Wondering how to eat pulled pork without bread? Try my healthy pulled pork bowls! These gluten free and low carb pork carnitas salads can be made keto-friendly by leaving off the corn. Start cooking your mouthwatering pork shoulder carnitas in a crockpot in the morning, and put together this easy dinner after work! Leftover shredded pork is great in tacos, burritos, or mix it up with BBQ sauce!
These pulled pork salad bowls are pretty irresistible. Slow cooker carnitas, cooked to tender perfection, are going to mix and mingle with avocado, cheese, and fresh lettuce.
What you get is a delicious, nourishing, and filling meal with the flavors of a taco salad. It all feels so fabulously indulgent.
Surprisingly, though, these pork shoulder salads are fairly low in net carbs and calories. If you’re looking for a lighter way to use a pork roast, you’ve found it!
You can make this carnitas salad bowl as a meal prep if you aren’t too picky about the avocado getting a little brown. Otherwise, this shredded pork salad is a fabulous family dinner. Even those who dislike “health food” tend to like this one.
So, let’s talk about how to make pork salad! It’s truly as easy as making the pulled pork, and then putting everything in a bowl. Nutrient-rich, easy, and DELICIOUS... sounds like a winner to me!
- 📋 Calories, Net Carbs, Protein
- ⭐ Benefits
- 🥘 Ingredients
- 🐖 Pulled Pork vs Carnitas
- 🧂 Seasonings for Carnitas
- 🍽 Equipment
- ️⏲ Cooking Time and Temperature
- 🔪 How to Make Pulled Pork Bowls
- ️🌡️ Leftovers
- 🌽 What veggies go good with pulled pork?
- 💭 Expert Tips from a Dietitian
- 👩🏻🍳 Other One Bowl Recipes
- The Disclaimer…
- 📖 Recipe
- 💬 Comments
📋 Calories, Net Carbs, Protein
One serving of these Pulled Pork Bowls has 559 calories, 15.5 grams net carbs, and 41.1 grams protein. With no corn (keto carnitas salad), you’re getting 514 calories, 7 grams net carbs, and 39.6 grams protein.
Why make pulled pork salads? You don’t (generally) have to give up tasty foods like carnitas in the name of a healthy diet! Here are some nutrition benefits and other advantages of this recipe:
- High-quality protein: You are getting over 40 grams of filling protein with each serving of this recipe. It's a meal with staying power!
- Essential vitamins and minerals: Pulled pork is rich in an assortment of B vitamins, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, and iron. Meanwhile, the veggies bring some vitamin C and provitamin A to the table. Oh, and don’t forget about the calcium in the cheese!
- Gluten free and low carb: These carnitas salad bowls are naturally gluten free and low carb. They are also soy free and can be made keto by skipping the corn.
- Fast prep: After letting the pork butt sit in the crock pot all day, literally all that is left is assembling the meal. You could use leftover shredded pork in this recipe for a no-cook dinner idea.
- Delicious: I don't believe that eating salads (or healthful food in general) should be unpleasant. The pork, cheese, and avocado provide a richness to this dish that genuinely makes it taste wonderful. Believe it or not, I usually prefer these pulled pork bowls to a pulled pork sandwich!
What do you need to make pulled pork bowls? Here’s the roundup:
- Skinless and boneless pork shoulder (Boston butt can also be used)
- Sliced onion
- Salad mix or your favorite lettuce blend (Trader Joe’s herb salad mix is great here)
- Shredded pepper jack cheese
- Pickled jalapenos
- Frozen roasted corn
- Chopped avocado
- Fresh-squeezed lime juice
You can use pork shoulder or pork butt for this recipe. They both come from the foreleg of the pig, though pork shoulder comes from a bit farther down. Don’t try to substitute a leaner meat (such as pork sirloin) for these fatty cuts.
You’ll typically find pork shoulder sold in much larger pieces than one pound. I had a small piece of pork shoulder leftover after using the rest in another recipe.
If you have a larger piece, you could cook it all in the crockpot and freeze extra for future meals. Check out the “Leftovers” section for recipes to make with leftover pulled pork.
To really save time, you could make this recipe with Trader Joe’s carnitas instead of slow cooking raw pork shoulder. Trader Joes carnitas are fully cooked and can be prepared by microwaving for 2-3minutes. It’s a really great shortcut!
🐖 Pulled Pork vs Carnitas
What is the difference between carnitas and pulled pork? What body part is carnitas? Carnitas is basically pulled pork from Mexico, and is typically made with pork shoulder or pork butt.
To make Mexican pork carnitas, you need to slowly braise or simmer seasoned pork in fat or oil for several hours. After allowing it to become tender, the heat is often turned up on the pork for crispy outer edges. (Ooooooooh!)
Pulled pork is often attributed to the cuisine of the Southeastern U.S. With southern-style pulled pork, the meat often has a BBQ rub applied before smoking or slow cooking. Then the meat is shredded and often mixed with BBQ sauce.
I’m using “pulled pork” and “carnitas” as interchangeable terms throughout this post. If desired, you can add seasonings to the shredded pork to make it more like carnitas, or BBQ sauce to make it more like southern pulled pork. It’s all up to you!
🧂 Seasonings for Carnitas
How to season carnitas? These pulled pork bowls are very flavorful and don't need additional seasoning. However, feel free to any of these herbs and spices to the pork while it cooks to kick things up a notch:
- Mexican oregano (or regular oregano)
- Crushed garlic cloves or garlic powder
- Chili powder
- Bay leaves
- Smoked paprika
- Salt and black pepper
To make pulled pork bowls, you’ll need a crock pot or Instant pot. Some forks for shredding the pork and a good knife is also helpful. If you’ll be making these bowls as a meal prep, I highly recommend these spacious salad containers with dressing cups.
The crockpot I use is the Crock-Pot SVC700-B, an oval slow cooker with a 7-quart capacity. It’s large enough to cook big roasts or family-size batches of soup, and very inexpensive! You can often find it for under $50.
️⏲ Cooking Time and Temperature
How long does it take to make pulled pork in a crockpot? Pulled pork takes a total of 8 hours in a slow cooker set to low. Don’t be put off by the cooking time; your crockpot is doing most of the work here!
Simply slice the onion and put it on the bottom of the crockpot. Put the raw pork butt or pork shoulder on top. Add seasonings, if desired.
Cover the pot, and cook on low for 8 hours. (You can also use an Instant Pot for this using the “slow cooker” function.)
After the cooking time is up, lift the roast out of the oil, and shred the pork with two forks. It should shred very easily. Mix it with the onions.
If you want crispy pork carnitas, heat 1-2 tablespoons of oil from the crockpot in a cast-iron skillet. Add the cooked and shredded pork to the skillet and let it crisp for several minutes, stirring occasionally. Delicious!
🔪 How to Make Pulled Pork Bowls
Let’s learn how to make pulled pork bowls! After the pork is slow cooked, there is very little left to do.
Chop the avocado and sprinkle it with fresh lime juice to help prevent browning. Divide the lettuce between four bowls. Top the bowls with equal amounts of cheese, avocado, pickled jalapeno, and carnitas.
Divide the corn between the bowls as well. (Skip the corn to knock off some starchy carbs if you’re eating keto.)
Finish your pulled pork bowls with a generous dollop or two of salsa and garnish with cilantro. The pork, cheese, and avocado here all provide some moisture and a fatty mouthfeel, making dressing unnecessary. Just give the salad a good stir before eating to distribute the ingredients and get a mixture in each delicious bite. Yum!
For meal prep, I recommend keeping the salsa in separate dressing cups until serving. The moisture from the salsa can make the lettuce soggy if allowed to sit for too long.
What to do with leftover pulled pork? If you have a big pork roast, I recommend cooking it all because there’s so much you can do with it! You can make:
- Pulled pork burritos
- Pulled pork tacos
- BBQ pulled pork sandwiches
- Burrito bowls with chipotle lime rice or cauliflower rice (similar to what you’d get at Chipotle restaurants)
- Taco bowls (crumble some corn tortilla chips on top)
- Vietnamese pulled pork salad
- Pulled pork nachos
Refrigerate leftover carnitas in a closed container 3-4 days. Any pork that will not be used in that time freezes well.
Reheat leftover pulled pork on the stovetop in a skillet. Add a little extra fat, and let the pork crisp up a bit. So good!
🌽 What veggies go good with pulled pork?
So, what goes with pulled pork? You actually don’t need side dishes for pulled pork bowls. (That said, consider plantains, like these air fryer tostones, if do want more carbs.)
You can modify this one-bowl recipe easily as it suits you- it's very flexible! Here are some other fruits, legumes, and vegetables to serve with pulled pork:
- Pickled onions
- Red onions
- Scallions (green onions)
- Coleslaw mix
- Broccoli slaw
- Chopped tomatoes
- Black beans
- Pinto beans
- Roasted red peppers
- Poblano peppers
- Pico de Gallo
- Sweet potatoes
💭 Expert Tips from a Dietitian
This is a level 2 recipe (transition or weight maintenance). This pulled pork bowl offers lots of protein and a big volume of food for the calories and net carbs. IMVHO, this one is a pretty good choice if you have a weight loss goal.
The combo of protein, fiber, and fluid volume here should help to keep you full. To make this meal under 500 calories, skip the corn and use light shredded cheese. Omitting the corn also makes this a lower carb or keto-friendly option.
Another option to lighten things up is to make your bowl with lean protein rather than carnitas. Check out the taco salad in my Air Fryer Taco Meat recipe. These salads are similar, but the taco salad uses lean beef, while this recipe uses a fattier pork shoulder.
You can trim a lot of calories from meals when you choose low-fat/lean meat and dairy versus their higher fat counterparts. Sometimes the difference is hundreds of calories for the same weight of food. Opting for lean protein is also aligned with the current Dietary Guideline recommendations.
That said, I understand that some find lean protein and low-fat dairy less filling. If this describes you, always choosing lean proteins may mean that you won’t be satisfied between meals and that you’ll ultimately eat more. This could mean a higher calorie intake overall that stymies a fat loss goal.
If you’re after “weight loss recipes,” it’s important to figure out what sorts of nutrient-dense foods you find filling. This information will make it much easier to create a healthful diet that supports a fat loss goal. It’s not going to be the same for everyone, but increasing protein, fiber, and fluid volume of meals are some good places to start.
You can keep pulled pork out at room temperature for up to two hours. After that, it should be refrigerated or frozen. If you leave the pork out for longer than two hours, you increase the chances of bad bacterial growth that can make you sick.
Pulled pork has a lot to offer nutritionally, and I would consider it a healthy whole food. Pork is rich in many B vitamins, including thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, and vitamin B12. It also provides high-quality protein, and minerals such as zinc.
To make pulled pork bowls that are whole30 and Paleo friendly, you need to make them grain free and dairy free. That means you need to omit the corn and cheese from this recipe. I’d add extra avocado in place of the cheese, and seasoned riced cauliflower in place of the corn.
I don’t typically add more liquid to slow cooked pulled pork because I find the fat that cooks off the meat to be enough. Water, broth, beer, and fruit juice can all be added to pulled pork if the roast is becoming too dry. I’ve heard some claim that orange juice is the best liquid for cooking pulled pork, as it provides the most flavor.
Keep pulled pork moist by adding liquid, fat from the bottom of the crock pot, or a sauce. Broth, apple juice, or BBQ sauce are some popular choices.
👩🏻🍳 Other One Bowl Recipes
Are you looking for more bowl recipes? Save yourself some kitchen clean up and try these next:
- Keto Big Mac Salad Bowl
- Nourish Bowls (Dairy Free, Vegetarian, Vegan options)
- Vegan Burrito Bowl
- Shrimp Fajita Bowl
- Deconstructed Sushi Bowl
All recipes on this website may or may not be appropriate for you, depending on your medical needs and personal preferences. Consult with a registered dietitian or your physician if you need help determining the dietary pattern that may be best for you.
"Keto" recipes on the web may not be appropriate for those using ketogenic diets as part of their medical nutrition therapy. That includes this recipe.
The nutrition information is an estimate provided as a courtesy. It will differ depending on the specific brands and ingredients that you use. Calorie information on food labels may be wildly inaccurate, so please don't sweat the numbers too much.
For more information on how the three recipe levels may help with a weight management goal, refer to my overnight oats no sugar post. Let's get cooking!
Pulled Pork Bowls (Keto, Low Carb Carnitas Salad)
- 1 lb. pork shoulder (454 grams; Boston butt may also be used)
- 1 medium onion, sliced
- 8 cups bagged lettuce greens (I used 2 bags of Trader Joe's herb salad mix)
- ½ cup salsa (Choose one with no added sugar, no oil)
- 6 ounces pepper jack cheese, shredded (170 grams)
- 2 ounces drained pickled jalapenos (57 grams)
- 1 cup frozen roasted corn, thawed (skip corn for keto)
- 1 medium avocado, chopped
- 1 lime, juiced
- 2 tablespoons cilantro, finely chopped
- Note: Start this recipe in the morning.
- Sprinkle the sliced onion across the bottom of your slow cooker. Place the pork shoulder on top. (Feel free to add your favorite seasonings to the pork shoulder if desired. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don't.) Place the lid on the slow cooker.
- Cook on low for 8 hours. Lift the pork and onions out of the oil at the bottom of the slow cooker. Shred the pork with two forks and mix with the onions.
- Optional step: If you want crispy pork carnitas, heat a tablespoon or two of oil from the crockpot in a cast-iron skillet. Add the cooked and shredded pork to the skillet and let it crisp for several minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Sprinkle the chopped avocado with the lime juice to help prevent browning.
- Distribute the lettuce evenly between 4 salad bowls. Top each with an equal amount of the pulled pork, cheese, avocado, and pickled jalapenos. Add the roasted corn (if using).
- Finish the pulled pork bowls with a generous dollop or two of salsa and garnish with cilantro. If using these bowls as a meal prep, keep the salsa in separate dressing cups until ready to serve.
- Before eating, stir the salad ingredients together, including the salsa. Enjoy!
This is a level 2 recipe (transition or weight maintenance). This pulled pork bowl offers lots of protein and a big volume of food for the calories and net carbs. IMVHO, this one is a pretty good choice if you have a weight loss goal. The combo of protein, fiber, and fluid volume here should help to keep you full. To make this meal under 500 calories, skip the corn and use light shredded cheese. Omitting the corn also makes this a lower carb or keto-friendly option. Another option to lighten things up is to make your bowl with lean protein rather than carnitas. Check out the taco salad in my Air Fryer Taco Meat recipe. These salads are similar, but the taco salad uses lean beef, while this recipe uses a fattier pork shoulder. You can trim a lot of calories from meals when you choose low-fat/lean meat and dairy versus their higher fat counterparts. Sometimes the difference is hundreds of calories for the same weight of food. Opting for lean protein is also aligned with the current Dietary Guideline recommendations. That said, I understand that some find lean protein and low-fat dairy less filling. If this describes you, always choosing lean proteins may mean that you won’t be satisfied between meals and that you’ll ultimately eat more. This could mean a higher calorie intake overall that stymies a fat loss goal. If you’re after “weight loss recipes,” it’s important to figure out what sorts of nutrient-dense foods you find filling. This information will make it much easier to create a healthful diet that supports a fat loss goal. It’s not going to be the same for everyone, but increasing protein, fiber, and fluid volume of meals are some good places to start. Nutrition information is for one serving. Carbs listed are net carbohydrates (total carbs minus fiber).
This recipe has been updated from 2019 to include new photos, a recipe video, and more nutrition information. Enjoy!