I seem to enjoy pairing pork with cocktails. And no, I don’t mean pouring myself a drink before tucking into a pork entree. I mean, marinating, braising, and/or topping pork with a beloved cocktail. I will admit it’s a strange hobby. This is not something I knew about myself, but this Cuba Libre Pulled Pork and the Mojito Pork Tostadas from last month suggest this is becoming a favorite pastime of mine. Who knew? I realize that two recipes do not a pattern make, but you have to admit, it’s a little peculiar. I can’t wait to see what my brain hurls at me next. Paloma Pork Burgers? Actually, not a terrible idea.
But enough about the alcoholic pork recipes that are no doubt in my future, let’s talk about today’s Cuba Libre Pulled Pork Bowls. If you want me to like something, serve it in a rice bowl. Rice and noodles bowls are the perfect food, in my opinion. In fact, my favorite food emergency meal is rice with sriracha and soy sauce topped with a crispy fried egg and served with whatever frozen veg I can scrounge from my freezer. It’s usually peas because who doesn’t have peas in their freezer?
Rice and noodle bowls are also there for you when you need to clear out your crisper. They can play host to a multitude of veggies and bits of proteins. And even when the components of your bowl seem woefully mismatched, the rice somehow manages to knit the lot together. It’s miraculous, it’s a gift. And I’m only sort of exaggerating here, that’s how strongly I feel about rice.
These Cuba Libre Pulled Pork Bowls play host to pork shoulder, black beans, pickled red cabbage, and avocado. I realize there is a lot to unpack (and eat) here, so let’s go down the list one by one, starting with the main event – the Cuba Libre Pulled Pork. Now, this pork was inspired by the wildly popular slow cooker recipe – cola pulled pork. I feel like this three-ingredient recipe is now so ubiquitous its origins are lost to the universe. And I get it. What’s not to like about piling a pork shoulder into a slow cooker, covering it with a bottle of soda, and calling it dinner. But you know me, if there’s a way to complicate things, I will find it.
Slow cooking a cut like pork shoulder in soda just makes good sense. The acidity of the pop breaks down the pork’s connective tissue while sealing in the moisture. And cola’s copious sugar content lends itself well to caramelization, which results in a great depth of flavor. But why stop at cola? And with that stray thought, this Cuba Libre Pulled Pork was born. But before I get ahead of myself, let’s cover what a Cuba Libre is.
A Cuba Libre is basically a rum and coke finished with fresh lime. It’s usually made with Mexican Coca-Cola, which is made with cane sugar. I love Mexican Coca-Cola but if you can’t get your hands on it, regular cola is fine. But if you can, track down a premium brand of cola, like Boylan’s. Their cola also contains cane sugar and I think it makes a real difference in terms of flavor. So basically, to make this Cuba Libre Pulled Pork, I mixed a giant Cuba Libre poured it over a seared pork shoulder dusted in a dry rub, and cooked it low and slow. Your pork is done when the bone slips out easily and the meat falls apart just by looking at it. I’m kidding, some light pulling is required.
Now for the black beans. I cheated a bit and used canned black beans but if you’re game, you can start with dried. Basically, these beans are my attempt at Cuban black beans. I adore Cuban black beans but I never get them quite right. That always seems to be the way with simple dishes, there’s always something the dish isn’t telling you. While these are not the best Cuban black beans I’ve ever had, this is the closest I’ve come to cracking the code, so I think you’ll enjoy them.
Then we have the Pickled red cabbage, which brings the noise to this bowl in terms of color and sharp acidity. Start this pickle the night before your planning on serving the bowl. And after an overnight pickle in the fridge, the cabbage will be this brilliant and bright shade of fuchsia. It almost feels like a magic trick, it’s such a lovely transformation.
So that’s pretty much everything you need to know about these Cuba Libre Pulled Pork Bowls. This recipe is perfect for the return of the cozy season. This is a lazy, delicious slow cook if there ever was one.
Cuba Libre Pulled Pork Bowls with Pickled Red Cabbage
- Large dutch oven
- Mason jar
Cuba Libre Pulled Pork
- 1 bone-in pork shoulder
- 1½ tbsp kosher salt
- 1 tbsp brown sugar
- 2 tsp dried oregano
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- 1½ tsp garlic powder
- 1½ tsp onion powder
- ¼ cup neutral oil
- 3 cups cola
- ½ cup gold rum
- 2 limes juiced
Pickled Red Cabbage
- ¼ head red cabbage sliced thin on a mandoline
- 1 jalapeño sliced thin on a mandoline
- 1 cup white vinegar
- 1 cup water
- 1 tbsp granulated sugar
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 tsp kosher salt
Braised Black Beans
- 1 tsp whole cumin seeds
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 yellow onion diced
- 1 green bell pepper diced
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1 can black beans drained and rinsed
- ½ cup water
- ¼ cup red wine vinegar
- 1 tbsp honey
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- 4 cups cooked Jasmine rice
- 1 avocado pitted and cut into wedges
- ¼ cup fresh cilantro tightly packed
- 2 jalapeños thinly sliced
- lime wedges to serve
- Place the pork shoulder on a small baking sheet and pat it dry with a couple of sheets of paper towel. Set aside.1 bone-in pork shoulder
- In a small bowl whisk to combine the salt, brown sugar, oregano, cumin, garlic powder, and onion powder. Cover the shoulder in the dry rub mixture and wrap it with plastic wrap. Transfer to the fridge and let sit in the dry rub for at least 8 hours, preferrably 12.1½ tbsp kosher salt, 1 tbsp brown sugar, 2 tsp dried oregano, 2 tsp ground cumin, 1½ tsp garlic powder, 1½ tsp onion powder
- Take the pork out of the fridge 1 hour prior to cooking. Preheat the oven to 300°F.
- Place a large dutch oven over medium heat. Add the oil and heat until shimmering. Add the pork shoulder to the pot and sear on all sides until golden. Pour in the cola, rum, and lime juice. Place the lid on the pot and place it in the oven. Cook the pork for 2 hours with the cover on. Take the cover off and flip the pork and cook for another hour and a half, flipping the pork once again halfway through.¼ cup neutral oil, 3 cups cola, ½ cup gold rum, 2 limes
- Once the pork is done, let it rest for 15 minutes before transferring to a baking sheet and shredding the meat using two forks. Discard the bones and any excess fat. Spoon some of the braising liquid over the shredded meat to moisten it. Tent the meat in foil and keep warm until ready to serve.
For the Pickled Red Cabbage
- After coating the pork in its dry rub, pickle the cabbage. Place the cabbage and jalapeño in a large Mason jar.¼ head red cabbage, 1 jalapeño
- In a small bowl, whisk to combine, the vinegar, water, salt, sugar, and cumin seeds. Pour the mixture over the cabbage and seal. Transfer the jar to the fridge and let pickle overnight.1 cup white vinegar, 1 cup water, 1 tbsp granulated sugar, 1 tsp whole cumin seeds, 1 tsp kosher salt
For the Beans
- When the pork is nearly done braising, make the beans. Pour the cumin seeds into a dry skillet. Toast the seeds over medium-low heat until fragrant. Pour the seeds into a small bowl and set it aside.1 tsp cumin seeds
- Pour the oil into the skillet and heat it until shimmering. Add the onions and a pinch of salt. Sauté until just translucent. Stir in the garlic and green pepper and sauté until softened, about 2-3 minutes more.2 tbsp olive oil, 1 yellow onion, 1 green bell pepper, 3 cloves garlic
- Stir the beans, water, cumin seeds, oregano, red wine vinegar, honey, bay leaves, and salt. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Let cook for 20 minutes or until most of the liquid has been absorbed.1 can black beans, ½ cup water, ¼ cup red wine vinegar, 1 tbsp honey, 2 bay leaves, 1 tsp dried oregano, ½ tsp kosher salt
- Spoon the rice into bowls and top with pulled pork, beans, pickled cabbage, and avocado. Garnish with jalapeños, cilantro, and lime wedges. Serve immediately.4 cups cooked Jasmine rice, 1 avocado, ¼ cup fresh cilantro, 2 jalapeños, lime wedges