Have you ever had those steamed Chinese dumplings with the savory barbecued pork inside? They're called "cha siu bao" and they're absolutely addictive.
This slow cooker pulled pork recipe is inspired by the filling in those dumplings. This is one of those recipes I couldn't stop making or eating, it's so good! Seriously. Easy to make too.
We start with big chunks of well marbled pork shoulder rubbed with Chinese 5-spice powder. Chinese 5-spice is a common spice rub for Chinese cooking. (If it's not available at your local market, you can make your own. We've included one recipe below, and there are several others online to choose from.)
Put the spice rubbed pork into a slow cooker, top with a sauce mixture of hoisin, soy sauce, honey, sherry, ginger, and garlic, and set it for 4 hours on high or 8 on low.
You can put the pulled pork in tacos, burritos, or if you want to mimic the dumplings, serve them on a sweet Hawaiian dinner roll.
One thing about cooking pork shoulder in a slow cooker is that a generous amount of fat is rendered in the process. You may be tempted to either cut off all the fat before cooking, or ladle off most the fat afterwards.
Here's a tip. The fat is where you'll find the flavor, and it's needed to keep the meat from drying out. I suggest ladling off excess fat after cooking, and then adding some back to get to the consistency, taste, and texture you want.
Slow Cooker Chinese Pulled Pork
- 3 to 3 1/2 pounds pork shoulder, cut into very large chunks (3 to 4 inches)
- 2 1/2 teaspoons of Chinese 5-spice powder*
- 1/4 cup hoisin sauce
- 3 Tbsp soy sauce
- 3 Tbsp honey
- 2 Tbsp dry sherry or Shaoxing cooking wine
- 2 Tbsp minced fresh ginger
- 2 Tbsp minced garlic
- 12 Hawaiian dinner rolls
- 1 large scallion sliced
- *To make Chinese 5-spice powder, toast 1 teaspoon peppercorns in a skillet until fragrant. In a spice grinder, grind the roasted peppercorns with 2 whole star anise, 1/4 teaspoon cloves, 1 teaspoon of fennel seeds. Stir in 3/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon.
Season the pork with 5-spice powder:
Rub the 5 spice powder into the pork chunks, all over, and let sit while you prepare the sauce in the next step.
Whisk together the sauce ingredients:
Whisk together the hoisin sauce, soy sauce, honey, sherry, ginger, and garlic in a medium bowl.
Place pork and sauce in slow cooker:
Place the seasoned pork shoulder pieces in a slow cooker, cover with the sauce.
Slow cook for 4 hours on high or 8 hours on low:
Cook until the meat easily pulls apart. About halfway through the cooking, turn the meat over in the pot.
Ladle off excess fat:
Use a ladle or a large metal spoon to remove excess fat that has risen to the surface while the meat has been cooking. Don't discard it yet, you may want to add some of it back.
Shred the pork:
Use two forks to pull apart the pork into shreds. If the pork still seems dry, add back some of the fat.
Serve over sweet Hawaiian dinner buns:
Top with sliced green onion or cilantro.