Hawaiin inspired mix plate with pulled pork.

This pulled pork recipe is Hawaiian inspired.  The Hawaiians love their kalua pork.  It usually comes as a mix plate.  A meal with coleslaw or macaroni salad and rice. The first time I ate kalua pork was at a luau decades ago.  They roasted the entire pig in a hole dug in the ground and covered with lava rock.  I remember 2 things from that luau. The pork was succulent and delicious.  I broke my tooth on a piece of lava rock! 

This past trip to Hawaii, we tried kalua pork mix plate at a few places.  What I really like about the kalua pork is the smoky flavor.  I decided to experiment with my own version of this Hawaiian inspired dish.  I like the bold flavors of my pulled pork recipe, but I wanted to enhance it with the smoky flavor.  The result...amazing!  I also thought that a light coleslaw would pair well since the pulled pork was bold and rich in flavor. This is the only coleslaw recipe I make.  I oftentimes bring it to potlucks as it goes so well with everything and can even be just eaten by itself as a main salad.  The addition of jalapenos, if you like spicy, is a plus! Instead of rice, I cooked mung bean noodles in a diluted pork juice mixture (without the fat of course) and it was delicious.  With these substitutions, this mix plate became a tasty, lower carb. meal.

Close up of mix plate

DIY Entertaining.

This pulled pork recipe is a great beginner recipe and perfect for entertaining.  Serve the pulled pork in a slow cooker, crockpot as mix plates or sliders.  The crockpot keeps the pork warm without maintenance and tastes better when made a day in advance! The pairing of the rich and flavorful meat and the refreshing, clean taste of the coleslaw is excellent, especially when you add the jalapenos!

Tips for making Hawaiian inspired pulled pork.

My pulled pork recipe can either be done in a slow cooker or a pressure cooker like an instant pot.  The slow cooker will take 9 hours and the instant pot will take 90 minutes. The flavor matures as the meat sits in the juices.  This pork becomes much more flavorful and juicy if made the day before and allowed to sit in the juices!

Pork cut.

There are different cuts of pork.  Knowing which part to use will make the difference between a tough piece of leather and a fall-apart, succulent and juicy meat. Meat containing fat layers such as shoulder butt roasts work the best.  These roasts, when on sale, are usually the cheapest cut of meat and sold with the shoulder bone intact.   However, you can easily get the boneless roast you need if you know how to cut it or just buy a boneless roast. So, don't use the more costly sirloin chops for this dish!

When you have your boneless roast, cutting the pork into large cubes allows more of the flavor to penetrate the meat.

shoulder roast
Pork chunks

Flavoring Hawaiian inspired pulled pork.

I like using a BBQ sauce to flavor the meat.  You can either create your own BBQ marinade or use your favorite store bought BBQ sauce.


The addition of an acid like pineapple, orange, lemon juice  or vinegar helps break down the protein fibers, resulting in a more tender meat.  I also add salt and marinate the chunks of meat at least a 1/2 hour before cooking.  However, the slow cooking process does break down the meat fibers.

Smoky flavor.

This recipe uses a concentrated liquid smoke to get the smoky flavor into the meat without having to use a smoker. (My cheater method!)

liquid smoke

What to do with the meat juices of Hawaiian inspired pulled pork.

After cooking the pork, there will be quite a bit of pork fat on the surface.  I don't like to consume all that fat so I will either pour the liquid into a fat separator and use just the juice with a little bit of fat for flavor.  The strained juices are poured back into the pork after the meat is pulled for added flavor and moisture.

Congealed pork fat

Fat congealed on top of pork juices in fat separator.

Congealed fat

Removing fat is easy when hardened.

If you don't have a fat separator, you have several ways to separate the fat from the juices.


If you are making this dish a day ahead of time, refrigerate the juices overnight and a layer of congealed fat will form that can be easily removed from the container.


For a time sensitive meal, skim the fat off the top with a spoon when the mixture settles. 


You can use this trick to separate the juices from the fat.  Cool the juice mixture.  Make sure you do this over the sink.  You will need 2 containers.  One for the juice and one for the fat.  It is best if the fat container is disposable like an empty tin can. Pour the juice mixture into a thick plastic or FREEZER bag and position the bag like a funnel with one corner as a tip .  Allow the fat and juice to settle and separate. The fat will rise to the top. Pierce or cut one corner of the freezer bag to allow the juice to drain, making sure that the little cut piece of plastic does not fall into the juice.  When all the juice has drained, either squeeze the corner of the freezer bag and discard the fat or allow the fat to drain into the disposable fat container.

Pair this bold flavored Hawaiian inspired pulled pork with my No-mayo spicy coleslaw for an absolutely wonderful combination. If you have extra leftover juice, make simple BBQ Pork flavored noodles.  Let me know what you think in the comment section!

Pulled pork on serving dish


Michelle Sam
This pulled pork recipe is super simple with 4 ingredients. It is a definite show stopper with the addition of liquid smoke. This pork can either be made in a slow cooker or pressure cooker / instant pot.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 45 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time 2 hours 15 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Servings 8
Calories 381 kcal


  • 2 kg pork shoulder or butt roast
  • 1 cup BBQ sauce home made or store-bought. Click here for homemade BBQ sauce recipe
  • ¼ cup acidic juice pineapple, citrus or vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp sea salt
  • 1 Tbsp liquid smoke


Using a pressure cooker

  • Cut shoulder / butt roast into large chunks
  • Add sea salt and acidic juice for ½ and hour.
  • Heat the instant pot to saute.
  • Add the pork chunks fat side down and render a little bit of the fat. (Cook some of the fat)
  • Add BBQ sauce.
  • Add marinade.
  • Add liquid smoke.
  • Cook for 90 minutes.
  • Remove meat from juices.
  • Shred pork using 2 forks.
  • Separate fat from cooked pork juices using a fat separator.
  • Add some of the pork juices back into the shredded pork. Serve or refrigerate overnight when cool to allow the juices to fully absorb into the meat.



Serving: 8gCalories: 381kcalCarbohydrates: 15gProtein: 57gFat: 9gSaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 150mgSodium: 1374mgPotassium: 1036mgFiber: 1gSugar: 12gVitamin A: 81IUVitamin C: 3mgCalcium: 30mgIron: 2mg
Keyword Hawaiian style pork, kahlua pork, pulled pork
Tried this recipe?Let me know how it was or if you have any questions or suggestions!
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