Kalua pork is a traditional Hawaiian dish that is made by cooking pork in an underground oven called an imu. The pork is wrapped in banana leaves and cooked over hot stones and lava rocks. The resulting dish is tender, juicy, and flavorful. We will show you how to make Kalua Pork at home. Follow along with Laura Reigel as she shows us how to make this delicious dish.
Kalua Pork Recipe
By: Laura Reigel | Foodology Geek
Prep Time: 20 Minutes
Cook Time: 12 Hours
Course: Main Course
Servings: 16 People
Calories: 154 kcal
- ▢ fresh banana leaves [note 2]
- ▢ butcher’s twine
- ▢ pink butcher paper
- ▢ lump charcoal; do not use charcoal briquets
- ▢ Kiawe wood [note 3]
- ▢ probe thermometer (affiliate link)
- ▢ smoker [note 4]
- ▢ slow cooker, if not smoking the pork
- ▢ Instant Pot, if not smoking the pork
- ▢ 6 to 10 lbs bone-in US Wellness Meat’s Pork Shoulder
- ▢ 2 to 4 tablespoons Hawaiian Alaea salt or Himalayan salt
- Prepare the pork shoulder by drying it well with clean paper towels and then seasoning it well with the Alaea salt [note 1].
- Wrap the pork should in fresh banana leaves. Secure the banana leaves with butcher’s twine.
- Preheat your smoker to 225°F. Add a few chunks of Kiawe wood. If you can’t find Kiawe wood or don’t want to source it from Hawaii, you can use Mesquite.
- Place the wrapped pork on the grill. Cook until the internal temp reaches 165°F.
- Wrap the pork with pink butcher paper. This will allow the banana leaves to steam and impart the smoky banana leaf flavor to the meat.
- Continue to cook the pork until its internal temperature reaches 200- 225°F. Possibly for another 5 to 7 hours.
- Allow the pork to rest for 1 hour. Shred and serve with your favorite Hawaiian sides.
Laura’s Tips + Notes
- Alaea Salt. You may use 2 to 4 tablespoons of salt, depending on the size of your pork shoulder.
- Banana leaves. Try to find fresh banana leaves. If not, they can often be found in the freezer section of Asian grocery stores.
- Kiawe wood. I source my wood from Firewood Hawaii. If you don’t want to order the wood, you can use Mesquite wood.
- Smoker. This is up to you. Use whatever smoker you have or are most comfortable with.
Alternative Cooking Methods
You can use liquid smoke to mimic the smoked flavor for the following methods. See the 7th bullet below for the roasted pork.
Roasted Kalua Pork – In the oven (adapted from Sam Choy’s recipe)
- Preheat the oven to 350℉.
- Prepare the pork according to the directions above.
- Wrap the pork tightly in foil.
- Place the wrapped pork in a large roasting pan with 4 cups water.
- Roast until the internal temperature reaches 210 to 224℉. Approximately 5 hours.
- Remove the pork and allow it to rest for an hour before shredding.
- To create the smoke flavor, combine 2 cups of the reserved juice from the roasting pan + ½ teaspoon of liquid smoke. Bring this liquid to a boil.
- Season the shredded pork with the broth before serving.
Slow Cooker Kalua Pork
- Prepare the pork as in the recipe above. Place it into the slow cooker on high heat.
- Cook until the pork is falling apart tender.
- Finish the pork by allowing it to rest for an hour, shredding it, and then adding the liquid smoke broth, if desired.
Instant Pot Kalua Pork
- These timing and instructions are adapted from the Instant Pot Kalua Pork from Amy + Jacky.
- Cut the pork into large chunks to make it easier to put into the instant pot.
- Salt the pork with Alaea salt.
- Line the Instant Pot with the banana leaves, then place the pork chunks inside.
- Cover the pork with the remaining banana leaves.
- Combine 1 cup of water and ½ teaspoon of liquid smoke. Add this mixture to the instant pot.
- Pressure cook on High Pressure for 45 mins, then 15 mins Natural Release.
- Reduce the cooking time by 5 minutes if you’re not using banana leaves.
Saturated Fat: 3g
We are thrilled to share with you this recipe (or multiple recipes!) that features our delicious Pork Shoulder Roast. We couldn’t wait to try it ourselves, and we can attest that it is truly delish! Our heritage pork comes from sustainable family farms that share our values. Our animals have access to open pastures to forage for food and are never given antibiotics, GMOs, or hormones. If you want to discover more scrumptious recipes from Laura and our other Featured Chefs, make sure to check out our USWM Discover Blog today!
Introducing Laura Reigel, our featured chef for November 2024. As a lifelong food enthusiast, Laura pursued her passion for cooking full-time after retiring from her 18-year career solving homicides as a DNA Analyst and Forensic Investigator. Growing up as the daughter of a military father, she has been exposed to various ethnic backgrounds, significantly influencing her culinary style. Laura’s love for cooking is reflected in her dedication to using high-quality ingredients and in the time she spends perfecting her recipes, drawing on her scientific background in the kitchen. As the Head Content Creator at Foodology Geek and the author of Beast Bowl Nutrition, Laura encourages, “Don’t be afraid to eat meat!!” a statement we wholeheartedly agree with. Find Laura on social: Amazon, FB, IG, X, YouTube, Linkedin, TikTok, and Pinterest.