Pulled Pork Sandwiches

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Early on the Memphis barbecue scene you could visit ‘Leonard’s’ lunch counter and get a five cent pulled pork sandwich, if you got there early enough.  We’re not sure if it included a slaw topping like their sandwich today, but the legacy does continue.

So, you’ve crafted the rub, smoked the shoulder all day, and built the barbecue sauce. It’s show time!

There is nothing wrong with a plate of tender delicate smoked pulled pork, a couple side dishes and some sauce for dipping. If you were served cafeteria style, you’ll get a couple slices of white bread, pickles and chopped onions. However, this meat yearns to be sandwiched.

What bread is best for pulled pork sammiches?

As mentioned, pulled pork is actually a delicate texture when done correctly, and by definition composed of smaller segments of the meat.

Why does this matter?

When selecting the proper bread product for your sammich you need to consider the texture. A ciabatta roll does great with sliced meats or even burgers, but it is a more durable chewy bread product. Tastes great, but when you fill it with pulled pork you’ll have handfuls squirting out all over because of the bread texture.

In Memphis you’ll generally get your sandwich on a nice soft burger type of bun. These envelope the meat, sauce, and toppings. Although you can’t dally when eating, they will eventually soften up from the juices, they still are an excellent vehicle for the sandwich. Today the bun choices in the grocery are fun, from super soft potato flour based buns, on out to whole wheat choices. 

Alternatives are a soft Kaiser or a Telera roll, a great score if you have the right market nearby.

Building the Best Pulled Pork Sammich

So you’ve selected your bread delivery vehicle. There is nothing wrong with just meat and a slather of sauce; simplicity can be great.  And you will often be given just that in a Memphis BBQ joint. You’ll also see a large dollop of sweet pickle relish adorning the sandwich, and even more commonly, cole slaw as the other sandwich filling.

Our cole slaw recipe is great as a side, and uses onion as an ingredient so it makes an excellent top on the sandwich. But we still have a couple more simple ideas for how to make your sandwich a special item.

Top toppings

Pickle relish is a fine condiment. So here’s a simple way to take that to a higher level. Pick your favorite pickle; dill, sweet, bread and butter, or something else. Get a chip cut or whole pickle.

Savory slaw recipe

In a bowl:

  • 1 cup coarsely, 1/4 “, chopped pickles
  • 1 medium sized sweet onion chopped to match
  • 1 tablespoon pickle juice

Stir together and refrigerate overnight. A great homemade relish ready to go.

If you don’t want a huge batch of slaw, here is a simple dressing recipe that you can easily multiply in size as needed.

Swet onion pickle relish recipe

In a bowl, whisk together:

  • ½ cup mayo
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • Squeeze of lemon
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Dress ¼ small head of cabbage, chopped, and some grated carrot, or your favorite slaw blend of veggies.

Stack it up

prepare to build
It is a great look to stack the meat, the sauce, and then the topper. If you mix the sauce in with your pulled pork, that works just fine too. These are your more traditional ways to serve the sammich. However, some folks will broil a slice of cheese over the top, or grill some onions for it.

Pulled pork Sammiches

You can augment either of the two toppings we suggested by adding pepperoncini or some jalapenos for a bigger kick, corn in the slaw for texture, or thinly sliced bell peppers. Basically the sky is the limit, or perhaps the height of a sandwich you can comfortably wrap your mouth around.


Traditional Memphis BBQ Sides

The BBQ Sauces of Memphis