Asian Pork (Crock Pot Recipe)

Asian Caramel Slow Cooker Pulled Pork is crazy tender smothered in the most addicting savory, sweet and spicy sauce infused with coconut milk, soy sauce, sweet chili sauce, fish sauce, sriracha, ginger and garlic. You will be licking your plate –  and the slow cooker. 

This Slow Cooker Pulled Pork is a fabulous prep-it-and forget it meal, great for crowds, reheats beautifully and is delicious with rice/veggies or delectable in salads, wraps, tacos, or as sliders, etc.!  

up close of slow cooker Pulled Pork in green bowl with chopsticks


 

Asian Pork

Have you tried my General Tso’s Chicken yet?  As I stated in that recipe, it is one of my favorite chicken recipes of all time, so I wanted to create an easier way to lick up that delectable multi-dimensional sauce.  Enter Asian Caramel Slow Cooker Pulled Pork.

The sauce of this Caramel Pulled Pork is innnnnnnncredible.  It isn’t a watery, lackluster sauce like many slow cooker Asian recipes.  Instead, it is thick and luxuriously silky.  It boasts more Thai flavors than my General Tso’s Chicken but is inspired by the Caramel Sauce of my Tso’s Chicken.  In both recipes, the savory sauce is infused with “caramel” that we make by simmering water and brown sugar together and then whisking in our remaining savory sauce base.  The resulting sauce is nothing short of the ideal ying and yang of sweet and savory, tangy and zingy, with a splash of heat.

Asian Pulled Pork Ingredients

  • Pork butt/shoulder: Use 4-5 pounds pork butt or pork shoulder. Both come from the front of the pig (not the rear). If you have a choice between pork butt and pork shoulder, use pork butt, often called Boston butt. It is named after the barrels (butts) pork used to be stored in around the time of the Revolutionary War. Pork butt has more fat marbling throughout the meat so it emerges more fall-apart-tender. Be sure to trim off any excess fat.
  • Wet rub: Toasted sesame oil, ginger powder, garlic, salt, onion powder and pepper are combined to create a flavorful rub. Take care to use toasted sesame oil and not regular which doesn’t have as much flavor.
  • Coconut milk: Please use full fat, unsweetened coconut milk for restaurant-style creamy, flavorful sauce. Most importantly, light coconut milk can split due to the long cooking time in the slow cooker.
  • Soy sauce: Use reduced sodium so the sauce isn’t too salty.
  • Fish sauceI promise fish sauce will not make your Thai chicken curry taste fishy – even though it smells fishy! It is necessary to infuse the dish with its nutty, rich, savory, salty flavor. If you’ve never used fish sauce before, it can be found in the Asian section of any grocery store.
  • Rice wineThis should become a pantry staple if you do much Asian cooking. I use “Kikkoman Aji-Mirin: Sweet Cooking Rice Seasoning” which is commonly found in the Asian section of most grocery stores or you can Amazon it. I highly suggest you google image before you head off to the grocery store so you know exactly what you are looking for. The best substitute for rice wine is pale dry sherry.
  • Chili sauce: Use your favorite Asian chili sauce. I use Sambal Oelek with the green lid.
  • Asian sweet chili sauceInstead of adding sugar to balance the umami rich ingredients, Asian sweet chili sauce adds both sweetness and spice, made with chilies, onion, garlic, brown sugar and fish sauce. You should be able to find it easily in the Asian aisle of your grocery store.
  • Cornstarch: This helps the sauce thicken up so it isn’t watery.
  • Brown sugar: This is combined with water at the end of cooking to make our “caramel” sauce. Use light brown sugar.

What is rice wine and where can I buy it?

The only sauce ingredient you might have a question about is the Japanese rice wine. Rice wine should become a pantry staple if you do much Asian cooking because it is used in MANY of my recipes such as my Mongolian Beef, Kung Pao Shrimp and many more.  Rice wine is NOT rice vinegar- DO NOT switch them out.  Rice wine adds a sweetness and depth of flavor while also tenderizing the pork. Rice vinegar, on the other hand will add an acidic flavor.

I use “Kikkoman Aji-Mirin: Sweet Cooking Rice Seasoning” which is commonly found in the Asian section of most grocery stores or you can Amazon it.  I highly suggest you google image before you head off to the grocery store so you know exactly what you are looking for.  The best substitute for rice wine is pale dry sherry.

Slow cooker Pulled Pork in black slow cooker with a wooden spoon

How to Make Asian Pulled Pork

  1. Wet Rub = Flavor.  First, we whisk together a Wet Rub consisting of toasted sesame oil, ground ginger, garlic powder, onion powder and black pepper.  If you don’t have sesame oil, you don’t have to buy it just for this recipe. Feel free to substitute olive oil instead.   You will notice the Rub consists of 2 whole tablespoons ground ginger – I know that sounds like a lot but I promise it is AMAZING and is needed to cut through the sweetness of the sauce.
  2. Seared Pork = juicy and flavorful.  Next, we sear our pork to seal in the juices and to create what’s known as the Maillard reaction in which the amino acids and reducing sugar react to create a caramelized, deeply flavorful, rich savory crust.  Yes please.
eating pulled pork in a green bowl with chopsticks
  1. Dynamite Sauce.  We whisk together our Sauce ingredients consisting of coconut milk, soy sauce, Japanese sweet rice wine, Asian sweet chili sauce, fish sauce, sriracha and cornstarch.  Keep in mind if you taste the sauce at this point it will not be balanced because we are going to add the “Caramel Sauce” later.
  1. Cook until Tender.  Pour the sauce all over the pork and let it cruise until fall apart tender.  If it is not fork tender, it simply needs to cook longer.
  2. Caramel Sauce.  Once our pork is tender, we remove it to a cutting board until it is cool enough to shred then add back to slow cooker. Meanwhile, remove slow cooker sauce to a measuring cup.  If there is less than 2 ½ cups then add enough water to equal 2 ½ cup.  We will add this to our Caramel Sauce later.
showing how to make caramel sauce for pulled pork in skillet then pouring it over pulled pork

How to Make the Caramel Sauce for Slow Cooker Asian Pork

  1. To make the Caramel Sauce for our pulled pork, add brown sugar and water to large skillet and boil over medium heat for 1 minute, whisking constantly.  Don’t overcook or it will harden!  Slowly whisk in the 2 ½ cups Slow Cooker Sauce and simmer over medium high heat, whisking constantly until reduced and thickened, approximately 7-10 minutes.
  2. It is important that you use a large skillet with sides or it will take MUCH longer for your sauce to thicken.  If after 7-10 minutes your sauce isn’t thickening for whatever reason, then increase the temperature, whisking constantly.
  1. How Saucy?  Pour desired amount of Caramel Sauce over pulled pork and toss until evenly coated with a spatula.  You may or may not use all of the sauce – totally your preference.
  2. EAT!  Serve Asian Caramel Slow Cooker Pulled Pork with rice/veggies/etc. on buns with slaw or my AMAZING Caramel Pork Tacos with Pineapple Snow Pea Salsa!
Slow cooker Asian Caramel Pulled Pork in crock pot

Caramelized Pork Recipe Tips

  • Sear the meat. When searing, the pork will naturally release from the pan once it is properly seared. If it is sticking to the bottom of the pan, it is most likely needing more time. It will take 2-5 minutes per side (longer if using a nonstick pan).
  • Sear unto deeply golden. Please no sad gray meat! Deeply golden pork means the maximum Maillard reaction, a chemical reaction that enhances the flavor of the meat. It results in a complex combination of savory, caramelized, and roasted notes, contributing depth and richness that can’t be achieved any other way.
  • Cook until tender. Every slow cooker cooks differently, so be flexible with the cooking time. Always check at the early end of the cooking window, then cook on as needed. The pork is ready when it easily pulls apart with two forks. If it’s not tender enough to shred, then keep cooking, it just needs more time.
  • Don’t overcook Caramel Sauce. Simmer for just one minute, no longer or it can harden!
  • Babysit the thickening the sauce. The Caramel Sauce should be stirred constantly because brown sugar can burn. Be patient and simmer until thickened, this should be about 7-10 minutes, but may be more or less for some.
  • You don’t have to use all the Caramel Sauce. Depending on the size of your pork or personal preference, you may not want to add all the sauce. You can even add more sauce to individual servings.
  • Add some spice. The sweetness of the caramel pork is fabulous balanced by additional chili sauce.

What to Serve with Asian Pork

  • Rice: I like jasmine rice or brown rice but any rice will work. Just pop the rice in your rice cooker for a hand’s off, easy side. You can also use microwave rice pouches for single serving leftovers.
  • Low carb: Cauliflower rice, quinoa, broccoli rice or a blend of brown rice and any of the aforementioned options. You can also try low carb noodles such as zoodles or spaghetti squash.
  • Vegetables and Fruit: Stir fry any of your favorite vegetables, or go with ginger sesame bok choy. I also love serving with pineapple or mangos.
  • Appetizers: For a complete Asian feast, pair your Caramel Pork with Spring Rolls, Cream Cheese WontonsCrab Rangoons, Potstickers or Egg Rolls.
  • Salad: Some of our favorite Asian inspired salads include Ramen Salad, Crunchy Asian Salad, Chinese Salad, and Asian Pineapple.

How to Store Slow Cooker Asian Pork

  • Storage: Store leftover Pulled Pork in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
  • Reheat: Reheat in the microwave or gently on the stove over medium-low heat, adding a splash of water if the pork seems a little dry or reheat in the slow cooker for 1-2 hours on low.

Asian Pork Crock Pot FAQs

Can you overcook pulled pork in slow cooker?

Yes, it is possible to overcook pulled pork in a slow cooker which can lead to a mushy texture and a dry consistency as the meat continues to break down excessively. It’s important to follow recommended cooking times and temperature settings for your specific slow cooker and recipe. Generally, pork butt or shoulder cuts benefit from a slow and low cooking approach, typically around 8-10 hours on low heat or 5-6 hours on high heat. Monitoring the internal temperature with a meat thermometer is crucial to ensure it reaches a safe temperature (around 190-205°F or 88-96°C) for shredding while avoiding overcooking.

Do you need liquid in slow cooker for pulled pork?

Yes, liquid in a slow cooker for pulled pork serves multiple purposes. It ensures a moist cooking environment, preventing the pork from drying out during the long, slow cooking process. The liquid also acts as a medium to infuse flavors into the meat, resulting in a more flavorful product. Additionally, it aids in the tenderization of the pork by breaking down collagen, contributing to the desired pulled texture. The presence of liquid helps distribute heat evenly, preventing burning and ensuring a consistently cooked and delicious pulled pork.

Should pulled pork be fully submerged?

Pulled pork should not be fully submerged in liquid during the slow cooking process to maintain the desired texture and concentration of flavors. Submerging the meat entirely can lead to an overly wet and mushy consistency, diluting the rich flavors developed during cooking. It’s important to strike a balance by using enough liquid to keep the environment moist and flavorful without drowning the pork. This allows the exterior to develop a desirable crust, and as the collagen breaks down, the pork becomes tender while still retaining a satisfying texture.

How long can you leave pulled pork in a slow cooker?

It is generally safe to leave pulled pork in a slow cooker for up to two hours on the “Warm” setting after it has finished cooking. However, for optimal safety and quality, it’s recommended to transfer the pulled pork to a refrigerator or another storage method within two hours of completion to prevent the risk of bacterial growth.

pulled pork in a taco with pineapple and lettuce

If you love slow cooker pulled pork and beef recipes, then you will love my Slow Cooker Chipotle PorkSlow Cooker Honey Balsamic Beef, and Slow Cooker Beef Barbacoa!

More like this Asian Pork Recipe

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eating Vietnamese Caramelized Pork in green bowl with chopsticks

Slow Cooker Asian Pork (Caramelized Pork)

Asian Caramel Slow Cooker Pulled Pork is crazy tender smothered in the most addicting savory, sweet and spicy sauce infused with coconut milk, soy sauce, sweet chili sauce, fish sauce, sriracha, ginger and garlic. You will be licking your plate –  and the slow cooker. 
Servings: 8 -10 servings
Total Time: 5 hours 10 minutes
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 5 hours

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Ingredients

  • 4-5 lbs. pork shoulder/pork butt trimmed of excess fat
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Wet Rub

  • 2 tablespoons toasted sesame seed oil
  • 2 tablespoons ginger powder (sounds like a lot but it's amazing)
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tsp EACH salt, onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Slow Cooker Sauce

Caramel Sauce

  • 1 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup water

Instructions

  • Lightly spray a 6 qt + slow cooker with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.
  • Whisk together all of the Wet Spice Rub ingredients together in a medium bowl then massage it evenly all over the pork. Heat 2 tablespoons vegetable oil over high heat in a large cast iron skillet. Using tongs or 2 forks, sear pork on all sides until lightly browned. Place pork in prepared slow cooker.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together Slow Cooker Sauce ingredients (not Caramel Sauce) and pour all over pork.
  • Cook on LOW for 8 to 10 hours or on HIGH for 5-6 hours OR until pork is fall apart tender and easily shreds with a fork. At this point, remove pork to a cutting board until it is cool enough to shred.
  • Meanwhile, remove all of the sauce left in the slow cooker to a measuring cup. If there is less than 2 ½ cups then add enough water to equal 2 ½ cup. Set aside. You can add shredded pork back to the slow cooker now that you have removed the sauce.
  • To make the Caramel Sauce, add brown sugar and water to large skillet and boil over medium heat for 1 minute, whisking constantly. Don’t overcook or it will harden! Slowly whisk in the 2 ½ cups Slow Cooker Sauce and simmer over medium high heat, whisking constantly until reduced and thickened, approximately 7-10 minutes. Pour desired amount of Caramel Sauce over shredded pork and toss until evenly coated with a spatula. Add additional sriracha for spicier if desired.
  • Serve with rice/veggies/etc. and my Slow Cooker Caramel Pork Tacos with Pineapple Snow Pea Slaw are coming soon!

Notes

OVEN:  Tightly cover and bake at 425 F for 30 minutes then reduce the temperature to 325 F and continue to roast for an additional 5-6 hours or until super tender. Check the pork the last couple hours of cooking to make sure there is still liquid and add a little coconut milk if needed.

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210 Comments

  1. Lisa says

    I know I just commented with a question the other night on this recipe, and probably don’t answer this publicly, but I had not read the love story part of your story until yesterday for some reason.

    Did you grow up in Poway and have a sister, Kim, who graduated from PhD in 95? Once I saw your maiden name it dawned on me that I’m quite sure I remember her saying she had sibling(s?) with CF, and as I had some other friends with it and it just not being something you heard people talk about back then, I’m guessing since you’re also LDS and a Sabin odds are high that you are sisters or at least relatives!

    If so, what a crazy small world and I can’t believe I somehow hadn’t pieced it together earlier when I started using your recipes!

    • Jen says

      Yes, I do! She is in pictures in the section A Perfect Brightness of Hope, and the Kidney Transplant Update-Surgery Day! It really is such a small world!!

  2. sally wright says

    Hello, Jen
    Last night my great friend as well as superb cook was raving about this recipe – not only did she give me the recipe ASAP! but has now introduced me to you and your terrific site. I haven’t been able to read all your amazing whole story quite yet but can already feel your joyful and enthusiastic energy. It’s contagious!
    My question is can this recipe be halved as it’s only my husband and me? if so, how long would the pork need in the slow cooker? While I have one, I am very inexperienced with using it.
    Can’t wait to try this and so many more from your site.
    Sally

    • Jen says

      Hi Sally! I am so happy you found me! I hope you find more recipes to love! I would keep the cooking time about the same 🙂 Enjoy!

      • sally wright says

        Wow! That was a quick, great response!
        Thank you so much, Jen.
        Now to make it …
        Stay tuned!

  3. Mechelle Bodzin says

    This is one of our family favorites! Everyone is excited when it’s on the menu. At first I wasn’t sure about the carmel sauce, but I went with it and I’m so glad I did! I’ve shared this recipe so many times because the flavor is unbelievably good! I do a shortcuts by using pre-made Pico when I’m short on time. Otherwise, I don’t change a thing. Thanks for this amazingly delicious meal!

    • Jen says

      I am so glad that you and your family love the recipe and that the sauce pairs well! Thanks for sharing the recipe!

  4. Anna says

    Can you do a version of this recipe if the pork loin is frozen?

    • Jen says

      Hi Anna, unfortunately it needs to be thawed otherwise it stays at an unsafe temperature too long and will grow bacteria. Sorry!

  5. Sarah says

    I have Michiu—I believe it’s a Chinese rice wine. Would that work instead of the Japanese rice wine?

  6. Kathleen Perez says

    Can I substitute heavy cream for coconut milk

    • Jen says

      The consistency would be similar with heavy cream, but you’d be missing the coconut flavor – so totally your call.

    • Kelley Richard says

      Hi, Kathleen! Did you try it with heavy cream? I was wondering the same thing. Thanks!

  7. kat says

    Hello! I’ve made this with pork shoulder and it’s just delicious! My family devoured it! Unfortunately for me, my body doesn’t love pork! I am wondering if you’ve ever subbed in beef chuck in this recipe! Thinking of giving it a try! Let me know if you have any suggestions!

    • Jen says

      Hi Kat, beef would still be delicious!

  8. Anna says

    This has been a CONSISTENT favorite with my family (including two usually picky toddlers)! The flavor of the sauce is so good I’m tempted to just drink it up before even pouring it back over the pork. Every time I buy a pork butt now my husbands eyes light up and assumes I’m going to be making this recipe! An all around WINNER!

    • Jen says

      Thank you so much for your comment! I am so happy to hear that it has been such a go-to!

  9. Megan says

    Hi! What would you recommend using as a non alchoholic substitute? I would never use rice wine for any other recipes as well so a little more common ingredients are easier for me!

    • Jen says

      White grape juice is the best substitute, enjoy!

  10. Teo says

    Hi Jen
    I am looking forward to making this recipe on the weekend for friends, my piece of pork is closer to 6.5lbs and won’t fit in my slow cooker so will be going in the oven, how long do you think I should cook it for?
    Also do you think it would be ok to freeze the leftovers? Thanks!

    • Jen says

      Hi! The general rule for cooking pork butt/shoulder is to roast it low and slow, about 1.5 to 2 hours per pound at 300 degrees F. And yes, it can be frozen for up to 3 months! Hope this helps!

      • Teo says

        That’s great! Thank you for your quick response x

  11. Lady Lindsey says

    I tried this tonight and it was fantastic! My slow cooker is an instant pot / slow cooker combo. I did low for 8 hrs, but at the end of 8 hrs my temps were reading 140-160 degrees. So I put on the instant pot lid, switched to the instant pot setting, and cooked for 15 mins on manual, then let natural release for 15 mins. That brought my temps between 190-200 degrees in the roast. PERFECT! I then followed as directed for shredding & making the sauce. It was delicious!!! I am curious if anyone has made this in the instant pot from start to finish?

    • Jen says

      I’m so glad you loved it!!

  12. Libby says

    Can I make ahead and freeze? And if so, how do you recommend I reheat it?

    • Jen says

      Yes, just allow it to thaw in the fridge overnight. Reheat in the microwave or gently on the stove over medium-low heat, adding a splash of water if the pork seems a little dry or reheat in the slow cooker for 1-2 hours on low.

  13. Ashley says

    This was SOO GOOD! How can I make the pork pieces more crunchy/crispy?

    • Jen says

      I’m so glad you loved it! Since it’s saucy it isn’t usually crispy, but maybe after cooking it you can stick it in the oven at 425 until it crisps up a bit!

  14. Paula says

    I accidentally used rice wine vinegar. Will that work?

    • Jen says

      Hi Paula, at the end of cooking, you may need to add a little sugar to taste, but it should be fine. Enjoy!

  15. Lizzie says

    By far the best pulled pork I have ever made. That caramel sauce… oh my days!!

    • Jen says

      Thank you!! I’m so happy to hear that you loved the pork and sauce!

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