Low-Sugar Barbecue Pulled Pork Sandwiches

These barbecue sandwiches feature slow-cooked pork with a naturally-sweetened homemade sauce.

Barbecue Pulled Pork Sandwiches on tray with buns, slaw, and bowl of sauce
Photo: Jason Donnelly
Hands On Time:
20 mins
Slow Cook Time:
6 hrs
3 cups pulled pork


  • 1 cup chopped onion

  • 1 ½ pound trimmed, lean boneless pork shoulder roast, cut into 2-inch pieces

  • 1 ½ teaspoon smoked paprika

  • 1 ½ teaspoon chili powder

  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin

  • ½ teaspoon ground chipotle pepper

  • ½ teaspoon cracked black pepper

  • ¼ teaspoon dry mustard

  • ½ cup water

  • ½ cup Medjool Date-Sweetened Barbecue Sauce (recipe below)

  • 1 recipe Whole-Wheat Hamburger Buns, split and toasted

Whole-Wheat Hamburger Buns

  • 2 cup whole wheat flour

  • 1 cup warm water (110°F to 115°F)

  • 1 tablespoon sugar

  • 1 pkg. active dry yeast

  • 2 eggs

  • 3 tablespoon butter, melted

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 1 ½ cup all-purpose flour

  • 1 tablespoon milk

  • 1 teaspoon sesame seeds (optional)

Medjool Date-Sweetened Barbecue Sauce

  • 6 medium roma tomatoes

  • 1 medium onion, cut into thin wedges

  • 2 fresh jalapeño peppers, halved and seeded*

  • 4 cloves garlic

  • 2 tablespoon olive oil

  • 1 cup water

  • 1 6 ounce can tomato paste

  • cup cider vinegar

  • 2 pitted whole Medjool dates

  • ½ teaspoon dry mustard

  • ½ teaspoon smoked paprika

  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin

  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt


  1. Place onion in a 3 1/2- or 4-qt. slow cooker; top with meat. In a small bowl combine next six ingredients (through dry mustard); sprinkle over meat. Add the water. Cover and cook on low 6 hours or until meat is very tender.

  2. Remove meat from cooker and reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid; discard remaining liquid. Shred meat using two forks. Return shredded meat and reserved cooking liquid to cooker. Stir in Paleo BBQ Sauce.

  3. Serve meat mixture in Hamburger Buns, using about 1/3 cup mixture for each bun.

Whole-Wheat Hamburger Buns

  1. In a large bowl stir together 1/2 cup of the whole wheat flour, the warm water, sugar, and yeast until smooth. Let stand 10 to 15 minutes or until foamy. Add remaining 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour, one of the eggs, the melted butter, and salt. Beat with a mixer on medium 3 minutes. Gradually stir in as much of the all-purpose flour as you can.

  2. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead in remaining all-purpose flour to make a moderately soft dough that is smooth and elastic (3 to 5 minutes). Shape into a ball. Place in a lightly greased bowl, turning to grease surface of dough. Cover and let rise in a warm place until double in size (1 hour).

  3. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Punch dough down. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Pat dough into a 10x6-inch rectangle. Cut into eight pieces and shape into balls, tucking edges underneath. Flatten balls to 1/2-inch thickness. Arrange 1/2 inch apart on prepared baking sheet. Dust with additional flour. Cover and let rise in a warm place until double in size (1 hour.)

  4. Preheat oven to 375°F. In a small bowl whisk together remaining egg and the milk. Gently brush tops of buns with egg mixture. If desired, sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake 20 minutes or until tops are light brown (buns will stick together slightly where they touch). Remove; cool on a wire rack.

Medjool Date-Sweetened Barbecue Sauce

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Line a 15x10-inch baking pan with foil. Place tomatoes, onion, jalapeño peppers, and garlic in prepared pan; drizzle with oil. Roast 15 minutes or until tender and lightly charred.

  2. In a large saucepan combine roasted vegetables and remaining ingredients. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cool slightly.

  3. Blend with an immersion blender until smooth. (Or transfer to a blender or food processor; cover and blend or process until smooth.) Store in freezer up to 3 months. Thaw in refrigerator before reheating.

To Make Ahead

Prepare as directed through Step 2, except do not stir in Paleo BBQ Sauce. In an airtight container toss shredded meat with reserved cooking liquid; cool. Store in refrigerator up to 2 days. To reheat, remove and discard any visible fat on surface of meat. Transfer meat to a bowl and stir in barbecue sauce. Microwave, covered with a paper towel, 3 to 4 minutes or until heated through, stirring occasionally. Serve as directed in Step 3.


Chile peppers contain oils that can irritate your skin and eyes. Wear plastic or rubber gloves when working with them.


For a spicier version, leave seeds in one or both of the jalapeño peppers.

Nutrition Facts (per serving)

361 Calories
10g Fat
46g Carbs
22g Protein
Nutrition Facts
Servings Per Recipe 8
Calories 361
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 10g 13%
Saturated Fat 4g 20%
Cholesterol 96mg 32%
Sodium 431mg 19%
Total Carbohydrate 46g 17%
Total Sugars 4g
Protein 22g
Vitamin C 4.2mg 21%
Calcium 47mg 4%
Iron 3.4mg 19%
Potassium 490mg 10%
Folate, total 95.9mcg
Vitamin B-12 0.5mcg
Vitamin B-6 0.6mg

*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.

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