10 Pork Shoulder Recipes To Add To Your Dinner Rotation

pulled pork on hamburger bun
pulled pork on hamburger bun - Michelle McGlinn/Mashed

In a human, the shoulder sits atop the arm, but pigs don't have arms so pork shoulder is actually the bit that comes just above the front leg. That means that these muscles get quite a workout whenever the pig goes trotting around snuffling for truffles or conducting whatever other porcine business it has to attend to. Pork shoulder may not be as tender as less-exercised cuts such as the aptly-named tenderloin, but it can be just as delicious when cooked the right way, which is usually low and slow.

The main reason you might want to cook pork shoulder, however, is that it tends to be pretty economical, which is not to be sneezed at in these days of ever-rising food prices. Pork shoulder does tend to come in a generously sized package, it's true, but even solo diners will find plenty to like in our collection of recipes. Some require just a small portion of pork, while in other cases, either the entire dish or at least the porky part can be frozen in single-serving portions to reheat whenever you're in the mood to eat high on the hog.

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Braised Pork And Apple Casserole

stew on mashed potatoes
stew on mashed potatoes - Feta Topalu/Mashed

As pork shoulder is a super-rich meat, it helps to lighten it up with something fruity like apples. Pork roast and applesauce is a classic pairing, but in this take on the dish, the apples are baked in a casserole along with pork chunks, carrots, and shallots. This recipe calls for using sweeter apples like the Honeycrisp or Gala, but if you prefer a tarter flavor you can swap them out for Braeburns or Granny Smiths.

Recipe: Braised Pork And Apple Casserole

Slow Cooker Pork And Sauerkraut With Apples

sliced pork with sauerkraut
sliced pork with sauerkraut - Kristen Carli/Mashed

No matter how healthy fermented foods may be, a plateful of sauerkraut is not something many would want to tackle on its own. However, when this pungent canned cabbage product is paired with the mild flavor of pork and sweetened up with apples and apple cider, all of these disparate elements meld into a flavorful slow-cooker stew. If you're looking for a low-carb meal you can eat it on its own, but pair it with potatoes or buttered noodles if you want something a bit more filling.

Recipe: Slow Cooker Pork And Sauerkraut With Apples

Aldi 5 Ingredient Carnitas Tacos

pulled pork tacos with salsa
pulled pork tacos with salsa - Erin Johnson/Mashed

While Aldi's offerings tend to vary with the seasons or possibly a purchasing manager's whims, if you see the Carnitas pre-seasoned boneless pork shoulder on offer, it's usually a pretty decent deal. Unlike some pork shoulder roasts, it even comes in a moderately-sized package weighing just 2 pounds or so. If you combine this meat with a few other Aldi purchases — a package of corn tortillas, an onion, a bunch of cilantro, and a tub of salsa — you'll have everything you need to make meaty street tacos.

Recipe: Aldi 5 Ingredient Carnitas Tacos

Slow Cooker Cochinita Pibil

pulled pork tacos with guacamole
pulled pork tacos with guacamole - Kristen Carli/Mashed

Cochinita pibil, like carnitas, is a Mexican take on what we in the U.S. call pulled pork. This recipe starts with a pork shoulder roast simmered in a marinade made of three types of citrus juice: lemon, lime, and orange. Once the meat is nice and tender, you can shred it, stuff it in tortillas, and finish things off with all of the usual taco toppings such as cheese, hot sauce, sour cream, and guacamole.

Recipe: Slow Cooker Cochinita Pibil

Easy Pork Asado

pork chunks on patterned plate
pork chunks on patterned plate - Jason Goldstein/Mashed

Yes, this is another Mexican pork recipe, and no, it won't be the last one on the list. Interestingly enough, pork asado has Chinese roots and many recipes show a Filipino influence. Our easy take on the dish seasons the pork with a simple blend of chili or taco seasoning, salt, pepper, and lime juice. Once cooked, the meat can be left in hefty chunks and served up with a side of rice and beans, but if you prefer, you can also chop or shred it to stuff inside tortillas.

Recipe: Easy Pork Asado

Pork Loaded French Fries

fries with pulled pork
fries with pulled pork - Ting Dalton/Mashed

You may call the dish loaded fries or fratchos, but whatever name it goes by, the basic idea remains the same: sturdy french fries on the bottom, meaty and/or cheesy goodness on top. Here we're piling the fries high with pulled pork, as you probably guessed from the recipe's name, before finishing things off with two types of onions (green and red), two types of cheese (Jack and cheddar), and two condiments (barbecue sauce and sour cream).

Recipe: Pork Loaded French Fries

Slow Cooker Al Pastor

tacos with pork and pineapple
tacos with pork and pineapple - Christina Musgrave/Mashed

Yes, it's yet another Mexican-style recipe, albeit one with Middle Eastern roots this time -- tacos al pastor were adapted from shawarma, a dish familiar to the Lebanese immigrants who moved to Mexico at the turn of the 20th century. The original dish was made with lamb, hence the name ("pastor" is Spanish for "shepherd"), but in its new homeland, it came to include local products such as pork and pineapple. Some al pastor recipes call for canned pineapple, but ours uses the fresh kind. It also adds the non-traditional ingredient of beer, although you can replace this with pineapple juice for a non-alcoholic version.

Recipe: Slow Cooker Al Pastor

Authentic Mexican Tamales

open tamale with lime slices
open tamale with lime slices - Tommy Leung/Mashed

This is the last of our Mexican pork shoulder recipes, but it's a doozy. Tamales, which are a traditional Mexican Christmas food, are a true labor of love and it helps to have toda la familia there to help assemble them. Following this recipe from start to finish will give you a real feeling of accomplishment, but if you're short on time and helpers, you could always just cook the garlic and ancho-seasoned pork filling and use it to -- you guessed it -- fill tortillas.

Recipe: Authentic Mexican Tamales

Classic Cuban Sandwich

hands holding sandwich
hands holding sandwich - Michelle McGlinn/Mashed

While many sandwiches are made with cold cuts, what makes the Cubano so interesting is that in addition to deli ham, Swiss cheese, and pickles, it's made with roast pork. In fact, it's one of the very few sandwiches we can think of that include such an ingredient. An entire pork shoulder will make a lot more meat than you'll need for a few sandwiches, but this recipe would be great for any time you have leftover roast pork to use up.

Recipe: Classic Cuban Sandwich

Low And Slow Pork Butt Roast

partially shredded pork shoulder
partially shredded pork shoulder - Michelle McGlinn/Mashed

The flavors in this slow-braised pork recipe are also Cuban-inspired -- the meat is marinated in a mixture of lime and orange juices seasoned with spices including cinnamon, chili powder, cumin, oregano, and pepper. The pork is then seared in a hot oven and finished off in up to nine hours at a very low temperature, with the result that the meat is fork-tender. It can easily be shredded for use in sandwiches and, yes, tacos, but it would also be great in a rice bowl alongside a heap of black beans.

Recipe: Low And Slow Pork Butt Roast

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