Apple Jack Pulled Pork Buns


We're using apple juice and whiskey to produce one of my favorite versions of pulled pork. Which, by the way, we're not pulling it, it's more like smashing. Speaking of smash, the name comes from the fact that this was originally made with Jack Daniels®, but you can use any whiskey you want, like I did, or not at all. This is served with a very mustardy and acidic slaw specifically made to pair with the sweet pork.

Prep Time:
20 mins
Cook Time:
2 hrs 25 mins
Chill Time:
8 hrs
Total Time:
10 hrs 45 mins

Everything about the name of this recipe is misleading. It sounds like the pork might be cooked with an apple brandy, but it's not. If it were, it would've been "Applejack" pulled pork, but the meat is actually stewed in apple juice and whiskey. That whiskey was originally Jack Daniel's®, but I used a local bourbon, so that part of the name is disingenuous as well. Hey, at least the pulled pork part is accurate. Just kidding. It's smashed, not pulled.

Recipe title-related artistic license aside, this is one of the most delicious "pulled" pork preparations I know, and one of the easiest methods ever. I love traditional pulled pork, where the whole shoulder is slowly smoked, and then pulled into succulent shreds, as long as it's done properly. That's a hit or miss proposition, as it's often dry and over-smoked. This method produces moist, flavorful pork every time, with much less effort and in significantly less time.

As I mentioned in the video, this particular recipe is on the sweet side, which I thinks works perfectly with the sharply-flavored slaw I topped it with, but if you want to dial that back, you can simply use less apple juice and replace it with water or broth. No matter how you adjust the ingredients to your taste, I do recommend you make it the day before. There is just something magical that happens to stewed meat, pulled or otherwise, when you reheat it, so if you have the time, that's definitely the way to go. Either way, I hope you give this a try soon.


  • 2 ½ pounds pork shoulder roast

  • 1 red onion, diced

  • 6 cloves garlic, minced

  • 2 ½ teaspoons kosher salt

  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika

  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper

  • cup bourbon whiskey

  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar

  • 3 cups apple juice

  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives, or to taste

  • 8 sesame seed burger buns

For the Mustard Slaw:

  • 4 cups finely shredded Savoy cabbage

  • cup thinly sliced green bell pepper

  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced green onions

  • 2 tablespoons prepared yellow mustard, or to taste

  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise

  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

  • ½ teaspoon salt, or to taste

  • freshly ground black pepper to taste

  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper, or to taste


  1. Cut pork shoulder into 2-inch chunks. Transfer to a stew pot. Add onion, garlic, kosher salt, pepper, smoked paprika, and cayenne. Pour in bourbon whiskey, apple cider vinegar, and apple juice. Stir to combine.

  2. Place over high heat and bring to a simmer; stir and reduce heat to low. Cover and let simmer until meat is fork-tender, about 2 hours.

  3. Use a spider strainer to transfer meat mixture to a bowl and set aside.

  4. Turn heat back to medium-high and reduce cooking liquid to about 75%, skimming the fat off of the top if desired.

  5. Reduce heat to low, stir in reserved pork, and use a potato masher to break pork into smaller pieces. Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, to heat through and make sure pork absorbs sauce, 2 to 4 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.

  6. For best results, refrigerate for 8 hours, or overnight.

  7. Meanwhile, combine cabbage, peppers, green onions, mustard, mayonnaise, vinegar, salt, black pepper, and cayenne for slaw in a large bowl. Mix very well. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or up to 12 hours.

  8. Reheat pork the next day over medium heat, stirring often. Stir in chopped chives.

  9. Mix mustard slaw well and drain off any excess moisture. Serve pork with mustard slaw on sesame seed buns.

    Apple Jack Pulled Pork Buns
    Apple Jack Pulled Pork Buns. Chef John

Chef's Notes:

Use any kind of onion you prefer. You can use apple cider or part water, part apple juice for a less-sweet version.

You can use hot peppers instead of sweet for the mustard slaw.

You can serve the pork immediately instead of chilling overnight.

Nutrition Facts (per serving)

530 Calories
23g Fat
42g Carbs
31g Protein
Nutrition Facts
Servings Per Recipe 8
Calories 530
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 23g 30%
Saturated Fat 7g 36%
Cholesterol 89mg 30%
Sodium 1172mg 51%
Total Carbohydrate 42g 15%
Dietary Fiber 3g 12%
Protein 31g
Potassium 794mg 17%

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

** Nutrient information is not available for all ingredients. Amount is based on available nutrient data.

(-) Information is not currently available for this nutrient. If you are following a medically restrictive diet, please consult your doctor or registered dietitian before preparing this recipe for personal consumption.

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