Easy Hawaiian Kalua Pork {Instant Pot or Slow Cooker}

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Easy Hawaiian Kalua Pork is inspired by the traditional, kalua pig served on the islands at luaus feasts and other special occasions. In all it’s simplicity this kalua pork is exploding with flavor – deliciously tender meat infused with smoke and salt. This hawaiian meat is versatile and so easy with only three simple ingredients and five minutes of prep.

Easy Hawaiian Kalua Pork {Instant Pot or Slow Cooker}

Easy Hawaiian Kalua Pork {Instant Pot or Slow Cooker}

Welcome to Maui week on Tasty Yummies. After our visit to Maui this past November for vacation, I have lots to share with you, from recipes inspired by our travels, that I recreated immediately upon return, some of which have become staples, videos and photos from our trip, along with a robust list of some of my favorite places and things on Maui (that’s coming later in the week).

Traveling will forever be one of my favorite things, because for me, beyond seeing and experiencing new places and new traditions, I really love to learn about a culture through their food, so many stories to be told. I love eating things I have never tasted and sometimes never even heard of.

Living in Southern California these past 5 years, I have learned more about Hawaiian food than I could have ever learned living a lifetime on the east coast. It was here I first learned about delicious poke and then consequently became obsessed with it. I am also fortunate to have friends out here that grew up on the islands or have roots there. My good friend Gina of So Let’s Hang Out has opened my eyes to a great many Hawaiian foods, I first heard of kalua pig and consequently thanks to her, first had kalua chicken on a visit to see her up north, she even sent me a care package with my own Hawaiian sea salt so I could make it at home, too. Kalua chicken quickly became a staple around here.

Easy Hawaiian Kalua Pork {Instant Pot or Slow Cooker}

When Mark and I arrived on Maui this past fall to celebrate our 10 year wedding anniversary, I had a long list of foods and dishes I really had to have, along with foods I really wanted to try for the first time and of course, along our travels on Maui I learned of foods I had never even heard of. It was an incredible and delicious experience and we cannot wait to return.

I instantly knew that while I had already been making kalua chicken for sometime, after our trip to Maui, kalua pork at home was an absolute MUST. I am forever a sucker for smoky and salty – a perfect, simple flavor combination that always wins, especially when you add the flavor of properly raised pork.

Easy Hawaiian Kalua Pork {Instant Pot or Slow Cooker}

Served at luaus feasts and at other gatherings, events and many restaurants – the term kālua actually refers to the cooking method, so I realize it’s really being used incorrectly with this recipe here, but we go with it (because google and I want people to find it). Kalua pig is traditionally roasted in an underground oven called an emu, a 2-4 foot deep pit dug and filled with lava rock and kindling, they wrap the whole pig in ti leaves or banana leaves to steam cook the pork. The dirt that was dug out is then placed over top to keep the heat in as it cooks for at least 8 hours or upwards of a full day, depending on the size of the pig. When it’s uncovered, the tender pork pulls apart with a delicious smoky and salty flavor.

In all my craziness and my commitment to cooking and eating – I have no (immediate) plans to dig a hole in my yard and build a pit to roast a whole pig, so today I bring you an easy, at-home version of kalua pig. What’s great about this recipe, there is no backyard pit oven required and you can make it either in the Instant Pot pressure cooker or a slow cooker. Easy peasy. It’s also great for meal prep for the week because it can be served so many different ways.

Easy Hawaiian Kalua Pork {Instant Pot or Slow Cooker}

When a recipe is this simple, with just 3 ingredients, don’t mess around, get the quality ingredients, you will tell the difference. As always, if possible a nice cut of pastured pork from a local farmer or a trusted butcher that can tell you the sourcing, this is always my suggestion, across the board with meat, if you can swing it. I also definitely suggest getting a quality Hawaiian Alaean Red Sea Salt, this is the brand suggested by islanders for the most traditional taste. Regular sea salt works just fine, if you can’t grab the Hawaiian stuff, but it’s just a few bucks online, so just do it for the full traditional flavor profile.

For the smokey flavor there are a few options, this liquid smoke is most reminiscent of the flavors imparted with traditional kalua pig, but know that it does contain caramel color and maltodextrin. I personally don’t worry too much about that in this particular instance because its one tablespoon to an entire recipe serving around 8 and we use liquid smoke at most once a month, so we’re ALL gonna be perfectly OK. For a slightly cleaner liquid smoke without additives, you can try this one.

If liquid smoke isn’t your thing, I have seen recipes online that utilize bacon that is first cooked in the instant pot and left to line the bottom of the insert or simple laid down in the bottom of the Slow Cooker, uncooked, before you add the pork. I have tried this method and while it’s really good, depending on the bacon used, I find it just doesn’t quite impart that same smoky flavor, so I stick with the liquid smoke.

I have made my kalua pork both with and without the garlic, I’m gonna leave that as an optional, it’s amazing and brings another level of flavor, but it’s definitely not necessary, so if you want to skip a step, go for it. For me it’s dependent on if I have the garlic and if I want to mess with it.

Easy Hawaiian Kalua Pork {Instant Pot or Slow Cooker}

I think you are really going to love this Easy Hawaiian Kalua Pork recipe, with just 3 ingredients and maybe barely 5 minutes of work you choose either your Instant Pot pressure cooker or a slow cooker / crock pot – you’ll be instantly transported to the islands.

We serve our kalua pork with lots of cabbage, usually in bowls of steamed white rice or cauliflower rice. Sometimes I drizzle a little coconut aminos, sriracha or spicy sriracha mayo on top. It’s also great over salads, in wraps, as taco filling, or on pizzas (hint: stay tuned for a fun recipe coming later this week).

Stay tuned for lots more Maui and Hawaii inspired-eats this week!!

Easy Hawaiian Kalua Pork {Instant Pot or Slow Cooker}


Easy Hawaiian Kalua Pork {Instant Pot or Slow Cooker}

gluten-free, grain-free, paleo, keto / low carb, egg-free, nut-free, dairy-free, AIP, low FODMAP, Whole30
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Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours
Total Time: 2 hours 5 minutes
Servings: 6 -8 servings


  • 4-5 lb pork shoulder / pork butt roast, boneless
  • 1 tablespoon Red Hawaiian Alaea Sea Salt*, any sea salt will work
  • 1 tablespoon liquid smoke
  • 6-8 cloves garlic, whole and peeled and lightly smashed (optional)
  • 1 cup water or chicken broth, Instant Pot version only

Optional for Serving:

  • 1 medium cabbage, outer leaves removed, outer leaves removed
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • scallions, thinly sliced
  • white rice or cauliflower rice
  • red pepper flakes
  • sriracha or sriracha spicy mayo


Instant Pot Instructions

  • Slice the pork roast into three or four equal pieces.
  • If adding garlic, cut slits in the roast, make them large enough for one whole clove of garlic. Repeat all over the roast until all cloves have been inserted in the pork.
  • Add the water or broth to the bottom of the Instant Pot.
  • Place the pork shoulder in your Instant Pot and pierce the top several times with a knife or fork.
  • Rub the pork with the Hawaiian sea salt. Then, pour the liquid smoke on top.
  • Next, cover and lock the lid. Select the "Manual" button and press the "+" button until you hit 90 minutes.
  • Once done, allow the pressure to release naturally.
  • Cook until pork is tender and shreds easily. (give it more time, if necessary)
  • When the pork is finished cooking, remove the meat to a tray or sheet pan and shred it with two forks. Check the pork for seasoning and adjust by adding more of the cooking liquid that remains at the bottom of the pot.
  • If making the cabbage, quarter the cabbage, remove the core, then slice crosswise into about 1-inch strips. Add the chopped cabbage to the cooking liquid in the Instant Pot, replace the lid and cook at high pressure for 3 minutes, releasing the pressure manually when its done. Add the cooked cabbage to the shredded pork and serve.

Slow Cooker Instructions

  • If adding garlic, cut slits in the roast, make them large enough for one whole clove of garlic. Repeat all over the roast until all cloves have been inserted in the pork.
  • Place the pork shoulder in your slow cooker and pierce the top several times with a knife or fork.
  • Rub the pork with the sea salt. Then, pour the liquid smoke on top.
  • Program your slow cooker for 8-10 hours on the low setting until pork is tender and shreds very easily. You may need a few more hours if your pork shoulder is larger. I suggest you start to check around 8 hours, but know it may take up to 12 if it's large bone-in roast.
  • If adding cabbage, remove the core, then slice crosswise into about 1-inch strips. Add chopped cabbage to the slow cooker at around 20-30 minutes before roast is done.
  • Once the pork shoulder is fully cooked, remove the pork to a tray or sheet pan and use two forks to shred it. You can also drizzle some of the remaining liquid from the slow cooker on top, to keep the meat moist, or to adjust the seasoning, add the cooked cabbage to the shredded pork and serve immediately.

Enjoy your Kalua Pork on steamed rice or cauliflower rice, over salads, in wraps, as tacos, on pizza, in scrambles or frittatas and MORE!


    If using coarse salt, you may want to go with 1 1/2 tablespoons sea salt
    If you can only find bone-in pork roast, cut out the bone for the Instant Pot version, and still cut the roast into three equal pieces
    Keep some of the cooking liquid to store any leftover kalua pork, it will keep it from drying out.
    Store the leftovers in the fridge, in some of the cooking liquid, for 4-5 days or you can freeze for several months. When serving the leftovers crisp up the pork in a cast iron skillet or under the broiler for a nice crispy, browned bite.




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