The 3 Best Rolls for Pulled Pork: Soft and Sweet is the Way to Go
When it comes to making a killer pulled pork sandwich, the type of roll is too often overlooked. Rolls can have a huge impact on both flavor and texture, and the right type of bread will not only support the delicious fillings but compliment them too.
What are the Best Rolls for Pulled Pork?
- Hawaiian Rolls–Great on their own, even better with pulled pork! King’s Hawaiian rolls are my go-to when it comes to pulled pork sandwiches.
- Brioche Buns–Pulled pork is excellent paired with rich, tender brioche—I recommend trying these by Bakerly.
- Potato Rolls— With a hint of sweetness, Arnold potato buns are a great choice for pulled pork sandwiches.
Rolls are so much more than a mere serving vessel! Keep reading to find out more about the best combinations for pulled pork and why some rolls work better than others.
Why Are Hawaiian Rolls Good with Pulled Pork?
Hawaiian rolls are sweet, soft rolls traditionally sweetened with pineapple juice and brown sugar—pineapple of course being one of the chief crops in Hawaii. Besides added sweeteners, the dough is enriched with eggs, butter and milk, resulting in a fluffy roll with a very tender crumb.
Hawaiian rolls originate from Portuguese sweet rolls—Hawaii is home to many Portuguese immigrants and there are various examples of Portuguese influences throughout Hawaiian cuisine. With the influx of Portuguese immigrants coming to the islands in the late 1800s, Hawaiian rolls are a fairly modern invention. On the other hand, Kahlua pork, which comes from a whole hog that is slow roasted in an underground oven, dates back centuries on the islands. Nonetheless, the two now go hand in hand as traditional Hawaiian grub, making Hawaiian rolls a natural paring for pulled pork sandwiches.
To pay homage to the origins of the dish, I like to add sliced pineapple or a pineapple-flavored slaw to further blend the flavors and bring the whole sandwich up a notch. Pineapple contributes both sweetness and acidity which compliments the flavor of the pork while also balancing the richness. It is also common to use teriyaki sauce instead of or in addition to barbeque sauce when creating a Hawaiian-inspired pulled pork sandwich.
Standard Hawaiian rolls come in a small dinner roll size that is perfect for sliders. I personally love sliders for portion control, and they’re great for feeding a crowd too. Using smaller rolls make it less likely for the sandwich to collapse under the weight of the pork. If you are looking to make larger sandwiches though, King’s Hawaiian also makes larger hamburger rolls with the same sweet flavor profile and soft texture.
Are Brioche Buns Good for Pulled Pork Sandwiches?
Brioche, like Hawaiian rolls, is an enriched bread dough meaning it contains additional ingredients beyond flour and yeast including eggs, milk, butter, and sugar. Because brioche has a significant amount of milk, eggs, and butter in the dough, it has a high fat content which results in a very tender roll with a soft outside rather than a crunchy crust.
Pulled pork is typically served on soft rolls like brioche. The buttery flavor of the roll melts in your mouth and melds nicely with the pulled pork. Brioche buns are a bakery staple and tend to be a bit larger in size than regular supermarket hamburger buns, which helps them hold up in a heavier sandwich with a lot of heavy fillings and sauces like barbeque pulled pork.
Potato rolls certainly fall into this category of enriched doughs as well. While they don’t contain as much butter or sugar as brioche, they are still soft and slightly sweet. Brioche rolls are highly perishable—they tend to be found in bakeries or the bakery section of a grocery store. Although also available fresh, potato rolls are mass-produced with a prolonged shelf-life so that they are readily available in grocery store bread aisles.
Using potato flour in combination with wheat flour offers a number of benefits for soft breads. Starches from potatoes hold more moisture than wheat starches, which helps potato breads stay moist much longer than traditional wheat flour breads. Potato flour is also naturally free of gluten, so replacing some wheat flour with potato flour inhibits the formation of gluten and maintains a tender and less chewy crumb. Hawaiian rolls often times contain some potato flour in addition to wheat flour for this reason.
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Are Ciabatta Rolls Good for Pulled Pork Sandwiches?
Ciabatta rolls differ greatly from Hawaiian rolls, brioche, and potato bread which are all in the same category of breads; similar in taste and texture to French baguettes, ciabatta rolls fall into the category of lean doughs rather than enriched doughs. That being said, ciabatta rolls can also be a good choice for a pulled pork sandwich.
Ciabatta is a traditional Italian bread made from wheat flour with a crunchy crust and a fairly dense crumb. This chewy roll might make for pulled pork sandwiches that are a bit harder to eat, but its flavor offers a different eating experience. Ciabatta can vary quite a bit within different regions of Italy and adapted internationally and sometimes is still quite soft on the inside. Additionally, hearty ciabatta bread is ideal for making panini sandwiches so you can definitely go that route with pulled pork.
What’s Best to Serve with Pulled Pork?
One of the most popular sides to serve with pulled pork is coleslaw. Coleslaw is excellent aside the pork or also right on the sandwich with the pulled pork. It’s the perfect complement for a few reasons—with its typical creamy texture, coleslaw counteracts any spiciness from the barbeque seasoning on the pork. It also provides a fresh crunch and oftentimes acidity that help balance the creamy, fatty pulled pork.
Other popular sides for pulled pork include typical barbeque sides. Cornbread, hush puppies, potato salad, and mac and cheese are some of my personal favorites. Instead of using bread to create sandwiches, you can serve the pulled pork right on top of or mixed in with the macaroni and cheese. You could also put some mac and cheese on a sandwich along with pulled pork for an indulgent meal. For another epic sandwich idea, check out this Recipe Recon recipe.
What is the Best Part of the Pig for Pulled Pork?
The best part of the pig for pulled pork is the pork shoulder. When making pulled pork, you want a cut that is very fatty and filled with connective tissue to get the most flavor. Since pulled pork is cooked over a long period of time, the connective tissue will completely break down into tender pieces that are easy to shred. I also typically recommend buying a bone-in cut, since cooking on the bone adds a ton of flavor and the meat will fall right off the bone after slow cooking.
The shoulder is interestingly also known as pork butt or Boston butt. Confusing as that may be, pork butt does not actually come from the rear end of the pork but is a cut from the shoulder. Technically speaking, pork butt and pork shoulder are two different cuts that both come from the same section of the pig, but they are quite similar, and either will work wonderfully for pulled pork.