Kalua Pork Recipe

5 from 24 votes

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This tender, smoky Kalua Pork is a traditional Hawaiian dish served at luaus and family gatherings. Our version can be made in the slow cooker or Instant Pot and tastes just like authentic shredded Kalua Pig.

Close up of Kalua Pork.
Featured with this Recipe
  1. What is Kalua Pork?
  2. Kalua Pork in the Crock Pot
  3. Instant Pot Kalua Pork Recipe
  4. Kalua Pork Ingredients
  5. Serving Options
  6. Frequently Asked Questions
  7. More Hawaiian Flavor
  8. How to Make Kalua Pork
  9. Kalua Pork Recipe Recipe

What is Kalua Pork?

If you have been to Hawaii or a luau, chances are you have had shredded Kalua Pork. This is one of my favorite Hawaiian dishes because it is so juicy and flavorful. In Hawaiian, the word “kalua” means “to cook in an underground oven (or imu).” Traditional Hawaiian Kalua Pig is seasoned with Hawaiian sea salt and wrapped in ti leaves, banana leaves or coconut palm fronds. It is then buried underground to cook with a special kindling that gives the meat a smoky flavor and sometimes cooked with hot lava rocks. It’s delicious and tender, yet time consuming and kind of complicated to cook it this way. But, don’t fret! We have two easier methods for preparing this authentic recipe without sacrificing flavor.

Kalua Pork in the Crock Pot

This pork recipe tastes so much like the actual, authentic Hawaiian Kalua pork without having to throw a whole pig in a pit. You literally throw it in the slow cooker and let it do its thing all day. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE the true “imu” method, but I can’t pass up the ease of the slow cooker when I am just making Hawaiian pulled pork for my family. If you want to smoke it in an underground pit to get the “true” experience I won’t stop you! But with this recipe, you’ll get the same fork tender pork and great taste with a fraction of the effort. 

Liquids around a raw pork roast in a slow cooker to make Kalua Pork.

Instant Pot Kalua Pork Recipe

If you want to speed things up, you can make this Hawaiian pulled pork in an Instant Pot or Pressure Cooker. Just follow the directions as indicated in this recipe but instead of putting it in a slow cooker, put it all (including the cabbage) in the Instant Pot. Set the Instant Pot for high pressure for one hour and allow to slow release pressure on its own for about 30 minutes. Shred and serve. SUPER easy.

Kalua Pork Ingredients

Who would guess that this simple list of ingredients could produce such melt-in-your-mouth goodness!

  • Pork roast – You can also use pork shoulder or pork butt roast, but remove the fat before serving.
  • Kosher salt or Hawaiian Salt
  • Liquid smoke – mesquite or hickory both work fine.
  • Water
  • Cabbage (optional)
Ingredients to make Kalua Pork.

Serving Options

My favorite way of serving this Kalua Pork is with a “plate lunch”. A plate lunch usually consists of a protein or two (such as Kalua pork, teriyaki chicken, teriyaki beef, or even spam), rice, Hawaiian Mac Salad and a side of fresh pineapple. Getting a bite with each of these things all at one time is seriously roll-your-eyes-back delicious. Savor each bite and eat it slowly. People often ask me what my very favorite food is, and obviously it is the Hawaiian plate lunch. It is THAT good.

Kalua Pork, mango and rice on a dinner plate.

Of course you can serve this all on its own or you can add BBQ sauce and make Kalua Pork Sandwiches, sliders, Pork Tacos with Mango Salsa, burritos, or even a burrito bowl with pineapple salsa. We also love just making simple shredded pork quesadillas or nachos loaded with lots of pork and cheese. Unquestionably, you will love any way you decide to serve this pork!

Kalua Pork in a serving dish topped with green onion.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does kalua pork taste like?

Kalua Pork is tender and juicy with a salty, smoky flavor.

What is the meaning of kalua pork?

Kalua means “cooked in an underground oven.” In addition, another name for underground oven is imu.

What is good with this kalua pork recipe?

Because of the strong flavors in Kalua pork, it is complemented with more mild tasting side dishes like white rice and Hawaiian Mac Salad. It can also be served with additional meats like teriyaki steak or chicken. Or some veggies like carrots, asparagus, or broccoli.

What should I do with leftover pork.

Keep any leftovers in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to a week, or in the freezer for up to 3 months. Reheating can be done in the microwave, a small pan over the stove, or a roasting pan in the oven.

More Hawaiian Flavor

Bring the essence of the Hawaiian islands to your table with these popular recipes from Hawaii:

How to Make Kalua Pork

Kalua Pork in a serving dish with tongs.

Kalua Pork Recipe

5 from 24 votes
Kalua Pork is a Hawaiian dish often served at luaus. This version is made in the slow cooker and tastes just like authentic shredded Kalua Pig.
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 8 hours
Total Time 8 hours 10 minutes
Course Dinner, Main Course
Cuisine Hawaiian
Servings 16



  • Crockpot


  • 1 (3-4 pound) pork roast
  • 1-2 tablespoon kosher salt
  • cup liquid smoke
  • 1 cup water
  • ½ head cabbage, coarsely chopped (optional)


  • Rub pork generously with salt.
    Kosher salt rubber all around uncooked pork roast.
  • Place the pork in a slow cooker. Pour on liquid smoke. Add water. Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours.
    Raw pork Roast in a slow cooker.
  • An hour before serving, carefully lift the pork out of the slow cooker. Do not drain out juices. Place cabbage in the bottom of the slow cooker. Place pork on top of the cabbage, place the lid back on and cook for another hour. Shred pork and serve.
    Shredding Kalua Pork with two forks.


To prepare in an Instant Pot:

  • Follow the directions above, but place pork and cabbage in the Instant Pot at the same time.
  • Set at high pressure for one hour.
  • Allow to slow-release pressure on its own for 30 minutes.
  • Shred and serve.

Nutrition Information

Calories: 173kcalCarbohydrates: 13gProtein: 21gFat: 4gSaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 54mgSodium: 494mgPotassium: 382mgFiber: 1gSugar: 1gVitamin A: 30IUVitamin C: 10.4mgCalcium: 18mgIron: 1.3mg

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About the author

Erica Walker

Erica lives in Boise, Idaho with her husband, Jared, an attorney, and her three beautiful girls. Beyond the world of recipes, she loves adventuring with everything from kayaking, to cruising, to snowboarding and taking the family along for the thrill ride.

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  1. 5 stars
    Wow ! My favorite plate lunch from L&L! Kalua pork and cabbage!!
    I can make this too with your Mac salad!
    Mahalo Nui loa

  2. 5 stars
    I am finally making a comment after making this at least a dozen times! This has been a family favorite for a few years now! This recipe is simple and absolutely amazing! Best Kalua pork ever. Thank you so much for this recipe!

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