Juicy, melt in your mouth pork is wonderful served as part of a main meal but it also makes a great sandwich. Inspired by the pulled pork sandwiches I enjoyed in South Carolina during a road trip two years ago, I used pork shoulder that was braised with beer and onions in a slow cooker, then shredded to make my version of a Carolina pulled pork sandwich.
If you travel between North and South Carolina or even east to west in either state, you will come across different versions of pulled pork sandwiches. In some areas, the whole pig is slowly smoked, then chopped and mixed together. In other areas, just the pork shoulder is smoked for sandwiches. Even the sauce varies from region to region.
In some parts of the Carolinas, pulled pork sandwiches will be made with a very thin vinegar and red chili flake sauce. In other sections of the states, the sandwiches will be prepared with a tomato and mustard based sauce. If you travel in other parts of the US and order a pulled pork sandwich, you will probably encounter one prepared with a thick, sweet sauce.
The sandwich I enjoyed the most while traveling in South Carolina was prepared with a thin vinegary mustard and brown sugar sauce that was full of flavor but still let the taste of the pork come through.
Carolina Inspired Pulled Pork Sandwich
Serves 4, adjust the recipe accordingly
Carolina Style BBQ Sauce (makes about 1 cup sauce)
- 1/2 c. mustard
- 3 Tbsp. cider vinegar
- 2 Tbsp. water
- 1 Tbsp. butter
- 3 Tbsp. brown sugar
- 3 Tbsp. sugar
- 1 tsp. ancho chili powder
- 1 tsp. chipotle chili powder
- 1 tsp. smoked paprika
- 1 tsp. black pepper
- 1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
- 1/4 tsp. soy sauce
- Optional ingredient – a tsp. or two of liquid smoke can be added for a smoky flavor but I don’t think it is necessary
Mix all the ingredients together in a small sauce pan and simmer for about 10 minutes.
- pulled pork (Recipe for beer braised pork can be found here) I used about 4 cups of the shredded pork to prepare four sandwiches
- buttered and toasted buns
Add the pulled pork to the BBQ sauce in the pan and simmer until heated through.
Place meat on a buttered and toasted bun and serve.
A lot of people in the Carolinas like their pulled pork sandwiches topped with coleslaw. Since I grew up in Texas where a sandwich is all about the meat, I served the coleslaw on the side along with a slice of sweet red onion, dill pickle chips and spicy ranch beans. While on the subject of Texas, if you order a BBQ sandwich there it is often prepared with smoked beef brisket that is sliced or chopped. The meat is usually served plain on the bun with a choice of sauces served on the side.
Whether you like a pulled pork sandwich with a tangy vinegar and mustard based sauce or prefer one that is prepared with a thick sweet sauce, one thing I believe we can all agree on is that slowly braised pork makes for a mouthwatering dish. A pork shoulder is usually large enough to provide enough meat for more than one meal. I cooked a four pound pork shoulder for two people. There was enough meat to not only prepare the sandwiches but pork tacos as well. I also had plenty of pork left to create a third dish which I will share with you at a later date.