You’re sitting there, feeding the fire with hickory logs. Six hours have passed, and you already sense the familiar aromas of smoked meat. Your neighbors smell it too; this is how you start a block party.
The pulled pork sandwich is a southern classic. Pulled pork, like many other slow-roasted lumps of meat, make the core of the American barbecue cooking scene.
Traditions have passed from generation to generation, and it’s this type of cooking that we should have more of.
Slow roasting meat is a community effort; it takes long hours and requires skill.
People come together when it comes to roasting a whole pig or smoking a big chunk of beef; it’s incredibly satisfying.
After the hard work, it’s time to dig in. Succulent, juicy, fork-tender meat is what it’s all about.
Outdoor dining, long hours around the table, a good laugh, and a few cold ones. This is soul food, my friends, and it’s good.
It’s time to honor the slow-cooked meat and make it into sandwiches, but what are the best toppings for pulled pork sandwich?
After all, you have to make every sandwich count; it’s not like your digging out your smoker from the shed every day, right?
These are our favorite Pulled Pork Sandwich Toppings
At the end of the day, what to put on a pulled pork sandwich is a matter of preference, as long as you enjoy it, everything goes.
Here’s a warning:
A few of these toppings are out of the ordinary, sacrilegious for some. “Don’t mess with the classics,” they say. We say: if it tastes good, go for it. Read on to check out our topping ideas.
1. Coleslaw and Pickles, the Traditional Toppings
Let’s start with the classic pulled pork sandwich toppings because if it’s the first time you’ll try one, you want to know how it’s regularly enjoyed.
Coleslaw and pickles, or just coleslaw or pickles, are crowd-pleasers.
You see, pulled pork is delicious, yes, but it lacks texture. It’s fatty and downright flabby. You must add a crunch, and that’s where the coleslaw comes in.
You have to add some tanginess to break through the fat too, in the form of pickles.
Every bite is soft, palate-coating and intensely flavorful, but it now has a crunchy personality, and a fresh one too.
Start by watching this video by How To BBQ Right and learn how to make a killer slaw:
2. Mango Salsa, Tropically Spicy
Let’s break the rules and go wild with something new. A mango salsa, made with diced tomatoes, onions, jalapeno and mango, tossed with chopped coriander and a splash of lime juice; it makes everything taste better.
The salsa adds a crunch, the lime juice brings the acidity. The sweetness from the mango and an addictive spiciness from the jalapeno will transform your sandwich into an entirely different beast.
By the way, mango salsa is great for many other things, so keep the recipe close to your heart.
Check out this recipe from Who Needs a Cape for a Slow Cooker Mango Salsa Pulled Pork.
3. Red Gravy, the Cajun Holy Trinity
Pulled pork shines best when smothered in sauce. It brings out the meaty, smoky flavors without letting it dry.
There are many types of sauces, different taste profiles for different kinds of people. If you want to try something extra special, try topping your pulled pork with red gravy.
You might know it as Creole tomato sauce. Red gravy is made with tomatoes and the holy trinity of Cajun cooking: celery, bell peppers and onions.
This sauce is a delicious addition to your pulled pork sandwich; they have a history together.
See how Heidy Linn McCallum makes a mean Cajun-Style Red Gravy at Mccallum’s Shamrock Patch.
4. Pimento Cheese, a Southern Staple
Pimentos, also called red cherry peppers, cheddar or American cheese, and mayo are blended until smooth.
The resulting paste is incredibly aromatic and deliciously silky: spicy, creamy, and slightly tangy.
Think of it as a fortified dip. Better yet, picture it as a spread with the power of making good things great, and tasty foods delicious.
Spread your pimento cheese on your bun and see the results for yourself. Authentic southern flavors together again; Creole cuisine and barbecue cooking; a slow-cooked classic.
5. Sun-dried Tomatoes, The Italian Job
Sun-dried tomatoes are just what they say they are, but we never take the time to think about why they came to be.
Tomatoes are mostly water, and water is the last thing you want to add to a sandwich, it’s messy business.
If we could just have the sweetness of ripe tomatoes, all their savoriness, and their racy acidity without all the water — We do, in the form of sun-dried tomatoes.
Top your sandwich with a few of these, and you’ll level up your sandwich game like your kids do on their video games when they ask for your credit card.
Go crazy with Erica’s Italian Hoagie Pulled Pork Subs at Erica’s Recipes.
6. Onion Rings, a Match Made in Heaven
Onion rings have a je ne sais quoi that makes any burger or sandwich taste better. They add height, saltiness and a lovely crunch to your sandwich.
Adding battered onion rings to your sandwich is almost cheating, but hey, no one’s judging.
When the onion hits the hot oil, the exterior gets crunchy, and the interior caramelizes, resulting in sweet, umami-rich flavors impossible to fake.
Make sure your rings are crunchy and never soggy. Add them at the last minute too, the moisture in pulled pork can drain away their firm texture in a minute.
See what we mean by checking out Marion’s recipe for Slow Cooker Pulled Pork Sliders at Life Tastes Good blog.
7. Kimchi, the Other Slaw
We said pork was fatty; we also said a little tanginess could balance that fat.
We said pork was texturally bland; we also said a slight crunchiness could fix that.
Kimchi has all of this and more. Think of savory, tangy coleslaw with earthy aromas, mild spiciness and a funk.
You know Koreans master barbecued meat, right? They’ve been doing so before America was even born.
If kimchi is good enough for their pork, it’s good enough for us. Talking about exciting pulled pork sandwich toppings!
Get yourself convinced by the guys at The Sound of Food YouTube channel and their Kimchi Pork Sandwich.
8. Fried Okra, Soulful One-biters
The bright green pods with a gelatinous inside have been part of the southern cuisine since forever.
Originally from Africa, the ladies’ fingers have found a place on the American plate.
Cooking okra is no easy feat, but you can always cut them in chunks, coat them in flour, and deep fry them for their greatest rendition: the vegan nugget.
Top your pulled pork sandwich with a handful of these crunchy bites and add texture, flavor, and, above all, healthy veggies.
Learn how to make these exciting fried goodies with Milisa at Miss in the Kitchen.
9. Pineapple, Tangy Sweetness
This one is one of our favorite toppings for pulled pork sandwich; it’s so simple! You’ve seen the pictures in cooking magazines of the 70s: Pork meat embellished with pineapple slices and cherries.
Pork and pineapple were born to be eaten together; they complete each other.
A thick, juicy pineapple slice, the fresher, the better; go on, top your pulled pork sandwich. Take a bite, and tell your friends about it, this is surprisingly good!
You can call it a Hawaiian pulled pork sandwich; you know we do.
Lindsay knows exactly what we mean at her blog Pinch of Yum with her grilled pineapple pork sandwiches.
10. Honey Mustard, King of Spreads
Let’s talk about spreads for a second, particularly about mustard. We all know mustard packs a bite, a pleasing strong flavor that works wonders with meat.
Will it work with pulled pork? It certainly will, because pork is fatty and salty. Mustard’s spicy and oily profile complements the meat rather nicely, especially if you get the honey mustard one, it’s the sweetness that balances the hearty meat.
It’s true that mustard walks a tight rope, either you love it or hate it. If you like mustard, you’ll have no problem adding it to your pulled pork sandwich.
See what we mean at Inspired by Charm. Michael makes some sweet Pulled Pork Sliders with Sweet Mustard Marinade.
11. Teriyaki Sauce, Flavors of the Orient
Teriyaki is a sweet and sour, umami-rich, soy-based sauce that makes grilled meat taste unarguably good.
Like the BBQ sauce of the orient, it has many uses and goes well with any meat-based protein such as teriyaki chicken.
The sauce can be overpowering for sure, but again, slow-cooked pork is not shy when it comes to flavor.
Mix the teriyaki sauce with the meat before building your sandwich and see it transform into something completely new.
Christin makes a lovely Crock Pot Teriyaki Pulled Pork perfect for sandwiches at her blog Spicy Southern Kitchen.
12. Jalapeno Peppers, a Game Changer
Without over-complicating things, jalapeno slices are simply a tasty topping.
I’m sure you can imagine them over a chili dog, or over cheese nachos, so why not give them a chance and add them to your pulled pork sandwich?
These guys are bona fide toppings.
There’s no explanation here; it’s only good food over good food. Unless you can’t stand spicy food, go for it.
Jalapenos are mild chili peppers. They rank low on the Scoville scale (the index that gives heat a numerical value).
Once you get used to it, you can upgrade to spicier peppers. Did someone say habanero?
Nancy, the Coupon Clipping Cook makes a spicy Slow Cooker Pulled Pork & Cheesy Jalapeño Sandwich.
13. Pork Rinds, Pork Over Pork
Pork on pork, there, the ultimate topping. Pork rinds are crunchy, they’re cheap, they’re tasty.
The dryness of the fried pork rinds will cancel out with the juicy pork meat; you won’t even feel it. Pork rinds will give your sandwich a much-needed volume too.
Avoid store-bought, though, they’re often just made out of flour.
Ask your local butcher, he’ll fix you up. He’s got the good stuff out the back.
Brett at Bacon’s Heir shows us how to make pork rinds from scratch.
The Best Pulled Pork Sandwich Toppings: The Ideal Sidekick
You’ve managed to pull off an epic pulled pork sandwich, congratulations!
Now it’s time to make a whole meal out of it. Learning what to put on a pulled pork sandwich is one thing; making sure you have the best side for pulled pork is something else.
Here are a few ideas for you to complement your sandwich, from healthy alternatives to trashy, delicious sides.
Corn on the Cob
A good ol’ grilled corn on the cob helps build the Southern theme around your outdoor get-together. Add some butter and alternate bites with your sandwich.
Life can’t be better than this.
From all the fried finger foods around, tatter tots are the most underrated.
Fried to golden perfection, these hash browns rolled into small balls are crispy, greasy, and utterly satisfying.
Make your own, it’s an excellent skill to master.
Because a pork sandwich (like roast beef sandwich toppings) can be quite heavy, there’s a need to lighten things down. A watermelon slice screams of summer. It’s messy, yes, but so is your sandwich.
You won’t see us recommend broccoli often, it’s not the way we roll, but roasted broccoli, that’s another thing entirely.
Roast your broccoli with garlic butter, and you’ll forget which one’s the side dish and which one the main.
Now we’re talking. Cook a big pot of baked beans, add sausages, bacon, onion, garlic, aromatic herbs and your favorite spices.
Make a large batch; everyone will want doubles.
Roasted Shishito Peppers
This is another lovely addition to your evening outdoors. Grill these little devils and pop them into your mouth. Spicy, savory, and slightly bitter equals an addictive starter.
Making a Pull Pork Sandwich Even Better
While we’re at it, we should talk about the most common problems you can encounter while making pulled pork sandwiches. You wouldn’t want killer toppings only to have sub-par everything else, right?
1. My pulled pork is too dry
We probably overcooked the meat. Add sauce to it; it will bring some moisture back.
Also, make sure you’re using pork shoulder. Any other piece of meat will end up dry.
2. My bun keeps falling apart
Pulled pork can make even the best buns give in. Try potato buns, they’re denser and will handle the juicy meat nicely.
3. How much pork do I need to make a sandwich?
Ten pounds of pork meat is enough to make around thirty sandwiches.
4. Is there a way to prepare vegan pulled pork?
Yes, there is, although much research is still needed, some folks have done wonders with jackfruit pulp.
Pulled pork sandwich toppings covered from A to Z. Now the ball is in your court.
Do you have what it needs to take the pulled pork sandwich to the next level? Can you walk the walk?
Take your leftover pulled pork you’ve been saving and dress it up the way you most want to.
Don’t let the purists put you down; remember, if it tastes good throw it in!
What to Put on a Pulled Pork Sandwich
- Coleslaw & Pickles
- Mango Salsa
- Red Gravy
- Pimento Cheese
- Sun-dried Tomatoes
- Onion Rings
- Fried Okra
- Honey Mustard
- Teriyaki Sauce
- Jalapeno Peppers
- Pork Rinds
- Choose your desired Pulled Pork Sandwich topping recipe.
- Gather and organize needed ingredients.
- Create tasty Pulled Pork Sandwich toppings to complete your meal!