Best-Ever Kālua Pig (Hawaiian-Style Pulled Pork!)

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A treasured family recipe - the Best-Ever Kalua Pig! Succulent, fall-apart tender pulled pork shoulder infused with rich earthy & smoky flavor. My family's recipe makes it easy to prepare this iconic Hawaiian meal at home - even on the mainland! - since this kalua pork is made in the oven with just a few ingredients. Best of all, it's incredibly versatile - use to make traditional kalua pork & cabbage, pulled pork sandwiches & sliders, tacos, nachos, & more.

Slow cooker & electric pressure cooker instructions provided.

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Featured in Local Hawai'i Favorites
Shredded Kalua pig shown inside dried banana leaf in a white Dutch oven atop a creamy cement surface. A serving fork with a long wooden handle is inserted in the center of the pork.

A Taste of Hawai’i At Home – No Imu Necessary!

Kalua pig is a traditional Hawaiian preparation of pork and one of my all-time favorite comfort foods.

It embodies love, family, and the generous spirit of aloha, and at my house, a platter of kalua pig is more than a meal – it’s the centerpiece to some of the best memories of my life. 💜

It’s traditionally prepared by cooking a whole hog in an underground oven (imu). As the pig slowly cooks, it becomes succulent, fall-apart tender, and infused with rich earthy, and smoky flavor.

Succulent and fall-apart tender kalua pig is so versatile. Serve this shredded pork as-is with your favorite local-style sides or stuff it inside sandwiches, sliders, tacos, and more!

I’d argue that it’s virtually impossible to make truly authentic kalua pork here on the mainland – Hawai’i is the essence of the dish and the land (‘āina) is an essential ingredient!

That said, you can make fantastic kalua-style pulled pork at home in your oven if you take the time to source the right ingredients, and my family’s recipe is the best place to start.

Pork shoulder is studded with garlic, seasoned with Hawaiian sea salt and liquid smoke, and wrapped in banana leaves (bonus points if you can find ti leaves!) before cooking low and slow in a Dutch oven. The result is meltingly tender and flavorful shredded pork that’s incredibly versatile and freezer-friendly too!

All that’s left to do is serve with rice, cabbage, and maybe a scoop (or two!) of Mom’s Mac Salad for a taste of aloha at home. 🌺🤙🏼

Side angle of shredded Kalua pig shown inside dried banana leaf in a white Dutch oven atop a creamy cement surface. A serving fork with a long wooden handle is inserted in the center of the pork.
Pork shoulder is wrapped in banana leaves to impart rich and earthy flavor – the next best thing to visiting Hawai’i for traditional kalua pig.

Key Ingredients

Like many Hawaiian recipes, this kalua pig is made with simple, flavorful ingredients. While there is some sourcing involved (as is the case with recreating any authentic dish from other countries and cultures!), the ingredients list is pretty minimal.

You need just 5 key ingredients to make delicious homemade kalua pork.

Pork shoulder, garlic, Hawaiian sea salt, Colgin liquid smoke, chicken stock, & a package of frozen banana leaves sit atop a creamy cement backdrop.
This kalua pork recipe relies on sourcing a few simple ingredients that make a big difference in flavor. See our tips for souring in the Recipe Notes, below!

The key ingredients include…

  • Boneless pork shoulder – Also commonly called a Boston butt or pork butt. Look for a meaty roast with nice marbling, which, when braised, transforms into succulent, fall-apart tender, and richly flavored pulled pork. Learn more about pork shoulder here.
  • Banana leaf – An absolutely crucial component of this recipe. Much like authentic Hawaiian kalua pig, the pork shoulder is wrapped in banana leaf before it braises, infusing it with a rich, earthy flavor. This earthiness is impossible to replicate without it! You can find banana leaf sold in the freezer section of most well-stocked Asian grocery stores.
  • Hawaiian sea salt – Another crucial component of this kalua pig recipe. Hawaiian salt is richer in minerals than conventional salt (and it’s as authentic as it gets!). I use this ‘Alaea salt (red clay salt with naturally occurring minerals and iron) and this Hawaiian sea salt in my kitchen – either will work wonderfully in this recipe.
  • Liquid smoke – A cheater ingredient to add smokiness without actually smoking the pork. I like using hickory liquid smoke, but mesquite works well in this recipe, too. You can find liquid smoke in most conventional grocery stores, near the BBQ sauces.
  • Garlic – One of my additions, which is certainly not authentic…but it’s delicious!

Pretty simple! If you’re unsure where to find any of these ingredients, check the Recipe Notes, below, for some sourcing guidance.

A Luau Staple

Kālua, which translates to “cooked in an underground oven” in native Hawaiian, is a traditional Hawaiian cooking technique. Any number of different foods can be prepared kalua-style, though the most famous is likely Kalua Pork – Hawaiian smoked whole pig. If you’ve ever been to a Hawaiian luau, you’ve probably enjoyed kalua pig!

How to Make Kalua Pork

Traditional kalua pig is an hours-long process in which the surface of a whole pig is salted and its cavity is filled with blazing hot stones. The pig is lowered into an underground oven (imu), covered in banana leaves or ti leaves (the palm-like leaves of the Hawaiian ti plant), soil, and left to cook for succulent, juicy, and gloriously smoky results.

Making kalua pork at home is a bit more simple and despite its ease, it’s still possible to get that authentic kalua pig flavor!

My preferred method is straightforward and consists of just a few simple steps: the seared pork is seasoned with Hawaiian sea salt and liquid smoke, wrapped into a happy little bundle with banana leaves, and braised until it’s fall-apart tender.

Pieces of pork shoulder are studded with garlic cloves inserted into small slits in the meat.
Garlic studs the pork shoulder for built-in flavor.
Pieces of pork shoulder brown inside of a Dutch oven.
A quick browning of the pork adds a rich, deep flavor – don’t skip this simple step!

While neither traditional nor authentic, I like to start my kalua pig with a couple of easy, flavor-boosting steps:

1

Stud the pork with garlic. Use a paring knife to cut deep slits into pieces of pork shoulder, pressing sliced garlic cloves into each pocket. Why? ⇢ The garlic flavors the pork from the inside out, nearly melting away as the pork braises. It is so good.

2

Brown the pork shoulder. Taking a couple of minutes to brown the pork before braising promotes a richer, deeper flavor.

Hawaiian sea salt is poured over top browned pork shoulder meat to season.
Hawaiian sea salt is used to season…
Liquid smoke is poured atop browned pork shoulder to season.
…followed by liquid smoke.
A woman's hands rub Hawaiian sea salt and liquid smoke into pork to season it.
Don’t be afraid to use your hands to rub the salt and liquid smoke into the surface of the meat.
A woman's hands folds a banana leaf around browned pork.
Beginning wrapping the browned and seasoned pork in banana leaves, until…
3

Season the pork. The recipe calls for a generous amount of salt and liquid smoke – don’t be alarmed by the measurements. Why? ⇢ The natural flavors of both pork shoulder and banana leaf are incredibly rich and earthy. Kalua pig’s seasonings need to be able to stand up to those big flavors. Take the time to use your hands to rub the seasoning into the surface of the pork (lomilomi-style!).

A woman's hands folding banana leaf around seasoned browned pork.
…you’ve encased the pork completely in the earthy banana leaves!
Banana leaf-wrapped pork shown in a white Dutch oven atop a creamy cement surface.
Place your newly wrapped pork inside of your Dutch oven and you are ready for braising.
4

Wrap in banana leaves. Banana leaves are pretty large, so it’s helpful to cut them down into a few smaller pieces, bundling the pork layer by layer. Tip! ⇢ The banana leaf may split a little bit as you wrap the pork, which is totally fine – just do your best to completely encase the pork.

5

Braise the pork. Place the banana leaf-wrapped pork shoulder into a Dutch oven, which functions as the DIY imu in this kalua pig recipe. Set in the oven to braise for a couple of hours, until the pork is fall-apart tender. Your kitchen will smell heavenly!

Kalua pig shown inside dried banana leaf in a white Dutch oven atop a creamy cement surface. A serving fork with a long wooden handle is inserted in the center of the pork.
The final braised pork will be fall-apart tender and ready to shred and serve!

Step-by-Step Video

Alternative Cooking Methods

I love braising this kalua pork recipe in the oven low and slow, but you can also prepare this recipe in a slow cooker or Crockpot, or an electric pressure cooker like the Instant Pot. Check the Recipe Notes, below, for step-by-step guidance!

Serving Suggestions

My favorite way to enjoy kalua pork is a pretty traditional preparation of kalua pork and cabbage.

Here’s what you’ll do! ⇢ Heat some kalua pork, a couple of handfuls of finely shredded cabbage, and add a splash of shoyu in a pan on the stovetop. Once it’s hot and the cabbage is wilted, serve over a pile of rice.

If you want to take things to the next level, drizzle spicy mayo over top and serve plate lunch-style alongside Hawaiian mac salad. Simple Hawaiian comfort food!

Kalua pork and cabbage served over white rice in a speckled ceramic bowl. The bowl sits atop a cream backdrop, next to a small bowl of white rice & a striped linen napkin.
Pork and cabbage over rice is a classic way to serve – it’s pure Hawaiian comfort food!

Just like any pulled pork recipe, kalua pork can also be used in an endless number of dishes. Here are a few more ideas to get you started…

  • Sandwiches or sliders: Load up a buttery and sweet Hawaiian roll with zippy slaw, kalua pork, and some Hawaiian Bar-B-Que sauce.
  • Tacos: Whip up a quick pineapple pico and pile it on top of kalua pork in a warm tortilla.
  • Other favorite kalua pork dishes: nestled in nachos, wrapped in a burrito or on top of a burrito bowl, stuffed inside a baked sweet potato and slathered with spicy mayo, a Hawaiian breakfast plate with rice and a fried egg…the options are endless!
Shredded pork on a small baking sheet, topped with cilantro with a gold serving fork and spoon.
Spoon some of the braising liquid over top and re-season with a little bit of liquid smoke as you shred to keep the kalua pork nice and juicy.

I’m so excited for you to try this Kalua Pork recipe soon. It’s simple, flavorful, and versatile, and it’s the kind of thing that will transport you to the warm, breezy beaches of Hawai’i as soon as you taste it.

If you do give it a try, be sure to let me know! Leave a comment with a star rating below. You can also snap a photo and tag @playswellwithbutter on Instagram. We LOVE seeing your PWWB creations! Happy cooking! ♡

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Shredded Kalua pig shown inside dried banana leaf in a white Dutch oven atop a creamy cement surface.

Best-Ever Kalua Pork (My Hawaiian Family’s Recipe!)

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star 5 from 28 reviews
  • Author: Jess Larson
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 3 hours
  • Total Time: 3 hours 30 minutes (includes inactive time)
  • Yield: serves 810 1x
  • Category: Main Dishes
  • Method: Braise, Oven, Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Hawaiian
  • Diet: Gluten Free

Description

A treasured family recipe – the Best-Ever Kalua Pig! Succulent, fall-apart tender pulled pork shoulder infused with rich earthy and smoky flavor, kalua pork is pure Hawaiian goodness, perfect for traditional kalua pork and cabbage, pulled pork sandwiches and sliders, tacos, nachos, and more. Oven, slow cooker and electric pressure cooker instructions provided.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 2.53 pounds boneless pork shoulder, cut into 34 large pieces
  • 810 cloves garlic, sliced in half lengthwise
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large banana leaf, thawed if frozen & cut into 3 smaller pieces (see Recipe Notes)
  • 2 tablespoons Hawaiian sea salt (see Recipe Notes)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons liquid smoke, divided
  • 2 cups water or chicken stock

Instructions

Hawaiian kalua pig ingredients: pork shoulder, garlic, Hawaiian sea salt, Colgin liquid smoke, chicken stock, & a package of frozen banana leaves. All the ingredients sit atop a creamy cement backdrop.

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F, ensuring a rack is positioned in the center of the oven.
  2. Stud the pork with garlic: Using a sharp paring knife, carefully cut a few deep slits into each piece of pork shoulder, then insert sliced garlic into each pocket.A few large pieces of bone-in pork shoulder sit atop a pink cutting board on a creamy white surface. There are slits cut into the pork & a woman's hand reaches into the frame, pressing garlic into one of the cavities.
  3. Sear the pork: Add the olive oil to a large, heavy-bottomed pot with a lid over medium-high heat (I use a 5-qt Dutch oven). Once the oil is hot & shimmering, carefully add in the prepared pork. Work in batches, as necessary, to avoid overcrowding the pot (which prevents browning). Cook for 4-5 minutes per side, until nicely browned. Transfer the browned pork to a plate, remove the pot from the heat & set aside to cool.Browned pork shoulder in a white Dutch oven atop a creamy cement backdrop.
  4. Wrap the pork in banana leaves: Place the seared pork in the center of one of the pieces of banana leaf. Season with the Hawaiian sea salt & 1 tablespoon of the liquid smoke, using your hands to rub the salt & liquid smoke all over the surface of the pork. Arranged the seasoned pork in a small pile at the center of the banana leaf, folding the corners & edges of the banana leaf into the center to encase the pork. Carefully flip & set the wrapped pork seam side down on the second section of banana leaf. Repeat folding with the remaining pieces of banana leaf. Note: The banana leaf may split a little bit as you work, which is okay. Just work quickly & do your best to completely encase the pork in the banana leaf.
  5. Braise the kalua pig: Carefully set the banana leaf-wrapped pork seam side down in the pot used to sear the pork. Pour the water or chicken stock around the sides of the banana leaf-wrapped pork. Cover the pot & transfer the pot to the oven. Cook for 2 1/2 – 3 hours, until the kalua pork is fall-apart tender.Shredded Kalua pig shown inside dried banana leaf in a white Dutch oven atop a creamy cement surface.
  6. Finish the kalua pork: Carefully transfer the pork to a plate or cutting board. Use tongs or 2 forks to shred the pork into bite-sized pieces. Once shredded, transfer to a large mixing bowl. Season with the remaining 1/2 tablespoon liquid smoke & a few spoonfuls of the cooking liquid in the pot as desired, stirring to combine. At this point, you can enjoy your Hawaiian kalua pulled pork immediately or cool & store for later use (see Recipe Notes for storage & freezing directions).Shredded kalua pork on a small baking sheet sitting atop a creamy cement backdrop.

KALUA PORK & CABBAGE: My favorite way to enjoy this kalua pig is a pretty classic preparation of Kalua Pork and Cabbage. When I cook kalua pig and cabbage, I mostly eyeball things, but here’s the gist of how it’s done (the below steps yields 1 generous portion, multiply as desired for more servings!):

  1. Add a couple of teaspoons of neutral cooking oil to a skillet over medium heat. Once the oil is hot & shimmering, add in roughly 1/2 cup of kalua pulled pork & a couple of handfuls of finely shredded cabbage. Stir to combine.
  2. Once the pork is hot & the cabbage begins to wilt, pour in a few teaspoons of shoyu (or soy sauce/tamari/coconut aminos). Stir to combine & continue to cook 1-2 minutes more.
  3. Serving: Kalua pig & cabbage begs to be served over a pile of rice! If you want to take your meal to the next level, drizzle with spicy mayo & serve alongside Hawaiian mac salad. Enjoy!Kalua pork and cabbage served over white rice in a speckled ceramic bowl. The bowl sits atop a cream backdrop, next to a small bowl of white rice & a striped linen napkin.

Notes

  • Banana leaf: Banana leaf is absolutely crucial in this kalua pork recipe, as it perfumes the pork with a rich, earthy flavor. You can find banana leaf sold in the freezer section of most well-stocked Asian grocery stores. 
  • Hawaiian sea salt: Hawaiian sea salt is also crucial in this kalua pig recipe. It’s richer in minerals than conventional salt (& it’s as authentic as it gets!). Yes, you need 2 full tablespoons for this recipe – Hawaiian sea salt is very coarse (so there are fewer crystals per tablespoon) & it’s notably less salty than conventional salt. When it comes to Hawaiian salt, I use this ‘Alaea salt (red clay salt with naturally occurring minerals & iron) & this Hawaiian sea salt – either will work wonderfully in this recipe. If you don’t wish to use Hawaiian sea salt, substitute with coarse rock-style salt.
  • Make-Ahead, Storage & Freezing:
    • Storage Instructions: Kalua pulled pork stores incredibly well! Transfer cooled kalua pork to an airtight container & store in the refrigerator for 4-5 days. Easily reheat on the stovetop or in the microwave.
    • Freezing Instructions: Kalua pulled pork is also incredibly freezer-friendly. To freeze, transfer cooled kalua pork to a freezer container (or divide it up between multiple freezer containers for smaller portions). Freeze for up to 3 months. To thaw, place the frozen kalua pig in the refrigerator overnight or submerge the freezer container in room temperature water for a quicker thaw. Easily reheat on the stovetop or in the microwave.
  • Alternate cooking methods:
    • SLOW COOKER KALUA PORK: Prep the recipe according to Steps 2-4, above. Transfer the banana leaf-wrapped pork to the slow cooker, along with water (or stock) as directed in Step 5. Slow cook on high for 4-5 hours or on low for 7-8 hours until the kalua pig is fall-apart tender. Finish as directed in Step 6. If your slow cooker has a searing/browning feature, you can use it to cook this entire kalua pork recipe (Steps 1-6) in the slow cooker.
    • ELECTRIC PRESSURE COOKER KALUA PORK: Use your electric pressure cooker’s “Sauté” setting to cook the recipe according to Steps 2-4, above. Place the rack insert that came with your pressure cooker into the bottom of the pot, then set the banana leaf-wrapped pork over top. Pour just 1 cup of water (or stock) around the sides of the banana leaf-wrapped pork. Cover & seal the pressure cooker. Cook on manual high pressure for 50 minutes. Allow the pressure cooker to naturally release pressure for 15 minutes before carefully flicking the valve to its “venting” position to vent out any residual pressure. Finish as directed in Step 6.

Recipe and Food Styling by Jess Larson, Plays Well With Butter | Photography by Rachel Cook, Half Acre House.

Shredded Kalua pig shown inside dried banana leaf in a white Dutch oven atop a creamy cement surface.

Follow along with Plays Well With Butter on Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, and Pinterest for more unfussy recipes that pack a big punch of flavor!

Hi there, I'm Jess!

If there’s 1 thing to know about me, it’s this: I am head-over-heels in love with food. I’m on a mission to make weeknight cooking flavorful, fast, & fun for other foodies, & PWWB is where I share foolproof recipes that deliver major flavor with minimal effort. Other true loves: pretty shoes, puppies, Grey’s Anatomy, & my cozy kitchen in Minneapolis, MN.

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Comments

  1. 5.28.24
    David R said:

    Great recipe!

    I made this yesterday following the Instant Pot method, and it came out fantastic 🙂

    I substituted Pink Himalayan salt for the Hawaiian sea salt (in a 1:1 ratio – I also bashed the salt up a little bit in a mortar and pestle to reduce the size of the crystals, but not sure if this was necessary.)

    As Jess was adamant that banana leaves were a must, I substituted dried bamboo leaves (about 12) soaked in water for 1 hour. I was sceptical at first as when the wrapped package went in the Instant Pot (no rack needed) and pressure cooking was started there was a strong “green tea-like” aroma. After cooking though none of this tea-like aroma remained, and the bamboo leaves did add an earthy note to the finished dish (sadly its difficult to find banana leaves in the UK.)

    The amounts of liquid smoke (hickory) were the perfect amount to simulate cooking in an imu or BBQ.

    – my new “go to” recipe for Kalua Pork!

    Cheers,
    David






    • 5.28.24
      Emma @ Plays Well With Butter said:

      So glad to hear that the Kalua Pork turned out well for you, David! Thank you for the kind review! 🙂

  2. 5.12.24
    William said:

    I never knew it was this simple to make delicious kalua pork. Thank you for the delicious recipe. Perfect meal for Mother’s Day. Turned out amazing!






    • 5.14.24
      Erin @ Plays Well With Butter said:

      Hi William! Thanks so much for making this recipe for a Mother’s Day meal – we agree that sounds perfect!!

  3. 5.7.24
    Mary said:

    This recipe is BONKERS delicious!!
    I almost skipped going to the Asian market for banana leaves and I’m so glad I didn’t, it definitely adds to the flavor. I made the pressure cooker version in my instant pot and it turned out so tender. I didn’t bother with the steamer trivet, I just wrapped the pork in banana leaves, added the cup of water to the pot, and placed the pork in. Zero issues.
    We served it with jasmine rice and I made a traditional style coleslaw, but added pineapple, slivered almonds, and diced red bell peppers.
    Amazing! Thanks for a terrific recipe. So so good!! This was my first try from your site and I will most definitely be back. I’ve never bothered leaving a review for a recipe, but this was worth it.

    • 5.7.24
      Emma @ Plays Well With Butter said:

      Hi Mary, welcome to PWWB! We’re so glad you’re here, and so happy you enjoyed the Kalua Pig! Can’t wait to hear which recipes you try next! 🙂

  4. 5.7.24
    Carly said:

    Perfection!! Thank you.






    • 5.7.24
      Emma @ Plays Well With Butter said:

      So happy you loved this recipe as much as we do, Carly!

  5. 5.5.24
    Becky said:

    WOW…this is an incredible dish! I made it for a party we had and the compliments just kept coming. Bonus, it was so easy! It took a bit to get used to using the banana leaves but so worth it. This is definitely a keeper. Thank you so much for sharing.






    • 5.6.24
      Emma @ Plays Well With Butter said:

      Hi Becky, thank you so much for the kind review! We’re so happy to hear you and your dinner guests loved the Kalua Pig as much as we do 🙂

  6. 4.25.24
    Patty said:

    Thank you for this recipe! I’m excited to try! Are you supposed to also add bone-in pork? Looks like there’s bone in the meat in the photos.

    • 4.26.24
      Emma @ Plays Well With Butter said:

      Hi Patty, the recipe works great with both bone-in and boneless pork! Hope you give it a try soon!

      • 5.17.24
        Patty said:

        This review is way overdue, but the pork turned out AMAZING!! Thank you for sharing this recipe!

        I used boneless meat but did not have Hawaiian salt–and used coarse Meditarrean sea salt instead. I will try Hawaiian salt next time. Regardless, the meat had a very nice flavor and took us back to Hawaii! The feedback from more than 10 people that I shared this dish with was unanimously positive!






        • 5.17.24
          Erin @ Plays Well With Butter said:

          Hi Patty! Thanks so much for taking the time to leave a review, we are so glad you and everyone you shared it with loved the pork! 🙂

  7. 3.30.24
    TN said:

    I’m planning to make this tomorrow. Without a Dutch oven, would it be sufficient to put in a roasting pan with foil over it?

    Thank you!

    • 3.31.24

      Hi there! Yes, that should work just fine – just keep an eye on the liquid level and add a little extra broth/water if needed. Enjoy!

      • 3.31.24
        TN said:

        Awesome! Thank you!

  8. 3.28.24

    Thank you Alicia! I have never, ever tried making poi here on the mainland but will for sure be doing so now that I know how simple it is! If you end up trying my family’s kalua pig, be sure to let me know. Would love to hear how you like it! 🌺🤙🏼

    • 3.28.24
      Alicia Owyang said:

      Mahalo nui loa, Jess, I will let you know when I make it! I ordered some kiawe Hawaiian salt just for the occasion, fingers crossed! 🤙🌺

  9. 2.12.24
    JostLori said:

    I made this for a Superbowl party and everyone loved it! This is one of the better Kalua Pig recipes I’ve made. Like other reviewers, I didn’t add any additional liquid smoke at the end, because it was already perfectly smoky already. But I did add a few spoonfuls of the braising liquid, to keep it nice and moist. Thanks for sharing this lovely recipe!






    • 2.12.24
      Emma @ Plays Well With Butter said:

      Hi Lori, happy to hear that you and your party guests enjoyed this Kalua Pig! We definitely agree that the liquid smoke is optional based on preference. Thanks for your review! 🙂

  10. 10.30.23
    Sandra said:

    Wanted to make sure I rated it too. 5 stars for sure!






    • 10.31.23
      Emma @ Plays Well With Butter said:

      Thanks again, Sandra! 🙂

  11. 10.30.23
    Sandra said:

    Thank you so much for sharing this recipe! It brought me back to Hawaii (where I am from). Besides poke, it’s so hard to find Hawaiian food outside of Hawaii. My family loved this recipe! They want me to make this often because it was simply delicious! Thank you again!

    • 10.31.23
      Emma @ Plays Well With Butter said:

      So happy to hear that, Sandra!! Thank you so much for the kind comment!

  12. 10.10.23
    Kim said:

    I cooked this today in a slow cooker and followed the recipe almost exactly. I made two modifications. First, I trimmed some of the pork fat and rendered it in a cast iron pan and then browned the pork in it, instead of using any oil. Second, I did not use any of the liquid smoke at the end because there was enough smoke flavor with just the 1 tablespoon put on the pork before cooking. And next time I make this, I’ll use more salt.

    But thank you for posting this. It was easy, authentic, and excellent!






    • 10.11.23
      Emma @ Plays Well With Butter said:

      Hi Kim, happy to hear you loved this recipe as much as we do! Thank you so much for your kind review 🙂

  13. 10.5.23
    Cathy said:

    Can I substitute lava salt? I was given some and never used it yet. Would the Smokey taste work?

    • 10.6.23
      Emma @ Plays Well With Butter said:

      Hi Cathy, you can definitely use lava salt!

      Please be sure to adjust the amount of salt used as necessary. You’ll see the Hawaiian sea salt used in the recipe is very coarse (so there are fewer crystals per tablespoon), plus it’s notably less salty than conventional salt. If your lava salt has a finer texture, you’ll want to scale back quite a bit – use just enough to very lightly coat the surface of the pork.

      Make sure to let us know what you think!! 🙂

      • 10.6.23
        Cathy said:

        2nd ?. I’m in Orlando Florida. All I can find in stores here are frozen plantain leaves. Will this work?

  14. 9.24.23
    Kaapuni Robinson said:

    I like this recipe because of it’s prep and ingredients and ease. I just wanted to say that the most popular wood for Hawaiian Imu cooking (in the ground) is Kiawe, sometimes called Hawaiian mesquite because Kiawe (Prosopo Pallida) is a species of mesquite, introduced to Hawaii in 1828 (it’s considered invasive)….

    • 9.25.23
      Erin @ Plays Well With Butter said:

      Hi Kaapuni! We’re so glad you enjoyed this recipe! Thanks so much for dropping a comment and for sharing this information 🙂 We talk a bit about kiawe wood in our Grilled Huli Huli Chicken post here. It’s so nice to be able to recreate the flavors of these local Hawaii favorites at home!

  15. 7.2.23
    Jennie said:

    Hi Jess. I’m in Hawaii at the moment at my in-laws and want to make this tomorrow to leave with Dad for plenty ono meals after we leave early the following day. He has ti leaves in the back yard. Can I substitute those for banana leaves? The Polynesian Cultural Center recipe says either. What do you think? Thanksa

    • 7.3.23

      Hey Jennie! Love this idea. =) Ti leaves will work beautifully – they’re actually my preference, but hard to come by here on the mainland. Let me know how it goes!

  16. 5.19.23
    Deanna said:

    OMG, absolutely delicious !! The banana leaf makes a substantial (yet subtle) difference than regular pulled pork. WOW. Our party of 6 easily devoured this batch. I omitted the extra liquid smoke at the end, smoke level was just right for me at 1 tablespoon on pork before braising. Thank you for this fabulously easy and transportive recipe!

    • 5.22.23
      Emma @ Plays Well With Butter said:

      Hi Deanna, we’re so thrilled you enjoyed this recipe as much as we do!!! Thank you so much for your kind comment! 🙂

  17. 4.23.23
    Brittany n TARAMASCO said:

    To me this recipe is the best I have ever tasted. I stopped into Hawaii once and and currently on Okinawa Island. I have stopped at almost all of the Hawaiian food places I can find searching for something close to my time in Hawaii.
    This is the second time I’ve made this pulled pork and I absolutely love it. Thank you very much for sharing your family recipe and culture with the world.






    • 4.24.23
      Emma @ Plays Well With Butter said:

      Hi Brittany, it means the world to us to hear this!! We love getting to share Hawaiian recipes with our PWWB community! Thank you for the kind review and so glad you enjoyed the recipe!

  18. 4.9.23
    Julie said:

    My family and I just returned from a vacation on Kauai. With two hungry teenaged boys, we ended up eating a lot of Hawaiian BBQ while we were there, including a kalua pork and cabbage bowl. I made this recipe last night and it tasted much better than L&L Barbecue’s kalua pork! I had brought back Hawaiian sea salt with me and found a banana leaf at my local Asian market. I braised it in my Le Creuset Dutch oven and it was fabulous! I served with cabbage over sushi rice with shoyu and spicy mayo as suggested. I will be making a double recipe next time. Thank you for sharing this recipe!






    • 4.10.23
      Emma @ Plays Well With Butter said:

      Hi Julie, so glad to hear that this recipe turned out great for you!! We hope your trip to Kauai was amazing!!

  19. 2.24.23
    Jawanna Hammonds said:

    While in Hawaii at Christmas visiting family, my husband and I experienced this wonderful dish. Since returning I have been searching for the correct recipe and this is spot on. This recipe did not disappoint. Thank You!!!






    • 2.27.23
      Erin @ Plays Well With Butter said:

      Hi Jawanna! Thank YOU for taking the time to leave a comment – it means so much. We’re so glad you enjoyed the recipe!! 🙂

  20. 2.23.23
    Kate said:

    I made this in my oven. I didn’t include the last bit of liquid smoke at the end or the garlic (forgot to grab it at the store and didn’t want to make a special trip). It was AMAZING! Tried it both as is and with barbecue sauce over basmati rice. Will make this again.






    • 2.24.23
      Erin @ Plays Well With Butter said:

      Hi Kate! Thanks so much for sharing, we’re so glad you loved it! 🙂

  21. 2.12.23
    Bill Hughes said:

    My wife and I moved back to the mainland after living on the Big Island for many years, and this is one of the foods we miss. I wanted an authentic Hawaiian recipe from a local and found yours. It did not disappoint! It is spot on broke da mouth! I did omit the soy sauce at the end as the salt was sufficient.
    Mahalo nui loa!






    • 2.13.23
      Erin @ Plays Well With Butter said:

      Thanks Bill, so glad it brought back fond memories & thanks so much for dropping a comment & rating! 🙂

  22. 1.31.23

    This is fabulous! Braised overnight in a slow cooker and it turned out perfectly.
    I’m wondering what, if any, adjustments would need to be made if using chicken instead of pork. We have friends who cannot eat pork. Would you please advise? Thank you!






    • 2.7.23
      Erin @ Plays Well With Butter said:

      Hi Barbara! We’ve never tested with chicken so we can’t say for sure – since it is a much leaner protein it is likely that quite a few adjustments would need to be made. Instead, we’d recommend trying a different recipe altogether like this Quick & Easy Shredded BBQ Chicken or if you are still in the mood for Hawaiian flavors we’d recommend switching gears to this Hawaiian Shoyu Chicken or this Grilled Huli Huli Chicken.

  23. 11.2.22
    Shirley Hopkins said:

    I was looking for a recipe to use in a group Hawaiian dinner. This was perfect paired with white rice and Hawaiian macaroni salad. I used an Instant Pot to cook the pork for an hour, let it cool to pull off all of the fat, and heated it the next day with shredded cabbage.






    • 11.3.22
      Erin @ Plays Well With Butter said:

      Hi Shirley! Thanks so much for taking the time to leave a comment, we’re SO glad you enjoyed! If you loved this kalua pork, be sure to check out our other Hawaiian recipes here!

  24. 10.26.22
    Randy Glaus said:

    This sounds awesome! I’ve done Kalua pig before and loved it, but this recipe with the banana leaves is very intriguing.

    I went to luaus on Hukilau Beach in the 60s. There is nothing like a pig cooked in an imu, which I enjoyed many times while living there. I absolutely loved the pig and hope this recipe comes close.

    BTW, how many people does your recipe generally feed? Do go put a lid on the pot in the oven? I wonder because a lid may change the way the pig cooks.

    • 11.2.22
      Erin @ Plays Well With Butter said:

      Hi Randy! Thanks so much, it is a really great way to mimic the beloved flavors of a traditional Kalua pig right at home! Our recipe generally serves 8-10 fairly generously (it also freezes really well if you do have leftovers). We do recommend covering the pot to braise the banana-leaf wrapped pork when it goes in the oven, this is what we’ve tested & found to be the best result. It cooks low & slow until fall-apart tender! Hope you try it soon!

  25. 10.8.22
    Emma Wilson said:

    Thank you!! I made this recipe yesterday in the slow cooker for a hawaiian BBQ themed birthday party. I used my own banana leaves from the back yard (I live in Queensland, Australia) and it turned out so incredibly good. Like, unbelievable. I can’t wait to impress people with this dish again. I had to use himalayan salt instead of hawaiian salt as I was unable to source the hawaiian salt in time and was able to pick up the liquid smoke from Coles. Slow cooker, high for 4 hours. Perfection! Thanks again!






    • 10.11.22
      Erin @ Plays Well With Butter said:

      It sounds like it turned out perfect, Emma! So glad everyone enjoyed & you could share for the birthday party!

  26. 10.8.22
    Steve said:

    I made this last night and it reminded me of my days in Hawaii. Thank you!

    • 10.11.22
      Erin @ Plays Well With Butter said:

      Thanks so much for sharing, Steve! We are SO glad you loved it!

  27. 9.18.22
    Deb said:

    I made this recipe yesterday and served it with rice and cabbage. SO delicious! It took me right back to Maui❤️ Thank you so much for sharing. I’m sure I’ll be serving this many times in the future.






    • 9.19.22
      Erin @ Plays Well With Butter said:

      Hi Deb! So glad you loved the recipe & it could transport you to Maui! Thanks so much for leaving a comment 🙂

  28. 5.8.22
    Andrea said:

    My son recently visited Maui and raved about the kalua pork. I found this recipe and thought I would try it. He and his travel buddy both loved it. She took some home to her parents to taste, along with a copy of the recipe! I ordered Hawaiian salt from Amazon and used Stubb’s Liquid Smoke. I made the kalua pork and cabbage using Coconut aminos. It was delicious. I’ll try your pineapple pico next!






    • 5.10.22
      Erin @ Plays Well With Butter said:

      Hi Andrea! Thanks so much for your comment & for sharing this recipe with your son & his friend! We’re so glad to hear that you were able to find some Hawaiian salt to use & the end result sounds perfect! So glad you enjoyed!!

    • 12.22.22
      Andie said:

      The recipe says to use boneless pork, however, one of your photos shows a bone-in pork shoulder. I bought a bone-in today as it was much cheaper than a boneless. Usually when cooking, keeping the bone adds to the flavor. I’ll see how this one works out!






      • 12.26.22
        Erin @ Plays Well With Butter said:

        Bone-in should work great too, Andie! Hope you enjoyed!! 🙂

  29. 5.1.22
    Lisa said:

    So excited to find a kalua pig recipe with banana leaf and where to find them. I can’t wait to make it. Any chance you have a recipe for the mac salad? Seems like different recipes exist depending on island. Preferably Maui style? Thank you!

    • 5.3.22

      Hey Lisa! Can’t wait to hear what you think of our Kalua pig! The banana leaf adds such incredible flavor – I hope you’re able to find some. As for mac salad – yes! We’re actually sharing my mom’s recipe next week. I don’t know that it’s necessarily Maui-style, but you could consider checking out these 2 cookbooks from Maui chefs, Cook Real Hawaii by Sheldon Simeon or Aloha Kitchen by Alana Kysar.

    • 5.11.22
      Erin @ Plays Well With Butter said:

      Hi Lisa! Just wanted to share that Jess’ Mom’s Hawaiian Mac Salad recipe is now live! You can find the recipe HERE, we hope you’ll try it soon!

  30. 2.15.22
    Grace said:

    How much liquid should be leftover after cooking? Unfortunately, when you slow cook in an instant pot, the liquid doesn’t evaporate, so I am boiling it down on the saute setting….

    Thanks!

    • 2.15.22

      Hi Grace! You’re totally right on the Instant Pot. For this recipe, you definitely don’t need to use all of the cooking liquid (reducing it further will probably make it quite salty). I like to shred the pork in a mixing bowl, spooning in some of the cooking liquid until my desired level of seasoning & moistness is reached, then I discard the remaining cooking liquid – it’s fulfilled its purpose for the dish. Check out Step 6 of the Recipe Directions for further detail! Jess

  31. 2.5.22
    LBC said:

    Tried the crockpot version, amazing! So simple to put together, made the house smell wonderful, and tasted incredible! Will make this often, it’s so versatile!






    • 2.22.22
      Erin @ Plays Well With Butter said:

      Thanks so much LBC! So happy to hear that you loved this recipe & we totally agree there’s so many ways to use it + it freezes really well too!

  32. 1.29.22
    Barbara said:

    Found the temp of the oven. When I went to print there it was.

    • 2.1.22
      Erin @ Plays Well With Butter said:

      Hi Barbara! Just to confirm you’ll want to be sure it is 325 degrees F, with an oven rack positioned in the center of the oven. So glad you were able to find this info in the recipe card! Please let us know if you have any other questions!

  33. 1.29.22
    Barbara said:

    I may be missing this but what temp do you put the oven at. Sounds yummy

  34. 1.23.22
    Maria said:

    Made this for the first time and it was awesome! We used the leftovers to make egg rolls and now I can’t decide which way I like it better!






    • 12.29.22
      Eric Alexander said:

      Very flavorful. A bit on edge as my wife’s side of the family comes from Maui. This turned out pretty tasty she said. She recommended to not add the last step of liquid smoke and it would be spot on. Paired with Mac Salad was the right combination. She recommended adding hard boiled eggs, potatoes and some olives as to how her grandma use to make it. Also cook the macaroni a bit longer to swell up, as it will then really absorb the mayonnaise and seasonings.






      • 1.4.23
        Erin @ Plays Well With Butter said:

        Hi Eric! So glad you & your wife enjoyed – Jess’ Mom is also originally from Hawaii and they continue to visit family there. This recipe mimics the flavors of the Kālua pork they love most. It’s always fun to hear how others family recipes can vary!

  35. 8.15.21
    Amanda said:

    One of my new favorite pork recipes! I had never cooked with banana leaves and didn’t know how HUGE they were. I was able to cut one leaf into three equal pieces and that was perfect for wrapping the pork. I also decided to seal the remaining leaves from the package with my vacuum sealer and store in the freezer until I make this recipe again.






    • 1.17.22
      Erin @ Plays Well With Butter said:

      Thanks Amanda! & yes haha the banana are huge but a total game changer in this recipe!🤣 So glad you could save your remaining leaves to make again!

  36. 7.22.21
    Jason B said:

    Great recipe, a true taste of Hawaii!






    • 7.25.21

      Couldn’t agree more, Jason! So glad you liked it!

  37. 4.22.21
    Marlene said:

    This was amazing!! I used a bone in pork butt and just threw the whole thing in there. Tasted GREAT. I didn’t add the extra bit of liquid smoke at the end and it was plenty smokey and flavorful. Highly recommend the oven method with broth.






    • 5.3.21

      Hey Marlene!! I’m SO glad you loved this Kalua Pork!!! The oven method is my go-to, too…it’s hard to beat the flavor of slowly cooked smoky pork. Thanks for dropping a comment! Jess

    • 7.29.21
      Stacey said:

      I also used bone in, I had thought it was boneless! Nevertheless it came out super tender. I did 3 hr 15 min in the oven. I served it with rice and a quick slaw. The banana leaves were tricky to work with but it was worth it! I loved this recipe.






  38. 12.19.20
    Kiley said:

    We made this for dinner tonight and wow! So flavorful and delicious. Served with the sautéed cabbage, rice, and homemade mac salad. Thank you for sharing this recipe – it will absolutely be a staple in our home!