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

Description

 


Ingredients

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

Instructions

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.


Notes

 


Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 6

94 comments

  1. 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!

  2. 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 😉

  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. 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!!

    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.

  5. 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 🙂

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