Grab your Instant Pot to make Whole30-friendly, Hawaiian-inspired Kalua Pig! Now you can make fork-tender pork in a fraction of the time!
Faster Kalua Pig in the Instant Pot
After making the classic version of my Slow Cooker Kalua Pork recipe for years, I’ve identified its one drawback: the agonizingly long 16-hour cooking time in a crockpot. The perfume of slowly simmering Hawaiian sea salt seasoned pork never fails to drive me bonkers. (Plus, it makes my head hurt to calculate the precise time to plop the ingredients in my slow cooker so that my pork doesn’t finish cooking in the middle of the night.)
But at long last, a solution is at hand: Instant Pot Kalua Pork! I’ve even thrown in a head of cabbage at the end—just like with traditional Kalua pig plate lunches in Hawaii!—so you can enjoy some veggies with your mountain of pork!
I’ve extolled the virtues of pressure cooking before, but it’s truly become one of my favorite cooking methods. My trusty stovetop pressure cookers have been workhorses in my kitchen for some time now, but these days, I’m exclusively turning to my electric programmable Instant Pot. I can make bone broth at a moment’s notice without having to babysit it like a stove-top pressure cooker. In fact, I have a whole post dedicated to my favorite paleo Instant Pot recipes!
Bacon slices: Instead of using liquid smoke, I like to add smokiness to this dish by adding 3 bacon slices. Bacon makes everything better and I almost always have some in the fridge or freezer.
Pork shoulder roast: I prefer to use a large (5 pound) bone-in pork shoulder roast (also called butt roast, pork butt, or Boston butt roast) in this recipe because I think the bone adds additional flavor. However, I routinely make Kalua Pig with boneless pork shoulder all the time.
Garlic cloves: Tucking garlic cloves into the pork shoulder is optional, but it really adds more flavor and deliciousness!
Hawaiian Sea Salt: My favorite brand of Hawaiian salt is Hawaiian Pa’Akai Inc because it adds a distinctive flavor and a slight reddish tinge to the pork. If you can’t find the medium grain sea salt, you can use about 1 tablespoon of Alaea Red Hawaiian Fine Sea Salt. When I don’t have any Hawaiian sea salt on hand, I use Diamond Crystal kosher salt, my Magic Mushroom Powder, or my Nomtastic Grilling Powder.
Cabbage: After the pork is finished cooking, I love to throw a cut-up cabbage head into the reserved cooking liquid. The cabbage cooks in just a few minutes under high pressure and it absorbs all of the porky yumminess in the broth!
How to make Instant Pot Kalua Pork
Whether you use a stove-top pressure cooker or an electric one, the process is pretty much the same. The only difference is that the cooking time will be slightly shorter with a stove top cooker than with an Instant Pot (e.g., 75 minutes vs. 90 minutes).
Line the Instant Pot with bacon
First things first: Drape three pieces of bacon on the bottom of your Instant Pot. Press the “Sauté “button and in about a minute, your bacon will start sizzling. (If you’re using a stovetop pressure cooker instead, line it with three pieces of bacon, crank the burner to medium, and start frying your bacon.)
Prepare the pork roast
Grab the pork roast and slice it into three equal pieces. I normally cut out the piece with the bone first, and then cut the two other pieces to match the first.
If you’ve got some garlic on hand, use it! With a sharp paring knife, stab a few slits in each piece of pork, and tuck in the garlic cloves.
With most recipes, I liberally salt my roasts like it’s raining cats and dogs. But because the pressure cooker can concentrate flavors (including saltiness), I carefully measure out the amount of salt I use. For this recipe, follow Chef Judy Rodger’s rule of thumb: use ¾ teaspoon of medium-coarse salt for every 1 pound of meat. (Using fine salt? Use about half that amount.)
Add the pork and water into the Instant Pot
Place the salted pork on top of the bacon, keeping the meat in a single layer.
(Please note: as you’re prepping the pork, you’ll hear the bacon sputtering in the pressure cooker. Don’t forget to flip the slices, and turn off the heat when the bacon is browned on both sides.)
Pour in the water.
Check your manual to see what the minimum amount of liquid is for your particular model, and adjust accordingly. (After some digging and experimenting, I discovered that 1 cup of water is perfect for this recipe in my Instant Pot.)
Pressure cook the pork
Next: cover and lock the lid.
Select the “Manual” or “Pressure Cook” button and set it to cook for 90 minutes under high pressure. Once the pot is programmed, walk away.
When the stew is finished cooking, the Instant Pot will switch automatically to its “Keep Warm” mode. If you’re at home, press the “Keep Warm/Cancel” button to turn off the cooker and let the pressure come down naturally quicker.
Release the pressure
Let the pressure release naturally or manually release the pressure after 15 minutes has elapsed.
Once the cooker is depressurized, check that the pork is fork-tender. If the meat’s not yet fall-apart tender, you can always cook the pork under pressure for another 5-10 minutes to get the right texture.
Transfer the cooked pork to a large bowl, and taste the cooking liquid remaining in the pot. Adjust the seasoning with water or salt if needed.
Add the cabbage to the cooking liquid
Chop the cabbage head into six wedges, and add them to the cooking liquid.
Replace the lid and cook the cabbage under high pressure for 1-5 minutes (depending on the size of your wedges and how soft you like it). When the cabbage is done cooking, activate the quick release valve to release the pressure.
Shred the pork
While the cabbage is cooking, shred the pork. Once the cabbage is cooked, pile it on your shredded pork.
This is a game-changer, people.
What do you serve with kalua pork?
Traditionally, Kalua Pork is served with a scoop of rice and macaroni salad but to keep it paleo, I serve it with one of these side dishes:
How to save leftovers
Kalua Pork is a fabulous make-ahead meal so I always make extra! The leftovers can be kept in the fridge for 4 days or frozen up to several months. Pro-tip: Crisp up the leftover pork in a skillet for a crunchy, porky delight! Use it as a filling for tacos, wraps, soups, stir-fries, or my Pig in a Skillet.
Can you make Kalua Pork even faster?
If the two hours needed to cook Instant Pot Kalua Pig is too long, I have a solution for you!
The amount of time needed to pressure cook the pork depends on the size of the pork pieces and the cut of meat.
Pork shoulder is a tougher cut with a lot of collagen, so it still needs a minimum amount of cooking time to become fork tender. After some trial and error, I’ve discovered that the shortest amount of cooking time is achieved when pork shoulder roast is cut into 1½-inch cubes. This way you can cook it under high pressure for 35 minutes.
[Originally posted on February 24, 2015. Updated with new information and photos on June 22, 2022.]
Looking for more recipe ideas? Head on over to my Recipe Index. You’ll also find exclusive recipes on my iPhone and iPad app, and in my cookbooks, Nom Nom Paleo: Food for Humans (Andrews McMeel Publishing 2013), Ready or Not! (Andrews McMeel Publishing 2017), and Nom Nom Paleo: Let’s Go! (Andrews McMeel Publishing 2022).
PRINTER-FRIENDLY RECIPE CARD
Instant Pot (Pressure Cooker) Kalua Pork
The leftovers can be kept in the fridge for 4 days or frozen up to several months. Pro-tip: Crisp up the leftover pork in a skillet for a crunchy, porky delight!
Can you make Kalua Pork even faster?
If the two hours needed to cook Instant Pot Kalua Pig is too long, I have a solution for you! After some trial and error, I’ve discovered that the shortest amount of cooking time is achieved when pork shoulder roast is cut into 1½-inch cubes. This way you can cook it under high pressure for 35 minutes.
Nom Nom Paleo®