Slow-Cooker Kalua Pork

So I mentioned last week that my family recently came home from Hawaii. Yes…my family. Before we went, pretty much the first question everyone asked was, “Are you bringing your kids?!” And when I told them that we were, their reactions ranged from horror to befuddlement to speechlessness to asking us why or telling us they were sorry.

It’s okay. We probably were crazy, and true, it wasn’t a the Hawaiian fantasy of lying on the beach sipping tropical drinks. We went to Target a lot…

dog on target ball

(turns out the groceries there were a lot cheaper than the tourist trap we got sucked into our first night there) and had an amazing time at the beach.

kids at the beach

Will ate his fair share of sand (yes, the sand is black, one of the many magical things about the Big Island).
hawaii beach
On the west side of the island, we took an obscene number of these:

hawaii sunset

hawaii sunset two hawaii sun riseAnd then there was the time in Volcano National Park when we thought we were going for a little stroll (literally…with a stroller) and realized we were hiking down into the crater of a dormant volcano. Stupid stupid stupid.

Good thing it was awesome. Good thing my husband and I were still speaking when he hauled the stroller a couple of miles back up the inside of the crater and I hauled our 23 pound baby back up.

hawaii volcano crater

It’s kind of impossible to convey how enormous that thing was–even if I told you those little dots in there were people (which they are), it’s hard to get an idea of how tiny we felt inside. My kids, who live in a bayou and have never hiked before, were total naturals and rocked it (I love my kids a lot, but for me to call them naturals at physical activity is a big deal…their talents are more, um, cerebral in nature) and never complained once, which is way more than I can say about myself and my childhood hiking experiences.

On the east side of the island, we chatted with a lot of hippies, saw a lot of these…

hawaiian flower

and these…

hawaii waterfall

and ate some of the most delicious food I’ve ever eaten in my whole life.

Kalua pork, like shave ice, is just kind of something that happens in Hawaii wherever you go, but it can vary drastically in quality, which can range from cafeteria-style mystery meat to shreds of smoky, tender-crispy deliciousness. Kalua pork is traditionally the meat from a whole pig that’s been roasted in the ground, but since most of us don’t have access to whole pigs or pig-sized roasting pits, we resort to other methods of cooking.

I’ve been making this recipe since I was a newlywed, but I hadn’t made it in years when Sara called me in a state of wonder saying that she’d had Kalua pork cooked in a crockpot and it tasted like the real thing and I kind of kicked myself for going so long without this amazingly easy meat candy. So today’s the day. And in case you’re wondering what you can do with it, don’t worry, I’ve got about 733 things I ate in Hawaii that involve Kalua pork that I’m trying to replicate at home.

You’re going to need a boneless pork shoulder (boneless pork butt roast), Hawaiian pink sea salt (if you can find it, smoked Hawaiian sea salt is even better), and hickory-flavored liquid smoke (if you can’t find smoked sea salt).

Slow cooker smokey Hawaiian pork from Our Best Bites

If you live in an area with a significant Polynesian population (like many places in Utah), you may be able to find Hawaiian sea salt in a regular grocery store.

Hawaiian sea salt

I also believe World Market carries it in all its stores, so if you live close to one, head over there. I would either have to order mine online (like from Amazon). If pink sea salt just isn’t in the cards, regular sea salt from a regular grocery store will do, pig. It’ll do.

Rinse the pork roast and pat it dry. Pierce the entire roast with a fork.

pork roast

Sprinkle with the sea salt (start with about a little less than a tablespoon and see how far it gets you–you can add a little more to make sure your roast is salted enough, and you can always add more after it cooks)

salt rubbed pork roast

and sprinkle generously with the liquid smoke (about 1 tablespoon, more if you have a very large roast). Rub the salt and the liquid smoke into the roast.

pork roast with hawaiian salt and liquid smoke


Place the roast in a slow cooker and cook on low for 8-10 hours or until the meat is brown shreds easily with a fork.

kalua pork shredded

Remove the roast from the pan and place it in a serving dish or on a serving platter. Reserve the cooking liquid.

reserved cooking liquid

Shred the roast, discarding any large pieces of fat. Drizzle enough of the cooking liquid over the pork to re-moisten it and keep it from drying out (I actually preferred the dark, non-fatty liquid on bottom to the liquid fat on top–it’s way more flavorful). Serve with any combination of sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, rice, macaroni salad, and/or fresh fruits and vegetables (or a green salad). You can also treat it like smoked pork and eat it with barbecue sauce. Or you could fill warm tortillas with the pork, this salsa  or this salsa and maybe a little bit of goat cheese or cotija cheese to make Hawaiian tacos. You can eat it with a fork in front of the fridge when everyone is in bed and tell yourself it’s a nice, high-protein snack and it’s better than standing in the pantry eating chocolate chips.

You’ll want to plan on 6-8 ounces of pre-cooked meat per person–pork shoulder is quite fatty, so the weight will really cook down and this is one thing you definitely don’t want to run out of.

Slow cooker smokey Hawaiian pork from Our Best Bites

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Slow-Cooker Kalua Pork

  • Author: kate jones
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 hours
  • Total Time: 10 hours 20 minutes
  • Yield: 6 1x




  • 1 2.5-3.5 boneless pork shoulder (butt) roast
  • Sea salt
  • Hickory-flavored liquid smoke


Rinse the pork roast and pat it dry. Pierce the entire roast with a fork. Sprinkle generously with the liquid smoke (about 1 tablespoon, more if you have a very large roast) and sprinkle with the sea salt (start with about a little less than tablespoon and see how far it gets you; you can always add more after it cooks).  If using traditional kosher salt, decrease salt to 1-2 teaspoons.  Rub the salt into the roast. Place the roast in a slow cooker and cook on low for 8-10 hours or until the meat shreds easily with a fork.

Remove the roast from the pan and place it in a serving dish or on a serving platter. Shred it, discarding any large pieces of fat. Drizzle enough of the cooking liquid over the pork to re-moisten it and keep it from drying out. Serve with any combination of sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, rice, macaroni salad, and/or fresh fruits and vegetables (or a green salad). Plan on 6-8 ounces of pre-cooked meat per person–pork shoulder is quite fatty, so the weight will really cook down.




  • Serving Size: 6


  1. I’m so happy to see these pictures, I currently live on Oahu and went to Big Island a few months ago, all these places bring back such happy memories! Glad you had fun, and can’t wait to try this recipe out 🙂

    1. Yep, just the meat. That’s why you need to do it with a pork shoulder–it’s fatty and juicy and keeps the meat moist, and you’ll discard a surprisingly huge amount of liquid when you’re done.

  2. Hiking into a volcano sounds like something I’d accidentally do…hilarious.

    I am totally ordering that salt now — this pork needs to happen up in here!!

  3. It almost looks like you brought your dog to Hawaii too! Target is ‘da bomb’! This recipe looks fantastic as do all of yours. Will be making this very soon. By the way, I tried the homemade chicken nuggets….SCORE! Once I figured out the oil was too hot, mine starting looking like your golden brown beauties! Thank you for all that you do with this blog!! 🙂

    1. We’re crazy, but we’re not THAT crazy, lol!! That dog just sat there on the ball. I don’t know where her owner was, but she was a very well-behaved dog, haha!

      And I’m so glad to hear the nuggets were a success! 🙂

      1. My heart went out to that dog and what kind of owners he/she has – that is just plain gruel – would they like to have to sit on a ball until someone told them to get down – I hope someone finally said something to the owners –

  4. I’ve been making Kalua Pork for years in a crock pot and it is totally worthy of eating it straight out of the container from the fridge lol! One thing I’ve done instead of using hawaiian pink salt is to use kosher salt in a pinch. Still turns out awesome. Oh and I actually wrap my meat in two layers of heavy dury foil before I put it in the crock pot. That’s how I was taught to make from a friend who married a Hawaiian guy. Oh and Kate I think the Kalua pork and chocolate chips would be fantastic together 😉

  5. Don’t let anyone make you feel bad about taking your kids to Hawaii. We’ve been lucky enough to go three times in 6 years and have taken our kids all three times and never regretted it.

    Hawaii is a dreamy, magical place. Yes it’s hard to get to with kids but I think it’s the perfect place for a family vacation. Worth the work. I just hope we can go again someday. I think about it everyday.

    I’m looking forward to making your meat. It sounds delicious!

  6. We live on Oahu and the Big Island is a vacation favorite of ours. Try the Kalua pork as a base for eggs benedict. So good. We have a restaurant on island that does it. Did you hike to the green sand beach on the south shore? I am surprised I am still married and that my children haven’t asked for emancipation after doing that hike into the unknown! Glad you had a great vacation. ALOHA!

    1. Hi Jill,
      My husband and I are going to Hawaii in October for our 10 year anniversary. To say the least, I cannot wait to go!! We are staying at a house in Honolulu, but will probably fly to Maui for a couple days. Do you have any advice, things to do? not to do? places to visit? Should we fly to Maui or would you suggest somewhere else. I have never been to any of the islands so any advice would be greatly appreciated. You can email me if that is easier…

      1. Hi amber! I will send you an email too. Maui is fabulous. I highly suggest if you have time you fly over there. You can also take a ferry from Maui to Lanai and Molokai which are two smaller islands. Not much to do on them, but super neat to see. Sending you an email now with more info.

  7. My sister and her family live on the big island. Kalua pork is amazing, and now I can’t wait to make this at home myself! I think it would be delicious in tacos! This will be on my menu next week!

  8. I’ve been making this non-stop since our last trip to the islands. I love it so much! One comment I have is to be careful with the salt, especially because liquid smoke has so much salt in it. I have a Hawaiian salt and if I used a whole tablespoon it would be inedible (fact: from experience, lol). I literally use only 1/2 of a *teaspoon* for a 3 lb pork roast and it’s perfect, so if people are using something non-commercial they should be wary of that and salt sparingly. You can always add more salt at the end if it’s not enough!

  9. My mister and I took our two-year old to Oahu while my brother was stationed there….best vacation ever! Awesome beaches, sight-seeing, water, sand (plus Hula Pie from Duke’s!!!) It was family heaven!

  10. I didn’t even know a 3lb pork butt existed lol! We always buy the big 8-12 pounders…but that’s because we’re feeding Poly’s here.

    Here’s my tip to help with keeping the meat moist: I cook mine in an electric roaster, but you can def do this in a crock pot. I lay a bed of spinach down, then place my butt fat side down. I take a sheet of aluminum foil and place it straight over the top, then put the lid on. The spinach will help to create tons of moisture, and the foil keeps it in. (I also use ti leaves to wrap the butts if they’re big enough)

    I cannot say enough how happy I was to see this post, and to see it using Hawaiian sea salt!!! I can’t buy it here in KY, so I use kosher salt in a pinch and it’s still good, but not ono!

  11. I spent a lot of my childhood years living on Oahu and I have been making this dish for years! It is one of my favorites and is great for feeding crowds. I always place mine in the crock pot the night before, flip it over in the morning and then devour it at dinner. Devine!

  12. This is a great recipe because it is so versatile with leftovers! You can add BBQ sauce and have pulled pork sandwiches or put it on tortillas for pork tacos…

  13. I have a question – I use a pork shoulder for bbq pork sandwiches, and I find my crockpot runs a little hot, so my meat reaches a “done” temperature on a meat thermometer much sooner than 8-10 hours. But some parts were very gritty and hard to shred. Was that a reflection of the quality of my meat or just that I didn’t cook it long enough?

    1. I do the same thing. When I cooked it 8 hours it was WAY too long. The meat was falling apart and almost mush so I guess my crockpot runs hot too on low. I put foil over the top of the meat so maybe I’ll try leaving it off next time. Shooting for 6-7 hours next time.

  14. Do you have a recipe for that roasted chicken they always serve with the kalua pork at the Polynesian food stands? I can’t get enough of that stuff!

    1. Are you talking about Huli Huli chicken? I just found a sauce at a store called Huli Huli sauce made by the aloha shoyu company. I marinated some chicken in that sauce, dh grilled it, and it tasted like the real thing. I grew up in Hawaii, so I know 🙂

  15. My hubby is Hawaiian, and this is one of the first recipes I’ve seen for Kalua Pork that is actually authentic–thanks!
    We make this every few months (in the crockpot–I’m still not convinced we need to dig an imu in our backyard for roasting pigs).
    The leftovers are amazing on pizza with some smoky BBQ sauce and light cheese. 🙂

  16. As a variation, I make my kalua pork with 3 lbs boneless country style pork ribs. I love the easiness of those. In a pinch, I’ve used them with bones but the meat just falls off the bones by the time it’s done so it’s not a big deal.

    1. Jenn, You just made my night. I have some counrty style ribs that I defrosted yesterday in my fridge. I was thinking what I should do with them for tomorrow and now I will make this with them! Thanks for saying it is ok for me to use em for this recipe! HA HA

  17. I think it’s awesome you took your kids! One of the reasons my family is so close is because we took our kids everywhere. :):)

  18. Our Denver area World Market carries red Hawaiian sea salt, but no pink Hawaiian sea salt. Is that the same thing that you are using in this recipe? Thanks for the help!

  19. My family loves Kalua pork! I usually make it in my electric pressure cooker but I love that it can be done in the Slow cooker. I must do this soon!

  20. Kalua pork is sooo good! Trader Joe’s used to carry Hawaiian pink sea salt….I haven’t looked recently because I have a stash so I’m not sure if they still do. We made Kalua pork once for a ward Christmas party and everyone loved it. We had teriyaki chicken, rice, sweet potatoes, fresh pineapple, and rolls to go with it. Not to mention a tiki hut with smoothies. It was fantastic to celebrate Christmas in Hawaii during the middle of a Chicago winter. 🙂

  21. YUM! I have also been making this since a trip to Maui 5 years ago, and we love it. I shred the cooked pork and mix it back into the liquid in the crock-pot, it soaks up some of the liquid and keeps it even more moist. We always serve it with coconut rice- rice cooked in coconut milk- topped with toasted coconut!

  22. I enjoyed reading about Hawaii, the recipe, and then I got to the “high protein snack instead of choco chips at pantry” line and my laugh jumped out! Couldn’t help it! Thanks for fun. 🙂

    P.S. Maybe I thought I was the only one to steal from my Costco size choco chip bag….

  23. Absolutely stunning pictures! I bet it was worth bringing the kids along in the end! Sounds and looks like they had an experience of a lifetime 🙂

  24. I make this all the time but since I dislike liquid smoke I put a layer of bacon on the bottom of the crock pot, rub the roast with the Hawaiian salt, then put one or two whole bananas on top. After it’s cooked I discard the bananas and the bacon and shred the meat. Yum!

  25. This is a favorite at our house. Leftovers make really good fajita nachos!
    Love your pictures of Hawaii~ sounds like fun, hiking mishaps and all.

  26. I’m a Kaua’i girl currently living with my lil family in Elko,NV – I use alaē salt which is a Hawaiian red salt from salt beds on my island. The recipe I use calls for 2-3 Tablespoons of the salt but it also calls for 2 cups of water so it’s not very salty and stays nice and moist – the Hawaiian salt is so strong (along with the liquid smoke I add) that the flavor is very balanced. It makes for great stuffed Kalua cabbage or Kalua pig nachos!! Glad you brought your kids!!!

  27. We just might have to have our own little luau soon! Kalua pig also good roasted at 300 degrees for 5 to 6 hours in a tightly covered roasting pan. Personally, I like the salt and use 1 to 2 TBSP for a 3 to 5 lb pork butt roast.

    1. It’s up to you and how smokey you want things to be. One thing you could do is use the smoked sea salt and then if you want a little more smokiness, add some liquid smoke after it’s cooked. Hope that helps!

  28. We take our kids to Hawaii once a year, and yes, we get bizarre reactions, too. I have to laugh at your trip down the crater trail because we did the same thing (minus the stroller, but with two young children) and 3 out of the 4 of us were crying by the end. (My husband wasn’t one of them.) Still, it’s a favorite memory. I heart the Big Island so much!

  29. I found this recipe a couple years ago (on another blog) and have been in heaven since! Kalua pork is one of the things I miss about my time at BYU-Hawaii. We like to eat it Hawaiian Haystack style with your coconut rice and lots of fun toppings 🙂

  30. I live on Oahu and tried to find the smoked pink sea salt yesterday with no luck. It wasn’t any problem finding Hawaiian pink sea salt, but not the smoked stuff. Can you tell me where you got yours?

  31. I have pinned so many pulled pork recipes that I had just about given up on finding one that was moist. But I am going to delete all of them now that I have this recipe. The best pulled pork I have ever tasted. Thanks for restoring my faith in this awesome dish.

  32. I couldn’t find a boneless shoulder/butt roast. Would a picnic roast (shoulder) work or should I get the bone in shoulder/butt roast? I’m trying this today so thanks for your help!

  33. LOL I am so glad I am not the only one who does the whole stand in front of the fridge and eat the delicious left overs! And let me just say, I love your posts, they always make me laugh. I love that there are people out there that have the same kind of quirks as me. 😉

  34. This looks amazing! I was just on the Big Island last November and can’t wait to make this. Did you have Hawaiian sweet rolls while you were there? We were at this little bakery in Punaluu and brought back the most amazing breads!

  35. Ladies in Utah where have you found this pink Hawaiian Sea Salt? Anywhere other than World Market? While I’ve been shopping out shopping I’ve checked my normal gorcery stores Winco, Sprouts, Harmons and 2 different Smiths but the closest thing I could find is pink Himalayan Sea Salt. Would that be the next best thing or should I just use regular sea salt? I don’t have a problem buying the right seasonings I’ve noticed it often makes a difference but the Himalayan salt is $11 for 6 oz and if it’s no closer than the sea salt in my cupboard I’d prefer to save the moolah 🙂

    1. In regards to Hawaiian salt, if you live in Provo – you can find it at the Asian market on 500 west near center street AND believe it or not, I saw it at Costco the other day with all their other spices!

  36. I made this today and it was sooo delicious. I love that it’s so simple. I’d love to go to Hawaii some day. Thanks for the recipe.

  37. This is by far the best pork I have ever eaten. I burned my mouth twice eating it straight from the crockpot! I cannot wait to make it again and it is definitely going in my regular rotation!

  38. I’m sure it’s obnoxious to ask but… Do you think this would work with a pork loin? They’re always in sale around here, which means I usually have one in the freezer.
    Also, thank you for all of your amazing recipes!

    1. I wouldn’t use pork loin–it’s so lean that you won’t get the same flavor or texture. That said, I really like pork loins as pork roasts or to slice up and use as pork chops (I HATE fatty pork chops so much!) I always keep a couple in my freezer for that very purpose. 🙂

  39. Huh, good to know a simpler recipe for pulled pork! I might try this substituting normal salt for the Hawaiian salt and maybe smoky paprika for the liquid smoke… it would be about ten fewer steps than my usual recipe. 🙂 I do prefer the bone-in shoulder though, I don’t know why but it always seems more flavorful.

    I just got back from Maui and I had to go out and get some pork shoulder too, haha. I had kalua pork omelets pretty much every day for breakfast while we were there, and I’m totally continuing the trend at home.

  40. Question. If I wanted to make 2 of these at one time to feed a crowd… can I put them both in one crockpot? I have the same large oval silver and black crockpot that you have and I think they would fit side by side in there. IF I can, would the cooking time be longer? By how much? Thinking of making this for a Fall Family Festival next weekend while we all carve pumpkins they can be cooking. YUM!

    1. Yep- as long as they fit in there without stacking on top of each other or something, you should be good! You might want to increase the cooking time by a little bit, but it probably won’t take that much longer.

      1. I made 2 in the same crockpot side-by-side. Cooked on low for 12 hours and they came out perfect! Everyone loved it! I will never eat pork any other way! 🙂

  41. If you don’t want to use the liquid smoke because it’s too salty, or you want to make your un-smoked sea-salt “smoked”, there is something called, “smoke powder”, I’ve used both mesquite and hickory. You can either use it directly on the meat or mix-up a batch of it with the salt. It’s available at larger spice shops or online/mail order.
    Nice pictures by the way.

  42. Love this recipe! I use smoked pacific sea salt that I get at a spice shop that makes this incredible!

    However.. you say you live in a bayou? It’s pretty obvious from some of your posts that you don’t love LA. That’s cool, I live in Lafayette and I happen to love it. I’m sure you live north of I-10 and that is pretty depressing, you get none of the things that makes Louisiana “Louisiana”. The food isn’t good and the people are…. But anyhow. Cajun Country, South Louisiana or Acadiana or whatever you want to call it (below I-10) is a great place with excellent food, (even Mexican!!) and super nice people, but NO ONE lives IN a bayou. Maybe bayou-side, or down the bayou but never IN it.

  43. We made this yesterday and served it with plain white sticky rice – it was delicious and I just had some leftovers for lunch! YUM!

  44. I simplify it these ways: I use 3 lbs of the cheapest pork roast (about $3 per lb), use just 1 teaspoon or less of regular salt, and about 4 to 5 pieces of bacon (no liquid smoke). I did this because I didn’t want to buy things i’d end up with 10 years later like half a bottle of liquid smoke, etc. Also, I cooked it tonight for 5 hours on High in my Crock Pot. Grrreat!!! Shredded it with 2 forks in its own juice, it soaked up all of it. I lived on Oahu for 18 years, and of course cooking in the ground in an IMU is the authentic way, but my po’ boy way turns out ONO Lishious !!!!!!!!!!! much ALOHA to ALL !!!!!

  45. how long do you think this will keep in the fridge for? I made mine on Tuesday and am wanting to make your pork wontons tomorrow(Saturday) but am wondering if 4 days is a little long in the fridge.

  46. I absolutely love pulled pork sandwiches, served with steak fries and coleslaw.
    Don’t anyone tell my hubby, but I use a bottle of his beer to cook my pork in.
    I either cook in my slow cooker for several hours or in a low temperature oven over night

  47. We just had this for dinner with your mango salsa. Fantastic! My husband accidentally got pork loin, but it was still moist. I was astonished hat such simple ingredients create such a great flavor! I laughed at your comment about eating it in front of the fridge… But I totally understand now! Thanks!

  48. Sounds delicious… May I suggest ditching the liquid smoke and searing the pork on charcoals instead. Then, place it in the slow cooker..

  49. Hi Kate
    So first off, love your website and cookbooks! Big fan! Second, a few people in my ward are planning on throwing a Christmas Luau Party for the entire ward and we would like this to be the main dish. We are planning on doing sliders with your pineapple mango slaw. But I was wondering what other sides would be good for this main dish? I think we want to do fruit kabobs if our budget allows. Anyway just wanted to pick your brain. 🙂

    1. I would do some big pans of sweet potato casserole and maybe some macaroni salad? Both of those are very Hawaiian and would go a long way on a budget. And then maybe some fruit? That’s what I would do if it were me. Good luck!! 🙂

  50. Hi Kate,
    Sorry to bug ya again. Thanks for those ideas! One more question. If I were to opt out of making the mango pineapple slaw for the sandwiches, what could I substitute to put on them? I just think the slaw might get a little costly during that time of the year. Would sliced pineapple be good? Cabbage? Thanks for your time!

  51. thank you for this wonderful recipe – cannot believe how easy and delicious it is – as good as any Kalua Port I ate in Maui! I served it over chopped steamed cabbage.

  52. This was absolutely fantastic! I too wrapped mine in foil before putting it in the crockpot, turned out great! Thanks for the recipe!

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