Perfectly tender and juicy instant pot kalua pork with the best smoky Hawaiian flavor. So easy to make with only 3 ingredients and 5 minutes of prep!
Pork is the perfect type of meat to pressure cook or slow cook. It gets super tender and has tons of flavor. If I’m not making this Hawaiian version, then I’m usually making my BBQ pulled pork, sweet pork tacos or slow cooker carnitas. All are so delicious!
This kalua pork is a staple weeknight dinner at our house. You only need 3 simple ingredients and it hardly requires any prep time (I’m talking 5 minutes). It can be made in either the instant pot or slow cooker, which makes it SUPER moist and tender. Plus both the red salt and liquid smoke gives it amazing Hawaiian flavor.
It also makes enough for my family to have 2 meals. The first night we usually serve it over rice with roasted vegetables. Then the second night we like to mix in some BBQ sauce and serve in a Hawaiian roll with creamy coleslaw. It also makes a great freezer meal for busy weeknights!
What is kalua pork?
Kalua pork (also called kalua pig or luau pork) is a traditional Hawaiian dish that’s served at luaus or big feasts. A whole pig is smoked with sea salt, banana leaves and koa wood in an underground oven called an “imu.” It smokes for at least 8 hours, resulting in super moist and tender meat that has a delicious smoky and salty flavor.
This kalua pork recipe is an easy shortcut to mimic the authentic Hawaiian version. By pressure cooking the meat in the instant pot (or cooking low and slow in the crockpot), it gets perfectly juicy and will literally melt in your mouth because it’s so tender. It also has the same smoky flavor, which is easily achieved by adding a spoonful of liquid smoke. No need to wood smoke on the oven or grill! Using liquid smoke is the perfect way to add a delicious smoky flavor without the work.
Type of pork
Make sure to buy pork shoulder butt roast. The butt roast is a bit fattier and is perfect for pressure cooking/slow cooking. It gets super tender and will basically fall apart when shredding. I typically use a roast that’s about 4 to 5 pounds when making this recipe.
- Instant pot or slow cooker. The best part about this recipe is that it can be made in either the instant pot or slow cooker. Both ways taste amazing, so it really depends on preference. If you’re in a hurry, the instant pot method is quite a bit quicker. Or simply add the ingredients to the crockpot in the morning to have an easy, no-fuss meal ready at dinner time.
- Hawaiian sea salt. This is the traditional salt used for kalua pig. It has a red tint and is a bit saltier than regular salt. You should be able to find it at most grocery stores or buy from Amazon.
- Pierce with fork. Before cooking the meat, make sure to pierce it a few times with a fork. The holes from the fork help get the flavor from the salt and smoke deeper into the meat..
- Shredding. Once the pork is done cooking, use 2 forks to shred the meat. It should be super easy to shred because of how tender and juicy it is. If the meat still seems a bit tough to shred, then it needs to cook longer.
- Let sit. After shredding the meat, place it back in the pot with the juices and let sit for about 15 minutes. This additional step gives it an extra boost of flavor.
Ways to serve kalua pork
One of my favorite things about making this recipe is how versatile the meat is. It makes a lot, so we usually have enough for 2 meals. Enjoy it with traditional sides like cabbage and rice the first night and then use leftovers to make tacos, bbq nachos, pork quesadillas or sliders the next day. There are so many ways to serve it!
- Classic: With steamed cabbage and rice
- Sliders: On Hawaiian rolls with creamy coleslaw
- Tacos: Inside a flour tortilla with pineapple salsa and pickled onions
- Quesadilla: Inside two crisp tortillas with melted cheese and BBQ sauce
- Nachos: Over tortilla chips with melty cheese and your favorite toppings
- Salad: Over lettuce with grilled corn, sliced avocado and pineapple
Freezing + reheating
This recipe makes a great freezer meal! It has been my saving grace on many busy nights where I needed dinner quick. To freeze, simply add the meat to a zip top freezer bag and make sure all of the air is removed. Store in the freezer for up to 3 months. Thaw in the fridge overnight when ready to enjoy. I like to warm it up on skillet when reheating. It gets a little crispy and tastes delicious!
More easy recipes:
- Hawaiian haystacks
- Crockpot BBQ chicken
- Roasted pork tenderloin
- Slow cooker Hawaiian meatballs
- Crockpot Italian chicken
Instant Pot Kalua Pork
- 4-5 pound pork shoulder butt roast
- 1 Tablespoon liquid smoke
- 2 teaspoons Hawaiian sea salt
Prepare the meat:
- Wash the pork and then pat dry. Cut into 4 chunks, pierce with a fork, then place in the instant pot.
Season and then pressure cook:
- Add 1 cup water in the instant pot. Pour liquid smoke over the top and then sprinkle salt on top. Place lid on top and set to high pressure. Cook for 60 minutes and then do a natural slow release for 25 minutes.
Shred and serve:
- Remove pork and shred with 2 forks. Remove any excess fat. Place back in the pot and let sit in the juices for 15 minutes, or until ready to serve. Serve over rice, in tortillas, on a slider or in a salad.