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Slow-Cooker BBQ Pulled Pork Sliders with Tangy Buttermilk Apple Slaw

BBQ pulled pork sliders are a game-day favorite. The secret to dropping the sugar in these is using ripe nectarines and cocoa powder to sweeten the BBQ Sauce. Apples in the slaw add extra sweetness and delicious crunch. This recipe makes a big batch, so you’ll comfortably please a crowd or have leftovers for a quick weekday lunch. You can cook the pork in a 6-quart slow cooker or in the oven (see Variation), depending on your preference. Serve the slaw on the side or inside the sliders. If inside, be sure to cut the vegetables into strips small enough to fit in the buns.

Excerpted from Half the Sugar, All the Love by Jennifer Tyler Lee and Anisha Patel, MD, MSPH. Photograph by Erin Scoot. Workman Publishing ©2019.

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  • Yield: Serves 10

Ingredients:

For the Slow-Cooker BBQ Pulled Pork
  • 2 ½ pounds boneless pork shoulder or pork butt, untrussed, thick outer fat removed
  • 1 ½ tablespoons BBQ Spice Mix (see below)
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 cups BBQ Sauce (see below)
  • 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • White vinegar
  • Dash of salt
For the Buttermilk Apple Slaw
  • 2 tablespoons whole buttermilk or plain yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt plus extra as needed
  • teaspoon freshly ground black pepper plus extra as needed
  • 3 cups thinly sliced green or red cabbage
  • 1 cup shredded or matchstick carrots
  • 1 red apple, cored (skin on) and cut into matchsticks
  • 2 tablespoons minced green onions
  • Fresh cilantro leaves (optional)
For the Spice Mix
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened natural cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 1 ½ teaspoons chipotle chile powder or chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon granulated garlic
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
For the BBQ Sauce
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 cups chopped sweet onion (1 large)
  • cup packed light brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2 nectarines, pitted and chopped, or 10 ounces frozen peaches, thawed, drained, and chopped
  • 1 can tomato paste (6 ounces)

Steps:

  1. Step 1

    Make the spice mix: Combine the cocoa powder, salt, ginger, paprika, chili powder, thyme, garlic, and pepper in a small bowl.

  2. Step 2

    Make the sauce: Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the onion and sauté until very tender, 12 to 15 minutes, stirring often.

  3. Step 3

    Add 3 tablespoons of the Spice Mix and stir into the onion. Add the sugar, vinegar, nectarines, and tomato paste plus 1 ½ cups water. Scrape the bottom of the pan, stir well, and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and cook until thickened, 20 to 30 minutes. Puree until smooth with an immersion blender, or let cool, then puree in a blender.

  4. Step 4

    Rub the pork with the BBQ Spice Mix, covering all the surfaces well.

  5. Step 5

    Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the oil and heat until hot but not smoking. Swirl to coat the pan. Add the pork and brown on all sides, a few minutes per side. Watch closely so the spicy coating doesn’t burn.

  6. Step 6

    Place the pork in the slow cooker, then pour the BBQ Sauce and chicken broth around the sides. Cover and cook until the meat is very tender and can be pulled apart with a fork, on high heat for 3 to 4 hours or on low heat for 6 to 8 hours.

  7. Step 7

    Finish the pork: Remove the pork from the cooker and transfer to a cutting board. Spoon the oil off the top of the sauce. Shred the pork with two forks, removing any big chunks of fat, then return the meat to the sauce and stir together gently, adding the vinegar and salt to taste. Keep warm.

  8. Step 8

    Make the slaw: Whisk together the buttermilk, olive oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Add the cabbage, carrots, apple, green onions, and cilantro leaves, if using, and toss together. Season with more salt and pepper if needed.

  9. Step 9

    Make the sliders: Scoop some of the pork into each slider bun and either top with some of the slaw or serve the slaw on the side. Serve immediately with the hot sauce.