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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.
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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.
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.
- Cabbage (optional)
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.
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!
Frequently Asked Questions
Kalua Pork is tender and juicy with a salty, smoky flavor.
Kalua means “cooked in an underground oven.” In addition, another name for underground oven is imu.
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.
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 Recipe
- Rub pork generously with salt.
- Place the pork in a slow cooker. Pour on liquid smoke. Add water. Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours.
- An hour before serving, carefully lift pork out of the slow cooker (do not drain out juices) and place cabbage in the bottom of the slow cooker. Place pork on top of the cabbage, place lid back on, and cook for another hour. Shred pork and serve.
To prepare in an Instant Pot:
- Follow 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.
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