Crock Pot Kalua Pig

NOTE: An updated version of this recipe appears in my cookbook, The Ancestral Table.

Kalua pig is one of Hawaii’s best-known dishes, and easily replicated at home. Traditionally, an entire pig is placed in an underground pit (“imu” in Hawaiian) that is lined with hot rocks and wrapped in banana leaves, then covered with a layer of soil and roasted overnight. Since we don’t have room in our back yard for an imu, nor access to a suckling pig and banana leaves, nor the desire to go through such a hassle, we just use a crock pot or french oven.

This recipe calls for about 6 lbs of pork butt, which is actually the upper half of a pig’s shoulder (the lower half is called the picnic cut, which can also be used). Pork butt is also often called a Boston butt or roast. You can also find the cut simply labeled as “pork shoulder”. Basically, any cut that’s labeled picnic, butt, shoulder or Boston should be fine.

5-7 lb. pork shoulder, butt, Boston butt, or picnic shoulder
1 tbsp coarse sea salt (black sea salt is preferred but not necessary)
1 tbsp liquid smoke (I prefer Wright’s or Colgin, both are Paleo-friendly)

When choosing your pork shoulder, look for something that has skin and bone attached; they will yield much more flavor.

In either a crock pot or Dutch oven, place the pork butt and pour the sea salt and liquid smoke on top. Cover and cook on low for 14 hours. Flip it over halfway through.

Pull out the pork pieces with some tongs and set them aside, and then pour the liquid and fat into a container. Next, place the pork pieces in a skillet (or return them to your french oven if you used one) and gently shred using the tongs; be careful not to over-shred. Pour about half of the liquid back into the pork while you’re shredding it.

This recipe yields enough meat for six hungry people. We usually have one big meal for two and then fill two quart-sized plastic bags for freezing.

Also, you can reuse the extra liquid. The fat can be separated and used as lard, and the liquid makes a great gravy base or pan sauce to pour over any pork roast.

Additionally, leftover kalua pig is often mixed with head cabbage for leftovers. It brings a new texture to the meat and reinvigorates the dish. To do so, reheat the cold pig in a covered pan on medium heat for about five minutes, adding chopped cabbage and a little water for an additional five minutes.

37 thoughts on “Crock Pot Kalua Pig

  1. Ok we are trying the pork out tonight!!! My bf’s mom lives on the big island between Hilo and Puna so he is familiar with all of the recipes on your blog and we are excited to see them!!! What is a traditional side dish that i could make to serve with the pork?
    The only change I am making it I am cooking it in an Electric pressure cooker. I am slightly frightened that it will mess it up but we are going to give it a shot. My mom gave it to me and most of the buttons are in korean so cross your fingers!!


    1. HI Michelle,
      Kalua pig is often mixed with cabbage (head or won bok). To do this, cut up the cabbage into strips and add it to the finished/pulled pork about 20 minutes before serving. Traditionally, it’s served with other Hawaiian dishes like poi and lomi lomi salmon. In modern-day Hawaii it’s served with white rice and mac salad. We usually eat it with white rice and steamed broccoli. Hope that helps!


  2. At a recent pig-in at work my husband Jake tasted this and immediately came home and told me about it. I have had this site bookmarked ever since and finally made the Kalua Pig tonight. It was awesome! We had it with a Hawaiian slaw I found the recipe for. I am hoping we keep power during the Irene because we REALLY want to eat those tasty leftovers :) Thanks for the recipe!


  3. OMG this is sooooo good. I just had it for supper tonight. I only used a 4.4 lb Boston butt that had a bone in it, but I still used 1 tbsp of salt (red Hawaiian instead of black) and 1 tbsp of Colgin liquid smoke and it tastes like it is seasoned very well. Pork and cabbage are two of my favorite flavor combinations, I think this just might be my new favorite way to combine them!! :-)


  4. could there be anything simpler or more delicious?? plop into the crock pot with salt and liquid smoke, out comes heaven. this was so good! got some burger buns, sliced cabbage, pineapple and make the slaw for pulled pork sandwiches, hawaiian style (if I can say that…I’m not hawaiian) – thanks for the recipe – it is going in my permanent cookbook of favorites! the only thing I’ll change next time is add a little more smoke – you could taste it and it was delicious, but I want to see how it goes with a little more – DELICIOUS!


  5. I put this in my slow cooker this morning, I used lava salt, which i dont know if its the same as black sea salt, but its black LOL turned everything kinda grey haha hopefully it doesnt stay that way. I didnthave liquid smoke so threw in a few pieces of hickory smoked bacon too


  6. I made this tonight from your cookbook and have to say, it was delish (like all the ones I have tried)! You have made going gluten free/PHD easy and tasty! Thank you!


  7. I’ve got Kalua Pig in my dutch oven right now. However, I used bacon that we get from the farmer instead of liquid smoke. I always wrapped the pork in banana leaves, which I found at an Asian grocer in their freezer. Very inexpensive add-on. The additional banana leaves that I did not use could be used for several more large roasts. The entire package was $1.39. Not that cooking Kalua pig in my oven is “authentic”, but I thought the banana leaves would add a touch more authenticity :)

    I also cut slits into the pork and added some slices of garlic clove. The benefit of living in a terribly cold climate is that you get to make recipes that help heat up the house by having the oven on all day! I first heated got the oven very hot, by heating to 500 degrees. Put the pork filled dutch oven into the oven and then immediately turned it down to 225. It has been cooking for about 6 hours. Since cooking in an oven is a lot faster than a slow cooker, I’m going to check on it in another hour. Although when cooking low and slow, I think it’s pretty difficult to overcook anything.


  8. Hi! I just got a 2.5 lb butt from the grocery store – would you advise buying a second one, or can I make-do with just 2.5 lbs? It’s just me eating the pork, but I don’t want it to affect the recipe by using less. I’ll be cooking in my crockpot.


  9. I commented on this recipe 7 years ago and I still feel like it’s one of the best recipes of all time. I even won over my family with it on vacation. Thank you for sharing!


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