Kālua Pork

A staple dish in Hawaiian cuisine, kālua pork is simply seasoned with salt to maximize its flavor from its own juices.

Kalua Pork
Photo: Photo by Christopher Testani / Food Styling by Margaret Monroe Dickey / Prop Styling by Prissy Lee
Active Time:
40 mins
Roast Time:
6 hrs
Total Time:
7 hrs
6 to 8

A Hawaiian dish named after its cooking method “kālua” (meaning “cooked in an underground oven”), kālua pork is a smoky, shredded meat dish. Also known as kālua pig, kālua pork is frequently served at celebratory events like luaus, potlucks, and is part of the ever-popular Hawaiian lunch plate, where it’s typically paired with Mac Salad and steamed white rice. Originally, to make kālua pork, a whole pig would have been wrapped in the leaves of the ti plant to protect the meat while it cooked in an underground oven called an imu. The leaves encase the meat and protect its moisture while it cooks for long hours. 

In this recipe adapted from chef Sheldon Simeon’s Cook Real Hawai‘i, Simeon calls for more widely available banana leaves to encase  boneless pork shoulder (Boston Butt), which cooks in a roasting pan in a standard oven to achieve juicy, succulent kālua pork at home. The meat is simply seasoned with Hawaiian sea salt, enhancing the pure flavor of the meat and helping to tenderize it along the way. The banana leaves protect the pork butt from drying out in the oven, holding in steam that keeps the meat juicy and plump while at the same time giving the dish a very subtle, anise-like flavor. “For me, cooking in banana leaves is a connection to the past,” Simeon says. “Also, the flavor it imparts in food is so delicious.”


  • 5 pounds boneless pork shoulder (Boston butt)

  • 2 tablespoons coarse Hawaiian sea salt (such as The Spice House), plus more to taste

  • 2 (24- x 10-inch) banana leaf pieces

  • Mac Salad, for serving

  • Cooked white rice, for serving


  1. Preheat oven to 300°F. Sprinkle pork evenly with Hawaiian sea salt. Place 1 banana leaf piece lengthwise on a clean work surface; lay remaining leaf crosswise over the first leaf to create a “t” shape. Place pork on center of leaves, where leaf pieces overlap. Fold ends of leaves over pork to encase meat. Wrap a large piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil around pork bundle 3 times to seal completely. Place bundle in a large roasting pan; roast in preheated oven until very tender and juicy, about 6 hours.

  2. Remove pork from oven, and let cool slightly, about 20 minutes. Remove and discard foil and banana leaves; return pork to roasting pan. Shred pork using 2 forks to pull apart meat. Season with additional salt to taste. Serve with Mac Salad and white rice.

Suggested Pairing

Robust, tannic, fruit-forward red: Limerick Lane Russian River Valley Zinfandel

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