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. 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 🙂

  2. 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.

  3. 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…

  4. 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!

  5. 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!

  6. 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!

  7. 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!

  8. 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!

  9. 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… ambermarie77@gmail.com

      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.

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