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Cooking Tips

5 Things to Do with Leftover Barbecue Pork

Barbecue sandwiches are great, but there are so many more options.

If you are lucky enough to have leftover barbecue pork, you are indeed a lucky human. Dare I say you’re in porkadise

But even I, an avid pork lover, can only eat barbecue sandwiches for so many meals in a row. And the USDA recommends using leftover barbecue within three to four days, so the window of safe eating is finite.

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That said, I have plenty of leftover ideas inspired by my years working on Cook’s Country. Here are some of my favorites.

Take Inspiration from a Cuban Sandwich

Layer the chopped meat on rolls with some Genoa salami, ham, Swiss cheese, pickles, and mojo sauce. If you’re feeling adventurous, make Cuban Bread. But since this is for leftovers after all, feel free to just use 8-inch soft white Italian-style sub rolls. Add a tablespoon of butter to a nonstick skillet and lay two sandwiches in it at a time. Weigh them down with a Dutch oven to ensure an extra-crispy crust. After a few minutes, flip and repeat with the other side. Is it technically a Cuban Sandwich? No. But is it delicious and delightful? 100 percent yes.

Bake It on a Potato Tot–Topped Pizza

Adjust your oven rack to the middle position, and heat your oven to 500 degrees. Spread out store-bought pizza dough on an oiled, rimmed baking sheet. Top it with cheddar cheese, mozzarella cheese, and potato tots (!!!). Then sprinkle some pulled pork over top. Bake the pizza until the pork gets a little crispy and the tots get golden brown. Sprinkle it with scallions and drizzle with some chipotle sour cream. Essentially substitute the pulled pork for sausage in our Tater Tot and Sausage Pizza. You will be happy you did.

Stir It into Stew

Brunswick Stew is a stew many Southern pit masters make in part to use up leftover barbecue. In our recipe, we didn’t want to call for smoking a whole pork shoulder to get some of that smoky flavor in the stew, so we used smoked kielbasa sausage. But if you’re lucky enough to already have leftover pork, use that instead (or in addition!). Sauté an onion until softened. Add some ketchup and cook until it just darkens in color. Then add chicken thighs, potatoes, some vinegar, Worcestershire, garlic, pepper flakes, water, and any other seasonings you’d like. Simmer until the potatoes are tender and the chicken is cooked through. Shred the chicken and stir that back into the stew with canned tomatoes, lima beans, corn, and plenty of pulled pork. Finish it with some more Worcestershire, vinegar, and/or hot sauce and be prepared for a delicious, tangy bowl of comfort.

Crisp It for Tacos

Buy a block of lard—unless you are already the kind of person that keeps it in your kitchen (in which case, respect). Melt a good chunk of it in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until it’s fully liquid and shimmering. Sprinkle in just enough leftover pork to cover the bottom of the skillet in a thin layer. Don’t overcrowd it. And cook, stirring occasionally (but not too often), until the meat is frizzled and crisped. It won’t be exactly like our carnitas recipe, but it will still be delicious layered in a corn tortilla and topped with cilantro, chopped onion, and salsa verde. 

Take a Nod from Greek Gyros

Toss the shredded pork with a mixture of oil, coriander, lemon, paprika, and garlic, and broil it on a foil-lined sheet until lightly crisped. Then layer it in a pita with lettuce, cucumbers, red onions, and tzatziki. Sure the pork in a pork gyro isn’t traditionally smoky, but all those flavors go so well together and you’ll still enjoy the lightly charred pork in a pillowy pita. 

Dream Big . . .

This list is just the start. Let your imagination run wild. Try cooking the pork into fried rice, piling it high on an egg and cheese breakfast sandwich, stirring it into a pot of creamy white beans and greens, rolling it up into a burrito, or preparing any other tasty snack you can dream up.  

. . . Or Freeze It Until You Can

And if you don’t make your way through this list, you also can freeze leftover barbecue. To do so, portion it into smaller amounts and freeze it in an airtight zipper-lock bag. Be sure to label the bag with the contents and date of freezing so that it doesn’t get lost in the freezer. And then when you're ready to use it, thaw it overnight in the fridge. Freezing can make the texture a little softer, so I’d try to use it only in applications where there are a lot of mixed textures and this one may be less apparent.

Whatever path you take, I appreciate you doing your part to not let delicious leftover pork go to waste.