Kalua Pork is the most tender and juicy pork you’ll ever eat! It only takes 3 ingredients, 5 minutes prep time, and can be made in the slow cooker or Instant Pot.
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If you haven’t been to a real luau and enjoyed Kalua Pork you are really missing out. I mean how often do you get to witness a whole giant pig cooked in the ground, not to mention it tastes amazing! The meat is so tender and smoky and it’s fun to be part of the joy and happiness of the Polynesian culture. Don’t worry though, this recipe isn’t for a whole pig. You’ll only need a 4 pound roast.
When I was a teenager, there was a decent sized population of Polynesians that attended my church (in St. Louis, MO) so each October we’d have a luau. They’d roast the pig in a pit out behind the church and everyone in the congregation would come and would bring food, watch the hula performances, and play games. It was such a great way for us to come together as brothers and sisters as well as get to know and share in their culture. I love that I was able to grow up in a melting-pot area where people held tightly to their culture and traditions.
Now, cooking a whole pig is a little much for me to handle and not practical for my little family so a small pork roast and my Crock-Pot or Instant Pot is the answer. Both ways produce a fall apart flavorful meat. If you are preparing in advance and don’t even want to touch raw meat, go with the Slow Cooker Kalua Pork. If you only have 2 hours and you have a pressure cooker, use the Instant Pot. Keep reading to see how easy both ways are and ideas for what you can serve with your Kalua pork.
What is Kalua Pork?
Kalua Pork is a traditional Hawaiian dish where the pig is cooked for long hours in a pit dug in the ground. It is most often served at luau feasts. When cooked the traditional way, the meat is given its smoky flavor from the ti leaves that the meat is wrapped in. In this easy slow cooker and Instant Pot Kalua Pork you’ll use liquid smoke to achieve a similar flavor.
How to make (pressure cooker) Instant Pot Kalua Pork?
The Insant Pot method of cooking Kalua Pork takes one more step than the slow cooker but it is ready a whole lot faster. You’ll need to first cut your meat up into large chunks. For a 4 pound roast, six pieces should do the trick. Then place them in the bottom of your Instant Pot, pour the liquid smoke over the top and then sprinkle with the sea salt.
As always, be sure the knob is set to seal and then set to high pressure for 60 minutes. It will take about 20 minutes to come up to pressure. After the 60 minutes, allow for a natural release for 25 minutes. This ensure that the meat stays tender. A sudden release in pressure can cause the meat to toughen.
When done, remove from the pot and shred. You’ll find that there are a lot of juices left in the pot due to all the fat in the meat. I like to put the shredded meat in a bowl and then ladle about a half cup onto the meat.
How to make (Crock-Pot) Slow Cooker Kalua Pork ?
This method is the easiest and is great for if you’re planning to use it around lunch time because it can cook while you sleep. With this method you also get more of a crispy outer layer which I love.
Just place the whole roast in the bottom of your Crock-Pot slow cooker, pour on the liquid smoke, and sprinkle with the sea salt. Place the lid on and cook on low for 10-12 hours. When done just shred it up and add back any juices if you desire.
Can I use a larger roast?
Of course! Just increase the liquid smoke and salt proportionally and make sure you have enough room in your slow cooker or pressure cooker (or split it into two). The time can remain the same for the slow cooker. For the pressure cooker, you’ll need to add 15 more minutes cooking time at high pressure for each additional pound of meat.
Meal Prep Kalua Pork:
You’re going to have a lot of leftover pork and if you are only feeding a small family. That’s a good thing because then you can meal prep the leftovers for lunches!
My husband likes having a high protein, filling lunch so pretty much a “dinner” type food and this Kalua Pork fits the bill. Kalua Pork is traditionally served with cooked cabbage (recipe below) and rice so I fill the containers with rice, pork, and cabbage and then put in a side of pineapple and call it good.
What to serve with Kalua Pork:
If you’re not a “leftover” person and like to have something different every night, here are some ideas for how you can eat it up in various ways.
This pork is pretty basic with just being flavored with salt and smoke so you can use it in a variety of ways. It tastes awesome mixed with some barbecue sauce for Pulled Pork Sandwiches. My husband’s most recently favorite way to eat it is in fried rice. Just throw together some vegetable fried rice and mix in the shredded pork at the end. I meal prepped this for him to take to work for lunches all week long.
Leftover Kalua Pork also is great in Mexican dishes like tacos, burritos, quesadillas, salads…. Seriously, the ways to eat this pork are endless. Let me know how you end up using the leftovers. Enjoy!
HERE ARE A FEW MORE SHREDDED PORK RECIPES YOU MIGHT ENJOY:
- Balsamic Glazed Slow Cooker Pork Loin
- Chipotle Pork Tacos
- Apple Bourbon Pulled Pork Sliders
- Carnitas Tamale Pie
- Smoother Pork Burritos
TOOLS USED TO MAKE THIS SLOW COOKER OR INSTANT POT KALUA PORK:
Instant Pot Pressure Cooker– As much as I love my slow cooker, you can make things way faster (1/8 the time!) in the pressure cooker. It’s truly amazing! You can make anything in it from soup to rice to fall-off-the-bone tender ribs.
Slow Cooker– This is very similar to the one I use but it has the addition of a lockable lid which is awesome for when you are transporting food for a party or pot luck, especially soup.
Rice Cooker– I love having a rice cooker! Perfect rice every time. I never have to worry about forgetting to turn it off and burning the bottom (that has happened to many times when using a pot).
Meal Prep Containers– I’ve been using these meal prep containers for the last 2 months for my husband’s lunch and they have worked beautifully. They are leak proof, my husband can easily open them, they can go in the microwave, and I can wash them in the dishwasher. Oh, and they don’t get gross stains since it’s glass.
Slow Cooker Kalua Pork Video
For the Pork:
- 1 4 pound pork shoulder roast
- 1 1/2 tablespoons liquid smoke
- 1 tablespoon Pink Himalayan salt, or Hawaiian sea salt
For the Cabbage:
- 1 head cabbage, chopped
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 1//2 teaspons kosher salt
- fresh cracked pepper
Instant Pot Kalua Pork:
- Cut pork into about 6 large chunks. Place in the bottom of the Instant Pot pressure cooker and poke all over with a fork. Pour liquid smoke over the top and then sprinkle with the salt. Cover, set knob to seal, and cook on high pressure for 60 minutes followed by a 25 minutes natural release. Release any leftover pressure and open. Remove pork from pot and shred in a large bowl, removing any large fat pieces. Ladle desired amount of juice in the Instant Pot over the pork and serve with cooked cabbage and white rice.
Slow Cooker Kalua Pork:
- Place in the bottom of the slow cooker (Crock-Pot) and poke all over with a fork. Pour liquid smoke over the top and then sprinkle with the salt. Cover and cook on low for 10-12 hours. Remove pork from cooker and shred in a large bowl, removing any large fat pieces. Ladle desired amount of leftover juices over the pork and serve with cooked cabbage and white rice.
For the Cabbage:
- Melt butter in a large non-stick skillet. Stir in the cabbage. Let cook 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender. Serve with Kalua Pork and rice.