This Instant Pot Pork Butt is unbelievably fork tender and flavorful. It’s seasoned with a simple rub, then smothered in a quick and easy homemade BBQ sauce. Serve this sweet and savory shredded pork on sandwiches with a side of Air Fryer Carrot Fries for the ultimate home-cooked meal.
📋 About the Recipe
If you loved my Instant Pot BBQ Pulled Chicken, you will LOVE this Instant Pot Pork Butt!
- Only 10 minutes of hands-on prep! Don’t be scared by the long total cook time. All you need is 10 minutes to get this meat cooking and the Instant Pot will do all of the work. Once pressure cooking, feel free to prepare other dishes for your meal.
- Freezer friendly. If you are cooking for a small family, feel free to stick half of the cooked pork in the freezer for a later meal. I’ve given full freezing and reheating instructions later down in the post.
- Versatile. Instant Pot pork butt can be served on sandwiches, on top of a BBQ pizza, in a rice bowl, in tacos, or in a fully loaded baked potato. Give it a try with my Instant Pot Boiled Potatoes or on burger buns topped with Kale Apple Slaw. Or, if you're making these sandwiches for a summer BBQ, serve with my festive Red, White, and Blue Fruit Salsa for a sweet appetizer or dessert!
A few notes about the ingredients:
- Pork butt - Pork butt is the most popular cut of meat for pulled pork due to its thickness. It has a remarkable ability to be cooked for long periods of time, which allows the meat to become incredibly tender. As an added bonus, it is also typically one of the cheaper cuts of meat and can be a great protein source when feeding a large family or crowd.
- Spices - In order to make the most flavorful meat, I highly recommend starting with a meat rub made with basic spices, such as smoked paprika, chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, ground mustard, and kosher salt.
- Brown sugar - Light brown sugar sweetens the BBQ sauce and balances the savory, tangy flavors in the Worcestershire sauce and the apple cider vinegar.
- Ketchup - I typically use store-bought ketchup for convenience, but a homemade ketchup works well too.
- Applesauce - Similar to the brown sugar, unsweetened applesauce sweetens the homemade BBQ sauce and adds depth of flavor.
- Worcestershire sauce - Helps balance and boost the flavor. I highly recommend using a quality Worcestershire sauce, such as Lea & Perrins.
⁉️ Substitutions and Alterations
- Use an alternative BBQ sauce. If you do not have time to wait for the homemade BBQ sauce to simmer until thick, feel free to use a store-bought BBQ sauce. However, I highly recommend using the homemade BBQ sauce so that it does not go to waste.
- Use an alternative meat rub. If you have a pre-mixed rub, feel free to substitute it for the spice blend.
- Use pork shoulder. 7 pounds of pork shoulder can be successfully substituted for the pork butt. Use what you have or what is currently available in your grocery store.
- Prep the pork. Cut around the bone, cutting the pork butt into large pieces. Discard the bone.
- Prepare the meat rub. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the smoked paprika, chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, ground mustard, salt, pepper, and ½ tablespoon of the brown sugar.
- Coat the pork with the rub. Sprinkle the seasoning over all sides of the pork and rub to fully coat in the seasonings.
- Sear the meat. Set your Instant Pot to the “sauté” setting. When warm, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Once hot, add a few large pieces of pork, searing on each side for a few minutes until browned. Remove the meat and continue until all pieces are seared.
- Make the sauce. Cancel the sauté setting, then carefully pour the water and unsweetened applesauce into the pot. Scrape the bottom of the Instant Pot to remove any browned bits. Next, add the ketchup, remaining brown sugar, apple cider vinegar and Worcestershire sauce. Stir to combine.
- Pressure cook for 60 minutes. Carefully add the seared pork back into the Instant Pot. Cover with the Instant Pot lid, set the valve to the “sealing” position and pressure cook on manual high pressure for 60 minutes.
- Naturally release pressure for 20 minutes. Once the timer is up, allow the pressure to naturally release for 20 minutes before switching the valve to the “venting” position and manually release any remaining pressure.
- Shred the pork. Remove the pork from the Instant Pot to a large cutting board to shred with two forks. It should be fall-apart tender.
- Thicken the sauce. When shredding the pork, place the Instant Pot back on the sauté setting to simmer the sauce and thicken it. Simmer for 30 minutes, or until reduced and starting to become thick like BBQ sauce. Stir occasionally to prevent burning.
- Stir in the pork. Add pork back to the Instant Pot and stir to coat in the sauce.
- Serve. Serve the Instant Pot Pork Butt warm on hamburger buns with coleslaw and pickles, on top of nachos, or on top of a baked potato.
❄️ How to Store
To store: This Instant Pot Pork Butt will store best in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months. Before storing, allow the meat to cool completely to room temperature.
To freeze: When freezing this shredded pork, I recommend storing double bagged in an airtight zip top bag. For example, place the pork inside a freezer safe bag, remove all excess air, then seal tightly. Then, place that bag inside a second freezer safe bag. This will prevent freezer burn.
To reheat: Refrigerated pork butt can be reheated in the Instant Pot, on the stovetop, or in the microwave until warmed through. Frozen pork should be thawed completely in the refrigerator (1 to 3 days), then reheated as usual.
🔍 Recipe FAQs
Despite its name, pork butt is actually a thick cut of meat from the shoulder and neck of the pig. It’s considered a moderately tough cut of meat and is most commonly used in recipes such as shredded pork, slow cooked meals, BBQ pork, and hearty roasts.
Although both pork butt and pork shoulder are cut near the shoulder, pork butt is a thicker cut from higher up on the pork’s foreleg. Pork shoulder is cut from lower on the shoulder, down into the foreleg. Pork shoulder is a leaner cut, whereas pork butt is higher in fat and overall a thicker cut.
If your pork is tough, it is likely it was not cooked long enough. If you cooked it for the full 60 minutes, it is possible that the pressure cooker did not seal properly. Always double check the valve on the Instant Pot lid is set to “seal,” not “vent”. If that was done, check the sealing ring on the Instant Pot lid. Check this thorough post: Reasons Why Your Instant Pot is Not Sealing for more troubleshooting.
As a general rule of thumb, the longer you cook pork butt, the more tender it will become. With that being said, there is no benefit to cooking the pork over the called for 60 minutes. It will be fall apart tender by 60 minutes.
💭 One More Tip
Do not skip the sear! It may be tempting to skip searing the meat to cut down on prep time, but this step helps seal the juices inside the pork and keeps the pork from tasting dry. All you need to do is quickly brown the outside - no need to worry about cooking the meat all the way through. It will fully cook during the manual high pressure cooking.
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Instant Pot Pork Butt
- 7 pounds pork butt (or pork shoulder), fat trimmed
- 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
- ½ tablespoon chili powder
- ½ tablespoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon ground mustard
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ½ cup + ½ tablespoon light brown sugar, divided
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- ½ cup water
- ½ cup unsweetened applesauce
- ½ cup ketchup
- 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 3 tablespoons worcestershire sauce
- Cut the pork into large pieces. You will need to cut around the bone. Discard the bone.
- In a small bowl, combine smoked paprika, chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, ground mustard, salt, pepper, and ½ tablespoon brown sugar.
- Sprinkle the seasoning mixture over all sides of the pork. Rub to fully coat the pork in seasonings.
- Set instant pot to the “sauté” setting. When warm, add the olive oil. Let olive oil heat for about 30 seconds, then add a few large pieces of pork. Sear for a few minutes per side, until browned on all sides. Remove pieces and continue with the rest. Do not overcrowd the pot, or else the pork won't brown.
- Cancel the sauté setting. Carefully pour water and applesauce into the pot, scraping the bottom to remove any brown bits.* Once brown bits have released from the bottom, add the ketchup, ½ cup brown sugar, apple cider vinegar, and worcestershire sauce. Stir to combine.
- Carefully add pork back into the pot. Cover instant pot with the lid, set valve to the “sealing” position and pressure cook on high for 60 minutes.
- When the timer is up, let pressure release naturally for 20 minutes before switching the valve to the “venting” position and manually releasing any remaining pressure.
- Remove pork to a large cutting board to shred with two forks. It should be fall-apart tender.
- While shredding the pork, place instant pot back on the “sauté” setting to simmer the sauce and thicken it. Simmer for 30 minutes, or until reduced and starting to become thick like BBQ sauce. Stir occasionally so the bottom doesn’t burn.
- Add pork back into the pot and stir to coat in sauce.
- When searing the pork butt, you will only be cooking the outside to seal in all the juices. You do not need to worry about cooking the meat all the way through, since it cooks fully while pressure cooking.
- *Make sure you scrape up all the brown bits at the bottom of the pot so you don't get a burn warning while pressure cooking.
- If you don't want to wait for the sauce to thicken, you can simply coat the pork in your favorite BBQ sauce instead. However, I highly recommend using the sauce so that a) it doesn't go to waste, and b) you get all that delicious flavor!
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