Pressure Cooker Kalua Pork

Smokey tender, juicy shredded pork served over rice is a Hawaiian luau favorite. I’ve transformed a popular slow cooker recipe requiring a 16 hour cooking time to a pressure cooker recipe that is on the table in less than 2 hours.

Kālua, which means “to cook in an underground oven” is often confused with Kahlúa, which is a coffee-flavored liqueur. No, there this is no liquer in a Kalua Pork recipe.

The traditional Hawaiian Kālua Pork is a long process that involves wrapping a pig in banana leaves and burying it in a fire pit lined with stones where it smokes for hours until it’s tender and juicy. Of course, for most of us, that’s not very practical.

One of my daughter’s favorite meals is Kalua Pork. I don’t know if Kalua Pork is as popular across the U.S. as it is in Utah, or if it’s particularly popular in Utah because of the large Polynesian population here.

My daughter asked me to convert her recipe, which requires 16 hours cooking in the slow cooker to a pressure cooker recipe so we could have it for dinner. I found lots of similar Kalua Pork recipes on the net, including one Rachel, La Fuji Mama, posted that was featured on Oprah.

Pork Shoulder is an inexpensive cut of meat and Kalua pork is often served at church parties and family get togethers. My family loved this pressure cooker version of Kalua pork. I hope you’ll give this easy, delicious recipe a try.

Pressure Cooker Kalua Pork

Pressure Cooker Kalua Pork

Ingredients

  • 4 lb Pork Shoulder (Pork Butt) roast, cut in two pieces
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon Hickory Liquid Smoke (I used Wright's)
  • 2 teaspoons coarse Kosher salt (or Hawaiian salt)

Directions

  1. Select Browning and add oil to the cooking pot. When hot, brown pork roast on both sides, about 3 minutes per side. Brown each half of the roast separately. Remove to a platter when browned.
  2. Turn pressure cooker off and add water and liquid smoke to the cooking pot. Add browned roasts and any accumulated juices to the pot. Sprinkle the salt over the top of the pork roasts.
  3. Select High Pressure and set timer for 90 minutes. When beep sounds, use a natural pressure release to release pressure (approximately 20 minutes). When valve drops carefully remove lid.
  4. Remove the meat from the pressure cooker and shred with two forks (discard excess fat as you shredded). Add some of the juices from the pressure cooker to moisten the meat. (I used a fat separator to remove fat from the juices.)
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Comments

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  1. Anna says

    My favorite way to prepare pork shoulder roast for pulled pork is to apply dry rub or even just sea salt & pepper with a little Wrights liquid smoke, then super-slow roast it all day or all night in the oven at 235°F (8-16 hours, depending on the size of the roast). It’s completely hand-off, though I don’t leave the house with the oven running (though I have turned it off to run a quick errand or two, then turned it back on upon returning home without issue). I’ve smoke-cooked many pork shoulder roasts on my gas grill using indirect heat & wood chips, but that method requires far too much supervision to make sure the temp remains in the 220-235° range (varies constantly due to breezes, shade & direct sun changes, etc.) and resupplying the wood chips.

    When I don’t get started early enough to slow roast it in the oven, or it’s too hot and I don’t want to run the oven at even a low temperature like 235°F, I now make pulled pork in my Instant Pot Duo electric pressure cooker. In under 2 hours I have pulled pork that’s ready to eat.

    I add another step to pressure cooked pulled pork, though. It’s a bit too “wet” for my taste, so after “pulling” the pork and removing any un-rendered fatty and unmelted connective tissue areas, I like to put the shredded pork in a shallow dish or pan and put it under the broiler briefly to dry the meat out a bit. The intense heat radiation also creates the tasty crunchy bits that oven or smoker roasting produces.

    Love your blog. Thanks for all the posts. They’ve been very helpful since I started cooking with pressure a few months ago.

    • Barbara Schieving says

      Thanks Anna – so glad you’re enjoying my recipes. I love all the tips you shared. Sometimes long and slow in the oven is perfect, and sometimes quick pressure cooking is perfect. I’ll try broiling the meat briefly next time.

  2. Ken says

    Aloha Barbara,

    I must say your kalua pig is close but no cigar you are missing flavor elements.

    In Hawaii kalua pig is slowly steam roasted in an underground imu fired with Kiawe wood to heat the stones and wrapped with ti leaves and covered in banana leaves and dirt to seal the heat in.

    Think of a traditional New England clam bake where a pit is dug and filled with firewood which is lit on fire and stone stacked on the fire to heat up. After the flames have died down and the stones are red hot, a layer of seaweed is laid down and clams, mussels, lobster, corn, potatoes, onions, chicken, sausage is scattered on and covered with more seaweed then covered with tarp and sand to seal everything and is left to steam roast.

    The only traditional seasoning used is what native Hawaiians had which was Hawaiian salt which sea salt or kosher salt can be substituted however better if you order on-line authentic Hawaiian salt for the flavor.

    Please, pineapples are not native to Hawaii and native Hawaiians never seen or ate pineapple till it was introduced by South Americans. In Hawaii we do not eat pineapple every day with every meal!

    Hawaiian Kiawe wood has a smoky flavor closer to mesquite wood but most people use Wright’s hickory wood seasoning.

    If you can’t find ti leafs on the mainland banana leaf can be can be substituted. Ti leafs can be found at local florists on mainland or on internet

    When James Beard award Professional Chef Sam Choy does his kalua pig in an oven for 1 banana leaf substitutes 4-5 whole, unpeeled bananas. Banana leaves are available at Asian markets and Latin markets or on internet.

    In other words, if you can’t find ti leaf to wrap the pork butt then place 4-5 whole, unpeeled bananas on top and you’ll come closer to authentic Hawaiian flavor.

    If you are going to call your mainland creations Hawaiian then come as close to the real thing which is officially called Hawaiian Regional Cuisine.

    Finally, here is the link to how to make authentic Hawaiian kalua pig in a 6-quart pressure cooker:
    http://tastyislandhawaii.com/2011/04/03/pressure-cooked-kalua-pig/

    • Barbara Schieving says

      Hi Ken – thanks for taking the time to share your tips on making a more authentic kalua pork. I hope while you were here you took the time to check out some of my other wonderful pressure cooker recipes. We pressure cooker cooks need to stick together.

      • Ken says

        Aloha Barbara,

        I hope I didn’t sound too harsh.

        I guess you could say I’m a foodie who had two full kitchens in his house.

        I’ve been visiting Hawaii since 1968 almost every year and finally retired to Hawaii in 2006.

        What I hear all the time from local Hawaiians is; “There the mainlanders go again adding pineapple and ham calling it Hawaiian!”

        The pineapple in your photo made me think about what is often said.

        I’ve fully checked out your website blog and all your recipes-very good!. I see we have the same two pressure cooker blog websites in common; Hip Pressure Cooking and Miss Vickie.

        I have over 2,000 pressure cooking recipes covering all types of cuisine plus an only find in Hawaii cook book of authentic Hawaiian recipe cuisine adapted to be cooked with a pressure cooker or slow cooker.

        I hope you enjoy Tasty Island blog as Pomai is the top Hawaiian food blogger with excellent step by step recipe photos in Honolulu.

        Aloha

  3. Sean Murray says

    I plan on making this on Friday. The smallest roast my local market had was a little over 7 lbs. how would I go about scaling the cooking time for a larger roast. This will only be the second time I’ve used my pressure cooker (instantpot) so I’m not sure how cooking times are normally adjusted.

    • Barbara Schieving says

      Hi Sean – the size of the meat matters more than the volume of the meat. So I would cut the roast in to four pieces and brown it, then cook it for 90 minutes. After it pressure releases for 10 minutes, you can release the pressure and see if it’s fork tender. You can cook it longer if it needs it, but my guess is 90 minutes will be plenty. I would double the other ingredients as well.

      Enjoy!

  4. PattiAnn says

    Santa delivered an Emeril PC to me for Christmas, and I think I have used it everyday for the past month! Your site is terrific, and this Kalua Pork recipe is the best. I use to make my Kalua Pork in a slow cooker, but it took at least 12 hours to get it to the proper preparation. You mention that there is a large Polynesian population in your town, do you have a good recipe for Chicken Adobo for the PC? I just might try my dutch oven recipe, but I wonder if I should cut down on the amount of vinegar because the PC injects such intense flavor. Thanks for your help.

    • Barbara Schieving says

      Thanks PattiAnn! I don’t have a Chicken Adobo recipe, but I’d love to try yours if you want to send it to me :) I would cut down on the vinegar because you don’t have much evaporation in the pressure cooker. I try to use only 1 to 1 1/2 cups liquid when making most recipes. Good luck!

  5. Julie says

    Thanks, Barbara. I forgot to mention that even though it scorched on the bottom I was able to salvage the majority of the meat and used it in a green chili stew.
    I will take your advise to heart.
    I don’t think I routinely have that much evaporation when I make other dishes. Just yesterday I made a delicious chicken stock with the resulting liquid being very close to what I started with. I do have on my wish list though to upgrade to a different brand cooker!

    • Barbara Schieving says

      Oh good – I’m glad you were able to enjoy the meat. Chicken stock in the pressure cooker is the best! Thanks for the update.

  6. Julie says

    Hi Barbara, I wanted to update you on my kalua pork experience and ask for your help in determining why mine was not a success. I had a lean pork roast ( sirloin) that weighed 2 pounds. I cut it in half and cooked as directed, I did up the water amount to 1 cup and cooked for the amount of time. It was scorched on the bottom and no juice. Oh me oh my. I wonder if the cooking time was too long? Maybe I should not have substituted a different kind of pork roast? I have a 6 qt. farberware that I have had for years. It has a new gasket.

    • Nicholas says

      The fact that it was lean makes me want to think less fat = less juice. Also, did you reduce the time since you used a 2lb roast instead of a 4lb? Don’t know if the lean makes much of a difference but cooking it for the Mac time with a smaller roast would certainly cause problems.

    • Barbara Schieving says

      Hi Julie – sorry it wasn’t a success. You really can’t substitute a lean pork sirloin roast in this recipe. It’s the fats and juices in the pork shoulder (butt) that make the meat so tender and delicious.

      Also, if you reduce the size of the meat you’re cooking, you do have to reduce the cooking time. If you’d hadn’t cut the 2 lb. roast in half the cooking time would have been closer.

      I’m am most concerned that your pressure cooker may not be working properly. My understanding is that a typical evaporation rate is less than 4% every 10 minutes. So cooking it for 90 minutes you should have only had about 36% evaporation. Maybe the lid wasn’t on properly? Or do you consistently have that much evaporation?

      Hope that helps :)

    • Anna says

      IMO, pork loin roasts don’t EVER substitute well for a pork shoulder roast recipe, whether cooking conventionally or with pressure.

      Loin cuts are extremely lean (too lean, IMO). The already tender meat fibers don’t need to cook as long as a heavily worked (tough) shoulder cut, which requires time and moisture to break down the connective tissues. Loin roasts cooked substituted for shoulder roasts result in tough, dry, inedible meat.

      Shoulder roasts are much fattier than loin roasts, which is why precisely some people avoid shoulder roasts and use loin cuts instead. But avoiding fat by substituting a lean cut backfires; the internal and external fat and tough connective tissue (gelatin) in a shoulder roast melts and mostly renders out of the meat during a long cooking session, and literally self-bastes the meat throughout, ultimately creating more flavorful, tender, and moist meat. Loin cuts just become overcooked and dried out (which is why traditional cooking of lean cuts often involved “barding” with cut strips of fat or covering roasts with bacon slices). Undesired fat can be removed after cooking, during the “pulling” step, as well as skimmed from the cooking juices before serving or after chilling.

      Actually, I usually strain and save the excess pork fat, and use it for cooking instead of vegetable/seed oils or olive oil, as pork fat adds flavor, fat soluble vitamins, and is a traditional fat that humans have treasured for eons. Few people know anymore that pork fat is largely composed of monounsaturated fatty acids, just like olive oil, so it’s not the unhealthful fat that people have been led to believe.

  7. Julie says

    I get nervous that there is not enough liquid in this recipe to prefect scorching. I am new to pressure cooking, and was thinking the had to be a minimum of 1 cup water or liquid in the recipe. Please advise/set me straight:).

    • Barbara Schieving says

      Hi Julie – yes, most manufacturers recommend a minimum of one cup of water. I’ve had good luck with using less when it’s a fatty meat such as pork shoulder that will release lots of juices and fat, but since not everyone is using my brand of pressure cooker, I should probably increase the amount of water in the recipe. Thanks for the comment.

      • Julie says

        Thank you, Barbara for your reply and also Nicholas for your comment as well. I noticed from my first comment that I need to proof read before I press the submit button! Oh, well you got the gist of my question. I am going to make this tonight for tomorrow’s Sunday dinner after our church meeting. Will have it with rice and sautéed cabbage and maybe an apple salad. I have made it in the past using a recipe that calls for 5 hours of baking. I look forward to finding out how this one compares. From what I read it should be great.

    • Nicholas Smith says

      I was a little skeptical the first time I did this recipe. I think the main thing to remember is that pork releases a lot of juice while it cooks. If you are still worried, you can always double the water and liquid smoke called for in the recipe. You’ll just have to pour some juice off in the end. You can also slice up some fresh onions and set the roast on top of them to help with scorching. Hands down the best pork recipe I’ve come across. I will not do my pork roast any other way. Good luck and God bless.

  8. Nicholas Smith says

    AMAZING!!! Made this tonight and I have to say, the flavor is beyond what I expected. My new go to for a pork butt. Thank you so much for the wonderful recipes.

  9. Michele says

    My first use of a slow cooker and it was such a success !! Melt in your mouth, served with brown rice and pineapple kiwi salsa So good!

  10. says

    Ooooh I didn’t know you had a Pressure Cooker blog!!! So excited because my MIL gave me one for Christmas and I have NO idea how to use it, though I successfully made applesauce in it this week!! Thanks for the shout out! XO

  11. says

    Barbara: I am one of those who assumed it had the coffee drink in it. That is great news to me as I hate coffee flavoring. I love pulled pork so this looks great! Thank for clearing that up too.

    • Barbara says

      I thought for a long time that Utahns probably just left out the coffee liqueur. If you love pulled pork, you’ll love this recipe.

  12. says

    Oh, wow, Barbara, I did not know you have a second blog. And I did not know you have such deliciousness on it :-). I want to move to Hawaii for their kalua pork! And I brought 2 huge containers of salt from my last trip. This recipe is definitely something I need to try! Thank you for sharing!

    • Barbara says

      Hi Elana – thanks for stopping by my new site. How fun that you brought home salt from Hawaii and then stumbled on this recipe. Definitely give it a try. A trip to Hawaii is on my wish list for next year.