Kalua Pork

A Taste of the Islands: Easy Kalua Pork Recipe for Your Home Kitchen

Ever dreamt of sinking your teeth into the tender, flavorful pulled pork served at Hawaiian luaus? Look no further! This Kalua Pork recipe, shared by our friend Michelle Pagan, brings the authentic taste of the Islands right to your kitchen.

Traditionally, Kalua Pig is prepared in an imu pit, an underground oven used for special occasions. However, Michelle’s recipe offers a convenient and delicious adaptation for home cooks.

The Heart of the Dish: The Pork

This recipe calls for a 3 ½ pound boneless pork butt roast, the perfect cut for slow cooking and achieving that signature pulled pork texture.

Seasoning is Key: Hawaiian Alaea Sea Salt

Hawaiian alaea sea salt, with its unique reddish hue and volcanic origins, is traditionally used in Kalua Pig. However, if unavailable, regular kosher salt works as a substitute.

Embrace the Smoke: Mesquite Liquid Smoke

To mimic the smoky flavor imparted by the imu pit, Michelle incorporates Mesquite-flavored liquid smoke into the recipe. This ingredient adds an authentic touch without the need for an outdoor fire.

Watch how to make this recipe!

Want to see this recipe come to life? Check out this video where I walk you through the entire process, step-by-step!

Cooking Methods: Slow Cooker or Oven

Michelle offers two cooking methods:

  • Slow Cooker: Place the seasoned pork roast in a slow cooker on low for 16 hours. This method is hands-off and ideal for busy schedules.
  • Oven: Preheat your oven to 300°F (150°C) and cook the seasoned pork roast for 4-5 hours, or until it reaches an internal temperature of 190°F (88°C).

Tip: Regardless of the chosen method, ensure the pork reaches a safe internal temperature for consumption.

Serving Up Aloha: How to Serve Kalua Pork

The beauty of Kalua Pork lies in its versatility. Here are just a few ideas to inspire your culinary creativity:

  • Traditional: Serve the pulled pork on a bed of poi, topped with diced tomatoes and green onions.
  • Taro Rolls: Fill taro rolls with kalua pork, coleslaw, and barbecue sauce for a delightful handheld meal.
  • Quesadillas: Embrace a Hawaiian-Mexican fusion by using kalua pork in a cheese quesadilla, served with pineapple or mango salsa.
  • Kalua Pork and Cabbage: Saute the shredded pork with fresh cabbage or even sauerkraut for a comforting side dish.
  • Tacos: Pile the pulled pork onto tortillas and top with fresh pico de gallo and a cilantro-avocado crema for a fiesta in your mouth.
  • Quesadillas with a Twist: Get creative by using kalua pork in quesadillas, accompanied by pineapple salsa and Sriracha mayo for a touch of heat.

With this easy-to-follow recipe and a touch of aloha spirit, you can enjoy the irresistible flavors of Hawaiian Kalua Pork in your own home. So, gather your ingredients, fire up your slow cooker or preheat your oven, and get ready to embark on a culinary adventure to the Islands!

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Kalua Pork Recipe

Kalua Pork

Recipe by Jason Hill – CookingSessions.com
This Hawaiian pulled pork recipe, also called Kalua Pork, comes from our good friend Michelle Pagan, whose father prepared it for her as a child on the Big Island.
A traditional kalua pig is made in an imu pit, which is popular during large home gatherings and at luaus. This recipe is adapted for home use.
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Prep Time 35 minutes
Cook Time 3 hours
Total Time 3 hours 35 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine Hawaiian
Servings 6


  • 3 1/2 pounds boneless pork butt roast
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2-4 tablespoons Hawaiian alaea sea salt or kosher salt
  • 4-6 banana leaves rinsed
  • 2-4 tablespoons Mesquite-flavored liquid smoke


  • Preheat oven to 400
  • Rinse banana leaves and pat dry.
  • Remove netting from pork butt and discard.
  • Coat entire roast with about 2 tablespoons vegetable oil.
  • Season the pork with about 2 tablespoons of the Hawaiian sea salt, working it into all the crevices on both sides. You can cut slits into the meat to penetrate more deeply if you prefer.
  • Next do the same with the liquid smoke, coating with about 2 tablespoons, or more to your taste.
  • Over a cooking flame, soften banana leaves on both sides until they turn shiny and pop slightly. This just makes them more pliable.
  • In a large roasting pan, place a nice long strip of aluminum foil (enough to wrap the roast). Place the banana leaves in strips on the bottom and wrap the roast. Place more banana leaves on top, tucking underneath the roast. Wrap very well and securely with the foil and tighten both ends.
  • Place in the oven at 400 F until the internal temperature reaches 160 F, about 20-25 minutes per pound of meat.
  • When the roast is done, remove it from the oven and let it rest and cool for a few minutes. Be sure to save the pan drippings when you open the foil.
  • Pull pork apart with your fingers into a mixing bowl, then pour the pan drippings on top. Taste, and then season to your personal taste with more Hawaiian salt and liquid smoke.
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Serve the pulled pork on a bed of poi topped with diced tomatoes and green onions; inside a Taro roll with coleslaw and barbecue sauce, or inside a cheese quesadilla with a side of pineapple or mango salsa. Hawaiians also enjoy kalua pig and cabbage, which is made by sauteeing the shredded beef with fresh cut cabbage or even sauerkraut.
Make this in a crock pot by placing the roast in the slow cooker on low for about 16 hours.
You can buy Hawaiian sea salt, Taro root and banana leaves for this kalua pork at Whole Foods Market, or other specialty grocers. Banana leaves are also available at Asian and Latin markets.
Keyword BBQ, Hawaiian recipes, pork, pulled pork
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AboutJason Hill

Hi, I’m Jason Hill, host of YouTube’s “Chef Tips” series. I graduated from culinary school in 1998, and gained my experience working the lines in Southern California. I launched my cooking videos in 2007. I love sharing quick and easy recipes that get people back in the kitchen.

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