This ridiculously easy, smoky and salty Kalua Pork (aka Kalua Pig) is made with only 3-ingredients in the slow cooker or instant pot.  The mouth-watering meat is tender, juicy, and delicious all on its own, but it can also be used for burritos, salads, tacos, and more!

An image of a bowl of shredded Kalua Pork made in the slow cooker.

Kalua Pork in the Slow Cooker or Instant Pot

You knew it was coming.  I couldn’t do my a series about my favorite Hawaii-inspired recipes without including kalua pork, could I?

This kalua pork recipe is pretty much foolproof and can easily be doubled to feed a crowd.  Or tripled or quadrupled or whatever you need.  If you are hosting a backyard luau this summer, borrow an extra slow cooker or instant pot from a friend.  

Traditionally, kalua pork is served with boiled cabbage and white sticky rice, but it also goes great served with baby bok choy and macaroni salad.

What is Kalua Pork?

Kalua Pork or Kalua Pig is the traditional centerpiece of a Hawaiian luau.  A whole pig is smoked in an underground pit called an “imu” with banana leaves or coconut palm fronds and koa wood.  All of the flavor comes from the pork itself, the sea salt used to season the meat and the smoke from the wood.  But we can mimic the process and get a really similar result in the slow cooker or instant pot using liquid smoke.

An imu ceremony is the part of a luau before dinner is served.  This is where the cooked pig is removed from the pit it was cooked in and taken to the kitchen for shredding.  It’s an interesting and fun thing to experience, if you ever have the chance to go to a luau in Hawaii. 

An image of slow cooker kalua pork or kalua pig next to a sliced pineapple and Hawaiian macaroni salad.

How to Make Kalua Pork in the Slow Cooker or Instant Pot

  1. Slow Cooker Kalua Pork: Place the pork in the bottom of the slow cooker and pierce all over with the tines of a fork. Pour the liquid smoke over the pork and sprinkle with the salt. Cover and cook on LOW for 10-12 hours. Remove from slow cooker and transfer to a large bowl or serving platter, then shred, removing any large pieces of fat as you go. Spoon as much of the extra juices from the slow cooker as desired over the shredded kalua pork to keep it from drying out.
  2. Instant Pot Kalua Pork: Cut the pork into 6 large chunks, then place in the instant pot and pierce all over with the tines of a fork. Pour the liquid smoke over the pork and sprinkle with the salt. Cover, set the knob to seal, then cook on high pressure for 60 minutes. Allow the instant pot to do a natural release for 25 minutes, then manually release any remaining pressure and open. Remove from slow cooker and transfer to a large bowl or serving platter, then shred, removing any large pieces of fat as you go. Spoon as much of the extra juices from the instant pot as desired over the shredded kalua pork to keep it from drying out.

An image of a kalua pork roast that has been slow cooked for hours, ready to be shredded. An image of a bowl of shredded luau pork or kalua pig.

Tips for Making Slow Cooker or Instant Pot Kalua Pork

  • I have never had trouble finding pink Himalayan sea salt at the grocery store, but if you want to specifically look for Hawaiian sea salt, I have seen it at Trader Joe’s, World Market, or you can always order it online.
  • You can shred the meat directly in the slow cooker or instant pot.  Remove some of the juices first so you can add back in as much as you want at the end.
  • This is going the extra mile, but if you have access to banana leaves from an Asian grocery store, pick some up.  You can place some leaves in the bottom of the slow cooker or instant pot, then set the pork roast on top of the leaves before adding the liquid smoke and salt.  Wrap the leaves tightly around the pork and cook as directed.
  • You can make a bigger roast in the slow cooker.  Just increase the ingredients proportionally to match the size of the roast without increasing the cooking time.  
  • If making a bigger roast in the instant pot, add another 15 minutes at high pressure for each additional pound of meat you are cooking.

An image of shredded Kalua pork on a plate with rice, macaroni salad, and fresh pineapple.

More Slow Cooker Meat Recipes You’ll Enjoy

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Slow Cooker Kalua Pork
Yield: 10 servings

Slow Cooker Kalua Pork

This ridiculously easy, smoky and salty Kalua Pork (aka Kalua Pig) is made with only 3-ingredients in the slow cooker or instant pot.  The mouth-watering meat is tender, juicy, and delicious all on its own, but it can also be used for burritos, salads, tacos, and more!

Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 12 hours
Total Time 12 hours 5 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 (4 to 6 pound) boneless pork shoulder or pork butt roast
  • 1 tablespoon hickory or mesquite flavored liquid smoke
  • 1 tablespoon red Hawaiian sea salt or pink Himalayan salt

Instructions

  1. Slow Cooker Kalua Pork: Place the pork in the bottom of the slow cooker and pierce all over with the tines of a fork. Pour the liquid smoke over the pork and sprinkle with the salt. Cover and cook on LOW for 12-14 hours. Remove from slow cooker and transfer to a large bowl or serving platter, then shred, removing any large pieces of fat as you go. Spoon as much of the extra juices from the slow cooker as desired over the shredded kalua pork to keep it from drying out.
  2. Instant Pot Kalua Pork: Cut the pork into large chunks, then place in the instant pot and pierce all over with the tines of a fork. Pour the liquid smoke over the pork and sprinkle with the salt. Cover, set the knob to seal, then cook on high pressure for 60 minutes. If you are making a larger roast, you will need to add 15 more minutes cooking time at high pressure for each additional pound of meat. Allow the instant pot to do a natural release for 25 minutes, then manually release any remaining pressure and open. Remove from slow cooker and transfer to a large bowl or serving platter, then shred, removing any large pieces of fat as you go. Spoon as much of the extra juices from the instant pot as desired over the shredded kalua pork to keep it from drying out.

Notes

You could also shred the meat directly in the slow cooker or instant pot, but you will want to remove some of the juices first so you can control the amount of juiciness at the end.

If you have access to banana leaves from an Asian grocery store, you can place some leaves in the bottom of the slow cooker or instant pot, then set the pork roast on top of the leaves before adding the liquid smoke and salt. Then wrap the leaves tightly around the pork and cook as directed.

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Nutrition Information:

Yield:

10

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 259 Total Fat: 19g Saturated Fat: 7g Trans Fat: 0g Unsaturated Fat: 10g Cholesterol: 80mg Sodium: 736mg Carbohydrates: 0g Fiber: 0g Sugar: 0g Protein: 21g

HAVE YOU TRIED THIS RECIPE?

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Curious about foods from other states in my American Eats series?  Check them out below!

Alabama • Alaska • Arizona • Arkansas • California • Colorado • Connecticut • Delaware • Florida • Georgia • Hawaii • Iowa • Louisiana • South CarolinaTexas