Kalua Pork Sandwich

This Kalua Pork Sandwich is a Hawaiian classic with juicy, smoky pork on a bun with pickles and coleslaw.

kalua pork sandwich

Kalua pork is a Hawaiian classic that is tender, smoky, and very flavorful. Typically, it’s prepared by slow-roasting a whole pig in an underground oven called an imu. The meat becomes tender, smoky, and infused with the flavors of the island. Once it’s ready, you can serve it in various delicious ways.

Hawaiians often eat this pork alongside cooked cabbage and rice. In this recipe, we’re piling it onto a sweet and savory sandwich perfect for cookouts.

Cooking a whole pig underground isn’t doable for most people, so we’re wrapping it in banana leaves and cooking it low in our Dutch Oven. The pork comes out tender, earthy, and juicy.


If you have a slow cooker, that would also be a great hands off way to make Kalua pork.

To make this mouthwatering sammy, you’ll need to shred the tender, smoky pork and assemble it in a bun or roll. Here’s a step-by-step guide to creating your very own Kalua Pork Sandwich:

  • Shred the Kalua Pork: Once your Kalua pork is done, shred it into small pieces. The smoky, juicy meat will practically fall apart, making this step a breeze.
  • Choose Your Bun: Hawaiian sweet rolls or buns are the preferred choice for a Kalua Pork Sandwich, as they add a touch of sweetness that complements the smoky flavors of the pork.
  • Add Toppings: While you can enjoy Kalua pork on its own, adding some fresh toppings can elevate the sandwich’s taste and texture. Consider adding sliced pineapple, lettuce, or a simple coleslaw made with a tangy, creamy dressing.
  • Sauce It Up: For an authentic Hawaiian experience, drizzle some teriyaki sauce over the shredded pork. The sweet and savory combination is simply irresistible.
  • Serve: Kalua Pork Sandwiches are perfect for any occasion. Whether you’re having a backyard luau or just want to savor a taste of Hawaii, these sandwiches are sure to delight.

What to Serve with Kalua Pork

If you’re serving Kalua pork as a sandwich, it pairs wonderfully with a variety of side dishes. Traditional Hawaiian options include macaroni salad, rice, and poi, a Hawaiian staple made from taro root. These sides complement the savory and smoky flavors of the pork, creating a balanced and satisfying meal.

A classic choice to accompany Kalua pork is coleslaw. In Hawaiian cuisine, this combination is a “Pulled Pork Sandwich with Coleslaw.” The creaminess of the coleslaw balances the smokiness of the Kalua pork, creating a harmonious blend of flavors and textures.

What to Eat with Kalua Pork

Kalua pork is versatile and you can eat it many ways. Apart from the Kalua Pork Sandwich, consider serving it alongside other Hawaiian favorites. These include lomi-lomi salmon (a tomato and salmon salad), or haupia (a coconut-based dessert). You can also use Kalua pork in tacos, quesadillas, or even as a topping for a Hawaiian-style pizza.

Is Kalua Pork Healthy?

While Kalua pork is undeniably delicious, it’s not a particularly healthy dish. The traditional preparation method, which involves slow-roasting a whole pig and using a generous amount of salt, can result in a high sodium content. Additionally, the pork used is typically not a lean cut, which adds to the calorie and fat content.

If you’re health-conscious, consider enjoying Kalua pork in moderation and balancing it with lighter, nutrient-dense options. You can also explore alternative preparation methods, such as using a leaner cut of pork or reducing the salt.

Is Kalua Pork Keto?

Kalua pork can be keto-friendly depending on how it’s prepared and consumed. If you’re following a ketogenic diet, it’s essential to be mindful of the sauce and sides you pair with the pork. Many traditional Hawaiian sides like rice and poi are high in carbohydrates, making them less suitable for a keto diet.

For a keto-friendly version, skip the high-carb sides, and serve it with low-carb options like cauliflower rice or a salad. Also, ensure that the sauce you use is free from added sugars or high-carb ingredients.

How Much Kalua Pork Per Person?

The ideal serving size of Kalua pork per person can vary depending on personal preferences. Typically, a good estimate is to plan for about 4-6 ounces (113-170 grams) of pork per person when making sandwiches. If you’re serving a larger meal with multiple sides, you might be able to get away with slightly smaller portions.

Is Kalua Pork Good?

Absolutely! Kalua pork is smoky, savory, and has a slightly sweet flavor. The slow-roasting process in an imu infuses the meat with a unique smokiness. It’s a Hawaiian delicacy that by locals and visitors alike love. Whether enjoyed as a sandwich or in other creative dishes, Kalua pork is sure to delight your taste buds.

How is Kalua Pork Made?

To make Kalua pork, a whole pig is traditionally seasoned with sea salt and placed in an underground oven called an imu. The imu heats with hot lava rocks, which slow-cook the pig for several hours. The result is tender, smoky, and flavorful shredded pork that’s truly unique to Hawaii.

For those without an imu, a slow cooker or oven is a good substitute replicate the flavors of Kalua pork. While it won’t be quite the same as the traditional method, it can still yield a delicious dish.

Is Kalua Pork Sweet?

Kalua pork has a subtle sweetness, primarily derived from the natural sugars in the meat and the smoky cooking process. While it’s not overly sweet like some barbecue dishes, the sweetness is one of the factors that makes Kalua pork so distinctive and enjoyable.

The Kalua Pork Sandwich is a delightful taste of Hawaii, offering a combination of smoky, savory, and subtly sweet flavors. It’s versatile and pairs well with a variety of sides. If you are craving a taste of the islands, the Kalua Pork Sandwich is a fantastic choice. Just remember to enjoy it in moderation, particularly if you’re conscious of your sodium or carb intake. Aloha and happy eating!

kalua pork sandwich

Kalua Pork Sandwich

Author: Maddy & JD – Them Bites
This Kalua Pork Sandwich is a Hawaiian classic with juicy, smoky pork on a bun with pickles and coleslaw.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 3 hours
Course dinner, Lunch
Cuisine American, Hawaiian
Servings 10 sandwiches
Calories 346 kcal


  • 3 lb boneless pork shoulder
  • 1 large banana leaf or several small pieces
  • 2 tbsp Hawaiian sea salt
  • 2 tbsp liquid smoke
  • 2 cups chicken stock or water
  • 10 buns
  • coleslaw
  • Hawaiian BBQ sauce

Recipe Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
  • Poke small slits into pork. Cover generously with the Hawaiian sea salt and liquid smoke, using your hands to rub it all over the pork surface.
  • Gently wash the banana leaves with a wet cloth. Arrange the pork in a pile in the center of the banana leaves, folding in the corner and edges to encase the pork. Carefully flip over and set the seam side down on a second banana leaf.
  • Place the leaf wrapped pork into a Dutch oven and cover with water or stock. Cover the pot and transfer to oven. Cook for 3 hours, until it’s tender.
  • Transfer pork to a cutting board or plate and shred. Place shredded pork on a bun topped with slaw and BBQ sauce.


Calories: 346kcalCarbohydrates: 33gProtein: 36gFat: 7gSaturated Fat: 1gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0.02gCholesterol: 82mgSodium: 373mgPotassium: 514mgFiber: 1gSugar: 4gCalcium: 16mgIron: 12mg
Keyword kalua pork sandwich
Tried this recipe?Mention @thembitesrecipes or tag #thembites

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