Kālua Pork

Our buddy James cooks up an awesome Hawaiian BBQ dinner (inspired by ryan + gma).  Every time he announces he is making his (now) famous Kālua pork, I head over the his apartment with extra Tupperware to pack up any scrumptious leftovers for lunch the next day!

Kālua, which means “to cook in an underground oven”, is a traditional Hawaiian cooking method that involved building a fire in a sand or dirt pit called an imu.  Rocks are placed in the imu to retain cooking heat and then lined banana leaves.  Next, meat is salted, rubbed with herbs and wrapped in more banana leaves and placed in the pit.  To maintain even cooking, the meat is covered with wet burlap, then with a layer of sand or soil.  The meat will usually cook for 6-7 hours to absorb the smoke and steam, and then is removed and shredded.

Famed Hawaiian Chef Sam Choy popularized a modern at-home cooking method for Kālua Pork, which involves rubbing a pork shoulder butt with sea salt, wrapping it in ti leaves, and slow cooking the meat in an oven using liquid mesquite smoke rather than an imu.  My buddy James uses an even simpler recipe from La Fuji Mama, which only requires three ingredients: pork butt, sea salt, and liquid smoke.  La Fuji Mama likes to use a combination of Hawaiian Black Sea Salt and Hawaiian Red Sea Salt (Alaea), but you can use whatever kind of coarse sea salt you want.  James bought the black lava salt on Amazon.com, which has an amazing smokey, minerality to it.

For a complete Hawaiian BBQ plate, we served the pork with rice, Cole Slaw, Lomi-Lomi Salmon and Mac Salad.  So delicious!!

Kālua Pork (recipe by La Fuji Mama)

Yields: 12-14 servings


  • 5-6 pound pork butt (also known as the pork shoulder… ha)
  • 1 1/2 T Hawaiian sea salt (coarse sea salt)
  • 1 1/2 T liquid smoke flavoring


Pierce the pork roast all over with the tip of a sharp knife.  Place the roast in a large slow cooker and rub the salt all over the meat.  Drizzle the liquid smoke over the meat.

Cover the slow cooker and cook on Low Heat for 16-20 hours, turning the roast over once half-way through the cooking time.  Depending on how hot your low setting is on your slow cooker, you may or may not need the full 20 hours.  When the meat easily shreds with a fork it is ready.  Remove the meat from the slow cooker and shred with two forks, adding drippings from the slow cooker as needed to moisten the meat.

** For James’s slow cooker, which is a 6qt Hamilton Beach slow cooker, the pork was cooked to “safe eating” with just 8-9 hours on Low, whereas 15 hours he felt was way too much.

One Response to “Kālua Pork”
  1. Slow cooked pork is so delicious! I LOVE how simple this is!

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