Barbecue joints all have their own unique pulled pork sandwiches prepared in a particular way with their own signature barbecue sauce and their own type of bun. I’ve tried or made every option under the sun, and here are my thoughts on the subject.
There are 8 excellent choices for buns for pulled pork sandwiches. The old standby, of course, is the plain hamburger bun. Then you have Kaiser rolls, ciabatta buns, Hawaiian sweet buns, potato buns, sourdough buns, Brioche, and hoagie rolls.
Ultimately, the best and tastiest bun for pulled pork sandwiches will be whichever type is your personal preference and fits your taste just right.
Even so, the bun must have a couple of attributes to even be in the running to “house,” so to speak, a juicy barbecue sandwich:
- They must have a mild flavor that will not compete with the taste of the barbecue.
- They must be soft but firm enough to hold together when loaded with meat and a ton of your favorite barbecue sauce.
So, let’s discuss the merits of each one on my list:
1. Hamburger Buns
This is the main go-to option for most folks and restaurants.
Hamburger buns come in various sizes to provide the right size sandwich you want to make, they have a relatively mild flavor that will not overpower the taste of the barbecue, and they are soft but firm enough to hold together when loaded with meat and sauce, especially when toasted.
It seems that most of the barbecue restaurants in the Deep South primarily use regular hamburger buns for their barbecue sandwiches.
2. Kaiser Rolls
This is not a sweet roll and will not compete with nor take away from the taste of the barbecue.
They are larger than most rolls and will accommodate a generous portion of barbecue.
Kaiser rolls are soft and fluffy on the inside but tough and crusty on the outside and, especially after being toasted, will hold together well when loaded with meat and slathered with your favorite barbecue sauce.
3. Ciabatta Buns
This type of bun has a mild flavor and will provide an even crunchier bed for your barbecue when toasted.
Ciabatta buns are a dense Italian bread with a chewy texture on the inside and a crunchy exterior that will provide a bread for a barbecue sandwich that will not fall apart even when loaded with meat and sauce.
Try this: In addition to being an excellent choice as a bun for a barbecue sandwich, ciabatta buns also make an excellent bed for an open-faced barbecue sandwich.
4. Brioche Buns
This is a popular choice in the Northern United States.
Brioche buns are light and fluffy with a slightly sweet flavor, but will complement the taste of the barbecued meat and not overpower it.
Since they are light and fluffy, they will hold up better under the weight of the meat and sauce when toasted.
Great for parties: Brioche buns are available in slider size and will make a barbecue slider tray that will be a hit at your next party or gathering.
5. Hawaiian Sweet Buns
Like a sweeter flavor? These are perfect for you!
Even though the Hawaiian sweet bun is sweeter than the brioche and the potato bun, this bun’s sweetness will complement the barbecue sauce’s flavor and not overpower it.
It is a soft bun with a light and fluffy texture, but these buns do not fall apart when loaded with meat and barbecue sauce.
6. Potato Buns
They are extremely soft buns but hold together nicely so that they will not fall apart when loaded with barbecued meat and sauce, especially when toasted.
Potato buns look like hamburger buns but have a taste that is slightly sweet, but not extremely sweet, and will not compete with the taste of the barbecue.
Growing in popularity: Potato buns and rolls have become quite popular in recent years and are actually made with real mashed potatoes.
7. Sourdough Bread
Sourdough bread has a chewy interior with a crusty exterior that will hold up well under messy barbecue and sauce.
Like ciabatta buns, sourdough bread will make a big hit when using them for open-faced barbecue sandwiches, although 2 toasted slices of sourdough bread will make a barbecue sandwich that is out of this world!
Fun Fact: Sourdough bread is a slightly sour-tasting bread made by fermenting a flour batter to create its unique taste, which is a favorite among many people.
8. Hoagie Rolls
My last choice as one of the better rolls or buns to use to make a barbecue sandwich is the hoagie roll.
This is a mild dense roll that will not overpower the taste of the barbecue. It is tough enough to handle the meat and sauce without falling apart.
Pro Tip: Try cutting a hoagie roll down the middle, filling it with your homemade pulled pork, and slather it with your favorite barbecue sauce. Then, add a slice of provolone cheese. Put it in a hot oven for just a few minutes to toast the bread and melt the cheese. It will remind you of a Philly Cheesesteak or a Meatball Sub. Yum!
What Is The Most Widely Used Bun For Barbecue Sandwiches:
Texas is known worldwide for its amazing barbecue. So, I took a look at the menu of each barbecue establishment whose sandwiches are on TexasMonthly’s list of the top 10 barbecue sandwiches in the state.
- 70% of them reportedly are made on squishy white buns, which do not sound appetizing, but sound to me like regular hamburger buns are being used.
- The other 30% are made with a sweet white roll which I assume is a brioche, a jalapeno cheese sourdough, and a squishy white hoagie roll..
To be thorough, let’s also look at North Carolina, which rivals Texas as the world’s best barbecue state and has a Historic Barbecue Trail featuring about 20 barbecue joints along the way.
When checking out the menus of the restaurants on this barbecue trail, there is no mention of a particular type of bun or roll, and only 1 or 2 mentioned a bun at all.
I called a few of them, and they all use regular hamburger buns. Boring, yes… but that’s what the public in the area seems to demand!
The fact is that most of these businesses concentrate on their barbecue plates and not on the sandwich business.
Now, let’s look at the Northern states.
While Southern barbecue joints seem to primarily use regular hamburger buns, Northern barbecue businesses such as these offer a better quality bun:
- The Prized Pig in Mishawaka, Indiana, offers a choice of either a brioche or a pretzel bun.
- A caterer in Pemberton, New Jersey, who goes by the name of The BBQ Brethren, is of the opinion that “a better roll will make a better sandwich.”
But, Pyle’s Barbecue from Madrid, Iowa, takes its cue from the Southern barbecue establishments and uses a 4” hamburger bun but fills it up with meat.
Even though there are exceptions, the most widely used bun for barbecue sandwiches seems to be the normal, garden variety hamburger bun, some with sesame seeds, but most without.
While it appears that the type of barbecue sauce is more or less a regional thing, with some being vinegar and ketchup-based and some mustard-based sauce, buns are a relatively unimportant part of the barbecue business.
Whether they spell barbecue with a “C” (barbecue), a “Q” (barbeque), or simply write “BBQ,” buns are not on their radar except for a very few businesses.
Should I Toast Bread For Pulled Pork?
Although many people prefer untoasted bread for their sandwiches, most bread, buns, and rolls will hold together longer when toasted than when left untoasted.
And especially with a messy sandwich like barbecue, the little bit of extra sturdiness added by toasting the bread will make a more secure eating experience when enjoying that delicious and messy barbecue sandwich.
Where Can I Find The Best Barbecue?
It seems that everyone has their own ideas about which states have the best barbecue.
In fact, Southern Living lists the best place in each southern state to find good barbecue. But, at least two of those lists, CNN Travel and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, agree on the best 10 states for barbecue. Here is the list:
- New York
- North Carolina
- South Carolina
Personally, I think this list is population-biased. Of course, California, which has the population of a large country, will rate first because people living there will vote for it!
However, I have tried barbecue in every state on this list. And while they all have great barbecue, if you know where to look. My favorites are below:
- Best Pulled Pork: North Carolina. And it’s not even close. One word: Vinegar. Try Gary’s in China Grove. And, don’t forget the banana pudding dessert!
- Best Brisket: Anywhere Texas. I ate at Jay’s in Abilene a few years back. OMG.
- Best Ribs: Memphis. Man, I miss this place. One of my greatest BBQ experiences ever was eating at Corky’s. Ribs are next level in this city.
Growing up in the South with frequent visits to Sonny’s barbecue (Not real barbecue, of course) or other local restaurants gives me a good perspective on the type of bun I prefer for my barbecue sandwiches.
One of my favorite meals is to slow-cook a Boston Butt roast all day long with a good coating of a particular “butt rub” that my granddaughter introduced me to a few years ago.
Pulling that pork and adding my favorite barbecue sauce, and then having a bowl of homemade potato salad on the side is just awesome.
Make sure you include a variety of rolls for sandwiches which often includes hoagies, ciabatta, and brioche, so that everyone can decide for themselves which buns they want for their sandwiches.
Thanks for stoppin’ by!
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