Can you make smoked pulled pork on a Traeger with pork loin or pork tenderloin? We put both to the test and have included our findings and winning recipe in this post. If you came here looking for a healthy pulled pork option, you’re in luck.
Pork Loin vs Pork Tenderloin for Lower Fat Pulled Pork
Pork loin and tenderloin are typically roasted or grilled for slicing, and neither option is the ideal choice for pulled pork when compared to fattier cuts like pork shoulder. But all the extra fat that makes the latter great for pulled pork makes it difficult to fit into a calorie conscious diet.
So we put pork loin and pork tenderloin to the test on a Traeger pellet grill. And good news—you can make awesome BBQ pulled pork with pork loin using the right methods.
Pork tenderloin, on the other hand, gave us trouble. No matter how we smoked, wrapped, and braised, it always ended up a little too dry and tough for us to recommend. Leave the pork tenderloin for faster cooks and slicing (like our Traeger smoked BBQ pork tenderloin or Tex-Mex smoked pork tenderloin recipes).
Traeger Smoked Pulled Pork Loin Ingredients
Now that we know pork loin is your best bet for healthier pulled pork that’s still moist and tender, let’s talk about making it.
Pork Ribeye Roast
First off, we use a boneless ribeye roast. The pork ribeye roast comes from the loin around the shoulder and has slightly more fat than a center cut pork loin roast. If you can’t find a ribeye roast, any pork loin roast will work.
BBQ Spice Rub
We used a homemade seasoning blend from our popular Instant Pot BBQ pulled chicken recipe, but any BBQ rub will work here. Ours is a sweet and smoky salt and pepper blend.
The recipe starts with seasoning the pork loin before preheating the smoker. This gives the rub time to “melt” into the pork. You can season ahead of time and let everything hangout together overnight, if you’d like.
How Long to Smoke Pork Loin for Pulled Pork?
We cooked our pork just like you would classic Traeger pulled pork, with a slightly reduced temperature to pick up extra smoke for a smaller roast. Smoking a pork loin at 225ºF for about 4 hours should get you to the 160ºF internal temperature range you want to be in.
At that point with traditional pulled pork, you would wrap and continue smoking with the fat side up until the pork reaches an internal temperature of 205ºF. Taking the pork to this temperature allows connective tissue and collagen to melt and turn into gelatin, keeping the meat moist and tender.
Instead of wrapping, our Traeger smoked pork loin goes in a braising liquid consisting of equal parts apple juice and BBQ sauce. It’s then tightly wrapped and smoked an additional 90 minutes at 300ºF until it reaches an internal temperature of 205ºF.
I mention in the recipe card that you can substitute apple juice for broth or water to reduce the carbs. You just want to slightly thin the BBQ sauce and for the liquid to cover the bottom of the dish and about 1/4th of the smoked pork loin.
After the pork loin comes off the Traeger and rests for about 30 minutes, it’s ready to be pulled, sauced, and served. Resting is an important step. The juices will settle and the proteins relax in the pork, making the pulling part of pulled pork much easier.
To Sauce or Not to Sauce
The remaining liquid in the pan will be on the thinner side. You can toss the pork in it or serve it on the side as-is, but I recommend adding a simple corn starch slurry to thicken it a bit.
There will be some residual fat and tons of flavor in the sauce, so don’t let any go to waste!
What to Serve with Smoked Pulled Pork Loin
BBQ pulled pork and chicken is one of our favorite protein options, and we have a ton of go-to recipes for using it. Sandwiches with a healthy coleslaw are the no brainer with healthier sides like Instant Pot baked beans, low fat potato salad, macaroni salad, or an air fryer baked potato.
To have a bit more fun, check out these ideas (swap any chicken or brisket for this smoked pulled pork):
- pulled pork grilled cheese
- BBQ mac and cheese
- loaded BBQ nachos
- Texas style kolaches
- stuffed sweet potatoes
Whether you serve your Traeger pulled pork the classic BBQ way or make some fun creations, I’d love to hear about either way. Let me know in the comments below or in a recipe review. And if you have a question about this recipe I forgot to cover, you can leave it there as well. Enjoy!
- 3 pound Boneless Pork Loin, excess fat and silver skin trimmed
- 1/4 cup (48g) Dark Brown Sugar
- 1 Tablespoon Kosher Salt
- 1 Tablespoon Smoked Paprika
- 1/2 Tablespoon Garlic Powder
- 1/2 Tablespoon Ground Cumin
- 1/2 Tablespoon Dry Mustard
- 1/2 Tablespoon Black Pepper
For the Sauce
- 1 cup Apple Juice (or water/broth to reduce sugar)
- 1 cup (240g) Sugar Free BBQ Sauce (I used G Hughes Sweet and Spicy)
- Mix the BBQ rub ingredients together and evenly coat the trimmed pork loin. Set aside.
- Preheat your smoker to 225ºF* for 15 minutes, lid closed.
- Add the pork loin to the grill and cook until it reaches an internal temperature of 155ºF to 165ºF or until you're happy with the bark that's formed, about 4 hours. Optional: Spritz with apple juice or apple cider vinegar every 60-90 minutes.
- Mix the apple juice and BBQ sauce together in an aluminum grill pan or smoker-safe dish. Place the smoked pork loin in the tray and cover tightly with foil.
- Increase the temperature to 300ºF and smoke until the pork reaches an internal temperature of 205ºF in several places.
- Let the pork rest for at least 30 minutes before transferring the sauce in the pan to a bowl and pulling the pork. You can add the sauce back to the pork or serve it on the side. (To thicken the sauce, stir in a slurry consisting of 2 Tablespoons corn starch and 1 Tablespoon water.)
*For a faster cook, you can increase the temperature to 250ºF or 275ºF for the first stint in the smoker.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 14 Serving Size: 4 oz Pulled Pork with Sauce
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 145Total Fat: 4gCarbohydrates: 7gProtein: 21g