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Slow Cooker Kalua Pork

Kalua Pork on a white plate with cabbage and rice.  Easy pork loin recipe.
Post may con­tain affil­i­ate links. See my Affil­i­ate Disclosure.

Slow Cook­er Kalua Pork is ten­der, smoky, salty deli­cious­ness, roast­ed to per­fec­tion in a slow cook­er. I don’t think I’ve ever eat­en a more deli­cious smoked pork loin recipe! This slow cook­er kalua pork recipe is my inter­pre­ta­tion of a sim­ple and clas­sic Hawai­ian favorite, some­times called Kahlua Pig. But, I use ingre­di­ents and equip­ment that are avail­able to me, here. So, while I’m not able to make tra­di­tion­al kalua pork, I do make a melt-in-your-mouth deli­cious interpretation.

Using ingre­di­ents and tools avail­able to us, to cre­ate new vari­a­tions of deli­cious food is a skill that cooks, through­out his­to­ry, have per­fect­ed. Even though my ingre­di­ents and equip­ment are dif­fer­ent, I hope this vari­a­tion close­ly mim­ics the fla­vors of Hawai­ian pork. I know it def­i­nite­ly makes smoky and fla­vor­ful morsels of ten­der meat. The easy recipe has only 4 ingre­di­ents. Pop them in your slow cook­er and din­ner is going to be a dream!

What is Kalua?

Kalua means “to cook in an under­ground oven”. Kalua pork is made by cook­ing the whole pig, sea­soned with sea salt and wrapped in banana leaves in one of those ovens, called an imu. Koa wood pro­vides the heat and smoke for cook­ing this pop­u­lar Hawai­ian dish. And, the banana leaves hold in mois­ture, as well as pre­vent­ing the meat from burn­ing. In Hawaii they tra­di­tion­al­ly serve the shred­ded pork with rice and cooked cabbage.

Slow Cooker Kalua Pork on a white platter with steamed cabbage.  Easy slow cooker pork loin recipe.

Dig­ging a deep oven pit in the back­yard or buy­ing a whole hog are events that don’t seem like­ly for us at present. For that mat­ter, even find­ing fresh banana leaves in our small Mid­west­ern town, isn’t going to hap­pen. So, this easy pork loin recipe is my attempt to cre­ate a fla­vor that comes close to how the tra­di­tion­al ver­sion tastes. I just use the tools and ingre­di­ents avail­able to me, here.

I did cook my kalua pork in a cov­ered oven of sorts — my slow cook­er. It pro­duces ten­der, juicy pork with the salty, savory smok­i­ness I want, plus a sub­tle hint of the earthy, greens qual­i­ties that the banana leaves would impart in a tra­di­tion­al kalua pork recipe.

This is an affil­i­ate link to a slow cook­er like I use. Mine is only 8 quarts, but the fea­ture I most love is the lock-down lid for easy trans­port­ing to a get-togeth­er or potluck. When I need a new one, this larg­er mod­el will be my next slow cook­er.

The Ingredients

a bag of red Hawaiian sea salt next to a bottle of liquid smoke

Pork Loin Roast: For this recipe, choose a roast between 2.5 to 3 pounds. Be sure to pick up a pork loin, NOT a tenderloin.

Hawai­ian Red Sea Salt: I used a fine grind vari­ety, so I would rec­om­mend doing the same. This is an unprocessed sea salt with lots of min­er­als. The col­or comes from red vol­canic clay. It is milder, low­er in sodi­um and less salty than reg­u­lar table salt. I was­n’t able to find it in our small town gro­cery stores, so I ordered it from Ama­zon. If you live in a larg­er com­mu­ni­ty, you’ll have bet­ter options for gro­cery shop­ping and can prob­a­bly get it locally.

Liq­uid Smoke: Cap­ture smoke inside a con­denser. Then, cool and cap­ture it in water as a con­den­sate. Next, fil­ter it and bot­tle the liq­uid. Ta da! Liq­uid smoke. This prod­uct has appar­ent­ly been around since the 1800’s. I love the fla­vor it adds to recipes. And, when it’s too cold to fire up the smok­er, liq­uid smoke is a great option for adding flavor.

Green Tea: I used 1 tea bag in 1/2 cup of water and steeped it for 4 min­utes. This was my attempt to recre­ate the mild and sub­tle earth­i­ness and “green” fla­vor that the banana leaves nor­mal­ly infuse into the meat.

Green Cab­bage: I used a large head of cab­bage, coarse­ly cut into large pieces.

raw cabbage, rough chopped for a recipe

Kalua Pork FAQs

Is pork loin the best cut of meat for kalua pig?

It is for our fam­i­ly. Pork loin has the per­fect amount of fat to help keep the meat moist, but not so much that I need to spend time clean­ing all the fat away when the meat has cooked.

You CAN sub­sti­tute a pork shoul­der roast, if you pre­fer. It will be deli­cious. It will just have a lot more fat and con­nec­tive tis­sue to clean away after cook­ing. I always feel that I have thrown away so much of the mon­ey I spent buy­ing it. For me per­son­al­ly, it’s not as good a val­ue as a pork loin roast.

Can I use pork ten­der­loin?

No. Though they are often con­fused, pork loin and pork ten­der­loin are not the same things. So, please don’t buy pork ten­der­loin for this recipe.

A pork loin is a whole (or some­times half) roast. It is wide, thick and rec­tan­gu­lar and has a thick fat cap across the top of the roast. It’s best when cooked low and slow.

Pork ten­der­loin is a small strip of meat cut from the mus­cle that runs along the hog’s back­bone. It’s best seared off and cooked quick­ly over high heat or grilled. Cer­tain­ly, it would be dry and dis­ap­point­ing in this low and slow recipe.Image that shows the difference betwee pork loin and pork tenderloin

Can I sub­sti­tute reg­u­lar table salt?

I haven’t tried it, but as a last resort, I sup­pose you could. Keep in mind that red Hawai­ian sea salt is low­er in sodi­um and not as salty tast­ing as reg­u­lar table salt. If sub­bing in reg­u­lar table salt, I would use less. How­ev­er, since I haven’t tried that, per­son­al­ly, I don’t have an exact mea­sure­ment I can share with you. 

How to Make Slow Cooker Kalua Pork

Brew a cup of strong green tea by pour­ing 1/2 cup boil­ing water over 1 green tea bag and allow­ing it to steep for 4 minutes.

Next, use a sharp knife to repeat­ed­ly pierce an inch or so into the meat.  Do this on both sides of the pork loin and make mul­ti­ple pokes in each side.  Impor­tant­ly, this will allow fla­vor to work its way through the entire roast.

raw pork loin roast on a white plate. Roast has been pierced multiple times to allow seasonings to seep through the roast as it cooks.

Next, rub the red Hawai­ian sea salt over the sur­face of the entire loin, top, bot­tom and sides.  Press firm­ly and allow the salt to rub down into the slits you cut in the meat, too.

raw pork loin being seasoned with red Hawaiian sea salt

After that, pour the green tea and liq­uid smoke into your slow cooker.

Last­ly, add the pre­pared pork loin to the slow cooker.

raw seasoned pork loin in a slow cooker

Cov­er and cook on low for 3 to 3 1/2 hours.  You want the pork to be cooked through and fork ten­der.  You should be able to eas­i­ly break it apart with a fork.

When the roast is ten­der, add coarse­ly chopped cab­bage to the top of the slow cook­er.  Replace the cov­er and cook an addi­tion­al 20 min­utes, until the cab­bage is tender.

Serve the pork and cab­bage with rice.  Use drip­pings from the slow cook­er as a driz­zle over everything.

Kalua Pork on a white platter with steamed cabbage.

How to Serve Kalua Pig

After doing quite a bit of read­ing on the sub­ject, it seems to me that kalua pig is most com­mon­ly served with cooked cab­bage and rice. Addi­tion­al­ly, I dis­cov­ered that anoth­er com­mon side dish for the smoky pork is mac­a­roni salad. 

I want­ed to stay as close to those tra­di­tions as I could. So, I added the rough chopped cab­bage to the slow cook­er dur­ing the last 20 min­utes of cook­ing. It was prob­a­bly the best steamed and braised cab­bage I’ve ever eat­en. And, I love cooked cabbage! 

Some of the cab­bage sat on top of the pork and sim­ply steamed, while oth­er pieces dropped down, brais­ing in the smoky drip­pings around the pork. It all absorbed that won­der­ful smoky fla­vor. But, there was also a great tex­tur­al con­trast based on where the cab­bage cooked. That on top of the roast was firmer, while the leaves cooked in the drip­pings were wilty, soft and juicy. Absolute­ly delicious!

And that was just the first meal! This recipe makes plen­ty for left­overs. You won’t believe the deli­cious dish­es you can cre­ate with those!

Kalua Pork on a white plate with cabbage and rice.

Using Leftover Meat from this Kalua Pork Loin Recipe

This recipe is the begin­ning of mul­ti­ple deli­cious pork loin meals for you. Incor­po­rate this deli­cious meat into dozens of deli­cious main dish­es that nev­er make you feel like you’re eat­ing the same old thing. 

So, start with the tra­di­tion­al pork, cab­bage and rice. Then, save the left­overs to make que­sadil­las, pulled pork tacos or sand­wich­es or even add it to a quiche for a to-die-for brunch dish. Add meat from this yum­my Kalua pig recipe to a stir-fry or make a quick pork fried rice.

You could also chop it and bake it into bis­cuits with a lit­tle grat­ed ched­dar. Addi­tion­al­ly, Kalua Pork would be a scrump­tious addi­tion to bean or pota­to soups. It’s amaz­ing added to broc­coli and pas­ta in a creamy casse­role, too. Use this juicy, ten­der meat to top baked pota­toes or in a break­fast hash. Any­where smoky, salty and deli­cious are called for, this slow cook­er Kalua pork will be a hit. You’re gonna love it!

The Recipe

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Slow Cooker Kalua Pork


  • Author: Glen­da Embree
  • Total Time: 4 hours 5 minutes
  • Yield: 10-12 serv­ings 1x
  • Diet: Gluten Free

Description

Suc­cu­lent and ten­der morsels of salty smoky pork that lend them­selves to dozens of scrump­tious main dish­es.  This Kalua pork recipe only uses 5 ingre­di­ents and is sim­ply cooked in your slow cook­er.  It’s per­fect for batch or freez­er cook­ing and will become a fast favorite in your kitchen.


Ingredients

Units Scale
  • 2.5 to 3 lb. pork loin roast
  • 1 Table­spoon Hawai­ian sea salt (fine grind)
  • 1 Table­spoon liq­uid smoke (I use hickory.)
  • 1/2 cup fresh­ly brewed green tea
  • 1 head green cab­bage, coarse­ly chopped

Instructions

  1. Brew a cup of strong green tea by pour­ing 1/2 cup boil­ing water over 1 green tea bag and allow­ing it to steep for 4 minutes.
  2. Next, use a sharp knife to repeat­ed­ly pierce an inch or so into the meat.  Do this on both sides of the pork loin and make mul­ti­ple pokes in each side.  This is going to allow the fla­vor to work its way through the entire roast.
  3. Next rub the red Hawai­ian sea salt over the sur­face of the entire loin, top, bot­tom and sides.  Press firm­ly and allow the salt to rub down into the slits you cut in the meat, too.
  4. Pour the green tea and liq­uid smoke into your slow cooker.
  5. Add the pre­pared pork loin to the slow cooker.
  6. Cov­er and cook on low for 3 to 3 1/2 hours.  You want the pork to be cooked through and fork ten­der.  You should be able to eas­i­ly break it apart with a fork.
  7. When the roast is ten­der, add coarse­ly chopped cab­bage to the top of the slow cook­er.  Replace the cov­er and cook an addi­tion­al 20 min­utes, until the cab­bage is tender.
  8. Serve the pork and cab­bage with rice.  Use drip­pings from the slow cook­er as a driz­zle over everything.
  • Prep Time: 5 min­utes
  • Cook Time: 4 hours
  • Cat­e­go­ry: Main Dish, Meat, Pork
  • Method: Slow Cook­er
  • Cui­sine: Hawaiian/American

8 thoughts on “Slow Cooker Kalua Pork”

  1. Thank you so much for shar­ing this amaz­ing recipe! Will sure­ly have this again! It’s real­ly easy to make and it tast­ed so deli­cious! High­ly recommended!

    Reply

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