Combine the sweet, tangy and smoky flavours of a classic BBQ sauce with slow cooked pulled pork and a crunchy slaw to make this one of the best BBQ pulled pork salads you’ll ever have!
Why You’ll Love BBQ Pulled Pork Salad
Pulled pork is always synonymous with being packed into some sort of a sandwich or roll. But we don’t always want it as a burger meal but rather enjoy the BBQ pulled pork as it is and eaten with a fresh and crunchy slaw.
This salad is so flavoursome and hearty. It’s hard to pass it up, and it’s the kind of salad that will be appreciated as people know that pulled pork, albeit easy to make, takes time and planning.
If you have a smoker, like my partner, it is a labour of love and ever so satisfying to use it. Be prepared for your neighbours to come knocking on your door!
This is also a great salad if you happen to have some leftover pulled pork. You can freeze it and reconstitute it at another time. Nothing goes to waste.
Origins of Pulled Pork
Cooking meat over an open fire was once the only way we ate, and I’m talking about million years ago. But slow cooking over wood or charcoal was only introduced as a barbecue concept a few hundred years ago when the Spanish settlers in the Southern parts of the United States watched the natives smoke game over a fire.
The story of how pulled pork was invented was that plantation owners would hold big BBQ events back in the day before the Civil War and would give their slaves the cheaper cuts of meat.
They learnt to soften the meat by cooking them slowly, and they would be so hungry that they would “pull” the meat off.
When pulled pork was first introduced as a menu item is unclear. The earliest mention of pulled pork sandwiches dates back to the 1920s when Leonard Heuberger, a restaurant owner in Memphis, created the pork barbeque sandwiches whereby he shredded the pork.
The BBQ pulled pork as we know it today perhaps gained notoriety in the 70s. It started to take off and move onto the other states in the South before becoming a worldwide phenomenon!
Best Cut of Pork for Pulled Pork
The best cut of pork to use for pulled pork is the butt. The pork butt is also known as the Boston butt, and no, we don’t use the butt of the pig to make pulled pork. No one can be certain why it’s even called pork butt!
Pork butt is located behind the pig’s head and just above the shoulder blade.
It is ideal because it contains a good amount of fat and collagen, which is essential for meat to become tender. Pulled pork can’t be rushed and can take anywhere up to 12 hours to cook as you need the protein to break down properly for it to be fork tender.
Pork Shoulder Vs Pork Butt
Pork shoulder and pork butt are 2 different kinds of cuts but essentially from the same area of the animal. They both come from the front of the leg, but it is then subdivided into 2 cuts. The pork butt, as mentioned above, sits higher on the leg and closer to the head of the pig.
The pork shoulder comes from the lower part of the leg towards the hooves. They are sometimes also called picnic roast. It has less fat than the pork butt, and the meat is slightly tougher.
Pork butt is not as easy to find in Melbourne, whereas pork shoulder is hence why this recipe is made with pork shoulder. In fact, for the numerous times I have made pulled pork, I have only made it with pork butt once.
Flavour/Texture: After 10 hours of slow cooking, the pulled pork is incredibly tender and moist. Stirred through a crispy style slaw, and you have yourself a truly hearty salad.
The flavours are strong, with the rub giving the pork smoky, pungent flavours. The BBQ sauce and BBQ dressing give the salad lovely tart flavours complementing the peppery freshness of the cabbage and kohlrabi.
Ease: This is a really easy salad to make. Don’t look at the long list of ingredients and the amount of time it takes to make the pulled pork trick you into thinking it should be filed in the too hard basket file.
The pork is a set and forget, and the vegetables are just sliced and shredded. No cooking required.
Time: The prep part of this salad will only take you about 15 minutes. It’s very quick.
Cooking the pulled pork can be done first thing in the morning, and leave it until dinner time. The salad can also be prepared ahead of time, so assemble when ready to eat.
Yellow onion: This will give the pork some natural sweetness and form the base in the slow cooker so it doesn’t stick.
Garlic cloves: Fresh sliced, not chopped to add to the bottom of the slow cooker for some extra flavour.
Smoked paprika: After a lovely smoky flavour for the pulled pork. You can decide for yourself how spicy you would like the paprika to be. Be mindful the rub also calls for cayenne pepper.
Brown sugar: Need some caramel flavours, so the brown sugar will give it the sweetness it needs.
Garlic powder and onion powder: Quintessential rub ingredients in my book!
Salt and pepper: More than a pinch to season the pork well. Will need some to taste for the salad component too.
Cumin powder: Warm, earthy and a slight bitterness. Works perfectly with all the other rub ingredients.
Dried oregano: Complements the rub, and you don’t need a lot.
Cayenne pepper: For extra kick! Add more if you love the heat.
Pork shoulder, no bone: It is ok if the pork has some fat. Some of it will get rendered off, and the bits that don’t can just be removed when you’re pulling the meat apart. Will make the flesh moister too.
Chicken stock: You can make your own chicken broth or get the pre-made chicken stock.
If you prefer to control the level of saltiness yourself, get the reduced salt stock.
BBQ sauce: Get your favourite BBQ sauce for this recipe. Just a small bottle or around 250g will suffice. We used the Darlington Farms BBQ sauce, and it was such a treat! So flavourful.
You will need 1 tbsp of the BBQ sauce to make a dressing for the salad, and the rest can be poured into the pulled pork and mixed through.
Purple cabbage: For some colour, purple or red cabbage is great for the vegetable part of the salad.
Kohlrabi: Thinly sliced matchsticks of fresh kohlrabi will give the salad some much needed crunch. Also, I love its peppery and slightly sweet flavours too.
Green apple: The green apple provides the tartness to balance out the other ingredients.
Carrot: For more colour and crunch, shred up some sweet carrots.
Olive oil: Use good olive oil to make the BBQ sauce dressing. This will help to provide the overall salad with some moisture as otherwise, it is too dry.
White wine vinegar: Using tart vinegar for this salad to counterbalance the sweetness and smokiness of the pulled pork and BBQ sauce.
How to Make the Pulled Pork
Slice the onion and garlic cloves and lay them flat, covering the bottom of the slow cooker.
Make the rub: smoked paprika, brown sugar, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, cumin powder, dried oregano, cayenne pepper and pepper.
Coat the pork shoulder with the rub.
Place it on top of onion and garlic in the slow cooker.
Pour the chicken stock on the side of the pork.
Slow cook on low for 10-12 hours.
How to Make the Salad
Cut purple cabbage into thin slices.
Remove the stem and leaves of the kohlrabi and peel.
Using a mandoline, slice the kohlrabi and green apple. Then cut them into matchsticks.
Using a shredding peeler, shred the carrot.
Place all the vegetables into a large mixing bowl.
How to Make the Dressing
In a small mixing bowl, add the olive oil, white wine vinegar and 1 tbsp BBQ sauce.
Mix until well combined.
How to Assemble the Salad
Remove the pork from the slow cooker and place in a large mixing bowl. Discard all the fat.
Using 2 forks, shred the pork.
Pour the rest of the BBQ sauce into the mixing bowl and cover the pork thoroughly.
Add the pulled pork into the mixing bowl with the salad ingredients and pour the dressing on top.
Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Mix until well combined.
Variations and Substitutions
Vegan option: To make a vegan version of this salad, you can use jackfruit, which will also cut down the cooking time by 9 ½ hours! You can use canned jackfruit, preferably in water, not brine or frozen jackfruit usually found in Asian grocery stores.
Strain or defrost the jackfruit and remove the seed if intact. Coat the jackfruit with the rub. Then in a skillet, add oil, fry onion and garlic cloves. Add the jackfruit and fry for about 3 minutes. Add vegan BBQ sauce and some water and let it cook on a simmer for about 20 minutes. Then use 2 forks to pull the jackfruit apart.
Kohlrabi substitute: The best replacement for kohlrabi in terms of texture and tastes has got to be broccoli stems. But I’m not going to suggest you buy a whole bunch of broccoli to make this salad! Not unless you have a big stir fry the next night.
You can add some daikon or turnip instead, although the flavours will be more bitter. Feel free to omit altogether if not in season.
No slow cooker: If you don’t have a slow cooker, you can use your Dutch oven. Place the rack in the oven on the low rung and cook for about 8 hours at 180°C or 350°F.
Great Mains for This Salad
Queso fundido with poblano and corn: This recipe is basically just tons of melted cheese. So what’s not to love? A blend of Monterey jack and Oaxaca cheese tossed with corn and poblano peppers baked until bubbling makes is so delicious. Serve it up with this BBQ pulled pork salad for a truly fitting meal.
Spinach artichoke pizza: Make this pizza that gives you everything you love in a spinach artichoke dip but in the form of a mouth-watering pizza! This easy homemade pizza recipe is the perfect, crowd-pleasing pizza that will leave everyone wanting more and more! To make it even more appetising, serve it up with a BBQ pulled pork salad for the perfect dinner party!
Mushroom stroganoff: This delicious mushroom stroganoff is a quick and easy dinner. If you have leftover pulled pork, make this delicious BBQ pulled salad with yummy corn ribs to make this a meal everyone will remember!
Frequently Asked Questions
The vibrant purple skin of the kohlrabi has white to ivory flesh. None of the purples permeates through to the flesh.
Yes, they are! Even though they are more known for their bulbs, their greens are just as delicious.
Much like collard greens and spinach, you can blanch, stir fry or steam them. You can also eat them raw by thinly slicing them and adding them to a salad. This vegetable is like getting 2 for 1 so next time, keep the greens for dinner the next night.
Yes, you can freeze pulled pork and have it for another time. Make sure you save the drippings from the cook, and the best way to remove the fat is to put it in the fridge. Once it hardens, remove the fat and put the dripping back into the pulled pork meat and put in the freezer.
This is such a great salad which you can have on its own or as a heavier side dish to accompany a lighter dinner. Whichever way you wish to have it, enjoy the satisfaction of pulling the ever so tender meat apart as it falls away at the mere touch of the fork.
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Ingredient Pairing Ideas
If you’d like to create your own salad and have an ingredient you’d like to hero, we have some great pairing suggestions to help you work out what flavours go well together.
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BBQ Pulled Pork Salad
- ¼ purple cabbage
- 1 kohlrabi
- 1 green apple
- 1 carrot
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
- 1 tbsp BBQ sauce
Click on the toggle below for conversion to US Cooking Units.
- Slice the onion and garlic cloves and lay them flat, covering the bottom of the slow cooker.
- Make the rub: smoked paprika, brown sugar, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, cumin powder, dried oregano, cayenne pepper and pepper.
- Coat the pork shoulder with the rub.
- Place it on top of onion and garlic in the slow cooker.
- Pour the chicken stock on the side of the pork.
- Slow cook on low for 10-12 hours.
- Cut purple cabbage into thin slices.
- Remove the stem and leaves of the kohlrabi and peel. Using a mandoline, slice the kohlrabi and green apple. Then cut them into matchsticks.
- Using a shredding peeler, shred the carrot.
- Place all the vegetables into a large mixing bowl.
- In a small mixing bowl, add the olive oil, white wine vinegar and 1 tbsp BBQ sauce.
- Mix until well combined.
- Remove the pork from the slow cooker and place in a large mixing bowl. Discard all the fat.
- Using 2 forks, shred the pork.
- Pour the rest of the BBQ sauce into the mixing bowl and cover the pork thoroughly.
- Add the pulled pork into the mixing bowl with the salad ingredients and pour the dressing on top.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Mix until well combined.
- This is a great salad to make if you have leftover pulled pork. It’s also a great salad to just grab and place between some brioche buns, and off you go!
- To make a vegan version of this salad, you can use jackfruit, which will also cut down the cooking time by 9 ½ hours! You can use canned jackfruit, preferably in water, not brine or frozen jackfruit, usually found in Asian grocery stores. Strain or defrost the jackfruit and remove the seed if intact. Coat the jackfruit with the rub. Then in a skillet, add oil, fry onion and garlic cloves. Add the jackfruit and fry for about 3 minutes. Add vegan BBQ sauce and some water and let it cook on a simmer for about 20 minutes. Then use 2 forks to pull the jackfruit apart.
- The best replacement for kohlrabi in terms of texture and tastes has got to be broccoli stems. But I’m not going to suggest you buy a whole bunch of broccoli to make this salad! Not unless you have a big stir fry the next night. You can add some daikon or turnip instead, although the flavours will be more bitter. Feel free to omit altogether if not in season.
- No slow cooker: If you don’t have a slow cooker, you can use your Dutch oven. Place the rack in the oven on the low rung and cook for about 8 hours at 180°C or 350°F.
*Disclaimer: Nutritional information provided is an estimate only and generated by an online calculator.
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