5 from 5 votes
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Easy Air Fryer BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich Recipe

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If you’re craving a tangy and delicious pulled pork sandwich but don’t want to fire up the grill or smoker, this Air Fryer Pulled Pork sandwich recipe is your new best friend. It’s perfect for busy weeknights or laid-back weekends when you want to enjoy a hearty meal without spending hours in the kitchen.

Shredded pork with barbecue sauce mixture.

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Using the air fryer for this recipe not only speeds up the cooking process but also ensures the pork turns out juicy and flavorful every time. With just a few simple ingredients and minimal prep, you’ll have a mouthwatering sandwich that’s sure to satisfy any BBQ lover. Get ready to enjoy a taste of summer all year round!

If you are on the hunt for more pork recipes, I have a few more you might want to try out. For a slow cooker option, make this Slow Cooker-Spicy Pineapple Pork Butt Roast that’s full of fruity flavor. Or for another option, make some boneless pork chops with creamy chive pan sauce for a great dinner option.

Still in the mood for more air fryer dishes? Check out this Air Fryer Greek Chicken Kabobs With Tzatziki for something a little different.

Why This Recipe Works

  • Quick and Easy: This recipe requires minimal effort to prepare, has simple steps, and cooks quickly in the air fryer, making it perfect for busy weeknights or last-minute meals.
  • Juicy and Flavorful: The air fryer ensures that the pork remains juicy while delivering an irresistible smokey BBQ flavor.
  • Simple Ingredients: With just a handful of common ingredients, you can create a delicious and satisfying meal without the need for elaborate shopping lists.
  • Versatile Dish: Whether you’re serving it at a casual family dinner or a festive gathering, these pulled pork sandwiches are always a crowd-pleaser.

What’s in This Air Fryer Pulled Pork Recipe?

Ingredients for BBQ pulled pork sitting on a wooden table.
  • Pork Butt, Boneless, or Tender Pork Shoulder: This cut of pork is ideal for slow cooking and pulling apart. It becomes incredibly tender and flavorful when cooked properly, making it perfect for a pulled pork sandwich.
  • Olive Oil: A light coating of olive oil helps to keep the pork moist during cooking and allows the spices to adhere better to the meat.
  • Liquid Smoke: Adding a few drops of liquid smoke imparts a rich, smoky flavor that mimics the irresistible taste of pork cooked on a traditional BBQ smoker.
  • Pepper: Freshly ground black pepper adds a touch of heat and enhances the overall flavor profile of the dish.
  • Salt: Essential for seasoning, a pinch of salt helps to bring out the natural flavors of the pork and the spices.
  • Garlic Powder: This adds a mild, aromatic garlic flavor that complements the savory and smoky notes of the pork.
  • Onion Powder: Onion powder blends seamlessly into the meat, giving a subtle but essential layer of flavor that enhances the overall taste.
  • Chili Powder: Providing a hint of warmth and spice, chili powder brings a depth of flavor that balances out the sweetness of the BBQ sauce.
  • Ground Cumin: This spice adds an earthy, slightly nutty taste which enriches the complexity of the pulled pork seasoning.
  • Barbecue Sauce (Sweet Baby Ray’s or Your Regional Favorite): The barbecue sauce is the heart of the recipe, offering a sweet, tangy, and smoky element that ties all the flavors together. Choose one that you love for the best results.

The complete list of ingredients, quantities, and instructions can be found in the printable recipe card below.

Wooden board with pulled pork sitting on a wooden table.

Substitutions and Additions

  • Pork Cuts: If you don’t have pork butt or shoulder, you can substitute with pork loin or even chicken thighs for a leaner alternative. The texture may vary slightly, but it will still be delicious.
  • Olive Oil: You can use any neutral cooking oil such as canola oil, vegetable oil, or avocado oil in place of olive oil.
  • Liquid Smoke: If you can’t find liquid smoke, smoked paprika can be used as a substitute to add a similar smoky flavor.
  • Spices: If you’re missing any of the spices, feel free to use a pre-made BBQ rub, dry rub or spice rub or blend that you enjoy.

Additions:

  • Coleslaw: Topping your pulled pork sandwich with a tangy coleslaw adds a refreshing crunch that perfectly complements the rich and smoky pork.
  • Pickles: Adding some sliced pickles gives a tangy contrast that enhances the overall flavor.
  • Cheese: Melt some cheddar cheese on top for an extra layer of gooey richness.
  • Jalapeños: For a spicy kick, add sliced jalapeños to your sandwich.
  • Bread Options: While classic hamburger buns are a great choice, you can also serve the pulled pork on brioche buns, pretzel buns, or even in a wrap for a different take on the sandwich.

How to Make Air Fryer BBQ Pulled Pork (step-by-step directions)

Collage of cooking BBQ pulled pork.
  1. Place the pork in a gallon storage bag. Add the oil and liquid smoke. Seal the bag, leaving a bit of air inside, and shake it to coat the pork evenly. Open the bag and add your spices. Seal it again with some air and shake to coat the pork thoroughly with the spices. (Photo 1)
  2. Marinated pork for at least 30 minutes. For the best results and tenderness, chill the pork overnight with the air removed from the bag.
  3. Form an aluminum foil bowl in the air fryer and preheat it to 370°F. When ready to cook, bring the meat to room temperature and place the pork in the air fryer basket with the fatty side up. Pour over any remaining juices. (Photo 2)
  4. Cook the pork for 1 1/2 hours at 370°F, flipping it twice every 30 minutes. Ensure the meat reaches 180°F for complete cooking; cook for an additional 15 minutes if needed. (Photo 3)
  5. After cooking, let the pork rest in the air fryer for 30 minutes. Remove the pork and shred it on a cutting board. (Photo 4)
Collage of creating BBQ pulled pork.
  1. Transfer the shredded meat to a large mixing bowl and add 1/2 cup of barbecue sauce or more if desired. Fold the meat into the sauce to coat it well. (Photos 5 & 6)
  2. Serve this delicious flavoursome pulled pork on a fresh bun, topped with more sauce and your favorite toppings.
BBQ pulled pork sitting on a wooden board.

Recipe Tips

  • Preheat Your Air Fryer: Always ensure your air fryer is preheated to the correct temperature before adding the pork. This helps in achieving an even cook and a nicely browned exterior.
  • Use a Meat Thermometer: To ensure the pork is thoroughly cooked, use a meat thermometer to check that it reaches an internal temperature of 180°F.
  • Don’t Skip the Marinade Time: Allowing the pork to marinate for at least 30 minutes, or ideally overnight, significantly enhances the flavor and tenderness.
  • Flip Consistently: Remember to flip the pork every 30 minutes to ensure even cooking on all sides.
  • Shred While Warm: Shredding the pork while it’s still warm makes the process easier and ensures the meat absorbs more of the barbecue sauce.
  • Adjust Spice Levels: Feel free to adjust the amount of chili powder and other spices to suit your preferred level of heat and flavor.
  • Add Sauce Gradually: Add barbecue sauce gradually to the shredded pork to achieve the desired level of sauciness without overwhelming the flavors.

Alternate Cooking Methods 

Instant Pot Method

Cooking pulled pork in an Instant Pot is a quick and convenient alternative. Begin by seasoning the pork as described in the original recipe. 

Set your Instant Pot to the sauté function and add a small amount of oil. Sear the pork on all sides until it is browned. Turn off the sauté function, and add about 1 cup of chicken broth or water to the pot along with a few drops of liquid smoke. 

Secure the lid and set the Instant Pot to pressure cook on high for 60 minutes. After cooking, allow the pressure to release naturally for about 10 minutes before performing a quick release. Remove the pork, shred it, and mix in your desired amount of barbecue sauce.

Grill Method

Using a grill to cook pulled pork imparts a delicious smoky flavor that complements the dish perfectly. 

Start by preheating your grill to a low, indirect heat setting, ideally around 250°F. While the grill is heating, season the pork according to the original recipe. Once preheated, place the pork on the grill grates away from direct heat and close the lid. 

Maintain the temperature between 225°F and 250°F for approximately 6-8 hours, or until the internal temperature of the pork reaches 195°F, flipping occasionally to ensure even cooking. Once cooked, let the pork rest for about 30 minutes before shredding and mixing with barbecue sauce.

Storing Tips 

Store any leftover pulled pork in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Ensure the leftover pork has completely cooled before sealing the container to avoid condensation, which can affect the texture. Properly stored, the pulled pork will last for up to 3-4 days in the fridge.

You can freeze pork leftovers. To freeze, place the cooled, shredded pork into freezer-safe bags or containers. Make sure to remove as much air as possible from the bags to prevent freezer burn. Label the bags with the date and store them in the freezer for up to 3 months. For best results, freeze the pork without sauce and add the barbecue sauce after reheating.

When ready to enjoy your pulled pork again, you can reheat it using several methods:

  • Microwave: Place the pulled pork in a microwave-safe dish and cover it with a damp paper towel to maintain moisture. Heat on medium power in 1-minute intervals, stirring in between, until thoroughly heated.
  • Stovetop: In a skillet or pan, add a small amount of water or broth to the pulled pork to prevent it from drying out. Cover and heat over medium-low, stirring occasionally, until the pork is heated through.
  • Oven: Preheat the oven to 300°F. Place the pulled pork in an oven-safe dish, add a splash of water or broth, and cover with foil. Heat for about 20-25 minutes or until warmed through.
  • Slow Cooker: For larger quantities, place the pulled pork in a slow cooker, add a small amount of water or broth, and heat on low for 1-2 hours or until fully reheated.
Wooden board with BBQ pulled pork.

Serving Suggestions 

Pulled pork is incredibly versatile and pairs well with a variety of sides to create a satisfying meal. Here are some popular serving suggestions to complement your pulled pork:

  • Coleslaw: A classic side, coleslaw provides a refreshing crunch and acidity that balances the richness of the pulled pork. You can opt for a traditional creamy coleslaw or a tangy vinegar-based version.
  • Pickles: Tangy pickles cut through the heaviness of the meat and offer a nice contrast in texture and flavor. Consider serving a variety of pickles, such as dill, bread and butter, or pickled jalapeños.
  • Macaroni and Cheese: Creamy and cheesy, mac and cheese is a favorite comfort food that pairs wonderfully with the smoky, savory notes of pulled pork.
  • Baked Beans: Smoky, sweet, and hearty baked beans make a great accompaniment to pulled pork. They add depth and richness to the meal, especially when they’re slow-cooked.
  • Roasted Vegetables: Vegetables like carrots, sweet potatoes, and Brussels sprouts roasted to caramelized perfection provide a healthy and delicious counterbalance to the meat.
  • Potato Salad: This creamy, starchy side is a barbecue classic. Opt for a traditional mayonnaise-based potato salad or try a mustard or vinegar-based version for a different twist. You can even make something like Instant Pot loaded potato salad for an upgraded version.
  • Grilled Corn on the Cob: Sweet, smoky, and buttery, grilled corn on the cob is a summer favorite that pairs perfectly with pulled pork.
  • Green Salad: For a lighter option, a simple green salad with a tangy vinaigrette can help to balance out the richness of the pulled pork. Include fresh ingredients like cucumbers, tomatoes, and red onions for added freshness.

Recipe FAQs

Can I use a different cut of pork for this recipe?

While boneless pork shoulder or pork butt cuts are the most commonly used cuts for pulled pork due to their ideal fat content and tenderness, you can experiment with other cuts like pork loin or ribs. However, keep in mind that the cooking time and texture may vary.

How can I make the pulled pork spicier?

To add more heat to your pulled pork, consider incorporating ingredients like cayenne pepper, red pepper flakes, or hot sauce into the seasoning rub or barbecue sauce. You can also serve the pulled pork with spicy pickles or jalapeños for an extra kick.

Can I make pulled pork in advance?

Yes, you can prepare pulled pork ahead of time and store it in the refrigerator or freezer until you’re ready to serve it. Follow the storing tips provided to ensure the best results. Reheat the pulled pork using one of the suggested methods to maintain its moisture and flavor.

How do I prevent my pulled pork from drying out during reheating?

To prevent pulled pork from drying out, always add a small amount of liquid such as water, broth, or even additional barbecue sauce when reheating. Using methods like the oven, slow cooker, or stovetop with a cover also helps retain moisture.

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Pulled pork on a wooden board with a fork on the side.
5 from 5 votes

Easy Air Fryer BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich Recipe


Author: Kim Schob
Course: Air Fryer
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Marinade 1 hour
Total Time: 2 hours 45 minutes
Yields 6 portions
If you're craving a tangy and delicious pulled pork sandwich but don't want to fire up the grill or smoker, this Air Fryer Pulled Pork sandwich recipe is your new best friend.

Ingredients 

  • 2 lbs (907 ⅕ g) pork butt boneless, or shoulder
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon liquid smoke
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • ½ teaspoon salt kosher
  • 1 ½ teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 ½ teaspoons onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2- cup (143 g) barbecue sauce sweet baby ray’s, or your regional favorite

Instructions

  • Place the pork in a gallon storage bag. Add the oil and liquid smoke. Seal the bag, leaving a bit of air inside, and shake it to coat the pork evenly. Open the bag and add your spices. Seal it again with some air and shake to coat the pork thoroughly with the spices.
    2 lbs pork butt,4 tablespoons olive oil,1 teaspoon liquid smoke,1/2 teaspoon pepper,1/2 teaspoon salt,1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder,1 1/2 teaspoons onion powder,1 teaspoon chili powder,1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Marinated pork for at least 30 minutes. For the best results and tenderness, chill the pork overnight with the air removed from the bag.
  • Form an aluminum foil bowl in the air fryer and preheat it to 370°F. When ready to cook, bring the meat to room temperature and place the pork in the air fryer basket with the fatty side up. Pour over any remaining juices.
  • Cook the pork for 1 ½ hours at 370 °F, flipping it twice every 30 minutes. Ensure the meat reaches 180 °F for complete cooking; cook for an additional 15 minutes if needed.
  • After cooking, let the pork rest in the air fryer for 30 minutes. Remove the pork and shred it on a cutting board.
  • Transfer the shredded meat to a large mixing bowl and add ½ cup of barbecue sauce, or more if desired. Fold the meat into the sauce to coat it well.
    1/2- cup barbecue sauce
  • Serve this delicious flavoursome pulled pork on a fresh bun, topped with more sauce and your favorite toppings.

Notes

  • Preheat Your Air Fryer: Always ensure your air fryer is preheated to the correct temperature before adding the pork. This helps in achieving an even cook and a nicely browned exterior.
  • Use a Meat Thermometer: To ensure the pork is thoroughly cooked, use a meat thermometer to check that it reaches an internal temperature of 180°F.
  • Don’t Skip the Marinade Time: Allowing the pork to marinate for at least 30 minutes, or ideally overnight, significantly enhances the flavor and tenderness.
  • Flip Consistently: Remember to flip the pork every 30 minutes to ensure even cooking on all sides.
  • Shred While Warm: Shredding the pork while it’s still warm makes the process easier and ensures the meat absorbs more of the barbecue sauce.
  • Adjust Spice Levels: Feel free to adjust the amount of chili powder and other spices to suit your preferred level of heat and flavor.
  • Add Sauce Gradually: Add barbecue sauce gradually to the shredded pork to achieve the desired level of sauciness without overwhelming the flavors.

Nutrition Information

Calories: 330kcal (17%) Carbohydrates: 11g (4%) Protein: 29g (58%) Fat: 18g (28%) Saturated Fat: 4g (25%) Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g Monounsaturated Fat: 11g Trans Fat: 0.1g Cholesterol: 91mg (30%) Sodium: 546mg (24%) Potassium: 597mg (17%) Fiber: 1g (4%) Sugar: 8g (9%) Vitamin A: 157IU (3%) Vitamin C: 0.3mg Vitamin D: 1µg (7%) Calcium: 37mg (4%) Iron: 2mg (11%)

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5 from 5 votes

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5 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    This was the perfect pulled pork sandwich on a hot summer day! Thank you so much for this awesome recipe!

  2. 5 stars
    I never thought to make pulled pork in the air fryer! We loved the flavor and it was super simple. Thanks!

  3. 5 stars
    This Easy Air Fryer BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich recipe is fantastic! The pork is tender and full of flavor, and it was so easy to make. Perfect for a quick and delicious meal. Thank you!

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