Pulled pork and coleslaw in milk buns

Comfort food when you have a crowd to please

This is my take on classic barbecue comfort food made at home in the oven. It is ideal for feeding a crowd and makes any occasion special. A couple of times I have even tripled this recipe and made it in the small chalet kitchen of a well known resort’s accommodation to feed 20 (ok I bought the rolls).

The milk buns in this recipe use a tangzhong which ensures they are fantastically soft and work really well with the pork. The slaw adds crunch and helps the feast go further.

Pork shoulder is an economical cut and turning it into pulled pork is an easy way to create a treat for a crowd – the pork in the recipe is enough to feed six generously, or 12 as part of a bigger feast with more salads.

This recipe takes about 7 hours but the actual hands on time is about 1½ hours with most of this concentrated at the end.

As is common with bread recipes I’ve given the liquid measures as weights – this helps to be more accurate.

Things you will need

For the pulled pork…
  • A pork shoulder, around 1½-2 kgs
Dry rub:
  • 1 tbsp sweet smoked paprika 
  • 1 tbsp molasses sugar or dark muscovado
  • 1½ tsp cayenne pepper 
  • 1 tsp mustard powder
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp garlic granules (or garlic salt)
  • 1 tsp onion granules (or onion salt)
  • 1 tsp celery salt
  • 1 tsp salt (omit if you use garlic and onion salt)
  • 1 tbsp black treacle (or liquid molasses)
  • 1 tbsp molasses sugar (or dark muscovado)
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 150g tinned chopped tomatoes (or passata)
  • 1 tbsp malt vinegar
  • 1 tbsp Hendersons Relish (or Worcestershire sauce)
For the milk buns…
  • 50g strong white bread flour
  • 225g milk, whole or semi skimmed
Main dough:
  • 125g milk, whole or semi skimmed
  • 35g milk powder
  • 10g instant dried yeast (1½ sachets)
  • 12g salt
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 75g melted unsalted butter
  • 500g strong white bread flour
  • 1 egg
  • approx 25g sesame seeds (optional)
For the slaw…
  • 1 head of cabbage (spring cabbage works well)
  • 3-4 carrots (depending on size)
  • 1 medium red onion
  • 2 cloves of confit garlic
  • Pinch of salt
  • Several grinds of freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tbsp runny honey
  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp garlic oil
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

To make pulled pork, milk buns and slaw

I’ve written this as a plan from the time you want to serve the feast!

Seven hours before…
  • Pork – set the oven to 130C fan / 150C non-fan. Measure all the ingredients for the dry rub into a clean jam jar, taking care to break up any lumps of sugar. Screw the lid on and give it a very good shake to combine everything.
  • Pat the pork dry with kitchen paper – see tip about skin below. Set two large pieces of foil – each big enough to wrap the pork – overlapping in a cross on a lipped baking tray. Put a piece of parchment paper on top, again big enough to wrap the pork.
  • Place the pork in the middle of the paper and sprinkle generously with all but one tablespoon of the rub. Push the rub into the flesh. Wrap the pork in the paper, and then tightly in each layer of foil.
  • Put the tray with the pork into the oven.
Three and a half hours before…
  • Buns – firstly put the ingredients for the tangzhong in a small pan over a medium heat. Stir constantly with a spatula or wooden spoon till the flour and milk combine and form a thick paste which comes away from the side of the pan – do not allow to boil. Once cooked remove from the heat and spread around the side of food mixer bowl (if you are making in a mixer), or medium bowl. Leave too cool for a few minutes.
  • Add the melted butter, milk, milk powder, sugar and salt to the tangzhong and give it all a good stir, breaking up the tangzhong into small lumps.
  • If making in a food mixer add the flour and yeast to the wet mixture and set on a low speed with a dough hook to combine – if it looks too dry add a splash more milk. Once combined allow the mixer to kneed the dough for 10 minutes. Cover the bowl with a damp tea-towel and set aside to prove for 2 hours till doubled in size.
  • If making by hand measure the flour and yeast in a large bowl, and stir to combine. Make a well in the flour and add the wet mixture. Using your hands pull the flour into the wet mixture and work it into a medium firm dough (add a splash more milk if it is too stiff). Tip onto a clean work surface and kneed for 10 minutes. Clean the bowl and return the dough, cover with a damp tea-towel and set aside to prove for 2 hours till doubled in size.
One and a half hours before…
  • Buns – knock back the dough and tip onto a clean work surface. Divide into 12 balls about 88g each. Shape the buns by holding a piece of dough in one hand and starting on one side pull the edge into the centre with your other hand, turn the dough slightly and again pull the edge into the centre. Work your way around the dough creating a tight bun. Place the bun, seam side down onto a large baking tray lined with a silicon sheet or parchment. Shape all the buns. Cover with a damp tea-towel or film and leave somewhere warm to rise for 30-45 minutes.
  • Pork – put all the ingredients for the sauce and the final tablespoon of dry rub into a pan and cook over a medium heat till thick and syrupy.
  • Remove the pork from the oven and turn the oven up to 200C fan / 220C non-fan. Gently unwrap the layers around the pork. The pork will probably be sat in liquid – add a few tablespoons of this to the sauce as you cook it down – tip off any further liquid into a bowl. If you’ve not already done so remove any skin and string from the pork. Using a brush coat the pork with some sauce and return to the oven, uncovered for 20 minutes to glaze. Take the pork out of the oven, and leave somewhere warm. Turn the oven down to 160C fan / 180C non-fan.
Forty five minutes before…
  • Buns – once nicely grown glaze the buns with beaten egg and sprinkle a few sesame seeds on top. Bake for 20-25 minutes.
  • Slaw – finely slice the cabbage, peel and grate the carrot and onion and place in a large bowl. Put the confit garlic and salt in a small bowl and squish the cloves with a teaspoon. Add the mustard, honey, pepper and vinegar and stir well. Add the oils and stir to form a vinaigrette. Add the vinaigrette to the vegetables, cover and set aside for flavours to develop.
Twenty minutes before…
  • Buns – remove from the oven and move to a cooling rack
  • Pork – using two forks pull the pork apart and shred into small pieces. Add a little more sauce and stir and put in a dish to serve.
Feast time!
  • Split the rolls, add a little sauce, fill with pork and top with slaw.
  • Devour!


  • If your pork shoulder comes with skin and you want crackling then before you start making the pulled pork remove the skin by sliding a sharp knife underneath and put it on a plate in the fridge uncovered. Re tie the piece of pork with some cooking string. Once the buns are out turn the oven up to 220C and put the skin on a rack over a baking tray with raised edges and sprinkled 1-2tsp of salt over the skin, pushing it into any gaps or crevices. Roast for approx 20mins till the skin bubbles and becomes crackling. Take out and serve alongside the buns.
  • I make about three times the rub and keep it in a jar to use on other projects – it can also be used to add flavour to other meats such as chicken legs, brisket, salmon or burgers and anything you are planning to barbeque.
  • The pork can be made ahead of time and reheated, but the buns and slaw are best made the day you are planning on eating them.
  • You can also cook the pulled pork in a slow cooker for 8hrs on a low setting.