This recipe for Slow Cooker Pulled Pork Banh Mi Bowls puts a healthy twist on the classic Vietnamese sandwich. Made in the crockpot with pork shoulder (or pork butt) with a delicious Asian marinade, this tender pulled pork is topped with fresh pickled veggies and served over heirloom rice.
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Ohhhh baby, do I have a recipe for you today!
This has been one of my go-to dinner recipes for a few months now, and I honestly can’t get over how much flavor is in a dish that tastes SO DELICIOUS!
I know, I know, I’m always the one harping on the fact that healthy and delicious aren’t mutually exclusive, but the sheer amount of mouthwatering flavor in this recipe just really BLOWS MY MIND every.damn.time.
Let me break it down for you. For starters, this is a recipe for slow cooker pulled pork. I mean…enough said, amiright?
It’s made with pork shoulder, or pork butt, and the tender, shredded meat is very reminiscent of carnitas.
In fact, this entire recipe is like a Vietnamese version of carnitas taco bowls, so if you’re down with Chipotle (that’s a trick question!), you will LOVE these banh mi bowls!
Related: Salmon Sushi Bowls
The pork is made in the slow cooker (or Crockpot, whatever you want to call it; this one is my favorite) and then shredded with two forks and broiled for a couple quick minutes to make the pork extra crispy and addicting.
That broiling step is CRUCIAL, so be sure not to skip it!
I mean, just look at that meat. PERFECTION! My mouth literally just filled with saliva just looking at that photo. I know I can’t be alone in that reaction 😉
Alright, so you have this incredibly juicy and tender and crispy pulled pork, but where do all those bold in-your-face flavors come from?
It starts with the most vibrant, zesty Asian marinade that’s inspired by the classic Vietnamese sandwich, the banh mi.
What Is a Banh Mi?
Banh Mi is a Vietnamese term for bread, usually a baguette, that was introduced by the French during its colonial period.
But today, when most people say banh mi, they are referring to the sandwich, which combines French and Vietnamese ingredients and cooking techniques to make one of the best sandwiches ever created.
You take a French baguette, slather it with mayo, stuff it with cold cuts (usually BBQ pork, pork sausage, head cheese and/or liver pâté) and top it with fresh pickled veggies (usually jalapeño, cucumber, carrots and daikon) and herbs, like cilantro, coriander, Thai basil and mint.
It’s sweet, it’s spicy, it’s crunchy, it’s tender…the banh mi just hits all of those flavor and texture notes, which is exactly what I wanted this recipe to do.
So, I started with the marinade and used the classic Vietnamese aromatics as my base: garlic, ginger, chiles, lime juice, kaffir lime leaves, fish sauce and gluten-free soy sauce.
Related: Thai Grilled Chicken Marinade
And then I sweetened it up a little with raw, unfiltered honey.
Note: If you’ve never tasted raw honey before, you are in for a real treat! Unstrained (or unfiltered) raw honey is full of honeycomb, propolis, and pollen, which delivers plenty of sweetness and nutrients, but without the immediate blood sugar spike from refined sugar.
While the pork shoulder cooks in that incredible sauce, I pickle my veggies. Don’t be intimidated, I swear this is SO EASY!
Literally all you have to do is just chop up your veggies of choice (I love japaleno, red onion, cucumber and carrots, but you can use any crunchy vegetables you like) and then pour over a little seasoned vinegar, toss and let it sit.
Seriously, that’s it.
And to season the vinegar, I just combine a little coconut sugar, sea salt and lime juice. This is obviously a “quick pickle” but I think it’s perfect for these banh mi bowls because you get the tang and crunch from the pickles with minimal effort. My kind of meal!
You can throw your herbs on at this point or wait to use them as a garnish, but whatever you do, make sure you choose a nutritious base for your bowls.
My fave: Forbidden (Black) Rice.
The Health Benefits of Black Rice
Have you ever tried black rice? It’s my absolute favorite variety of gluten-free grains.
Not only is the heirloom rice, which comes in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, beautiful (I mean look at that gorgeous inky color) with a delicious roasted nutty taste, but it is so good for you!
Black rice is chockfull of flavonoid antioxidants called anthocyanins (it’s what makes the color black), which can purify your blood.
That sounds a little creepy, but hear me out–studies show that consuming black rice can help to detox the body and cleanse the liver of harmful toxic build-up, resulting in less oxidative stress (or free radical damage), more antioxidants in the blood, and reduced plaque build-up in the arteries (source).
Not only that, but another study shows that a spoonful of black rice bran contains the same amount of antioxidants as a spoonful of fresh blueberries (source).
In fact, black rice provides the richest nutritional value of any bran rice, including a higher level of vitamins and minerals (namely manganese, magnesium, molybdenum and phosphorus), as well as tons of amino acids, vegetable fats and essential trace elements (source).
Not only is it rich in powerful disease-fighting antioxidants, but black rice also contains more fiber and protein than any rice variety, AND anti-inflammatory properties that help stop the development of diabetes, cancer, heart disease and even weight gain (source).
Plus, it’s got a really cool history! Legend has it that during the Ming Dynasty, black rice was called “tribute rice” or “longevity rice,” as it was exclusively reserved for the Emperors to ensure their good health and long life.
Where to Buy Black Rice
My favorite brand of black rice comes from Lotus Foods, the company that actually came up with the name Forbidden Rice® when they started importing black rice 20 years ago.
The rice takes about 30 minutes to make, but they also have convenient microwavable bowls, which make VERY frequent appearances around our dinner table.
Lotus Foods’ Heat & Eat Forbidden Rice® Bowls are the perfect complement to these pork banh mi bowls–not only is the black rice organic, non-GMO, gluten-free and whole grain, it’s also ready in 90 seconds!
YEAH! So it’s easily the most convenient health food in my pantry (don’t worry, the bowls are BPA-free and recyclable), plus the rice is grown in a practice I feel REALLY good about supporting.
Lotus Foods works in partnership with family rice farmers who cultivate rice using More Crop Per Drop™ growing methods, also known as the System of Rice Intensification (SRI).
It sounds like a lot of terminology, but it’s actually pretty simple: this way of farming allows farmers to grow more rice with less water, seed and labor, and less emission of methane, a major greenhouse gas that warms the earth.
This way of growing rice not only lightens the workload, which is primarily done by women, but it also means they no longer have to stand or squat in standing water, exposed to a host of parasites and diseases.
Lotus Foods is actually the first and only U.S. company to date to work with SRI farmers to help them market their more sustainably grown, high-quality rice.
So three cheers for them! One bite of their Forbidden Rice® and you can truly taste the difference.
Or you can buy the bags of Forbidden Rice® on Amazon for $3.31 per bag (serves 7).
Alright, so there you have it. One of the most delicious, healthy recipes to ever be featured on Root + Revel.
You’ve gotta try it–and if you do, please share your experience with me and tag us on social media @rootandrevel or #rootandrevel.
Slow Cooker Pulled Pork Banh Mi Bowls
For the pork:
- 1 large organic pastured pork shoulder or butt (roughly 4 pounds)
- salt and pepper to taste
- 4 tablespoons garlic powder
- 4 tablespoons ground ginger
- 1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
- 1/4 cup fish sauce I recommend Red Boat
- 1 lime juiced
- 1/4 cup tamari (gluten-free soy sauce)
- 2 tablespoons raw unfiltered honey (I recommend Really Raw)
- 4 leaves kaffir lime (I buy these at international markets and freeze; can use 1 tablespoon of lime zest if you can't find)
- 1/2 cup bone broth (can substitute any broth of your choice)
For the pickled veggies:
For the bowls:
- 3 cups cooked rice I recommend Lotus Foods' Forbidden Rice®
- 1/4 cup chopped herbs (I recommend mint, cilantro, and Thai basil)
- drizzle with sriracha and/or hoisin sauce
- Liberally season the pork butt on all sides with salt and pepper, garlic, ginger and red pepper flakes. Add the pork to a large slow cooker (this one is my favorite).
- Evenly pour the fish sauce, lime juice and soy sauce over the pork butt. Drizzle honey over the pork and throw the kaffir lime leaves into the slow cooker. Pour bone broth over top, cover the slow cooker and cook on low for 8-10 hours, flipping the pork halfway.
- Meanwhile, dice and slice your veggies of choice. In a medium bowl, combine sugar, salt, vinegar and lime juice and stir until sugar is dissolved. Add your veggies and toss to combine. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes (you can go as long as you like!).
- When the pork is done, shred it apart with two forks and place the shredded pork onto a baking sheet. Pour half of the remaining juices over the pork and broil until crispy. It should take 5-10 minutes, and it helps if you toss halfway through and flip the baking sheet so all areas are crisped equally. Pour the remaining juices over the crispy pork.
- In individual bowls, add 1/2 cup cooked rice (if you're only serving 2 people, you can microwave one bowl rather than using all three cups of rice at once). Top with pork, pickled veggies, and chopped herbs. Drizzle with sriracha and hoisin, if desired. Enjoy!
*Note: Nutrition is for 8 servings and does not include rice.
Photo Credit: Heidi Geldhauser
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