This Portuguese pulled pork recipe is a crowd pleaser. Tender and juicy with a punch of flavor from the spices and red wine, step away from ordinary pulled pork recipes with this caçoila recipe. This recipe is written for a 6-qt slow cooker.
Cacoila is a Portuguese recipe for slow-simmered beef or pork dish. Pronounced traditionally as Kah-Soy-La, my family pronounces this dish as Kah-Sir-La. This is one of my favorite Portuguese dishes from childhood.
In Portuguese cuisine, every family has their own variation on Cacoila. Every recipe, however, uses an inexpensive cut of meat. The meat is simmered for several hours until it’s tender.
In fact, a more expensive cut of meat like pork tenderloin will not work well with this method. It lacks the fat needed to keep the meat juicy during the long cooking process.
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What Ingredients are in Cacoila – Portuguese Pulled Pork?
- Boneless Boston Pork Butt Roast – I used a 4 lb boneless Boston butt half roast
- Crushed tomatoes – use the best variety for your budget. I use San Marzano tomatoes
- Tomato sauce – use the best variety for your budget, I use San Marzano tomatoes , if I cannot find them, I use steam peeled, low sodium tomato sauce
- Madeira Red Wine – this is the best Portugues red wine for this dish but is only found in liquor stores that sell wine. If you cannot find Madeira wine, try another sweet red wine. See Notes below on wine selection and alternatives.
- Onion – I use sweet onions but yellow or white onions will also work here.
- Paprika – sweet or hot, depending on your desired heat level, both work well in this dish.
- Piri Piri Peppers – Piri Piri peppers are traditional – if you have those on hand, use them here. Otherwise, crushed red pepper flakes make a good substitute.
- Portuguese Allspice – substitute regular allspice. Portuguese allspice is a blend of cinnamon, allspice, anise, orange zest, and ground black pepper.
- Bay Leaves – dried leaves from Bay Laurel tree used to add flavor to the sauce. These are removed before serving so leave them whole.
- Ground cinnamon** – If not using Portuguese allspice, add a pinch of cinnamon to regular allspice to add warmth to the sauce.
- Star Anise** – tastes like black licorice. Add two whole stars if you are using regular allspice.
- Dried Orange Zest** – add a pinch if you are using regular allspice and not Portuguese allspice.
- Salt and ground black pepper – more or less to taste.
What’s the Best substitute for Madeira Wine?
It would make sense that Portuguese food would call for a wine made in that country. Madeira is a fortified red wine. Since the wine is fortified with brandy, this wine can usually only be purchased in a liquor store and will not typically be found in the grocery store.
Madeira wine gets its unique flavor from heating the wine during production giving the wine some fascinating flavors like roasted nuts, stewed fruit, caramel, and toffee.
As an alternative, use another sweet red wine in its place. Yellow Tail makes a Sweet Red Roo which I enjoy in this dish. This wine has flavor notes very similar to those in Madeira wine.
Barefoot also makes a Sweet Red wine but I do not care for that flavor profile in this dish.
If you do not have red wine, substitute sweet white wine.
How Do I make Cacoila, Portuguese Pulled Pork, in the Slow Cooker or Crock Pot?
- Place all the ingredients, aside from the sandwich buns, in a 6-qt Slow Cooker.
- Simmer on LOW for 10 to 12 hours until the meat is tender and easily pulled apart with a pair of forks.
- Serve alone or on buns as sandwiches.
- To make it a meal, serve with fava beans, boiled potatoes, rice, or greens.
Portuguese Pulled pork, Caçoila
- 4 lbs boneless pork butt
- 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
- 28 oz can tomato sauce
- 1 1/2 cups Sweet Red Wine, Madeira See Notes
- 1 large onion , sliced thinly
- 1 tablespoon Portuguese Allspice See Notes
- 1 tablespoon Paprika
- 1 to 2 tablespoons crushed red pepper flakes , more or less for spiciness
- salt and pepper , to taste
- 2 Whole Bay leaves
- 8 French Hamburger buns
- Place all the ingredients, aside from the sandwich buns, in your 6-qt slow cooker.
- Simmer on low for 10 to 12 hours until the meat is tender and easily pulls apart.
- Stir the shredded meat back into the sauce. Serve as is or as sandwiches.
- Nutrition calculated with 1 hamburger bun.
- Traditionally, cacoila is served on a bulky roll but it may also be served over rice or potatoes for a more hearty meal.
- Beef is equally delicious in this recipe and for that, I use a cut of meat like stew beef.
- If Portuguese allspice is not available, use regular allspice and a pinch of each of the following: ground cinnamon and dried orange peel. Then add two whole star anise pods. Remove the star anise pods before serving.
- Madeira Red Wine is a fortified wine typically found in the liquor store. Because of the fortification, it is not usually found in the grocery store. If you prefer, you may substitute the Madeira wine with a sweet red table wine. I recommend Yellow Tail Sweet Red Roo for its similar flavor notes. I do not recommend Barefoot Sweet Red for this recipe.