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    Kalua Pork (Hawaiian Style Pulled Pork)

    Kalua Pork, or as many Polynesians call it “Kalua Pig“, is super simple. Yet when cooked for hours to fork tender with the right amount of seasoning, it will turn out, as the Hawaiians say, Onolicious!

    Juicy, tender, smoky shredded pork that you find almost everywhere in Hawaii, on their classic lunch plates, at their Luaus, family get-togethers and potlucks is just a 3-ingredient wonder!!

    You don’t need to cook it under the ground, which is what it is famous for in the islands. You can very easily make that authentic tasting Kalua Pig in your own kitchen…

    This Hawaiian Kalua Pork recipe uses 3 ingredients, but is super tasty and succulent. Cook in the slow cooker, instant pot, or oven.

    How does authentic Kalua Pork taste? Simple. It’s juicy, it’s tender, it’s smoky and it’s a TON flavorful.

    How you do that? Simple. Just two ingredients besides pork. Some salt and some liquid smoke. Then you cook it low and slow for hours and hours.

    You can use any of your kitchen wonders to cook Kalua Pork. Cook in a slow cooker, in the oven, or if you’re in a hurry, use a pressure cooker or instant pot. Personally, we prefer the slow cooker, as it allows the meat to cook on low heat and yields fork tender, juicy meat. Any kind of meat turns out absolutely delicious when it is cooked slow and low.

    The world’s oldest barbecue tradition is cooking meat in underground pits. It’s a method so old that our ancestors cooked mammoths in underground pits some 29,000 years ago.

    Hangi is a traditional Maori meal in New Zealand that is cooked by steaming food which is placed underground. Similarly, barbacoa is traditionally cooked this way in Mexico.

    Kalua in Hawaii has the same concept! Kalua means to cook underground. Therefore, traditional Hawaiian Kalua pig is cooked in an earth oven.

    This Hawaiian Kalua Pork recipe uses 3 ingredients, but is super tasty and succulent. Cook in the slow cooker, instant pot, or oven.

    Kalua Pork is the way to go for Your Next Get Together. Why?

    1. It’s huge on flavors with hardly any efforts. Only 3 ingredients go in your crockpot, then is cooks on its own.
    2. It’s ideal to feed the large crowds, and is very budget friendly when it comes to entertaining.
    3. You can serve it many different ways. Make it part of a traditional Hawaiian feast by serving it along with some BBQ meat, rice and Hawaiian Macaroni Salad. Or you can make sandwiches, sliders, burritos or tacos out of it.
    4. It’s freezer friendly, making it ideal as a make ahead meal prep.
    This Hawaiian Kalua Pork recipe uses 3 ingredients, but is super tasty and succulent. Cook in the slow cooker, instant pot, or oven.

    What is Kalua Pork?

    Kalua Pork, or Kalua Pig, or Luau Pork, is a classic Hawaiian delicacy. Kalua means to cook underground in a pit called an imu. So Hawaiian Kalua pig is traditionally cooked in an earth oven.

    It’s very popular to roast a whole pig at luaus, family gatherings and festive occasions in Hawaii. A 2-4 foot hole is dug in the ground and filled lava rocks, along with branches and leaves. The pit is set on fire and left to heat for several hours. Once the rocks are hot and sizzling, banana leaves or ti leaves are placed on top. 

    The pig is covered with Hawaiian Sea Salt, lowered into the hole and covered, then it cooks for the whole day. It’s quite a ceremony when the pig comes out, ready to be shredded. The aroma and smoky, juicy, tender Kalua Pork is quite incredible.

    Kalua pork is made of only 2 ingredients: A whole pig and Hawaiian sea salt. It doesn’t need liquid smoke because the pig is cooked underground and wrapped with ti or banana leaves. The wood and leaves infuse a smoky flavor into the meat.

    This Hawaiian Kalua Pork recipe uses 3 ingredients, but is super tasty and succulent. Cook in the slow cooker, instant pot, or oven.

    Easy Kalua Pork

    Well, digging a hole might not be our best option when cooking this Hawaiian Style Pork. But you can very certainly get the same taste by simply adding liquid smoke to the meat while cooking.

    We are giving you slow cooker, instant pot, and oven baked kalua pork methods. All are equally super simple, and need only 3 key ingredients.

    This Hawaiian Kalua Pork recipe uses 3 ingredients, but is super tasty and succulent. Cook in the slow cooker, instant pot, or oven.

    Kalua Pork Ingredients:

    • Pork – Use cuts from the pork shoulder, such as Boston Butt or Picnic Roast. They are fattier cuts, which result in melt in your mouth meat. Choose a meaty roast with good marbling for tender, juicy pulled pork.
    • Hawaiian Sea Salt or Himalayan Sea Salt – Hawaiian Sea Salt  is an unrefined sea salt that has been mixed with an iron oxide rich volcanic clay, which gives the salt its brick red color. You can get this in specialty stores or buy it online. Use Himalayan pink salt, or any other flaked sea salt, as a substitute. Kosher salt can also work, but it’s saltier than others, so use a little less.
    • Liquid Smoke – Liquid smoke mimics the smoky flavor without actually smoking the meat. It is easily available in most grocery stores.
    • Cooking Oil (optional) – To sear the pork brown before cooking it in the slow cooker. This is an optional step, but adds lots of flavor and color to the dish.

    Kalua Pork Recipe

    Now, cooking this pork can’t get any easier. Once you gather your ingredients, it’s just a matter of deciding which cooking method to use.

    We prefer the slow cooker method, cooking it for hours to tenderize the meat and create amazingly delicious flavors.

    In order of our preference, here is how to cook Hawaiian style pork in your kitchen:

    Slow Cooker Kalua Pork

    kalua pork in the crock pot

    1. Sear the pork (optional): Heat oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot, sear the pork for about 3 minutes per side to brown it all over. 

    2. Cook it in the crock pot: Place the pork in a slow cooker and drizzle liquid smoke over both sides. Season both sides with salt. Cover and cook on LOW heat for 10-12 hours, or until fork tender. 

    3. Shred the pork: Remove the pork roast from the slow cooker and transfer to a large bowl or serving platter, and shred the meat, removing any large pieces of fat or bone, if any. Spoon as much of the extra liquid from the slow cooker as desired over the shredded kalua pork to keep it from drying out. You might not add all of the liquid back, but save it for storing the pork in if there are leftovers.

    Oven Baked Kalua Pork

    Season the pork with liquid smoke and salt. Wrap it with foil all over nicely and place it in a large roasting pan. Preheat the oven to 325°F and roast it for about 6 hours, or until very tender.

    Instant Pot Method

    1. Cut the pork into large chunks, then place in the instant pot, along with 1 cup of water. Pour the liquid smoke over the pork and sprinkle with the salt. Cover, set the knob to seal, then cook on high pressure for 60 minutes.

    2. Allow the instant pot to do a natural pressure release for 25 minutes, then manually release any remaining pressure, and open.

    3. Remove the pork roast from the pressure cooker and transfer to a large bowl or serving platter, and shred the meat, removing any large pieces of fat or bone, if any. Spoon as much of the extra liquid from the slow cooker as desired over the shredded kalua pork to keep it from drying out. You might not add all of the liquid back, but save it for storing the pork in if there are leftovers.

    This Hawaiian Kalua Pork recipe uses 3 ingredients, but is super tasty and succulent. Cook in the slow cooker, instant pot, or oven.

    How to Serve Kalua Pork

    • Serve it up with sides of rice and/or Hawaiian Macaroni Salad, along with fresh grilled pineapple. Very traditional, and most common. You can also serve it with Hawaiian coleslaw, or even potato salad.
    • Pair it with other BBQ style meats like our Teriyaki Chicken Skewers, equally popular all over Hawaii.
    • Serve it in tacos, burritos, sandwiches, sliders, and even on salads.
    • Make another popular island dish out of it: Kalua Pork and cabbage. It’s simply sautéing some kalua pork and some cabbage until it has wilted with a dash of soy sauce or shoyu.
    This Hawaiian Kalua Pork recipe uses 3 ingredients, but is super tasty and succulent. Cook in the slow cooker, instant pot, or oven.

    Kalua Pork Recipe Tips

    1. Use Hawaiian salt: Hawaiian sea salt is very coarse and red in color. It’s notably less salty than conventional salt. If you can’t find Hawaiian sea salt at the grocery store, substitute it with Himalayan pink sea salt. 

    2. How much salt to use: The amount of salt is very important to this recipe. Kalua Pork has a significant salty, umami taste. As a general rule, you should use about 3/4-1 teaspoon per pound of meat. So a 3 pound roast would use 3 tsp, or 1 Tbsp. Table salt is not the same as sea salt. It’s very fine and much saltier. If using table salt, cut the amount in half.

    3. Don’t skip searing the pork:  Searing the pork adds extra flavor, depth and color to the meal. Sear on all sides on high heat until golden brown. Use a cast iron skillet or dutch oven for searing the pork, as they get very hot and sear the meat beautifully.

    4. Cook the pork until very tender: Always check for tenderness towards the end of cooking. If it’s still not fork tender, add 30 minutes of more of cooking time until it’s really fork tender.

    5. Add the liquids from the crockpot to the shredded meat: After shredding the meat, add as much as liquid as you want to the meat. This not only add tons of flavor that’s been developed, but it also keeps it moist. Don’t discard unused liquid, but store it with the leftovers.

    This Hawaiian Kalua Pork recipe uses 3 ingredients, but is super tasty and succulent. Cook in the slow cooker, instant pot, or oven.

    Storage and Reheating

    Storing: Kalua pork is great as leftovers. Refrigerate leftovers, along with any remaining liquids, in an airtight container for up to 4-5 days. 

    Freezing: Store cooled pork along with liquid in freezer bags. Keep frozen for up to 6 months. 

    Reheating: Thaw if frozen, then reheat in a skillet on the stovetop, or in the microwave until warmed through out.

    This Hawaiian Kalua Pork recipe uses 3 ingredients, but is super tasty and succulent. Cook in the slow cooker, instant pot, or oven.

    Make this super easy shredded pork recipes straight out of the Hawaiian islands. Pair it with our delicious Hawaiian Macaroni Salad and rice, and have your own Luau Party in your backyard.

    Wow your friends and family with these simple yet amazingly delicious flavors. Kalua Pig, or Kalua Pork. It’s about time bring it out of the islands and introduce it to the masses!!

    Kalua Pork, on our Gypsy Plate… enjoy!

    serving of kalua pork on the Gypsy Plate

    Try these other great pork recipes!
    Barbacoa Pork
    Oven Baked Ribs
    Cajun Pulled Pork
    Jägerschnitzel
    Pork Vindaloo
    Pork Stir Fry
    Chile Verde
    Tonkatsu
    Pernil

    featured image for kalua pork recipe post

    Kalua Pork (Hawaiian Style Pulled Pork)

    Yield: 8-10 servings
    Prep Time: 5 minutes
    Cook Time: 10 hours
    Total Time: 10 hours 5 minutes

    This Kalua Pork recipe uses minimal ingredients, but ends up super tasty and succulent. It's perfect for a Hawaiian themed Luau party, and can be cooked in the slow cooker, instant pot, or oven.

    Ingredients

    • 4-6 lbs Boston butt roast
    • 1-1.5 Tbsp Hawaiian sea salt (see note 1)
    • 1 Tbsp liquid smoke
    • 2 Tbsp oil

    Instructions

    Slow Cooker Method

    1. Heat 2 Tbsp oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot, sear the pork for about 3 minutes per side to brown it all over. 
    2. Place the pork in slow cooker and drizzle liquid smoke over all sides. Season all sides with salt. 
    3. Cover and cook on LOW heat for 10-12 hours, or until fork tender. 
    4. Remove the pork roast from the slow cooker and transfer to a large bowl or serving platter, and shred the meat, removing any large pieces of fat or bone, if any. Spoon as much of the extra liquid from the slow cooker as desired over the shredded kalua pork to keep it from drying out. You might not add all of the liquid back, but save it for storing the pork in if there are leftovers.
    5. Serve immediately, or refrigerate in reserved liquid for a few days.

    Oven Method

    1. Season the pork with liquid smoke and salt. Wrap it with foil all over nicely and place it in a large roasting pan. Preheat the oven to 325°F and roast it for about 6 hours, or until very tender.

    Instant Pot Method

    1. Cut the pork into large chunks, then place in the instant pot, along with one cup of water. Pour the liquid smoke over the pork and sprinkle with the salt. Cover, set the knob to seal, then cook on high pressure for 60 minutes.
    2. Allow the instant pot to do a natural release for 25 minutes, then manually release any remaining pressure and open.
    3. Remove the pork roast from the instant pot and transfer to a large bowl or serving platter, and shred the meat, removing any large pieces of fat or bone, if any. Spoon as much of the extra liquid from the slow cooker as desired over the shredded kalua pork to keep it from drying out. You might not add all of the liquid back, but save it for storing the pork in if there are leftovers.

    Notes

    1. Use about 3/4 - 1 tsp per pound of meat. If you can't find Hawaiian sea salt, substitute with other sea salt or Himalayan pink salt. If all you have is regular table salt, cut the amount in half.

    Nutrition Information
    Yield 10 Serving Size 1
    Amount Per Serving Calories 635Total Fat 46gSaturated Fat 16gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 25gCholesterol 195mgSodium 1898mgCarbohydrates 0gFiber 0gSugar 0gProtein 52g

    Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

    Did you make this recipe?

    Please leave a comment on the blog or share a photo on Pinterest

    Picture of Alpana, blogger and recipe developer at GypsyPlate

    Welcome to GypsyPlate! I'm Alpana, former wordwide tour manager and professional caterer, now full time blogger. I love exploring cuisines from around the world, and my recipes have been featured on sites such as MSN, Parade, Brit + Co, CNET and AOL. You can explore my entire collection of sortable recipes in my Recipe Index or learn more about me here.

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