If you like BBQ Pulled Pork you'll like my Hawaiian Kalua Pig with Cabbage recipe. And it makes enough to throw your own Luau party!
Traditional Kaula Pig is wrapped in banana leaves and buried in the dirt with hot coals - slow roasting all day. For my version I oven-roast the pork, so you don't have to dig up your backyard.
I coat the pork shoulder with couple of tablespoons of Liquid Smoke. This is a cheat, as it won't be as smokey as it could be, but it's still a good way to go. If you have an outdoor grill you could smoke the pork after it is done baking. Click here, to see my gas grill smoking method for BBQ Pulled Pork.
banana leaves. I get mine at my local Mexican grocery for 99 cents per pound. They come fresh or frozen. On thing, some packages have way too many leaves for a single pork shoulder. But you can freeze any leftover banana leaves.
When I got to grocery checkout counter, I had them remove half the leaves.You only need enough to wrap the pork shoulder at least two times.
If you don't have access to banana leaves, a simple substitution is adding fresh brewed green tea to the roasting pan. Banana leaves have a tea taste. I've read some recipes that don't even use banana leaves. I don't get how they can call it Kalua Pig without the leafy fragrance.
The final step for Kalua Pig is covering the pan with foil (or a pan lid if you have one,) adding a couple cups of water (or green tea) and baking the pork until it is fall-apart tender. This takes about 4-5 hours baking time. If you use boneless pork, then it will cook even faster.
You could also steam the banana leaf wrapped pork in a large covered pot. Then when done bake it for 30 to 45 minutes to get some caramelized roasted bits.
The final step is to shred the pork like you would do for BBQ Pulled Pork.
I use the cheapest cut of pork for this recipe. A pork shoulder has a layer of skin and a large center bone. I get mine on sale from the local Mexican grocery for less than a dollar per pound. You could use a boneless pork roast that's more expensive, but it's still cheaper than beef. Remove the skin for a lighter Kalua Pig recipe.
A Kalua Pig Plate Lunch is usually served with sauteed cabbage. It can be mixed into the pork, or served on the side. At Keneke's Grill in Punalu'u, Hawaii, the cabbage is buried under a layer of Kalua Pig. Click here to see my video review of Keneke's Grill.
There's nothing too it. Just add a little oil to a large pan over medium heat, and saute chopped cabbage for about 5 minutes. The cabbage will soften and shrink in size as it cooks through. Just stir to cook evenly - that's it.
A typical Kalua Pig Plate Lunch is protein and carb heavy (meat, rice and macaroni salad,) so sauteed cabbage is a welcome veggie addition.And scroll down (or click here) to previous blog post for my Sticky Rice and Macaroni Salad recipes.
Cabbage is cheap - you get your money's worth.
My Kalua Pig & Cabbage recipe is comfort food from the islands of Hawai'i. This recipe makes enough for a party, so get a grass skirt and pour yourself a frothy Blue Hawaiian drink and get cooking!
Cabbage Ingredients ( about 6-8 servings)
- 1 head of cabbage - Remove root end and roughly chop.
- 1 tablespoon oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
Directions for Cabbage Stir Fry
Cut out tough root end of cabbage. Roughly chop cabbage into bite size pieces. When you saute cabbage, the pieces will reduce in size as it cooks.
Over a medium heat, add oil. For a lighter version, add chopped cabbage to hot pan and spoon in couple tablespoons of water or a favorite broth, instead of oil.
Stir fry cabbage until soft, about 5 minutes. You can saute cabbage in batches if there is too much to fit frying pan.
Serve warm. Okay to precook and heat in the microwave later, before serving.
You can cook half a head of cabbage, if a head is too much.
Kalua Pig Ingredients (6-8 servings)
- 5-7 pound pork shoulder - I used a whole shoulder with bone and skin. It's okay to use boneless pork roast (this will cook quicker by an hour.)
- Banana Leaves - enough to wrap pork 2 times. Extra layer of leaves as they will spit and shrink, so double wrap the pork. Okay to substitute and steam with brewed green tea in roasting pan.
- 2 tablespoons liquid smoke - Just coat the pork, allow to obsorb for a minute then add another coat of liquid smoke.
- Salt and pepper to taste - If you have Hawaiian Salt then use that.
- Aluminum foil - to cover the baking pan. If your pan has a cover, then use that.
- A few cups of water (or green tea) to add during roasting.
Directions for Kalua Pig (oven method)
First make deep knife cuts into pork shoulder, at least 6 deep cuts. This will get liquid smoke and banana leaf flavor into the meat.
Coat pork shoulder with liquid smoke. I used a brush, but you can just drizzle and rub it on the skin. Allow pork to absorb liquid smoke for a minute, then give pork another coat to use all the liquid smoke.
Salt and pepper to taste. If you have mineral-rich Hawaiian salt then use it.
Unroll the banana leaves. They will crack and split some, that's okay. What you want to do is cross-layer two leaves. That way the meat stays wrapped by the leaves, otherwise the oven heat will spit leaves open and meat will not be completely covered.
Depending how long and wide the banana leaves are, you need to wrap the pork at least 2 times.
Place banana wrapped pork shoulder, seam side down, in a large enough roasting pan. Add a couple cups of water. Cover the pan with foil. Use the cover if your roasting pan has one.
(If you can't find banana leaves, then make a large pot of green tea. Add 2 cups of green tea in the bottom of the roasting pan to steam the meat, during baking. Add green tea as it steams away, as needed.)
Roast banana leaf wrapped pork shoulder at 350 degrees for about 4 to 5 hours. You can check the meat for tenderness at four hours. The meat should easily break apart and shred, when it's done. Shred a piece of meat from the center of pork shoulder to make sure the meat is moist and tender.
If the meat is not tender all the way through, then re-wrap and bake another half hour to one hour until done. (The pork doesn't have to be perfectly wrapped at this point - it has the flavor, just needs to be cooked until fall-apart tender.)
For boneless pork it will cook faster, about 3 to 4 hours.
Add water (or green tea) to roasting pan as needed, about a cup every 2 hours. If liquid evaporates out that's okay. When done add a 1 cup of water to loosen tasty bits on bottom of roasting pan. You can use the broth to moisten and add extra flavor to shredded roasted pork.
When Kalua Pig is done just unwrap it and let the meat rest for about 3 minutes, to cool down enough to shred and eat. Use a couple of forks to shred the pork. Shredded is the traditional way to serve Kalua Pig.
I like the pork in big chunks as well - you could just served like you would any roasted meat.
Typical Kalua Pig Lunch Plate is served with cabbage, rice and macaroni salad. I like to put some cabbage under the Kalua Pig.Click here, to see my Sticky Rice and Macaroni Salad recipes.
I used banana leaves. If you can't find them then just steam meat with green tea. Add green tea to pan during baking time, as needed. Banana leaves have a similar flavor to green tea.
You can use any cheap cuts of pork, even slicing pork off the bone of a pork shoulder. Okay to remove the fat for a lighter version. Boneless and skinless pork will cook faster, so shave off an hour.
If you like your pork extra-smokey, then use my outdoor grill method, click here for my BBQ Pulled Pork smoking method. Basically, when Kalua Pig is done, remove it from the stove, unwrap and move it to an outdoor grill and smoke it for half hour to 45 minutes.
Stove Top Steamed Kalua Pig
You can steam Kalua Pig on the stove top. Follow directions above: coating in liquid smoke, season and wrap pork in banana leaves.
Mainly, you need a pot big enough with a lid. You may need to slice off meat from the bone of a whole pork shoulder, so it will fit in a pot. Or just get a more expensive boneless pork roast.
Add 2 cups of water (or green tea.) Bring liquid to a boil, lower heat to a low simmer, then cover the pot.
Cook 4-6 hours, adding water as needed. Meat will release a lot of liquid during cooking time. Boneless and skinless pork will cook quicker, so check for tenderness after 3 hours. You can finish it up by baking the pork at 350 degrees for 30 to 45 minutes to get some roasted caramelized meat bits (optional.)
Again, if you don't have banana leaves, then use green tea to steam pork with.
A pressure cooker will steam Kalua Pig the quickest, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours total.
To see other Hawaii Travelogue blog posts with video, photos, text & GIFs, just click on any link below:
Visit to O'ahu, Hawai'i - intro
Windward Shore & Keneke Grill
Visit to O'ahu, Hawai'i - intro
Windward Shore & Keneke Grill