Slow Cooker Cherry Cola Pulled Pork – Super juicy, smoky, tangy-and-sweet pulled pork that is just bursting with flavor and moisture thanks to Cherry Coke and barbecue sauce! The EASIEST recipe because your Crock-Pot does all the work! Perfect for Memorial Day, Father’s Day, barbecues, potlucks, game day events, and more.
Easy Slow Cooker Cherry Cola Pulled Pork Recipe
Lately I’ve been on a slow cooker pork kind of roll from sliders to tacos.
And now I’m excited to share this super juicy, smoky, sweet-and-tangy, and ultra flavorful slow cooker pulled pork recipe made with Cherry Coke!
Yep, there’s one can of cherry cola in this easy Crock-pot pulled pork recipe. Think that’s crazy? Go check out my Dr Pepper Bacon Baked Beans too!
But honestly you don’t really “taste” the cherry coke as much as you think you would. Rather, the sugars in the cherry cola caramelize during the long slow cooking process and just add a ton of fabulous flavor.
Combined with a cup of barbecue sauce and liquid smoke, this is one sweet and savory delight. I promise, this is going to be a family favorite recipe because of the layers of flavor in this tender pork.
The best thing ever is how easy this recipe is. It’s a true set-it-and-forget-it type of slow cooker recipe.
Whether you’ve got a ton going on because school is letting out and there are tons of activities going on. Or you are are getting ready for Memorial Day Weekend, and then there’s soon Father’s Day, this recipe is just what you need.
And who doesn’t love a Crockpot recipe on warm summer days when you don’t want to turn on your oven. Plop your slow cooker in the garage and voila, no hot house. Bring this simple pork recipe to your next potluck and watch everyone beg you for the recipe!
Ingredients in Cherry Coke Pulled Pork
For this easy peasy slow cooker recipe for juicy Cherry Coke pulled pork, you’ll need a handful of spices to create the dry rub and other basic pantry ingredients, and of course the pork itself.
Note: Scroll down to the recipe card section of the post for the ingredients with amounts included and for more complete directions.
What Is the Best Cut of Pork for Crockpot Pulled Pork?
It can be confusing to understand the difference between various cuts of pork and what’s best for the recipe at hand.
For my easy Crockpot pulled pork with cherry cola, you can use either pork butt or pork shoulder.
Cook’s Illustrated has a great graphic that shows you the difference as well as a handy chart indicating when to use either pork butt (higher up on the pig’s body) or pork shoulder (farther down).
- Pork Butt (also known as Boston Butt) – Well marbled with intramuscular fat which adds great flavor. Usually sold with the fat cap on. Use it when you are stewing, braising, or want fall-apart tender pulled pork!
- Pork Shoulder (also known as Picnic Roast or Picnic Shoulder) – Less intramuscular fat and marbling. Usually sold with the skin on. Use it when you want crispy skin. If you’re using boneless pork shoulder, it’ll likely be sold with a net which you can keep on. Bone-in pork shoulder doesn’t come with netting.
The pork can be boneless or bone-in. Note that bone-in will take slightly longer to cook than boneless, but this is a non-rushed, slow cooking type of recipe anyway. Another 30-60 minutes isn’t a big deal.
It’s All About The Fat
For this recipe, you can use either pork butt OR pork shoulder.
However, I am partial to pork butt because of the fat cap.
I put this on top while the cherry cola pulled pork is slow cooking and it acts as a natural basting device!
And for this reason I don’t strain out the fat after cooking the Cherry Coke pulled pork again because it’s full of flavor. And I keep most of the cooking juices and toss my freshly shredded pork in them.
However, if you are concerned, you can chill the cooking juices in a container in the fridge, the fat will harden and rise to the top, and you can discard some of it.
How To Make Pulled Pork in a Slow Cooker with Cherry Cola
It doesn’t get any simpler than a Crockpot recipe like this one.
Trust me when I say that this is one of the easiest pork recipes you’ll ever make – and one of the most flavorful!
Step 1: Make a dry rub by combining the brown sugar, a tablespoon of smoked paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, two teaspoons of liquid smoke, and black pepper in a small bowl.
Tip: If you’re not a liquid smoke person, you could try worcestershire sauce instead.
Step 2: Place your pork in your slow cooker and rub the spice rub all over it, coating all sides.
Step 3: Pour the barbecue sauce over the top.
Step 4: Drizzle the Cherry Coke over the top.
Step 5: Put the lid on your Crock-Pot and slow cooker for hours!
Knowing When Slow Cooker Pork Is Done
If you’re cooking a 4 to 5-pound pork butt or pork shoulder in your slow cooker, it will be done after approximately 5 to 6 hours on HIGH HEAT or 8 to 10 hours on LOW HEAT. But these are estimates because all slow cookers vary in their heat intensity and output, and so do all cuts of pork.
1. First I insert a digital thermometer, check to make sure it reads at least 170F.
2. Then, I go by the visual look and feel of the pork when I check it. If I insert a fork after the indicated cooking time, and can feel very little resistance and tender meat, I then let it rest for 15 minutes before shredding it.
For me the best clue for knowing when it’s done is that if the meat starts to pull apart easily when you check it. And once I begin shredding it with just two forks, it will shred very easily with almost no resistance.
If you want to go by internal temperature as measured with a digital thermometer, the National Pork Board has a range of temps from 145 to 160F, depending on the cut of pork. However, other sources such as the Food Network suggest a temp of 190-195F.
Don’t Overcook – There seems to be a consensus though that 200F is the maximum temp you should go with because you can overcook the pork, at which point it’ll be chewy, stringy, dry, and simply not that tasty.
Step 6: Remove pork and after the slow cooker Cherry cola pork has rested for about 15 minutes to allow the natural juices to redistribute, you can go ahead and shred it with two forks. Or just pull it apart with your fingers.
Step 7: Place the shredded pork roast back into the slow cooker and stir it around with the juices before serving! Drizzle more bbq sauce over the top too if you’d like.
Don’t Discard The Juices!
Don’t Discard the Cooking Juices and Liquid – It’s pure flavor from the spice mixture, liquid smoke, barbecue sauce, as well as from fat that has rendered out!
Plus, it’s welcome moisture that’ll keep your shredded slow cooker pork nice and juicy!
If you have what seems like “too much”, you can discard some but I usually don’t and mix them all into the freshly shredded pork.
Serving Suggestions for Cherry Cola Pulled Pork
If you want to eat your homemade cherry cola pulled pork with a fork the minute it’s ready, I don’t blame you.
You can also use it in sliders, sandwiches, tacos, as a pizza topping, or just about anything in between, it’ll be a winner with everyone!
What To Serve with Crockpot Cherry Coke Pulled Pork
I have a ton of side dish ideas for this easy pulled pork recipe include the following:
- Dr Pepper Baked Beans – Not just any baked beans, these EASY baked beans with bacon, onions and peppers, also have Dr Pepper to give them FANTASTIC depth of flavor! Sweet-and-tangy, savory, hearty, and your NEW favorite baked beans recipe!
- Borracho “Drunken” Baked Beans – These “drunken beans” are simmered with a can of BEER and can be made in your SLOW COOKER OR INSTANT POT! The bacon, sausage or chorizo, jalapenos, tomato, onion, garlic, herbs, and beer make these the BEST beans ever!
- Bourbon Maple Slow Cooker Baked Beans — The BEST baked beans ever! The flavors of bourbon, maple syrup, brown sugar, molasses, and BBQ sauce intensify and concentrate over time, and the resulting beans have incredible depth of flavor. Sweet with a bit of heat, robust yet smooth, and extremely satisfying!
- Bacon Potato Salad – This no mayo Potato Salad with Bacon is ready in just 30 minutes! It’s a vinegar potato salad the whole family will love!
- Warm German Potato Salad — A classic potato salad made with tender red potatoes, bacon, onions, and a tangy vinegar dressing! This no-mayo potato salad is a family favorite side dish that’s perfect for parties, picnics, and potlucks!
- Grilled Corn and Avocado Salad – An EASY and HEALTHY salad that’s ready in 10 minutes and you won’t be able to stop eating it! Juicy corn, creamy avocado, cilantro, and fresh lime juice is a FIESTA in your mouth!
- Grilled Corn and Black Bean Salad – An EASY corn salad with black beans, zucchini, red onions, cilantro, lime juice, and more!
- Skinny Mexican Bean and Corn Salad – Two kinds of beans, juicy corn, tomatoes, peppers, and more tossed in a light chili-lime-cumin vinaigrette! Healthy, easy, ready in 5 minutes, and loaded with flavor!
Storing Leftover Cherry Soda Pulled Pork
Leftovers will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 4 months. Reheat it gently in the microwave
Slow Cooker Cherry Cola Pulled Pork FAQs
No you do not! I’ve made pulled pork both searing it and not searing it before adding it to my slow cooker. It’s quite a task to sear a big slab of pork and frankly, I don’t find the final result to taste any different. So you can go ahead and skip searing it. One less step is always nicer!
You can use either depending on what’s available in your supermarket. I don’t find them to appreciably change the flavor or texture of the final pulled pork, so go with what you can find. I used bone-in for this one.
If you do use pork shoulder rather than pork butt, and it’s boneless, it’ll often have netting on it. You can add it into your slow cooker with the netting on.
This is up to you, but we like Sweet Baby Ray’s. You can use your favorite bbq sauce.
I call for liquid smoke in the recipe, but it’s up to you. If you want some extra smokey flavor, add it. However, if you don’t care for the flavor or don’t have it on hand, you can omit it.
Yes, you can make pulled pork in the oven. You’ll want to use a low oven temp, about 275-300F, season the pork as I recommend for the slow cooker method, add cherry cola and then the bbq sauce, and cook it covered in a large Dutch oven in the oven for about 3 hours, or until done.
However, you should research oven-cooking on your own and cook until it’s done since all ovens, and cuts of pork, vary.
I recommend a slow cooker that’s at least 6 to 7-quarts for this recipe. If you’re cooking a bigger piece of pork, you may need an even bigger slow cooker. However, the recipe is written for a 6 or 7-quart Crock-Pot.
I recommend simply using one 12-ounce can Cherry Coca Cola.
I use the brand name, and not generic.
I know that there is Vanilla Cherry Coke as well as a Zero Sugar Cherry Coke, however I do not recommend them.
The former because of the vanilla aspect + pork = unappealing for me. And the later because I don’t like simmering diet beverages for hours because the flavor can change and turn strange. I mentioned this in my Dr Pepper Baked Beans recipe and
to not use Diet Dr Pepper!
Sure thing. Some options that come to mind include regular Coca-Cola (not Cherry Coke), Pepsi, root beer, and Dr Pepper. Regular versions and NOT diet/zero sugar is my recommendation.
You can also use 12 ounces of beer. Use your favorite from light to dark.
5 hours 25 minutes
- 1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
- 1 tablespoon onion powder
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 2 teaspoons liquid smoke (optional but recommended)
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 4 to 5 pound pork butt or pork shoulder (bone-in or boneless)*
- 12 ounces Cherry Coca Cola
- 1 cup Sweet Baby Ray’s Barbecue Sauce (or your favorite)
- To a small bowl, add the brown sugar, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, liquid smoke, pepper, and stir to combine.
- Place the pork in a large 6 to 7-quart slow cooker with the fat cap up. Tip – This acts as a natural basting device and keeps the pork super moist and flavorful.
- Evenly press the spice rub mixture evenly over all sides of the pork using clean hands.
- Evenly pour the Sweet Baby Ray’s over the pork.
- Evenly and slowly stream the Cherry Coca Cola over the top.
- Place the lid on the slow cooker and cook for 5 to 6 hours on HIGH or for 8 to 10 hours on LOW. Tips – Start checking for doneness about 1 hour earlier than the recommended cooking time. As mentioned in the blog post, there are a wide range of internal temperatures listed online for when pork is done, but the best clue for doneness is that when you insert a fork into the pork, that it inserts with very little resistance and you can see the pork is ready to easily just pull or fall apart. You can also insert a digital thermometer. I do this first, check to see that it’s about 170F, and from there, go by the visual clues of it looking and feeling like it’s ready to easily shred.
- Allow the pork to rest on a cutting board for about 15 minutes.
- Reserve the cooking juices and liquid that’s in the bottom of the slow cooker. Tips – There will be about 1 to 2 cups, but if there is a lot more, you can potentially discard some of it (I don’t) but reserve at least 1 to 2 cups (or to taste) because you will swirl the shredded pork around in it.**
- Shred the pork with 2 forks, or just pull it apart with your fingers.
- Place the shredded pork back into the slow cooker and stir it around so it absorbs the juices before serving as desired in sliders, sandwiches, tacos, etc. Alternatively, you can add additional straight barbecue sauce, as desired – either more as a drizzle/garnish, or stir the shredded pork around in some barbecue sauce.
- Leftover pulled pork will keep airtight in the fridge for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 4 months. Reheat leftovers gently in the microwave. Tip – Check out my Pulled Pork Sliders and my Pulled Pork Tacos recipes for great ways to use your pulled pork. In those recipes I used “plain” Slow Cooker Pulled Pork but this Cherry Cola Pulled Pork will also be great.
*Pork Butt vs. Pork Shoulder – For this recipe, you can use either pork butt OR pork shoulder. However, I am partial to pork butt because of the fat cap. I put this on top while the cherry cola pulled pork is slow cooking and it acts as a natural basting device!
** I don’t remove the cooking juices nor strain the fat after slow cooking because it’s full of flavor. Whatever is in my slow cooker, I let it remain there and then mix the shredded pork in with that. We love super juicy meat. However, if you are concerned about excess juice, remove it as you see fit. And if you are concerned about fat, you can chill the cooking juices in a container in the fridge, the fat will harden and rise to the top, and you can discard some of it, and then mix it with shredded pork as desired.
Amount Per Serving:
Calories: 739Total Fat: 46gSaturated Fat: 17gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 24gCholesterol: 207mgSodium: 1091mgCarbohydrates: 22gFiber: 1gSugar: 18gProtein: 56g
More Easy Pork Recipes (Many are Crockpot):
Slow Cooker Pulled Pork – The EASIEST recipe for pulled pork because your Crock-Pot does all the work for you! Set it and forget it for this AMAZING pulled pork that’s super flavorful and so tender and juicy! Great for pulled pork sandwiches and tacos!
Easy Pulled Pork Sliders – Moist and tender pulled pork, topped with barbecue sauce and coleslaw, and sandwiched between soft Hawaiian rolls! Everyone LOVES these EASY juicy sliders that are finger lickin’ good! PERFECT for game days, casual entertaining, backyard barbecues, graduation and Father’s Day celebrations.
Pulled Pork Tacos – The BEST pulled pork tacos made with slow cooker pulled pork, nestled in tortillas, and then topped in abundance with Cilantro Lime Slaw, Pickled Red Onions, and Avocado Crema! Learn how to make these Mexican-inspired classic recipes at home! Easy enough for weeknights but also great for events, game day parties, get-togethers like Cinco de Mayo fiestas or graduation parties!
Slow Cooker Hawaiian Pulled Pork — Pork is slow cooked to perfection and has Hawaiian-inspired flavors from pineapple and teriyaki sauce! Sweet, tangy, tender, and juicy! It makes the best pulled pork sandwiches that everyone loves!
Slow Cooker Pork Tenderloin — Tender and juicy boneless pork tenderloin is slow cooked with hearty vegetables for a complete and EASY meal! Reminiscent of a hearty and rustic recipe, yet fancy enough for a special dinner or holiday entertaining!
Slow Cooker Ham and Bean Soup — An incredibly EASY and comforting soup that can be made with leftover holiday ham or deli ham! Your slow cooker does all the work to meld the flavors together.
Slow Cooker BBQ Ribs — Tender, juicy, fall-off-the-bone baby back pork ribs that are finger-lickin’ good! With just 5 minutes of active prep, your slow cooker does all the work in creating ribs that your friends and family will beg you to make over and over!
Maple Glazed Pork Chops and Sweet Potatoes — The PERFECT fall-inspired dinner with juicy pork chops that are smothered with the most mouthwatering maple bourbon glaze and cinnamon-and-spiced roasted sweet potatoes on the side! This stunning comfort food recipe is great for family dinners and busy weeknights because it’s EASY to make!
Tacos Al Pastor — Learn to make this staple Mexican recipe that includes thinly sliced pieces of pork marinated in a tangy, sweet pineapple sauce AT HOME! Juicy, flavorful, tender pork served in tortillas with onions, cilantro, lime juice, and salsa! You’ll want every night to be taco night!