Slow Roasted Pork Shoulder with Savory Apple Gravy

Updated. First posted in 2005.

Now here’s a good one for a cold winter day. Talk about melt-in-your-mouth delicious! A hefty pork shoulder is slathered with a rub of fennel seeds, pepper, thyme, rosemary, and garlic and set to marinate for a day or two in the fridge. It is then nestled in a bed of sliced apples and onions, first browned on high heat in the oven, and then covered and allowed to cook low and slow, until it is almost falling apart. You don’t need a knife to eat this slow-roasted pork shoulder. Just a big appetite.

We first encountered this recipe by Napa chef Maria Helm Sinskey in the Wall St. Journal years ago. We’ve made just a few changes—reduced the salt rather dramatically, added some mustard, puréed and strained the gravy. I love this method of slow cooking a pork shoulder and think you will too!

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Slow Roasted Pork Shoulder with Savory Apple Gravy Recipe

  • Prep time: 20 minutes
  • Cook time: 3 hours, 30 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4-6 with leftovers.

The pork shoulder should be marinated in the rub overnight or up to two days.

Ingredients

  • 4-5 pounds (1.8 to 2.2 kg) boneless pork shoulder, sinew and excess fat (beyond 1/4 inch) trimmed
  • 1 Tbsp fennel seeds, toasted
  • 2 teaspoons black peppercorns
  • 2 Tbsp packed, fresh thyme leaves, lightly chopped, or 1 Tbsp dried thyme
  • 2 Tbsp fresh rosemary leaves, lightly chopped
  • 4 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons Kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
  • Olive oil
  • 4 medium good cooking apples, such as Fuji or Jonagold
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) dry white wine (can sub water)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Method

1 Put the fennel seeds, peppercorns, thyme and rosemary leaves, garlic and 2 teaspoons salt into a spice grinder or coffee grinder and grind to a paste. Alternatively, you can pound the mixture with a mortar and pestle. Put the mixture into a bowl and stir in 2 tablespoons olive oil.

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2 Rub the mixture evenly all over the pork shoulder. If the roast is tied, untie it to rub the inside with the rub mixture as well, then retie it. Wrap the roast tightly in plastic wrap to hold the rub against the skin and marinate overnight (or up to two days).

3 Peel, halve, and core the apples. Cut each apple half into about 4 wedges. Peel the onions. Cut in half from tip to root. Trim the root and tip. Cut each onion half into about 12 thin wedges. Put the onions and the apples together in a bowl and toss to mix.

4 Preheat the oven to 450°F (232°C).

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5 Toss the apples and onions with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and season with a little salt and pepper. Place the apples and onions in the bottom of a roasting pan or Dutch oven with a cover. Place the marinated pork shoulder on top of the apples and onions.

6 Roast uncovered for 30 minutes. Turn the oven heat down to 325°F and add the wine. Cover the roasting pan and slow roast for 2 1/2 to 3 hours until the pork shoulder is falling apart tender and pulls apart easily when probed with a fork.

7 Transfer the pork shoulder to a serving plate and cover with foil to keep warm. Put the apples and onions into a blender. Add about 1/2 cup water and the mustard and purée. Check the texture, and add water until you get the desired thickness for the gravy. Press through a sieve for a silky smooth textured gravy. Check the seasoning and correct to taste.

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Adapted from a recipe by Napa chef Maria Helm Sinskey, published in the Wall St. Journal 9-24-05

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60 Comments

  1. Lisa

    Hi Elise,

    I tried this recipe for Sunday dinner and highly recommend. Put it on to cook while we watched the football games and play offs. I liked the fennel and had no complaints from my 5 family members (2 of these are picky eaters). The apple gravy is odd but very very good. I will make this again and again and again…I also plan to share the recipe with other friends who love to cook. Love this blog.
    Lisa

  2. Sharon

    I make something very similar to this every year, although my recipe serves 15 and uses a whole pork loin. Another difference is that I put the herbs into a mortar and pestle to create the rub. Doing this omits the need for olive oil. I also use apple cider to deglaze the pan, and add chopped walnuts to the sauce.

  3. Sheeijan

    I made this last night, except I made the egregious error of forgetting the garlic! I can’t believe I left that out, but I can only blame my distraction on my two cats. Nevertheless, the pork was incredibly tender and tasted great. I will just have to make it again sometime soon and see how much better it tastes with garlic.

  4. Elise

    Hi Lisa – ooo, I’m so glad you liked it! The apple gravy is good, isn’t it?

    Hi Sharon – a pork loin for 15? That’s a big roast! I like the idea of using apple cider to deglaze, and chopped walnuts would be a nice addition.

    Hi Sheeijan – oops! I’m glad it was still good, even without the garlic.

  5. Donna

    OMG ~ This is wonderful and am soooo glad to have leftovers. Next time I will use my pressure cooker to save cooking time.

  6. kira

    How do you think I would adapt this to my slow cooker?

    If I were to make this in a slow cooker, I would brown the roast on high heat on the stove-top first. Then place on a bed of apples and onions in a slow-cooker. ~Elise

  7. Sheeijan

    Just wanted to say that I made it again for the second time (this time I remembered the garlic), and it tastes just so incredibly tender and delicious! I love the long marinating time (I think it tastes better after marinating for almost 2 days), it really seems to have penetrated the pork this time around. I think it’s pretty much foolproof, although I honestly can’t think of a way to adapt this to a slow cooker – just not enough liquid, I think.

  8. Donna

    Thinking of this for a dinner party for tomorrow night but 2 of my guests do not like apples!! Any suggested adjustmnets/additions if I don’t use them?

  9. Jenna

    Donna -

    Pears also go great with pork, if you must avoid the apples.
    Just be aware of the added juiciness of most pears.

    Thank you, Elise, for the fabulous-sounding recipe!

    ~Jenna

  10. ROSIE

    Greetings from New Zealand. I made this last week for friends and am about to do so again for family tomorow night. Just got the recipe again and saw that I should have used boned pork. I didn’t and it was still lovely even with the marinade only on the outside. I think the bone in added to the sweetness of the meat. I serve it with small roasted potatoes and green vegetables, preferbaly from my garden. thanks for finding a great recipe. Rosie

  11. BETH

    Hi Elise, this will be my “first” pork shoulder. Can I buy it boned, and then do I untie it to marinate, and then retie? Thanks looking forward to trying it.

    Note from Elise: Yes, untie it, then marinate, then retie.

  12. Claudia

    Is this recipe made with the butt cut or the picnic cut. when I got to the store I picked the picnic cut and now I am not sure I picked the right one.Can anyone let me know?

    The picnic cut should work fine. If you are curious as to the difference, look over at this chart. ~Elise

  13. karl roth

    Wow! Great recipe.
    Had it for Sunday dinner tonite.

    Skipped the fennel seeds . . . different strokes : )
    Marinated it for two days.

    A forkful made up of pork with the apple onion thing and a bit of mashed potato ambrosia, heavenly, scrumptious!

    Thanks for yet another winner.

  14. Mike

    Great recipe! I changed it a bit by taking the apple/onion mixture and pureeing it in a blender then pressed the liquid through a fine screen. The resulting gravy was smooth as silk and golden brown. Give it a try!

    Hi Mike, we’ve liked that approach so much we’ve updated the recipe to include it. Thank you for the suggestion! ~Elise

  15. Kat

    I used an 8-pound roast and doubled everything else, and cooked it for about 5 hours. I actually forgot to add the wine when I covered the roast, and then threw it in an hour later.

    This was the best-received dish I have ever cooked! A few bites into the meal, someone called for a toast “to pork!” It served 15, and other than grinding the spices (by hand – took a while) was a total cinch. The link to this site is now making the rounds in my family. Thanks :)

  16. Claudia

    Made this last night for dinner and it was delicious. The meat was tender and flavorful. An easy dish that requires little attention once placed in the oven. Thanks and keep the great recipes comimg.

  17. karl roth

    Hi Elise
    Did a variation on this recipe. Was too short on time to do the marinade – but will do it next time. I was interrupted by a family emergency and had to turn off the oven, take out the roast and finish the dish next day. The roast was basically cooked so I did a real rough shred and put it in a 450 oven to crisp it up – kinda/sorta like ya do for carnitas. By this time the apple onion mix was almost like a relish. Served with mashed potatoes and a salad. The crispy pork n apple/onion combo was soooooo tasty. I love crunchy pork, I call it pork candy. Have been a fan of your website for a while and turn friends and family onto your site. It’s also one of the first places I start looking when I’m rummaging around on the internet looking for a recipe.

    All the best and continued success.

    Thanks Karl ! ~Elise

  18. Laurie Hildebrandt

    Hello, I made this pork roast yesterday. My husband thought it was absolutely delicious, “The apples and onions are like chutney but better!”
    Thank you so much for helping me to be a good cook! I have made at least a dozen of your recipes without a failure.
    Now, on to Carnitas tonight!!! Laurie

  19. Benjamin

    I just made this today, but changed it around considerably. I had a 5lb boneless pork shoulder and the butcher told me to submerge it and put carrots and potatoes and cook it for 8 hours. All I did was sliced an onion and put it on the bottom of my dutch oven, rubbed a mixture of garlic, thyme, rosemary, black pepper and a little bit of garlic salt. I rubbed it all over and stuck it in the oven at 450 for 30. pulled it out, put the wine in, turned it down to 250 and baked it for 6 more hours covered. Falling apart, and absolutely delicious.

  20. Gillian

    Made this yesterday for a dinner party we had large joint so slightly increased the amount of ingredients for the marinade and put it in the fridge for 2 days. The meat was absolutely beautiful, flavoursome and tender (again slightly increased cooking time due to size of joint). I don’t think you can overcook this recipe although take care not to run out of liquid. At the end I added a good couple of cups of chicken stock to the apples and onions and then sieved them which created a gorgeous gravy. Everyone commented on how much they enjoyed the meat. We had leftovers today and my daughter said it tasted even better! A simple recipe for a good value piece of pork.
    Gillian

  21. Sylvie (A Pot of Tea)

    I’ll have to try it. It looks mouthwateringly good and I know somebody who’d be very happy to be served this.

  22. Becki's Whole Life

    I love pork when it’s fall apart tender. The apple onion gravy sounds like a great way to top the pork with all of the spices.

  23. Teresa

    How did I miss this recipe? I LOVE pork shoulder roasts, and with a high temp of 10F in Minnesota today, this looks like just the perfect cold-weather meal. Thanks for bumping this!

  24. Linda M.

    Oh,one of my favorites! I’ve had you on my homepage since you started. You are my go to recipe person & always will be! When I look in my favorites,it’s all your recipes I have saved. Thanks & thanks for being there!

  25. JP

    I wonder if I can do this in the slow cooker or if it is too dry for that? Anyone who has tried it? I assume low for 6-8 hrs?

  26. Linda Spakouskas

    It’s a great recipe but what can I do with the left over pork? Any ideas would be welcome, thanks. Linda

    Put it in a taco, add some salsa, and call it a day. ~Elise

  27. Al in SoCal

    Elise – any recommendations for choosing a pork shoulder? I find it hard sometimes to get a quality one from my grocery store – any tricks to look for?

    Either a Boston butt or a picnic roast will do. Look for one that has lots of fat marbling. ~Elise

  28. Peter Roberts

    Love the sound of this recipe. We don’t know how do do pork down here. I have saved it for a cold rainy day during our winter. Very hot, humid night here in Melbourne, Australia. Pete

  29. KariVery

    We probably do the slow roasted pork shoulder thing about 3 times a month. I work full time, so I usually do a rub marinade over night, and the next morning, wrap the roast in tin foil and put it in the oven at 350 for about a half hour, then lower to 200 degrees before I leave for work. By the time I get home, dinner’s ready! (and the house smells wonderful, too). I will be adding this recipe to my repertoire!

  30. Anna @ the shady pine

    Fennel and pork are such a gorgeous combination.

    I must admit that in the past the shoulder was a cut I had not used much but have come to prefer over the years as with very slow cooking it really has a lot of flavour. Your pork here looks and sounds utterly delicious!

  31. Mike

    Toasted fennel seeds–whoa! I loved the original recipe, with the melting apples. Will definitely move this to the top of the queue for the next pork roast.

  32. Shelley (Ground Beef Budget)

    Oh this sounds delicious. I have a pork roast in the freezer. I would love to try this. I will have to pick up some apples when I go to the store.
    Thanks for sharing.
    Shelley

  33. Cheoy Lee

    The mustard really adds to the flavour – I must say I read it cynically but it works so well. Thanks for the recipe!

  34. Amy (Minimally Invasive)

    Thank you for deciding this weekend’s dinner so far in advance! Can’t wait to try this.

  35. Adam

    I came across this recipe in the archive last week before it was reposted, and I made it for dinner. I had a 3lb shoulder, so I reduced the volume of some of the items a bit, and reduced the cooking time slightly (1.5 hours on the final roasting stage).

    It came out wonderfully! Tender and flavorful. The gravy had a nice gentle wine and apple flavor without being too sweet.

    This shoulder is the largest piece of pork I’ve ever cooked (just two of us for now, so big roasts are rare) so I was a little nervous about sinking so much money in to a single piece of meat. However the recipe came out wonderfully and a pork shoulder is such great bang for your buck. It’s been great having leftovers from this all week.

  36. CheekyChic

    It must be fate to have slow roasted pork shoulder this week. I’ve seen several blogs with a recipe for just this thing. Tonight I’m making the pork roast into pulled pork tacos. I’ll bookmark this though, my clan loves apples with pork.

  37. Sheila

    I’m heading to the freezer right now to thaw out the pork roast I have in there for tomorrow. This look so comforting.

  38. Mairead - Irish American Mom

    I love roast pork. This recipe looks and sounds delicious. What I love about pork cooked in the slow cooker, is the endless options for leftover recipes. This is definitely a recipe I am saving to make next weekend.

  39. Jason

    Out of curiosity, what is the reason for starting it at 450? If it is to crisp up the outside of the roast, do you think it would be worth flipping the roast during that time, to try to crisp both sides evenly?

    Yes, you want to brown the roast. No need to turn it, there will be enough browning for the flavor of the roast. ~Elise

  40. Jacqui

    Looking forward to trying this recipe when I next have the family over for dinner. Thanks Elise you’re an inspiration!

  41. Erika

    My husband made this yesterday and it was terrific–the pork was fork tender and the flavor was great. Thanks for posting the recipe!

  42. daveg

    The only implement I have for grinding spices is a good coffee grinder, which does an excellent job for dry ingredients, but is not at all suited to wet ingredients (as it cannot be dismantled and cleaned)

    The quantities here are too small to use in my blender, and i suspect the same is true for the smaller bowl insert for my food processor.

    Attempts to use my itty-bitty mortar and pestle have been messy, frustrating and laughable (cumin seeds everywhere).

    Perhaps I should re-acquire one of those inexpensive mini food processors for making wet rubs, dressings and marinades…

    What do you recommend for this purpose?

  43. Emily

    WOW. Made this tonight, and I think it was the best pork meal I’ve ever made. And the friend who joined me for it said it might be the best pork she’s ever eaten. Absolutely stunningly good. My only change was to add an extra onion to it. The seasoning was perfect and the sauce was out of this world. If you haven’t made this yet, make it now! Thank you Elise!

  44. Cherie Harper

    @ daveg, I also use a small coffee grinder for dry spices. I ground all the dry ingredients, then minced the garlic and added the ground ingredients to it in a sm bowl. Then the oil, and viola! GREAT recipe, thanks again Simply Recipes! :)

  45. Lori

    This was absolutely delicious! We will be making this again. Love your blog, Elise. Thank you for so many wonderful recipes. Less than a week ago, we made your Braised Lamb Shanks recipe (http://simplyrecipes.com/recipes/braised_lamb_shanks/). WOW!
    Question: What would you suggest as a side disk (starch) for this pork roast? Any suggestions would be appreciated. We served it with an arugula salad and a mixed grain pilaf. It was good, but wonder what other starch would compliment this roast…

    Braised cabbage would be great. ~Elise

  46. Jackie

    Excellent!!! I followed the recipe until the end. Didn’t need the extra 1/2 cup water with purée and didn’t strain sauce. We loved it and will be making this again.

  47. Karl

    I made this this weekend and it was to die for. Problem now is I have gobs of leftover gravy that I am loath to discard (I did not strain the gravy after pureeing). I was thinking about combining the gravy with your green apple curry recipe (http://simplyrecipes.com/recipes/green_apple_curry/) (adding curry powder, brown sugar, and golden raisins) and serving over rice. The question is whether to add chicken or some other protein. We shall see what tomorrow brings.

  48. Linda

    My husband, who hates fruity sauces, loved this dish. He was really impressed at how the pork and the sauce complemented each other. Can’t wait to make this again!

  49. Lindsey

    My pork actually did fall apart with a fork. That doesn’t always happen for me when a recipe says it should. This was delicious. I paired it with squash, cooked in browned butter…inspired by your butternut recipe… Leftovers are going to be paired with green beans or broccoli, for some lighter fait that will be good dripping with the gravy. Yum!!

  50. Amy

    This looks great. I don’t have a blender or food processor (small kitchen — have to keep appliances to a minimum!).Any idea what to do with the apples and onions? Thanks!I love your site!

    You can use a rubber spatula and push them through a mesh sieve. ~Elise

  51. Heidi

    I have done something very similar to this for years (thank you Bar). Put the pork in with apples, leeks, cider and some soy sauce. Then cook just the same as this recipe. I did learn the hard way the first time that one needs to wash leeks.

  52. Fionna O'Leary

    This is a fantastic dish…. Lots of “yummies” and ‘wows” from those eating it. I didn’t bother sieving the sauce – just liquidized it using a hand blender and it was great. I think that the accompaniments that I served with it really enhanced the dish too – Celeriac mash (but made with 1/3rd celeriac, 2/3 floury potato), caverlo nero (black italian) cabbage simply boiled for 4 mins (thick stems removed), and lightly spiced carrot and suede mash topped with toasted pumpkin and sesame seeds and fresh chopped coriander. A match made in heaven!

    Tip to those making celeriac mash…. if your recipe suggests using a hand whisk or blender – ignore it as that will cause the gluten strands to lengthen and you will get a gluey texture. Instead hand mash the ingredients v thoroughly. If you like a softer celeriac taste – cook the celeriac in milk – I put in a couple of cloves of garlic too – then use the milk to mash the celeriac and potato.

    Lordy me – I want to eat it all over again right now.

  53. Dawn

    I thankfully stumbled across your recipe when trying to find something to do with a pork shoulder thats been in my freezer, it would appear waiting for me to find your recipe. It is thee very best roast pork my husband and I have ever tasted. And the gravy was just to die for……….will become a family constant, am only sorry I had no one over to dinner to show off to. Thank you Elise from a very happy couple in Donegal, Ireland.

  54. Jeff Kubina

    I plan on make this soon but was wondering what vegetable sides dishes and wine would best accompany it? Seems like a tangy roast of sweet potatoes, carrots, or squash would be good.

  55. Trisha

    My daughter has a strong intolerance (reacts) to pepper. Would the taste be adversely affected by the lack of pepper, or is there something I can sub?

    I would just skip the pepper. It will be fine. ~Elise

  56. France Lepine

    Cooked this tonight: it just tasted like heaven! My husband wants me to add this one to my monthly meals. Only thing I did different is increase to 2 tbs of Dijon-Chardonnay Mustard. Thanks, we really enjoyed preparing and eating this new recipe, it’s a keeper for sure. My better half NEVER eats sauce or gravy, but he went back twice for more!!! Served it with mashed potatoes (cream, milk, butter, onion powder, garlic salt, pepper). Now we’re debating on who deserves to bring the leftovers for lunch tomorrow ;o)

  57. George

    Cooked it last night and it was a HIT with my family. It was a fantastic meal.

  58. Katherine

    I love this recipe. I made it a few weeks ago and am making it again this weekend for family. Just one question: I’m so used to braises where meat is turned over halfway through. Is that necessary with this? I actually did turn it over once but wondered if I should have? I mean it was fabulous and like butter in any case….

    You don’t have to turn it over. Most of the time it is cooked, covered, and the moist heat is enough. ~Elise

  59. June

    Thanks Elise! You can always be counted on for something extraordinary and you did it again. We had this roast last night for dinner and it was amazing. Leftovers including gravy are headed for an pork and apple pie later this week – that is if we can keep our fingers out of the refrigerator meanwhile.

  60. Hannibal Rex

    Fantastic recipe, would definitely make it again. Made some minor adjustments to the rub: added crushed coriander to balance out the fennel, oregano instead of rosemary, doubled the garlic.

    Gravy was probably the best part. Made a thickish batch and it went pretty quick. Had 1/2 a roast left and had to make an impromptu fruit chutney. So in the future, I’d probably add more apples and onions to start.

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