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 Just like what you have a luau without having to dig a pit in your yard to cook it!

I have a funny story about this Kalua pork. We were in Hawaii a few 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. We were asking them what they were cooking etc. The conversation turned to Kalua pork and I told them how it was my favorite dish. 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.

Traditional Kaula pork is seasoned with Hawaiian salt, rock or red salt. I always buy a bag of this salt when we go to Hawaii on vacation. I also find it at Cost Plus World Market.

Hawaiian Style Kalua Pork PineappleandCoconut.com

The smoke flavoring comes from the style of the cooking in the underground oven. Digging that pit 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 Kalua Pork 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.

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!

Pork shoulder in the crock pot. First you want to get anywhere from a 4-6 lb pork shoulder roast or “Boston” butt. We get our 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.  Place one of the sections rinsed and patted dry with paper towels into the crock pot.

Hawaiian Style Kalua Pork PineappleandCoconut.comPierce it all over with a fork. This is good to get some aggressions out if need be.

Hawaiian Style Kalua Pork PineappleandCoconut.comCover it liberally with the Hawaiian salt and the liquid smoke as demonstrated 3 pictures back. You can also used smoked salt if you want to instead of the liquid smoke. The flavor won’t be as smoky. Also I have seen man recipes that add bacon and this isn’t authentic. Then bacon renders down into soggy bacon and adds a lot more liquid fat at the bottom of the pot and since the pork shoulder already has a good amount of fat that renders out adding the bacon is really just a waste of bacon. Nobody wants to waste bacon, and it really doesn’t add more smoky flavor to the kalua pork.

Hawaiian Style Kalua Pork PineappleandCoconut.com

6 – 8 hours later ( or overnight) Kalua pork/pig.

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! It’s 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 Just like what you have a luau without having to dig a pit in your yard to cook it!

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.

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

  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


  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. […]

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