons liquid smoke (optional)
    • 8 whole grain sandwich buns
    • 1 bottle low sugar BBQ sauce

    Directions

    1. Place the sliced onion at the bottom of your crock pot and top with pork tenderloins.
    2. Pour in the broth and sprinkle the seasoning onto the meat. (Add liquid smoke during this step if using.)
    3. Cover with lid and set to low heat for 6-8 hours.
    4. Transfer the cooked pork to a cutting board and shred with two forks or meat claws.
    5. Combine each serving of pulled pork with 2 tbsp BBQ sauce and spoon onto the bun. Enjoy!

    Nutrition Information Per Serving

    Calories: 350

    Protein: 34 gram(s)

    Fat: 7 gram(s)

    Carbohydrates: 28 gram(s)

    Fiber: 1 gram(s)

    Sugar: 2 gram(s)

    *You need a slow cooker or crock pot for this recipe.

    From the kitchen of:

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