Hawaiian Style Slow Cooker Kalua Pork

Kalua pork. My favorite Hawaiian pork dish ever. Typically seen at Luaus in Hawaii this amazingly easy and incredibly delicious Hawaiian style slow cooker Kalua pork is a mostly hands off recipe, my favorite kind of recipe. This is also called crock pot kalua pork, kalua pig, luau pork. However you call it or make it, anyway is delicious. And if you ever get the chance to cook it in a pit in your yard, invite me over. I will bring the mai tais.

Hawaiian Style Slow Cooker Kalua Pork www.pineappleandcoconut.com

I have a fun story about this Kalua pork. We were in Hawaii a years ago hanging out on a gorgeous beach in near Poipu, Kauai on a Sunday, when all the locals are out having their weekend Luau. There were all kinds of yummy smells coming from the picnic areas at the beach. I adore Hawaiian food, and this was making us really hungry! We happened to be near one couple that had some little kids that were playing near our little girl. So we started chatting with them. Our daughter hit it off with their kids, we hit it off with the adults. This is what I love about Hawaii, that Aloha spirit, everyone is like family. We were asking them what they were cooking etc. and they showed us all what they had. So much amazing food! They had a small hibachi grill and were cooking whole prawns. The conversation turned to Kalua pork and I told them how it was my favorite dish. They said they only brought their small hibachi grill to the beach. No time to dig an Imu. So prawns it was for them that day.

Hawaiian Style Slow Cooker Kalua Pork www.pineappleandcoconut.com

Traditional Hawaiian Kalua pig is cooked in an underground oven called an Imu. An Imu is a 2- 4 foot deep pit dug and filled with kindling and rock, most often lava rock or basalt, and lit on fire. It takes a few hours for the kindling to turn to coal and the stones to get to an even heat and once they are ready to cook the pig, tropical leaves are placed on top to steam cook the pork. Hawaiians would traditionally use anything from coconut palm fronds to grass to banana leaves. The prepared whole pig is then laid on top of the bed of greenery, covered with more leaves or greens then the dirt that was dug out of the pit is used to cover it back up to keep the heat in. Its cooked at least 8 hours, depending on the size of the pig. Similar amount of time it takes to cook a 4-6lb pork shoulder in a crock pot, but without having to dig a hole in your hard and find banana leaves. Or climb your neighbors palm tree to harvest leaves.

Hawaiian Style Slow Cooker Kalua Pork www.pineappleandcoconut.com

Traditional Kaula pork is seasoned with Hawaiian salt, rock or red salt. I always buy a bag of Red Alaea salt when we go to Hawaii on vacation. I also find it at Cost Plus World Market. There are several other places mention in comments on where to buy the salt too. Also check recipe notes on how much salt to use which is dependent on how much pork you cook. There has been confusion from several readers. Smaller roast less salt. Larger roast more. And as always adjust to your own taste. I prefer saltier Kalua pork, some might not like it as salty.

The smoke flavoring comes from the style of the cooking in the underground oven. Digging that pit on my backyard for the imu to get that smoky flavor isn’t happening anytime soon, although our puppy has dug some nice holes in the backyard for us the past few months,  liquid smoke is the next best thing. The Hawaiian guy we were talking to on the beach told us that for making Kalua pork in the oven or crock pot that hickory flavored liquid smoke was better to use than mesquite. We also own a smoker and have made the Kalua pork in our smoker as well and it comes out just as good. The smoker is my husband’s “baby” so when I make the kalua pork I make it in the slow cooker, he makes it in the smoker.
Hawaiian Style Slow Cooker Kalua Pork www.pineappleandcoconut.com

So back to this story from the beach. The guy was telling us that the best way was either in an oven in a pan with the pork wrapped in banana leaves after being smothered in liquid smoke and Hawaiian sea salt or to use a slow cooker but he had never used a slow cooker, just had many cousins that had. And that either recipe would work. Hawaiians call each other Aunty and Uncle and Cousin. No matter what, blood relation or just friends. He told us to call him Cousin Ben and that we were now his “Cousins” and to come visit any time. Aloha spirit, again. Ben’s wife was super nice and their kids were so adorable. They played with our baby girl on the beach that day. I am forever thankful for being on the beach that day for this recipe and new friends. Although when I got home I had maybe forgotten so I googled and found the exact same recipe on like 50 different sites but who cares I heard it first from a local Hawaiian so my recipe is courtesy of ” Cousin” Ben of Poipu, Kauai, Hawaii.


Pork shoulder in the slow cooker. First you want to get anywhere from a 4-6 lb boneless pork shoulder roast or “Boston” butt. We get our boneless pork shoulder roasts from a small Utah pig farm that delivers to Vegas through the food co-op. Sustainably and humanely raised and so incredible tasting. We have also gotten shoulders from Whole foods and Costco. Since we place a huge emphasis on where our food comes from and how its raised, we mainly use pork from the farm that we buy from. You can get a bigger pork shoulder roast if you have a bigger slow cooker. Ours is pretty good sized and I have had as big as a 10lb roast before. But we usually make a 4-6lb roast.

That lovely red Hawaiian alaea salt. Liquid smoke. Pierce all over with a fork. Covered with the salt. Depending on how much fat is on the roast you get you will want to trim some off. You will not need to trim all of it off, but I usually trim off the bigger amounts of fat so the pork isn’t totally submerged in liquid fat as it cooks. You still want some to keep it from drying out. Time cooking depends on size of roast and temperature. Once done the Kalua pork is so tender you can shred with the back of a spoon. So ono as the Hawaiians say, meaning so GOOD!!!

Hawaiian Style Slow Cooker Kalua Pork www.pineappleandcoconut.com

So many friends ask me for this recipe and since we make it so often, and it’s so simple with few ingredients, 3 exactly, that I tell them verbatim and never email the recipe. This is also a base for so many recipes we make and it freezes really well.


1 review

Hawaiian Style Slow Cooker Kalua Pork

Preparation 10 mins Cook Time 12 hours Inactive Time: Total Time: Serves 6-8     adjust servings

Hawaiian Style Slow Cooker Kalua Pork. Easy to prepare and no hands on cooking make this pork recipe a breeze to make and turns out perfect every time.


  • 1 4-6 lb pork shoulder or Boston butt roast
  • 1 Tbsp liquid smoke, Hickory or Mesquite flavor
  • 2-3 tsp red Hawaiian Sea salt (less salt for a smaller roast, 2-3 tbsp for a larger)***see notes
  • Banana leaves - optional (I personally don’t use them)


  1. Wash and pat dry the pork roast and place in the slow cooker
  2. Pierce all over with a fork, pour the liquid smoke evenly over the roast and sprinkle liberally with the sea salt.
  3. Place the lid of the slow cooker on and set the time for 8-12 hours on LOW.
  4. Check at about 8 hours for doneness. If not done let go the full 12 hours, checking every hour.
  5. Either remove the pork from the pot and shred with a fork and return to pot or shred in the pot when its done. You can remove some of the liquid and shred then add some back in to keep the pork from drying out.


Recipe Notes

1.If using banana leaves, which can be found at any Asian grocery store, place some leaves in the bottom of the pot reaching up the sides. Place the roast on top of the leaves, then add the liquid smoke and salt and wrap tightly with the leaves tucking them back under the roast. you can tie with cooking twine if wanted but its not necessary if the leaves are wrapped tightly enough. Cook the same as a non wrapped roast. This will give the pork more of a Lau Lau style flavor. 2.The reason the roast is pierced with a fork is to get the flavor from the salt and smoke deep into it, it won't dry it out. There is no extra liquid needed since this is made in a covered crock pot. 3.If making in an oven instead, place the roast on a large piece of foil, pierce all over, add the liquid smoke and salt and wrap tightly with foil, place in a roasting pan and pour ¼ water in the pan. Roast at 325 deg F for about 5 hours for 3lbs of pork shoulder, and longer for bigger pieces up to 8 hours. Checking every 30 min for doneness This is excellent with sticky rice, sweet potatoes or steamed veggies like bok choy or cabbage.

**** I have had so many comments on the amount of salt used and my typos regarding tsp/Tbsp. IF the roast is smaller, less than 4-6lbs use less salt, 2-3 TSP (tsp) as in teaspoons. UP to a tablespoon if desired. If you have a larger roast say over 6lbs up to 10-12lbs use 1-3 TBSP as in Tablespoons. The only seasoning the roast gets is from the salt and I personally like to err on the side of saltier. If you don't want it as salty, use less. Another way to keep the fat amount down is to trim the roast before placing it in the crock pot, or once the roast is getting close to done, drain as much of the fat out as you can ( I use a ladle and a measuring cup) and reserve the liquid, then shred the pork and add some of the liquid back into keep it from drying out.

Hawaiian Style Slow Cooker Kalua Pork www.pineappleandcoconut.com Just like what you have a luau without having to dig a pit in your yard to cook it!

Hawaiian Style Slow Cooker Kalua Pork - Pineapple and Coconut

Hawaiian Style Slow Cooker Kalua Pork www.pineappleandcoconut.com

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  1. Shanna,
    What kind of flavor do the banana leaves add to the pork in this recipe?
    Thank you,

    • They help retain moisture more than add flavor

    • My daughter, who has a far better sniffer than me did not like the smell of the leaves after cooked. She had no problem with the pork however as it doesn’t seem to flavor the pork much at all.

      • I am not a fan of the banana leaves in the slow cooker when making this recipe, I prefer them when I make it in the oven

        • Adding Spinach to it makes it have a bit of a crunch to it and if it too salty then it soaks up any of the extra salt. but make sure you get a lot of spinach as it cooks down a lot.

          • I saw the funniest meme the other day, it was a pan with some cooked spinach in it and it said ” this was 80 bags of spinach” ha ha ha its so true how much it cooks down!!

  2. Why for the love of GOD did you not correct the recipe??? Deep in the recipe notes you say that the salt is wrong, but you still left the recipe WRONG
    (for a smaller roast, 2-3 tbsp)

    tbsp NEVER means teaspoons. Thanks a lot ruined our meal. Geesh.

    • No my recipe says 2-3 TBSP for a larger roast. Not for smaller. Read again. I didn’t ruin your meal. You didn’t read it. In the notes it states over 10lbs size roast you use Tablespoons of salt. 1 tsp for a 10lb roast isn’t much. It literally states in my recipe if your roast is under 4lbs use less salt, if over 6lbs use more. It is best to read a recipe in its entirety before making it, and before accusing someone of ruining your meal. Which I didn’t.

  3. I have made this several times now using your recipe and it is perfect! I grow a banana plant every summer now so I have leaves to freeze and use in winter! I am in fact making this again tomorrow and just came by to refresh my memory and make sure I had the time right. I do prefer the hickory liquid smoke, and red hawaiian salt is a must! My oven has a slow cooker setting, and it usually takes about 6 hours. Thanks for doing up the recipe, Aloha! Oh I forgot to say, this tastes exactly like the real kahlua pork we had right out of an imu in Hawaii 🙂

  4. LINDA Barrett says:

    Where can I buy red Hawaiian salt in Maryland USA

  5. Lana Y Pigao says:

    As a Hawaiian living on the mainland I use any
    Sea Salt if I can’t get HawAidan salt. Sometimes World Market carries Hawaiian salt. Also banana leaves contribute to the smokiness.

  6. Is the recipe you use for the soup you mentioned in the video on your blog somewhere?

  7. A Hawaiian friend gave me this exact same recipe. To simulate the flavor of the banana leaves, you can stir in a small box of frozen chopped spinach (I think about 10 ounces – no need to defrost) either before or during cooking the pork, then when shredding the pork, just stir in the spinach. In addition to the extra flavor, it’s also healthier. And — I also found the Hawaiian salt online at Cost Plus.

  8. How much, if any, of the fat do you cut off before cooking? When I do ‘traditional’ pulled pork I don’t trim it all. The pictures look like it’s been trimmed up a bit. Thanks!

    • It depends on how much fat is on the roast you get. This one had a ton but you do want some fat for flavor and to keep the pork from drying out while slow cooking

  9. A friend of mine who is Hawaiian and from Hawaii doesn’t use Spinich he actually used Cabbage, but he said the spinich works just as well just 2 different flavors

    • I think there are so many different ways this simple recipe can be made. That is what is so great about it – you really can customize it however you want!

  10. As a substitute for banana leaves, you can put aside some of the bananas you would have used for banana bread and put one or two on top of the pork before you put the lid on the slow cooker. You leave the entire banana intact and literally just lay it on top of the pork. One will do the trick for the Kalua taste. Another good use of overripe bananas 🙂

    • Great tip! Thank you!

    • Do you use just the peel or the entire banana? Making this for Super Bowl ..

      • I am assuming they leave the banana in the peel. You would get the flavor from the peel, if un-peeled the banana would mush and blend into the pork for a stronger banana flavor. I personally don’t use banana leaves or banana ( when made in the slow cooker). This is just my guess since I am not the one who uses the banana.

  11. Going to try this tonight for our Sunday meal! Can’t wIt thanks for the good tips sure appreciate the recipe.

  12. I’m going to make this. I bought a pork shoulder that is bon-in and is 9.5 lbs. how much liquid smoke would you use for that size of roast? Thx

  13. I’ve always used ti leaf when baking Kailua pig in oven, on bottom and on top of meat. I keep a potted ti plant just for this. Works the same as banana leaf I guess. It helps to tenderize the meat

    • Nice!! I should look into getting a ti leaf plant. They would love hanging out with my plumeria and pineapple plants. I wonder if I could get ti leafs from the international grocery – I will have to look next time I go. Thanks for the tip!

  14. In Hawaii we use Ti leaves which are widely found around Hawaii. They are much smaller than banana leaves and are much thicker and hold up under heavy heat unlike banana leaves which get soggy. Can’t say I’ve ever seen or heard of anyone using banana leaves in Hawaii for Kalua pork.

    • I have heard of both banana leaves and ti leaves used in Hawaii from many friends and from asking restaurants and luaus. Banana are easier to find on the mainland in most international grocery stores or specialty stores. I have yet to find ti leaves here. They are better for sure. Just wish that they were available on the mainland.

  15. Hi iv made this before n delish, but I’m serving 20 people, so how big of a roast do I need n how much more liquid smoke n salt do I need?

    • I would go for a bigger roast, 10 lbs. 1 1/2 Tbsp to 2 Tbsp smoke, 1-2 Tbsp salt. Start with less and once the roast is almost all the way done taste and season again if needed. Really its all about your taste and how salty you like foods. Kalua pork is meant to be a salty pork dish.

  16. Delmina says:

    What should the cook time be reduced to if you put it on high?

    • Depends on the size of the roast. The larger the roast, the longer you cook. I would say one hour per pound, but then add on a little more time to ensure its fully cooked.

  17. i brought some unseasoned pulled pork. Can i use that and just add the ingredients to it? Help please

  18. Hey Shanna! Thanks for the recipe! My Filipino friend said you can substitute pink himilayan sea salt for the red Hawaiian salt- has anyone tried that sub? I’m havung trouble finding it locally and can’t irder online bc I want to make it tomorrow. TIA!


  1. […] The pulled pork and ribs we got definitely lived up to the name, with even the dry meats being juicy and full of flavor. The pulled pork from Central BBQ was my favorite of the barbecued meats we ate, though I may be biased growing up with a Hawaiian dad and an affinity for kalua pig. […]

  2. […] Pulled pork over rice (like this Kalua pulled pork) […]

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