We all have our familiar favorites. And although there are plenty of other dishes in my culinary rotation, I’m still a fan of sticking to what I know.
Case in point: pork sliders.
Growing up in North Carolina, these humble handhelds were as common as wearing flip flops in December.
But where I was raised, there was only one available version of a pork sandwich: smoked, pulled, splashed in a vinegary crushed red pepper sauce, and dolloped with creamy slaw.
Yum, right? The thought alone still makes me drool and my roots aren’t even Southern.
Despite the fact that my family originally hails from New Jersey (land of the gefilte fish, home of the bagel) and I spent much of my childhood up north, I was still surrounded by copious amounts of Carolina-style pork.
As a result, I never knew – or really cared to know – anything different.
This recipe made me look at pork sliders in a completely new light. The meat isn’t smoked, but it’s smoky. It’s not shredded and doused with vinegar, but it’s moist, juicy, and full of tangy flavor.
It’s like one day I was just walking along, and then the next thing I knew, this spicy peach barbecue sauce fell into my lap…
… which was a real shame because I was wearing my favorite leggings. But it was delicious, and fortunately Spandex can go in the washing machine.
I’ve prepared my fair share of homemade barbecue sauces, from mustard-spiked to bourbon-infused to tangy white and beyond. So it wouldn’t be entirely truthful to insinuate that I have never strayed from the traditional Carolina style.
In fact, I adore making this easy, zippy condiment from scratch, tweaking it to my palate’s preferences and the qualities of the available protein.
So, what’s the secret behind the standout sauce in this recipe?
It’s like the comforting classic that I often crave, with a novel twist: an unsuspecting duo whose flavor elements join forces and combine to create a powerful palate punch.
I think I just accidentally reinvented Captain Planet’s catchphrase. (Bonus!)
The chipotle pepper in adobo – a smoked and dried ripe jalapeno that has been reconstituted in a flavorful tomato sauce with vinegar, onions, and garlic – brings sour notes and a burst of spice, while the peach preserves balance that heat with a fruity, delicate sweetness.
Meanwhile, earthy and aromatic cumin is rubbed onto the pork loin and sprinkled into the sauce for a smoky essence that runs through every bite.
A quick sear of the meat before it goes into the oven locks in all the juices and ensures that every slice is succulent and anything but dry. The recipe calls for a few slices per slider, but stack as you wish.
Playing with your food is totally encouraged in my kitchen.
Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in North Carolina anymore. But we can still whip up some pretty bomb pork sandwiches.
Even when I opt to branch out a bit, I’m a die-hard sucker for that vinegary bite, so I slip in a few classic dill pickles to remind me of the taste sensation I know and love.Print
Need an updated spin on sliders? These humble handhelds with smoky sliced pork and spicy peach barbecue sauce will be your new go-to.
- 1 pound pork loin
- 3/4 teaspoon coarse salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin, divided
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 large clove garlic, minced
- 1/2–1 canned chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, rough chopped
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 1/2 cup ketchup
- 1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
- 1/4 cup peach preserves (or 12 ounces ripe fresh peaches, diced)
- 12 slider buns, split and lightly toasted
- 1 cup pickles (store-bought or homemade)
- Preheat oven to 375°F.
- Rub the pork loin all over with the salt, pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon cumin.
- In a large skillet over medium-high heat, add the oil and swirl to coat the pan. Sear the pork loin on all sides until golden brown. Transfer to a roasting pan. Bake for 20 minutes.
- Add the garlic and chipotle pepper to the skillet and place over low heat. Saute until fragrant and lightly golden, about 30 seconds. Deglaze the pan with Worcestershire sauce.
- Add the remaining 1/4 teaspoon cumin, ketchup, vinegar, and peach preserves and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for several more minutes.
- Remove from heat and allow the sauce to cool to room temperature. For a completely smooth sauce, pulse in a food processor or blender.
- Baste the pork with 2 tablespoons of the sauce. Return it to the oven for about 5-8 minutes, until fully cooked and the internal temperature reaches 160°F. Remove from oven. Allow the pork to rest for 5 minutes, and then thinly slice against the grain.
- To assemble the sliders, top the bottom half of each bun with a few slices of the pork, several pickles, a heaping spoonful of the sauce, and the top bun.
- Category: Slider
- Method: Roasting
- Cuisine: Sandwiches
Keywords: sliders, barbecue, pork
Cooking By the Numbers…
Step 1 – Season, Sear, and Roast the Meat
Preheat the oven to 375°F.
Depending on the size of the pork loin, you may opt to cut it in half, if this is necessary to make it fit in your roasting pan.
Rub the loin all over with the salt, pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon of the ground cumin.
In a large skillet over medium-high heat, add the oil and swirl to coat the pan. Sear the loin on all sides until golden brown, and then transfer it to a roasting pan. Bake for 20 minutes.
Step 2 – Make the Barbecue Sauce
While the pork is roasting, it’s time to make that sweet and spicy sauce!
Mince the garlic and rough chop the chipotle pepper. You can use half of a canned chipotle in adobo sauce for a milder finished product, or a whole pepper to make things a bit spicier.
Reduce the heat to low and add the garlic and chipotle pepper to the skillet. Saute until fragrant and lightly golden, about 30 seconds, and then deglaze the pan with the Worcestershire, scraping up any brown stuck-on bits.
Add the remaining 1/4 teaspoon of cumin, the ketchup, apple cider vinegar, and peach preserves, and bring to a boil. If fresh peaches are in season, you could opt to dice up a few and use those instead. It’s up to you whether you want to leave the peels on or not.
Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for several more minutes, to thicken the sauce and allow the flavors to meld.
Remove the pan from the heat and allow the sauce to cool to room temperature. It will have some texture to it, but if you prefer a completely smooth sauce, you can pulse it in a food processor or blender. Or, try using your immersion blender right in the pan.
Step 3 – Baste and Finish the Pork
Pull the roasting pan out of the oven and baste the pork with 2 tablespoons of the sauce. Return it to the oven and continue to roast until the meat is fully cooked, for about 5-8 more minutes.
Check the internal temperature with your meat thermometer – it’s ready when it reaches 160°F.
Allow the pork to rest for 5 minutes on a cutting board. Slice it thin, against the grain.
Step 4 – Build the Sliders
Toasting is optional. You can lightly toast the buns by first spraying the cut sides with oil, brushing them with melted butter, or slathering on a thin layer of mayonnaise. Place them greased side down in a dry, preheated pan over medium heat until golden brown.
To assemble the sliders, top each bottom half with a few slices of the pork, several pickles, a heaping spoonful of the sauce, and the top bun. Use toothpicks to hold the sliders together if necessary.
This Pork Is on a Roll
Buttery and sweet Hawaiian slider rolls make an exceptional landing pad for this pork, but feel free to double up on the fillings and move the party over to a regular size bun if you like. Other crunchy garnish ideas include red cabbage slaw, butter lettuce, and pickled veggies of the non-cucumber variety.
To tame the heat of the barbecue sauce, hold back on the amount of chipotle that you use. To amp it up, a dash of cayenne will do the trick. For a fall-inspired version of this mini sammie, you could even swap out the peach preserves for roasted cranberries.
Where meats are concerned, pork is as versatile as they come, especially the loin. Give these recipes a gander for ideas on how to dress this tasty cut up next:
- Spicy-Sweet Maple Glazed Pork Roast with Root Vegetables
- Balsamic Dijon Pork Loin with Sweet Potatoes, Onions, and Carrots
- Hasselback Herb Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Pears
A thin spread of mayo or butter is my go-to method for lightly toasting the buns before I dig in. What’s yours, and what type of barbecue is your all-time fav?
Share your secrets for golden-browning and your top BBQ picks in the comments below! And don’t forget to give this recipe a five-star rating if you loved it.
Photos by Fanny Slater, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published on December 2, 2012. Last updated on February 5, 2020. With additional writing and editing by Allison Sidhu.
Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.
About Fanny Slater
Fanny Slater is a home-taught food enthusiast based in Wilmington, North Carolina who won the “Rachael Ray Show” Great American Cookbook Competition in 2014, and published her cookbook “Orange, Lavender & Figs” in 2016. Fanny is a food and beverage writer, recipe developer, and social media influencer. She was a co-host on the Food Network series “Kitchen Sink,” was featured on Cooking Channel’s longtime popular series “The Best Thing I Ever Ate,” and continues to appear regularly on the “Rachael Ray Show.”