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Sweet & Tangy BBQ Pork Sandwiches {Paleo option}

Need a meal for the upcoming holiday weekend? We have you covered! Enter Sweet & Tangy BBQ Pork Sandwiches.

Closeup look of BBQ Pork Sandwich

I don’t know about everyone else, but I am constantly pouring over ideas for what to serve at holiday parties. There are so many options, and the bounty of foods available is never-ending. When we were deciding what we would be cooking, I couldn’t get the image of a huge, sloppy, saucy, immensely flavorful sandwich out of my mind. There is something so satisfying about biting into an overstuffed bun and enjoying the messiness of it all.

Grilled Buns

If you all haven’t caught on by now, we are a flavor-forward house. Like, we don’t often bother with anything overly plain. Don’t get me wrong, we love simple dishes just as well, but they need to be made with the best ingredients, so those few elements really shine. Our main dishes tend to take center stage, so we don’t want anything else that would overpower them. All items should complement one another, lending to a well-balanced meal.

Grilled bun topped with BBQ shredded Pork and Pickles

So when we set out to put together a holiday-worthy sandwich, we knew it had to include several key components. First, to satisfy “sauce-man” himself, a killer sauce. Second, a multi-faceted, substantial base. I am a huge fan of salty, sweet, and tangy, loving a note of each flavor profile. Can’t have just one focus, oh no, that wouldn’t satisfy these high maintenance cooks.

To support a thick, rich sauce, we mix it with a juicy, slightly fatty cut of pork, that absorbs the sauce perfectly. To cut the sauce, we finish with creamy cole slaw, tart crunchy pickles, and a buttery grilled bun. Paired with a grilled vegetable, simple green salad, and a fun pitcher cocktail, we have all the elements of a memorable holiday party.

Top view of an open BBQ Pork sandwich with pickles and a bowl of onions and bbq sauce at the sides

Bring on warm weather, great friends, a long leisurely night, and I am in heaven. Or at least, a pork and BBQ sauce version of heaven.

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Tangy Sweet BBQ Pork Sandwiches

Elevate the traditional pulled pork sandwich with a tangy sweet sauce, quick cole slaw, pickles, and a grilled bun. A party favorite you can throw in the slow cooker, and quickly finish when your guests arrive. Includes a Paleo option as well!
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Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 8 hours
Total Time 8 hours 30 minutes
Course Entree, Main Course
Cuisine American
Servings 6 -8


  • Slow Cooker


Pulled Pork

  • Special equipment: slow cooker
  • 4-5 pound boneless pork shoulder roast
  • 2 small red onions
  • 3 medium apples Fuji, Pink Lady or other semi-tart variety
  • 2 ripe Bosc pears
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 2 tablespoons smoked paprika
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar substitute honey for Paleo option
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh cracked pepper
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 cup chicken stock or water


  • Quick Cole Slaw recipe follows
  • Kosher dill pickle slices
  • Brioche buns grilled or toasted (substitute lettuce boats or grain free bread for Paleo)

BBQ Sauce

  • 1 cup reserved cooking liquid
  • 1 cup reserved cooked onions and fruit
  • 4 tablespoons reserved dry rub mix
  • 1 teaspoon mustard powder
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar substitute honey for Paleo option
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons ketchup
  • 4 ounce can tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire
  • 1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

Quick Cole Slaw

  • 1 bag Cole Slaw mix 10 ounces
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise use homemade or avocado mayo for Paleo option
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • Salt and pepper to taste


Pulled Pork

  • Remove roast from refrigerator, and let come to room temperature while you prep other ingredients. Mix paprika, sugar or honey, chili powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper in a small bowl and set aside.
  • Halve the onions and slice into rings. Halve and core apples and pears, and cut into slices. Smash and peel the garlic cloves.
  • Pat the roast dry with paper towels. Using 1-2 tablespoons of your spice mixture, rub into roast to coat well.
  • Place onion rings in the bottom of your slow cooker, and set roast on top. Sprinkle apples, pears, and bay leaves around the roast, then drizzle chicken stock or water around the edges. Cover with lid, and cook on low for 8-10 hours, or on high for 6-8 hours.
  • Once done cooking remove roast from slow cooker and place on a cutting board. Once cool enough to handle, shred with two forks and set aside.

BBQ Sauce

  • Add all ingredients to a high powdered blender or food processor, and blend until smooth. Transfer sauce to a medium sauce pan, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Once boiling, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 25-30 minutes until thickened. Remove from heat and let cool.
  • Add about 2 cups of BBQ sauce and shredded pork back to slow cooker, and set heat to warm. Add remaining sauce to a glass jar, let cool to room temperature, then transfer to refrigerator. This will keep in the refrigerator for 7-10 days.


  • While your pork cooks, prepare your toppings. Add cole slaw mix to a large bowl.
  • In a separate small bowl, whisk mayo, vinegar, honey, celery salt, and pepper. Transfer dressing to the bowl with cole slaw, and mix to combine. Add extra salt and pepper as desired. Cover and set in refrigerator to chill, at least 1 hour.


  • Pile pork on a grilled or toasted brioche bun, lettuce or Paleo bread. Top with cole slaw, pickles, and extra sauce as desired.


*For a complete meal, serve sandwiches with a side of grilled corn, and a simple green salad.
**You can also make the pork and sauce the night prior, then reheat in your slow cooker the following day.
***Make this dish Paleo by omitting the brown sugar from the pork and sauce, and replacing with more honey and/or coconut sugar. Serve on Paleo bread or in lettuce cups.
Keyword BBQ, Cookout, Make ahead, Summer
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

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