Weeknight Pulled Pork with Chipotle Barbecue Sauce

Last Updated on April 3, 2013 by Jennifer Pallian BSc, RD

Tender pulled pork in spicy-tangy-sweet barbecue sauce.

It has to be one of the most pleasurable foods known to man (in the realm of foods that do not contain hot fudge and/or whipped cream). It definitely ranks high on my list of favourites.

Usually, for me, making this beloved meal involves slow roasting a huge pork shoulder in a low oven for 6 hours – for most of which I am hanging on to the oven door handle like it’s a roller coaster ride, face so close to the viewing window it gets sunburnt, with a puddle of drool slowly accumulating at my feet…

And although I do enjoy that process, the anticipation, (and torturing myself, my husband AND my dog with the incredible smell), I just unlocked the secret to succulent pulled pork on a Tuesday. It’s a life changer. Half an hour, boom – done. And the best part? It is every. Bit. As. Good.

So what’s the secret? Huh? Huh?

Pork tenderloins. They’re super tender, flavourful, and very quick cooking.

You whip up an easy, richly flavoured sauce with the usual barbecue suspects – onion, garlic, ketchup, brown sugar, vinegar, plus chipotle for heat (use the lesser amount if you don’t like things too spicy) – and cook the tenderloins right in it. After a 30 minute simmer, they’re cooked through, perfectly tender and willing to shred with the slightest encouragement of a fork.

I like that the tenderloins are also very lean – you don’t feel weighed down in that pork-y way that can occur after a barbecue feast.

I served mine the first night with a creamy-tangy coleslaw on soft squishy warmed buns, and with quick pickled red onions (recipe included) on charred corn tortillas the second night.

So good.


For quick pickled red onions

  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup vinegar
  • 1/2 red onion, very thinly sliced

For pulled pork

  • 3 tbsp oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped (finely if not if not using immersion blender, otherwise coarse is fine)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1-2 tbsp chipotle in adobo sauce (minced, if not using immersion blender)
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1/3 cup white vinegar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 pork tenderloins (about 1 3/4 lbs total), cut in thirds
  • Buns or warmed corn/flour tortillas for serving
  • Sour cream, cilantro, sliced avocado for topping (optional)


  1. In a microwave safe bowl, combine sugar, salt and vinegar. Microwave at full power for 45 seconds, then stir unti sugar and salt are dissolved. (You can of course do this in a saucepan on the stove if you prefer). Add thinly sliced onion and let stand while you prepare pork. Drain just before serving.
  2. Heat the oil in a large saucepan or dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion and cook until translucent, but not browned, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook 1 minute. Add chipotle, ketchup, vinegar, brown sugar, soy sauce and water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and blend using an immersion blender, or proceed without.
  3. Add pork tenderloin pieces to the sauce and bring to a rapid simmer. Cover the pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until cooked through (71°C/160°F on a meat thermometer, or remove one piece and cut through centre to ensure it’s no longer pink inside); about 30 minutes.
  4. Transfer pork to a cutting board. Bring the sauce back up to a low boil and allow it to reduce and thicken slightly.
  5. Using a fork in each hand, pull the pork apart into bite-sized shreds, working with the grain of the meat. Return shredded meat to the sauce, stir to coat, and serve in soft buns or tortillas, topped with pickled onions, sour cream, avocado, cilantro (and/or other desired toppings!)
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