Kalua Pork Pulled Pork Sandwiches

5 from 9 votes
15 Comments

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Kalua Pork Pulled Pork Sandwich is bursting with sweet and tangy flavors. Tender, shredded pork topped with crunchy slaw on a soft roll, it’s a complete meal on a bun.

Kalua Pork Sandwich on a cutting board.

Kalua Pork Pulled Pork Sandwiches

Kalua Pork is a staple in Hawaii and when I lived there I ate it all the time! This pulled pork recipe tastes just like the luau pork at the Polynesian Cultural Center! But instead of a smoker or smoking the meat or in a pit, this tender, smoky pork gets cooked to perfection in the Crock Pot or a Dutch oven. My family loves the meat pork mixture  piled high on a soft bun with crisp homemade coleslaw. But you could also just serve it over rice. This pork is so flavorful, feeds a crowd and is really easy to prepare!

Easier than Roasting a Kalua Pig

If you’re in Hawaii, chances are your traditional island Kalua pig is cooked underground, or at the very least, in a pit in the ground, in an oven called in Imu. It takes hours for the coal to work its magic and steam the pig, but if you’ve ever had the chance to taste it, the meat is glorious! Worth all the extra digging and work. However, when I’m craving pulled pork sandwiches on the mainland, I opt for a pork roast  or pork tenderloin in the slow cooker. Call me a cheater, I don’t care. This recipe makes it taste just like the island smoked pork and with just a fraction of the work. All you do is toss the ingredients in the slow cooker and let it simmer over medium-high heat and get all juicy and tender. Delicious!

Three Kalua Pork Sandwiches.

Ingredients in Kalua Pork Pulled Pork Sandwiches

The ingredients for this pork recipe are simple and easy to find. Here’s all you need for perfectly flavored smoked pork:

  • Pork roast – you can use boneless pork shoulder, pork butt, a pork shoulder roast, whatever pork happens to be on sale or whatever you have on hand. For ease I like to use a cut of meat without bone.
  • Kosher salt – the larger grains of sodium help break down the meat and make it more tender. You can use a mixture of salt and pepper if you like.
  • Liquid smoke – you can find this in the condiment or spice aisle at most grocery stores.
  • Ti leaves – this is completely optional. If ti leaves aren’t available or you don’t know what they are, just leave them out. They just add a cool local Hawaiian element to the dish.

Additional Flavors or Spices

Once you have the base to your pulled pork you can spice it up all sorts of ways! Here are some ideas to try:

  • Add a few tablespoons of brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, and a tsp each garlic powder and onion powder for a bolder flavor.
  • Marinate the pork with a cup apple cider vinegar, your favorite bbq sauce, root beer or chicken broth.
  • In a small bowl, mix in teaspoons each of garlic, paprika, black pepper, cumin, cayenne pepper and onion for a delicious spice rub.
  • Top your sandwiches with bbq sauce, mustard or mayo.

How to Serve Kalua Pork 

There are so many ways to serve up this delicious pork! Serve it on sandwiches for one meal, then try leftovers on nachos, tacos, salads and wraps. It’s delicious with diced apples in a slaw. Or serve it as a main dish with some soy sauce, coconut rice and a side of coleslaw. Wrap leftovers in aluminum foil and store in the refrigerator for up to three days.

Kalua Pork, mango and rice on a dinner plate.

Read Next: 33+ Easy Lunch Ideas

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Pair these pulled pork sandwiches with a few of these delicious and authentic Hawaiian recipes and escape with the flavors of the islands anytime you want!

How to make Kalua Pork Pulled Pork Sandwiches

Kalua Pork Sandwich on a cutting board.

Kalua Pork / Pulled Pork Sandwiches

5 from 9 votes
Kalua Pork Pulled Pork Sandwich is bursting with sweet and tangy flavors. Tender, shredded pork topped with crunchy slaw on a soft roll, it's a complete meal on a bun.
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 8 hrs
Total Time 8 hrs 10 mins
Course Dinner, Main Course
Cuisine Hawaiian
Servings 8

Video

Equipment

  • Crock Pot Slow Cooker

Ingredients

  • 3-4 pound pork roast
  • 1-2 Tbsp Kosher salt
  • 1/3 c. liquid smoke
  • 1 c. water
  • 4 ti leaves Washed (If ti leaves aren’t available or you don’t know what they are, no worries– it is still great without them -they just add a cool local Hawaiian element to the dish.)

Instructions

  • Line bottom of crock pot with 2 ti leaves (if you have them). Rub pork generously with salt, pour on liquid smoke.
    Kosher salt rubber all around uncooked pork roast.
  • Place on ti leaves or in the crock pot. Add water. Fit remaining ti leaves (again, if you have them) around outer edge of crockpot. 
    Raw pork Roast in a slow cooker.
  • Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours or until it will easily shred into juices (do not drain).
    Shredding Kalua Pork with two forks.
  • Serve on buns with coleslaw.
    Constructed Kalua Pork Sandwich.

Notes

Nutrition does not include bun or toppings.

Nutrition Information

Calories: 332kcalCarbohydrates: 23gProtein: 41gFat: 7gSaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 107mgSodium: 978mgPotassium: 668mgFiber: 1gSugar: 1gCalcium: 13mgIron: 2.3mg

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About the author

Emily Walker

Emily lives in Meridian, Idaho, with her husband, Beau, a physician assistant, and her three incredible children: a son and two daughters. Travel is one of her favorite ways to experience new cultures and cuisines, and she has a love for all things Disney.

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Comments

  1. 5 stars
    My family loves Kalua Pig. I make mine with Hawaiian Salt and TI Leaf. I don’t use liquid smoke. I also prefer to cook mine in the oven at 215-225 degrees F. for 10-12 hours depending on how big it is.
    Leftovers I fry up some cabbage and place the pork in it to steam with some of the juices and serve over rice. So ONO!

  2. 5 stars
    I threw this into the slow cooker last night. Eyeballed the amounts of sea salt and liquid smoke (poked the pork full of holes, rubbed in the liquid smoke, then rubbed in the salt), skipped the water (I swear it’s not necessary ~ the pork will give off a large amount of liquid), and put an unpeeled banana on top of the roast. I’ll cook it on low for 20 hours or so, shred it, defat the liquid, and throw it all back in the slow cooker for another hour. So ono! I’ve been making kalua pork this way for years. I’m so glad this recipe was posted ~ it’s one of my all-time favorite recipes!

    1. Great tips! I love the idea of putting a banana in there with it! I will DEFINITELY try that next time!

  3. 5 stars
    just found your site and going through it…it rocks!

    Here’s a tip for those that don’t have ti leaves…you can put a banana peel (under or on top of the pork) in the crock pot and it gives it that “island/local flavor”. I promise it doesn’t taste like banana.

    1. eRiCa,
      Do I need to put the banana peel in the crock pot with the yellow or white side up before adding the pork? Next question should put on bottom only, top only, or both. Thanks for your help.

      1. I haven’t added banana peel before. One of the commenters said she puts an unpeeled banana on the top. That is what I will try next for sure!

  4. 5 stars
    I have family from Hawaii and they Pick the leaves from their tree wash and dry them. Then they stick them in the freezer and they still work out great. This is a great tip!