Smoked Kalua Pork Recipe – For Hawaiian Cuisine Lovers!

In this article, you’ll be provided with the recipe you need to make smoked kalua pork. All the required ingredients and instructions are properly outlined.
Jeremy Bivens
Jeremy Bivens
Research Writer
Jeremy Bivens is a passionate writer and grilling enthusiast. He's been working as a freelance journalist for over 15 years now and has a particular interest in food writing read more
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Bruce Williams
Bruce Williams
Expert Consultant
Claims that grilling is the art that he has been learning all his life long and is not planning to stop. Has been grilling for as long as he can remember. Author of numerous read more
Last updated: August 23, 2023
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The distinctive flavors of natural elements in the preparation of smoked kalua pork make it a widely loved dish. Not only is it famous, but it has also been around for a long time. With only a few items – like alaea sea salt – you can create this wonderful meal from scratch. Traditionally, Hawaiians cook kalua pork with the assistance of an earth pit oven. A hole (large enough to hold the pig’s meat) is dug in the ground and then filled with wood chips to smoke the pork.

The pork is adequately rubbed with alaea salt and wrapped in banana leaves. It is then placed to cook thoroughly in the pit oven – a very tender texture is aimed for when smoking kalua pork. Keep reading to find out more!

Kalua Pork – Hawaiian Food?

Smoked Kalua Pork Recipe - For Hawaiian Cuisine Lovers!
One of the main traditions of Hawaiian cuisine is wrapping the dishes in lu’au leaves and ti leaves.

Kalua pork is indeed a traditional Hawaiian dish. It has a place in the island’s history, and natives of the region have enjoyed it for several years. This delicacy is served at food spots across the island and even at many luaus.

Hawaiian pork recipes are used to make kalua pork. The traditional salt Trusted Source Traditional Ways of Knowing: Salt Harvesting | Sea. Earth. Atmosphere Native Hawaiians used sea salt, pa‘akai (“to solidify the sea”), to season and preserve food, for religious and ceremonial purposes, and as medicine. used in the preparation of the pig’s meat is called alaea salt. It is obtained through the sun-based evaporation of seawater. The white-colored salt from the evaporation process is then mixed in red alaea clay, which gives the salt its pink/reddish coloration.

The earth oven used to make kalua pork is locally known as an imu. Whereas the word kalua (which is Hawaiian lingo) refers to the process of cooking in an earth oven – The Hawaii State Department of Health Trusted Source Commercial IMU Sanitary Requirements | Hawaii State | Department of Health The imu is an underground oven and one of the simplest and most ancient cooking
confirms this.

Banana and ti leaves are utilized within the pit oven as a means of containing steam and regulating cooking temperatures. Although the earth oven is used traditionally in Hawaii, not everyone can afford this tedious process – an alternative technique will be discussed shortly.

How to Make Delicious Smoked Kalua Pork

If done correctly, you shouldn’t have a hard time making Hawaiian pork. There are different Hawaiian pork recipes, but they all share the same primary ingredients and processes – they’re also expected to yield very tender pork with a smokey flavor.

Tips from The Chef

Nobody wants to spend several hours making smoked kalua pork and end up with poor results — it would be frustrating. Here are some useful tips from the chef to ensure that the hours put into the process aren’t wasted.

Choosing Wood Chips

The quality of your wood chips is a factor that will influence how tasty your smoked pork is. Make sure you get some of the best wood chips for smoking for your smoking process.

Before making any purchase, you may need to consider how fast the wood chips burn or how much smoke they produce.

Since you’re smoking pork, you should go for wood chips with a clean burn.

Wrapping in Banana Leaves

To get the sweetest flavor, you’ll need to wrap your portion of pork in banana leaves. You can purchase fresh banana leaves from a physical or online store. The banana leaves help to contain the steam and flavors during the smoking process. The leaves can be securely held in place with some kitchen twine.

Smoked Kalua Pork Recipe - For Hawaiian Cuisine Lovers! 2

Smoked Kalua Pork - Recipe

Bruce Williams
To make things easy for you, we’ve put together an easy-to-use recipe. This recipe guides you on how to prepare the traditional smoked kalua pork - even if you don’t have an earth oven at home. Further details of this recipe include: 
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 12 hours
Total Time 12 hours 15 minutes
Course Main Course
Servings 12 people
Calories 240 kcal


  • 6 – 8 pounds Pork Shoulder
  • 1.5 tbsp Alaea Sea Salt (Hawaiian)
  • 2 Banana Leaves 
  • Wood Chips 


  • Apply your alaea sea salt to the pork. Grab the portion of pork you wish to smoke and make a series of cuts into the pork on all sides. These cuts will make the salt to be absorbed properly. Apply the Hawaiian sea salt - using about 6 tablespoons per 10 pounds of pork. After that, the salted pork will be subjected to refrigerator temperatures for some hours. 
  • Wrap the salted pork in banana leaves. Take the pork out of your fridge and wrap it totally with banana leaves - make sure that all sides of the pork are covered. To ensure that the wrapping doesn’t come undone, secure the leaves with some kitchen twine. 
    Smoked Kalua Pork Recipe - For Hawaiian Cuisine Lovers! 4
  • Get your grill ready for cooking. Start heating your grill’s coal sand scatter the wood chips evenly over the burning coal. Make sure that your grill’s temperature is controlled and within the optimal range (220 - 255℉). The wood chips must have been left to sit in water for about 30 minutes before being spread over the coal. 
    If you don’t have a reliable grill, you can get the widely recommended Woodwind WiFi grill or the Backyard Warrior 7002C2E - both of which are favorites in the grilling community.  
  • Smoke and heat the pork till it reaches about 200℉. Make sure that the wrapped pork is properly positioned over the coal’s heat. Once the pork reaches the recommended temperature, transfer it into a tightly sealed cooler - the smokey flavor will be preserved there.  Instead of directly spreading wood chips over the grill’s coals, you can make use of a smoker box. Simply buy from the best smoker boxes on the market and pour wood chips into the box. The smoker box is usually positioned next to the pork or under the grill's grates.



To know exactly when your smoked kalua pork has reached the right temperature, you’ll need a good smoker thermometer. The thermometer will be used to confirm that the pork isn’t undercooked. 
It is unsafe to eat undercooked pork. The FDA says that the minimum internal temperature for pork Trusted Source Safe Minimum Internal Temperatures | FDA Safe minimum internal temperatures as measured with a food thermometer: beef, pork, veal, and lamb (chops, roasts, steaks) - 145ºF with a 3-minute rest time. is 145℉. Make sure that your smoked Hawaiian pork cooks totally before dishing it out to eat.
If you need to feed more people or less, you can reference the measurements provided in this recipe to know what portion of ingredients you’ll need to add or remove.


Calories: 240kcalProtein: 8.34gFat: 2.58gCholesterol: 25800mgSodium: 222.39mgPotassium: 192.6mgIron: 0.4mg

What to Serve with Smoked Kalua Pork

Smoked Kalua Pork Recipe - For Hawaiian Cuisine Lovers!
To fully enjoy the taste of smoked kalua pork, you can add greens such as parsley or coleslaw, as well as Hawaiian fried rice.

You can eat as much smoked kalua pork as you like without side dishes. However, side dishes create a sweeter experience. So, what can you serve with this popular Hawaiian delicacy?

Some of the best side dishes for smoked kalua pork include:

  • Macaroni Salad
  • Homemade Hawaiian Bread
  • Hawaiian Fried Rice
  • Roasted Hawaiian Medley
  • Coleslaw

In addition to these side dishes, you can also make use of personal favorites.

Final Thoughts

The extremely tender texture of smoked kalua pork makes it a popular delight. After several years of being a traditional Hawaiian dish, it has found its way to other countries across the world. Even if you don’t have an earth oven in your backyard, you can still prepare quality smoked kalua pork.

The information provided in this article is enough to guide you on how to make excellent smoked Hawaiian pork. Simply follow the given instructions and use the freshest ingredients for the best results. Feel free to serve your favorite side dish along with the smoked pork – potato salad, baked beans, and fruit salad are excellent side dishes.


Traditional Ways of Knowing: Salt Harvesting | Sea. Earth. Atmosphere
Native Hawaiians used sea salt, pa‘akai (“to solidify the sea”), to season and preserve food, for religious and ceremonial purposes, and as medicine.
Commercial IMU Sanitary Requirements | Hawaii State | Department of Health
The imu is an underground oven and one of the simplest and most ancient cooking
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