Chinese Pulled Pork Sandwiches with Kale and Apple Slaw

June 19, 2021
12 Ratings
Photo by Linda Xiao
  • Prep time 25 minutes
  • Cook time 2 hours 30 minutes
  • Serves 4
Author Notes

I was looking for a twist on a classic pulled pork and cole slaw sandwich when I eyed my sister's garden brimming over with kale. I worked backward from there. The slaw is lemony-tart and has that super savory, lip-smacking quality of miso while the apple and carrot lend a little sweetness. The pork is fragrant and flavorful, and the whole combination, while hearty, isn't too heavy. The recipe multiplies well and would make a great appetizer in slider-size. If you can't get hold of dried shiitakes, use double the amount of fresh (crimini mushrooms will work, too), and sauté them along with the onions. I use chickpea miso, but any lighter-style soy (or other) miso will work fine. —vvvanessa

Test Kitchen Notes

WHO: vvvanessa is a blogger, Bay Area-ite, and the brains behind some of our favorite kitchen hacks.
WHAT: A just-messy-enough pulled pork sandwich and bonus kale & apple slaw -- our new go-to cold-weather side.
HOW: Brown & braise pork. Shred & stir slaw. Toast buns. Heap, eat.
WHY WE LOVE IT: The pork is beautifully spiced and falling apart tender in less braising time than you'd think. And we always love a new use for miso! —The Editors

What You'll Need
  • Chinese Pulled Pork
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 1/2 pounds boneless country-style pork ribs (or boneless pork shoulder/butt, cut into large cubes)
  • 1 small onion, peeled and sliced thin
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 3 slices of peeled ginger, roughly 2 inches long
  • 1 piece star anise
  • 1/4 cup dried shiitake mushrooms (pre-sliced)
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/3 cup white wine or mirin
  • 1/3 cup water or chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • 4 sturdy, good-quality hamburger buns, Kaiser or potato rolls, or ciabatta rolls
  • Kale and Apple Slaw
  • 3 tablespoons white or yellow miso paste
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1 bunch tuscan/dinosaur/lacinato kale stemmed and cut into extremely thin strips (about 4 loosely packed cups in total)
  • 1 small Fuji apple, cored and grated on the large holes of a box grater (about 1/2 cup total)
  • 1 medium carrot, grated on the large holes of a box grater (about 1/2 cup total)
  1. For the pulled pork, heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven and brown the pork on two sides over medium heat, working in batches as necessary to avoid crowding the pan. As the pork is browned, remove it to a plate.
  2. Once all the pork is browned, add the onions, garlic, and ginger to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally to pull up all the browned bits from the bottom of the pan, until they begin to soften, about 5-8 minutes. Add in the star anise and mushrooms and stir for another minute more.
  3. Nestle the pieces of pork back into the pan. Add the soy sauce, wine, vinegar, water/stock, and sesame oil, and stir to distribute. Add in additional water or chicken stock as necessary to bring the liquid level to about halfway up the pieces of pork (it's fine if there's a bit more than that). Bring the liquid to a boil, then reduce heat to a gentle-to-moderate simmer and cover the pot.
  4. Braise the pork until very tender, about 2 hours.
  5. While the pork is braising, make the kale slaw. In a large bowl, combine the miso, lemon juice, vinegar, olive and sesame oils, and pepper to make a thick dressing. Toss in the kale, apple, and carrots, and mix continuously for a couple of minutes to coat the kale very well. Make it at least an hour or two before serving. Store in the refrigerator.
  6. When the pork is fork-tender and falling apart, remove it from the pan and onto a large plate. Remove any unwanted hunks of fat still remaining, and shred the meat with two forks (or your fingers if the meat is cool enough). Skim the fat from the pan and discard. Also discard the star anise pod. Reduce the sauce over medium-low heat to about 1/2 cup (if there is more than that).
  7. To assemble sandwiches, place a heaping mound of shredded pork on the bottom half of each bun. Drizzle a tablepoon or two of reduced sauce onto the meat. Top with a generous mound of the kale slaw. Top with the other half of the bun, and serve.
  8. If you like an extra-spicy, vinegary kick, slice 1-3 hot peppers (jalapeño, serrano, habañero, Thai, or a combination of) and set them in a cup of rice wine vinegar before starting the pork. Spoon the vinegar over the meat (as much or as little as you'd like) before adding the kale slaw on top.
Contest Entries

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Cena
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    Rochelle Bilow

44 Reviews

Jeff January 18, 2023
Going to make this weekend. Can you tell me which bun you're using in the picture. Looking forward to this. Thanks
vvvanessa January 18, 2023
The photo with the carrots is mine, and I think I used a potato roll or brioche bun (it was a long time ago). Either one is something I would use again. The picture with the black background is one that food52 took, and I don't know what they used. Hope it turns out for you!
Cena April 22, 2019
My husband, who loves a good BBQ pork sandwich went nuts for this. Will definitely make it again.
krikri February 25, 2018
This was wonderful! Purists will be horrified but I don't have miso paste, in any colour. I cranked "miso paste substitute" into the google machine; what came out was tahini, tomato paste, and fish sauce (in more or less equal parts). I'm sure it was *totally wrong* but damn it tasted good.
dillybug March 11, 2015
I LOVE food and really enjoy trying new things. I have to say, when I read through this recipe initially I was a bit on the fence about the confluence of ingredients. This recipe simply took my breath away. What a crazy combination of flavors, tastes and textures that work perfectly together. My whole family enjoyed this recipe unequivocally. For our tastes I will be a little more attentive next time to using low sodium soy, broth and rice vinegar. It was just a bit too salty which can be easily remedied. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this recipe!!!
vvvanessa April 17, 2015
dillybug, thank you so much for such a generous compliment. I love when I'm a little skeptical about a combination of flavors but it somehow works out!
Nicky D. January 31, 2014
Hi vvvanessa!

My name is Nick and I'm writing on behalf of the National Pork Board. We'd love to post a link to your Chinese Pulled Pork with Kale and Apple Slaw recipe on our social media pages. We'll use your image and link to your blog post on both Facebook and Twitter (we'll pin the image on Pinterest), but we would like your permission to use your beautiful photography.

Is it OK if we use this photo:

Thanks so much!

Nick Drew
Consumer Relations

T 312.988.2090
F 312.988.2363
E [email protected]
Weber Shandwick
875 North Michigan Avenue, Suite 2400
Chicago, IL 60611

Sara October 8, 2013
So delicious! My family was skeptical of the kale, but it was nothing to be skeptical of! This is my new go-to for slaw.
vvvanessa October 10, 2013
Thanks, Sara! It's the only way I've found so far to get my partner to eat kale, too!
Chef T. September 2, 2013
This is the best pulled pork sandwich I have ever had (my boyfriend even said the same!). The combination of the pork and the slaw was outstanding. Definitely keeping this recipe at the top of my list!
vvvanessa September 3, 2013
Wow-- I'm so glad you liked it, and thanks for letting me know!
Rochelle B. August 8, 2013
Anything pork & apples is beautiful in my book. The flavors sound incredible here.
vvvanessa September 3, 2013
sticksnscones March 7, 2013
I made this in the slow cooker yesterday & it was amazing!!! The amount of pork was closer to 4 lbs & I didn't modify the quantities of the other ingredients. Instead of chicken stock I substituted miso dissolved in boiling water. I shredded the pork as soon as it was done. Letting the remaining liquid sit in the refrigerator overnight allowed me to skim off some of the fat. Instead of reducing the sauce I returned it all back to the slow cooker for a couple of hours.
Anna P. March 16, 2013
Did you brown the meat first or did you through everything in the slow cooker. I'm hoping to skip the browning step if not necessary.
Miss B. May 10, 2017
I've tried some very similar Chinese style pork recipes that do not have the browning step and the pork comes out tender and juicy, perfect for eating as pulled pork or as is -- so yes, the browning part is not necessary. You do need to bring the liquid (together with the meat) to boil first.
student E. March 7, 2013
making this for tonight! has anyone tried it in a slow cooker? thanks!
vvvanessa March 7, 2013
No, but the recipe seems ideal for a Crockpot!
Adelucchi December 10, 2012
Wow!! What excellent flavors! Made this tonight for friends and my husband watching the game tonight. Pretty sad that I won't have any leftovers for lunch tomorrow. Made a few changes based on what I had on hand. Used sake and sesame oil with chili peppers as substitutes for white wine and sesame oil. Delicious and easy. Oh yes and the kale slaw is sooooo good. I'll probably never make cabbage slaw again! Thanks for the recipe and congratulations on your prize. Best wishes.
vvvanessa December 10, 2012
Thank you! I really appreciate the feedback and am glad the recipe worked out for you.
EmilyC November 4, 2012
Made this tonight -- it's insanely good! So good that my husband and I kept stopping mid-bite to proclaim how good it was and to discuss when we'd be making it again! I used over 4 lbs of pork (kept the other proportions the same) and I'm so glad I did because otherwise I'm not sure we'd have leftovers. The kale-apple slaw is perfect, but on its own and with the pork. Thanks for this gem of a recipe!
vvvanessa November 17, 2012
Thanks, EmilyC! I'm really glad you liked the recipe!
inpatskitchen October 25, 2012
Congratulations on the wildcard win. This looks sooo good!!
vvvanessa October 26, 2012
Thank you! I hope it makes it into your kitchen : )
SKK October 25, 2012
Vanessa you so deserve this wild card win! Have always loved this recipe. And when is your cookbook coming out?
vvvanessa October 26, 2012
Thanks, SKK! When do you want to write that cookbook with me?
pimimond October 24, 2012
I made this as directed...EXCEPT that after I browned the meat and added the rest of the ingredients, I MADE IT IN THE PRESSURE COOKER!!!! IN 17 MINUTES! After I skimmed the meat out of the broth, I cooked the broth down in the pressure cooker while I shredded the meat. Family LOST THEIR MINDS. BIG THUMBS UP!
vvvanessa October 26, 2012
Wow! What better compliment is there than your family losing their minds? Thank you, and I'm really so glad you liked it!
AntoniaJames October 24, 2012
Wow, this promises to be my new favorite recipe using pork shoulder (and that says a lot)! My kids are going to love it, too. Great recipe from a great cook. Congrats, vvvanessa!
vvvanessa October 24, 2012
Such a high compliment coming from you! Thank you, and I hope the boys enjoy!
fiveandspice October 24, 2012
Congrats on the Wildcard vvvanessa! This sandwich combines so may of my favorite things! I can't wait to give it a try.
vvvanessa October 24, 2012
Thank you! Lots of my favorites are in here, too!
EmilyC October 24, 2012
Congrats on your WC win! This is going on the menu for this weekend!
vvvanessa October 24, 2012
Thank you! I hope you enjoy it!
Nozlee S. October 24, 2012
When we made this in the test kitchen, I ate multiple bowls of the pork on its own. So, so good -- I love the addition of shiitake mushrooms for a textual difference!
vvvanessa October 24, 2012
Thanks, Nozlee! I mixed some leftover pork with the slaw and rice which was a lot easier on my jaws than trying to unhinge them for the sandwich.
monkeymom August 14, 2012
This looks amazing! Can't wait to try this slaw too. Congrats on your hack win, btw! :)
vvvanessa October 24, 2012
Thanks, monkeymom!