Sweet and Sour Pulled Pork

Featuring this creative sweet and sour pulled pork sandwich.

Skip the takeout and fire up the smoker with this bright, tangy, and tender Sweet and Sour Pulled Pork, glistening in a sticky glaze. Combining an aromatic, warm spiced rub with a zesty and simple sweet and sour sauce, this gives you everything you love about smoked pork with an unexpected but familiar twist.

Grab a hold of these sweet and sour pulled pork sandwiches.

Smoked pulled pork is the ultimate canvas for playing with flavors. Pass over the barbecue sauce and pile your buns high with succulent shreds of sweet and sour pork with pineapple and peppers.

With a little extra sprinkle of the Chinese 5 spice-based rub, this juicy pork won’t last long! Just serve this up with spicy Kimchi Potato Salad and a cold beer.

Need more pork recipes? Try one of our favorites such as Smoked Country Style Ribs, Grilled Pork Belly, Smoked Pork Steaks, Grilled Pork Steaks, or even Smoked Pork Belly Burnt Ends.

These pulled pork sandwiches are saucy and sloppy, the best for BBQ.

Why This Recipe Works

  • Familiar Flavors – This pulled pork recipe not only gives you the classic flavors of sweet and sour pork with pineapple, but it doesn’t stray too far from the flavors of your favorite barbecue pork. There’s still that decadently delicious and irresistible smoked pulled pork drizzled, topped, and crowned in a sweet and tangy sauce. Instead of barbecue sauce, however, it’s the ketchup and brown sugar-based sweet and sour sauce kicked up with the acidic pop of apple cider vinegar. 
  • Easy Process – Pork butt is one of the most forgiving cuts of meat anyone can easily prepare. The sauce comes together with minimal effort, just simmering long enough to reduce with ingredients you probably already have. The hardest part is the waiting and anticipation of the sweet aroma of smoke and warm spices permeate the air. 
  • Meal Prep – With school and football season just around the corner it’s nice to have dishes that can be made in advance. Not only can you do the prep for this sweet and sour pork ahead of time, cutting up your vegetables and seasoning your pork shoulder, but you can also prepare it in advance.
This sweet and sour pork with pineapple is the perfect combo for a BBQ sandwich.

Variations and Substitutions

  • Red and green bell peppers are the traditional additions to sweet and sour dishes but can be swapped out for other peppers and vegetables. Add a few sliced jalapenos for a kick or poblanos for an earthy flavor.
  • Swap the sweet and sour sauce for Korean BBQ sauce
  • For a sweet and savory option pair this with homemade teriyaki sauce.
  • Pork and mustard pair perfectly together. Try this with Korean honey mustard sauce.
  • Replace the Chinese 5-spice fortified rub with Korean BBQ seasoning
  • Celebrate the pineapple in this dish even more with the huli huli sauce from my cookbook.
  • No Shaoxing wine? No problem. While it won’t have quite the same depth of flavor and nuttiness, you can also use dry sherry, sake, or mirin.

How to Make Sweet and Sour Pulled Pork

  1. Prepare your pork butt. Mix together your rub mix. If it has any excess fat or silver skin, remove it. Evenly sprinkle the rub on all sides of the pork butt, making sure it is fully coated.

    If possible, allow the pork to sit on a wire rack inside of a baking sheet in the refrigerator overnight, fat cap side up. This will give you a better bark and allow the rub to season the pork through dry-brining.
  2. Preheat the smoker to 265 degrees. Remove the pork butt from the refrigerator and allow it to rest at room temperature while the smoker warms up. Place the pork butt in the smoker, fat cap side up and allow it to smoke for about two hours, or until the rub has set. You should be able to touch the pork and not come away with rub on your finger.

Click HERE to read a detailed walkthrough with all the tips for Smoked Pulled Pork!

Smoke the pork butt at 265 degrees to make smoked pulled pork.
  1. Prep the vegetables and sauce. Slice the onions and peppers in half, removing the core of the peppers and their seeds, and then slice the halves into strips. Cut the pineapple rings in half.

    Do not combine the pineapples with the sliced peppers and onions! Everything will get soggy and mushy due to the acid and enzymes from the pineapple. This prep can be done ahead of time, even the day before!

    Place all of the ingredients for the sweet and sour sauce into a small saucepan over medium heat. Allow it to come to a simmer, whisking continuously until the sauce has thickened, about five minutes. Remove it from the heat.
  1. Spritz along the way. After the first two hours, and when the rub has set, spritz your pork butt with apple cider vinegar. Continue to spritz the pork butt every hour, or as needed for the next 5-6 hours.

    The pork will visibly shrink and the fat cap will begin to split and start to crack at around the seven hour mark.
The smoked pork butt should be forming a nice crust that doesn't flake off.
  1. Wrap the pork butt in foil. This is completely an optional step known as the Texas crutch that not only helps speed up the cooking process but helps keep the meat incredibly juicy.

    Roll out two pieces of foil that are about 3-4 times as long as the widest part of the butt. Place the foil on your workstation, overlapping the two pieces with the shiny side facing up. Spritz the pork butt one last time before wrapping.

    Place the pork butt into the center of the foil, and tightly roll it, making sure all sides are completely secured. Continue to roll and fold in the sides, patting the foil down to ensure there aren’t any air pockets.
  2. Smoke the pork butter until probe tender. Place the foil-wrapped pork butt back into the grill and allow it to smoke for another two hours, or until around 200°F. Your meat thermometer should be able to easily slide into the meat around 195-200°F with little resistance.

    Verify the doneness by feel, not just time and temperature. This makes it okay to cook it a little longer if needed. Once your pork is probe tender, remove it from the grill and allow it to rest for at least an hour before shredding.
Sautee the peppers, onions and pineapples before adding the sweet and sour sauce.
  1. Prepare the sweet and sour topping. Heat a large skillet or frying pan on medium heat with a little oil. Once the oil is starting to smoke add the onions and peppers. Continue to stir them until they begin to soften and char, 3-4 minutes.

    Add the pineapple and cook for another two minutes. Turn the heat to low and pour in some of the sweet and sour sauce, using enough to fully coat all of the ingredients. Turn off the heat.
  2. Remove the bone and shred the pork. Once your pork has cooled and rested, get in there and get shredding. Chef snacks are fully encouraged. Make sure you taste the smoked pulled pork and add additional sprinkles of seasoning as needed.

    Build your sweet and sour pulled pork sandwiches with a generous amount of the tangy topping and get ready for a flavor explosion. These are guaranteed to disappear quickly!
Once the spiced smoked pork butt has rested, it's time to shred.
Shred the smoked pork butt after the resting period.

Important Tips

  • Seasoning your pork ahead of time and allowing it to rest in the refrigerator on a wire rack on a baking sheet will give you a better bark. The circulating air dries out the exterior of the pork while allowing the rub to deeply season the meat. 
  • Feel free to slice the vegetables ahead of time and keep them sealed in the refrigerator. You will want to store the pineapple separately from the onions and peppers. Pineapple contains enzymes and acids that will begin breaking down the other vegetables, compromising their texture and freshness.
  • Hold off adding the pineapple to the pan until the onions and peppers are almost done. There are a lot of natural sugars in the pineapple that can easily burn.
  • To help your cornstarch more evenly and easily mix into the sweet and sour sauce, whisk it together with the Shaoxing wine to form a slurry. 
  • Keep whisking the sweet and sour sauce the entire time to prevent it from burning and to help mix in the cornstarch. It should form a nappe, or be thick enough to hug the back of a spoon and hold its shape when you swipe your finger down the middle. 
  • Don’t skip the step of resting your meat. Not only will this prevent you from singing off your fingertips, but it allows the pork to relax and juices to redistribute. Rest it for an hour regardless of if it’s a bone-in or boneless pork butt. 
These sweet and sour pulled pork sandwiches are full of flavor and texture.
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Featuring this creative sweet and sour pulled pork sandwich.

Sweet and Sour Pulled Pork

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Skip the takeout for this tangy Sweet and Sour Pulled Pork, glistening in a sticky glaze with charred onions, peppers, and sweet pineapple.

  • Total Time: 8-10 hours
  • Yield: Serves about 1214 1x

Ingredients

Scale
  • 610 pound pork shoulder butt (boneless or bone-in)
  • 2 red bell peppers
  • 2 green bell peppers
  • 1 red onion
  • 1 can of pineapple slices, drained (or fresh pineapple, sliced)
  • Preferred buns or rolls for serving

Seasoning

  • 1/3 cup kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup paprika
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon 16-mesh black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon Chinese 5-spice
  • ½ tablespoon ground coriander
  • 2 teaspoons mustard powder
  • 2 teaspoons granulated garlic
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne

Sweet & Sour Sauce

  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup Shaoxing wine (or dry sherry)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 4 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon salt (more to taste)

Instructions

  1. Remove the bone and shred the pork. Build the sandwiches with the shredded pork and sweet and sour topping.

Notes

  • Feel free to slice the vegetables ahead of time and keep them sealed in the refrigerator. You will want to store the pineapple separately from the onions and peppers.
  • Don’t be afraid to reseason! Once you’ve shredded all of your pork, sprinkle additional rub over the pulled pork and mix it together. This will infuse flavor into every bite.
  • Author: Brad Prose
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 8-10 hours
  • Category: Pork
  • Method: Smoking
  • Cuisine: Dinner, Lunch
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