Story by Polynesian Cultural Blogger, Bobby Akoi, Jr

I grew up in a Hawaiian homestead community of Keaukaha on the the Big Island of Hawai’i.  One tradition that I loved participating in as a kid was putting a pig underground.   Kalua is a traditional Hawaiian cooking method that utilizes an imu, or an underground oven.    Our other Polynesian neighbors use the same method with different variations.

With the leadership of Uncles Luka Kanakaole, George Kahoilua, & John Manuia, as young boys we were ready to help.  The size of the imu was round about 6-8 feet in diameter.  Large stones were heated up the pit of fire with kiawe wood.  As soon as the stones got red hot, we would place the red hot stones into pig’s body including the legs.  The pig had been salted with Hawaiian salt. We would line up the banana leaves to cover the imu.  The whole pig was then laid on top of a bed of greenery and covered with more banana leaves. To maintain even heating and to retain the meat’s natural moisture, the meat was covered with wet burlap bags.  The whole pit was covered with dirt.  We’d go out and play until 8 hours later we were back to unearth the pig.  I look back at these experiences with much fond memories.                          

Can you imagine going through this kalua process every time you wanted to indulge in kalua pig? 

Well, today you don’t have to dig hole in your back yard.  You can actually do it in your kitchen.   Here’s an amazing, simple, and easy kalua pork recipe that you can do at home.


1 (6 pound) pork butt roast

1 1/2 tablespoons Hawaiian sea salt

1 tablespoon liquid smoke flavoring (Kiawe is the best)


Pierce pork all over with a carving fork.  Rub salt then liquid smoke over meat.

Place roast in a crock pot. Cover and cook on LOW for 8 hours.

Remove meat from slow cooker, and shred, adding drippings as needed to moisten.

Place pork in a crock pot. First you want to get anywhere from a 6 lb pork shoulder roast or “Boston” butt. You can get them at Costco and butcher them into 3-4 sections depending on the weight of the roast and freeze the rest until you want to cook it again. Place one of the sections rinsed and patted dry with paper towels into the crock pot.

Pierce it all over with a fork. This is good to get some aggressions out if need be.

Cover it liberally with the Hawaiian salt and the liquid smoke.

8 hours later…VOILA!  Your kalua pig is ready.

It’s so tender you can shred it with the back of a spoon. So ‘ONO as the Hawaiians say, meaning so GOOD!!!

Now doesn’t that sound better than digging a hole and firing up wood and stones?  Many have complimented how ‘ONO their kalua pig turned out.  If you close your eyes and listen you’d swear you could hear the waves on the beach, smell the lightly scented breeze in the palms, and feel the sand between your toes.  Good luck!

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