If you've never made pig shots, let me tell you - they are as delicious as they are a pain in the back to make neat and perfect. During my first couple of batches, I definitely struggled but eventually figured out how to make my pig shots hold their shape and look just as good as they taste. In my pig shots recipe, I use my signature BBQ rub and add a few twists that make them truly outstanding.
What are pig shots?
Pig shots, also known as pork shots, are edible shot-size 'cups' made of bacon strips and smoked sausage and filled with a creamy filling that normally uses cream cheese as a base. Pig shots are then smoked and served hot as an appetizer or as party food. Bacon-wrapped, smoked and delicious, they very much resemble jalapeno poppers and Texas Twinkies.
How to make pig shots?
Step 1 - get the right ingredients
First and foremost, use only thick-cut bacon. It's also known as 'butcher' bacon. Cup walls made of thin-cut bacon will be too weak to hold up the shape.
That said, how thick should the bacon be? The regular thin-cut bacon is about 1/16" thick, while thick-cut bacon is at least 50% thicker than that and usually is 1/8" to 1/4" thick. There isn't an industry standard for that so you have to pay attention to what you are buying.
While thick-cut bacon is preferred for pig shots, if it's too thick it won't cook through as well so it won't taste as good. I've tried using my home-cured bacon cut both 1/4" thick and 1/8" thick, and I by far prefer bacon cut 1/8" thick. On that note, try using homemade bacon, it will beat store-bought hands down and is easy to make.
For the bases of your bacon 'cups' you will use smoked sausage. You can't go wrong with Polish kielbasa. My favorite one is homemade kielbasa. For a spicier version, I like hot links. It's not overly spicy so many will still enjoy it.
Use thicker sausage. Thicker sausage will make a larger and sturdier base.
The filling that goes inside the cups can be as basic or as complex as you want. I really like a mixture of cream cheese, sour cream, Parmesan cheese, finely chopped Jalapeño Cheddar or Jack cheese, sliced green onions, and jalapeno slices. This filling is the bomb!
To make pig shots even better, I top them with my signature BBQ rub which is so easy to make and I am sure you have all of the ingredients in your pantry.
Oh, I almost forgot about the secret ingredient - maple syrup. I tried drizzling some maple syrup inside the pig shots before adding the filling and then again on top once they were ready and liked them so much that I don't make them any other way anymore.
Step 2 - make the cups (aka shot glasses)
Start with cutting very even slices of sausage. They will be on the bottom so if you cut them evenly, the pig shots will sit upright and not lean.
Some cut the sausage about 1/4" thick but I personally prefer about 3/8" to 1/2" thickness. Thicker bases make it easier to build the cups and they are more stable. More sausage equals better taste too, IMHO.
Wrap bacon strip around sausage slice. Do not wrap tightly as the bacon will shrink during smoking. If you do, the pig shots may lose their shape, separate from the sausage bases and deform. Some overlap is a good idea as that will help the smoked pig shots remain stable.
Finally, secure the bacon to the sausage base with a toothpick.
While building the bacon 'cups', keep the bacon in the fridge and only pull out a few slices at a time. This is especially true for warm days. When bacon starts to warm up it gets floppy and difficult to work with. Assemble a few cups and put them back into the fridge so the bacon stays cold and firm.
Step 3 - prepare the filling
Place softened cream cheese, sour cream, finely chopped or shredded jalapeno cheddar cheese, sliced green onions, and grated Parmesan cheese in a bowl.
Mix everything well with a large spoon.
The easiest way to get this cream cheese mixture inside the pig shot cups is to pipe it. Transfer the filling into a piping bag with a large tip or a medium Ziploc bag and cut off one corner of the bag such that you have about a 3/4" opening.
That's it, we are ready for filling the bacon cups.
Step 4 - fill the cups
Adding a slice or two of jalapeno pepper to the bottom of each 'cup' will make pig shots taste much better. Also, drizzling some maple syrup will take pig shots to a whole new level.
Pull all the pig shots out of the fridge at once, quickly add a jalapeno slice in each cup, and drizzle about 1/2 a teaspoon of maple syrup per cup.
Now, fill them with the cream cheese filling. Since the cream cheese filling expands during cooking, you may want to avoid filling the cups all the way to the top.
If you do, it's not the end of the world. I actually like them filled all the way and I'll even make little mounds on top. The more filling the better.
Then sprinkle the tops with the BBQ rub. Sweet and spicy rubs work really well here. You can go with a popular commercial BBQ rub, such as Simply Marvelous Sweet Seduction, or just make your own using my recipe below.
As soon as you are done, put the filled cups back in the fridge and keep them there until ready to smoke.
Step 5 - smoke 'em
You need to smoke your pork shots with the right wood. Cherry gives bacon a rich dark-red color. Pecan and hickory are very good too. Oak, maple or apple won't give you as nice of color in such a short smoking time.
Use a cooling rack that fits inside your smoker. This will make loading and unloading the pig shots a 2-second job and they won't get messed up during the process.
I find that the smoking temperature for pig shots is best when it's around 275F - 300F. That way you get a nice color, crispy bacon and perfect smokiness. It takes about 60-80 minutes to smoke pig shots at this temp.
Smoking at lower temps results in rubbery, pale-looking bacon. While at 325F and higher, the bacon crisps up too fast, and the shots come out less smoky.
Step 6 - serve them
Smoked pig shots are best served hot off the grill/smoker. Just be careful because the cream cheese filling can be pretty hot.
As good as they are, I found a way to make my pig shots even better. I drizzle them with even more maple syrup and top with thinly sliced jalapeno peppers and green onions. It looks like a real gourmet dish only it tastes way better 😉
I also like them cold from the fridge the next day. That is, if there are any leftovers. Usually, there aren't any unless I make a huge batch. If you want to warm them up, that's fine; heat them in the oven/toaster oven/air fryer until they hit 165F internal and serve
Ideas for pig shots
Here are some really cool things that I've seen fellow BBQers add into pigs shots to keep things interesting:
- Pineapple wedges/cubes
- Small shrimp/shrimp pieces
- Sun-dried tomatoes
- Bacon bits
- Left-over shredded pulled pork
- Left-over chopped smoked brisket
- Bits of lobster, crab or crawdad meat
Similar recipes you must try
Smoked Jalapeno Poppers (with a cool twist)
- 20 strips thick-cut bacon preferably 1/8" thick
- 1 lb smoked kielbasa cut into 3/8" thick disks
- 2 jalapeno peppers one sliced about 1/8" thick to put inside pig shots and one sliced very thinly for garnish when serving
- 1/4 cup maple syrup or agave nectar/corn syrup
- 1 green onion stalk thinly sliced, for garnish
- 8 oz cream cheese softened, at room temperature
- 8 oz sour cream
- 3 oz jalapeno cheddar cheese finely chopped
- 2 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
- 3 green onion stalks thinly sliced
- 1/8 tsp crushed red pepper red pepper flakes optional
- 1 tsp granulated garlic
- 1 tsp granulated onion
- 1 tsp Ancho chile powder
- 1 tsp raw sugar or brown sugar
- 1/4 tsp kosher salt
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- Prepare the rub by mixing the rub ingredients in a small bowl. Set aside.
- In a medium bowl, mix softened cream cheese with the rest of the cream cheese filling ingredients. Transfer to a medium Ziploc bag and refrigerate. Just before filling, cut off one corner making a 3/4" opening. You can also use a piping bag with a 3/4" tip.
- Make bacon 'cups' by wrapping bacon strips around sausage slices and securing them with toothpicks.
- Place a slice of jalapeno pepper at the bottom of each cup and drizzle about 1/2 tsp of maple syrup.
- Fill the cups with the filling and sprinkle the rub generously on top.
- Smoke with cherry, pecan or hickory smoke at 250F - 275F for 60-80 minutes, or until the bacon crisps up and acquires a nice color, and the tops are dark golden brown.
- Serve hot, garnished with thin slices of jalapeno pepper and green onion.