Smokey tender, juicy shredded pork served over rice is a Hawaiian luau favorite. I’ve transformed a popular slow cooker recipe with a 16-hour cooking time into an Instant Pot / Pressure Cooker Kalua Pork recipe that is on the table in less than 2 hours.
One of my daughter’s favorite meals is kalua pork. If you’ve ever made slow cooker Kalua pork, you’ll know it’s a long process. My daughter’s favorite recipe requires 16 hours in the slow cooker (!!).
By making kalua pork in the pressure cooker, there’s NO MORE starting the meat the night before and waking up to the smell of dinner. You’ll love how simple and easy this recipe is.
I love serving Kalua Pork at large get-togethers because it’s a less-expensive main course and it can accommodate a wide variety of dietary plans, including gluten-free and keto.
I don’t know if Kalua Pork is as popular across the U.S. as it is in Utah, or if it’s extra popular here because of the state’s large Polynesian population. Either way, kalua pork is frequently served at church parties and large family get-togethers.
What Is Kalua Pork?
Kalua pork (aka kalua pig) is simply a salty, moist shredded pork that has been cooked for a long time.
Kālua means “to cook in an underground oven.” The traditional Hawaiian Kalua Pork involves wrapping a pig in ti or banana leaves and burying it in a fire pit lined with stones. The pig smokes for hours underground until it’s tender and juicy. (If you’re feeling adventurous, you can make your own imu and kalua pork.)
Of course, that’s not very practical for everyday meals. 🙂
Note: Kalua Pork is often confused with Kahlúa, a coffee-flavored liqueur. There is no Kahlúa in a Kalua Pork recipe.
What Meat Do I Use to Make Pressure Cooker Kalua Pork?
Pork shoulder is an inexpensive cut of meat that I prefer in this Instant Pot Kalua Pork. However, any pork that is good for braising would be a good fit for this recipe.
When you’re at the meat counter, there’s lots of names for pork. It’s extra confusing since the pork producers changed the names they’re using. Look for a blade pork roast (aka a shoulder blade Boston roast or butt roast).
I prefer using boneless pork for this recipe; however, if you prefer bone-in you can use that as well with no change in the cook time.
If you’re interested in using a leaner meat, PCT readers have had great results using half pork loin and half pork shoulder. This way you get the great flavor from the pork shoulder but cut the calories.
I do not recommend using pork tenderloin to make kalua pork. Tenderloin is a more expensive cut of meat that’s already tender. I think it’s great on the barbecue. If you want to pressure cook it, I like to slice it into medallions and cook at High Pressure for 1 minute. (See page 202, Sweet Teriyaki Pork Tenderloin, in The Electric Pressure Cooker Cookbook for instructions.)
When pressure cooking, remember the size and thickness of the meat matters more than the amount of meat in your cooking pot. Whether you’re cooking 2 pounds or 6 pounds of pork, as long as they’re all about the same size and thickness, there’s no need to adjust the cook time.
How to Make Pressure Cooker Kalua Pork in an Instant Pot
An Instant Pot is one of the most popular brands of electric pressure cookers. They are easy to use and your Instant Pot can help you create this delicious Kalua Pork!
Don’t skip the browning step—with a recipe this simple, you want to make sure you have lots of browned bits to add flavor to the finished dish.
With so few ingredients in the recipe, readers often ask if there is a particular brand of liquid smoke or coarse salt that I prefer to use. I often use the pink Hawaiian salt anyways, and it works perfectly for this recipe. As for liquid smoke, I have typically used Colgin Original Recipe (Natural Mesquite), but you can substitute any brand and flavor that you prefer.
What to Serve with Hawaiian Kalua Pork?
Wondering what to serve with kalua pork? Traditionally, kalua pork is served with white rice. (I like to ladle extra juices on top of the rice for extra flavor.) I also like to serve it with plenty of steamed vegetables—especially broccoli, carrots, and edamame. This turns it into a sort of kalua pork rice bowl.
If you’re watching carbs, you can also serve it on top of spiralized zucchini noodles.
My family demands fresh pineapple with kalua. If I’m feeling fancy, I’ll take the time to grill it. (Wondering how to cut a pineapple? I’ve got you covered.)
A local Hawaiian restaurant serves kalua pork nachos, made with crispy wontons, green onions, fresh tomatoes, and drizzled with teriyaki sauce. Another serves it as kalua pork sliders, with shredded cabbage and drizzled with a Hawaiian mayonnaise. Both are fabulous options.
Pressure Cooker / Instant Pot Kalua Pork and Cabbage
Oftentimes, the kalua pork is served with steamed cabbage. If you wish to do this, rough chop some cabbage. After you release the pressure, add the cabbage to the cooking pot and lock the lid back in place. Select High Pressure and a 3 minute cook time. When the cook time ends, use a quick pressure release.
Update: My family loves this Pressure Cooker Hawaiian Kalua Pork, so I wanted to make a quick video to show you how easy it is to make. It’s a delicious recipe and I hope you’ll give it a try.
- 4 pounds pork shoulder (pork butt) roast, cut into two pieces
- 1 to 2 tablespoons oil
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 tablespoon hickory liquid smoke
- 2 teaspoons coarse Kosher salt or coarse Hawaiian salt
- Cooked rice, for serving
Select Saute to preheat the pot. When hot, add the oil and brown each half of the roast separately. Brown each half of the pork roast on both sides, about 3 minutes per side. Remove to a platter when browned.
Turn the pressure cooker off, and add water and liquid smoke to the cooking pot. Stir to remove any browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Add the browned pork and any accumulated juices. Sprinkle the salt over the top of the pork roasts.
Lock the lid in place. Select High Pressure and 90 minutes cook time.
When the timer sounds, use a natural pressure release (approximately 20 minutes). When the valve, drops carefully remove lid.
Remove the meat from the pressure cooker and shred with two forks. (Discard excess fat as you shred). If desired, use a fat separator to remove fat from the juices. Add some of the juices from the pressure cooker to moisten the meat. Place remaining juices in a serving dish to ladle on top of rice, if desired.
* If you don't have coarse salt on hand, be sure to reduce the amount of table salt you add.
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 580Total Fat: 43gSaturated Fat: 15gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 24gCholesterol: 173mgSodium: 612mgCarbohydrates: 0gFiber: 0gSugar: 0gProtein: 45g