Slow Cooker Kalua Pork with Cabbage

Kalua Pork with Cabbage is an easy slow-cooker meal with delicious smoky pork and tender cabbage. This dish is protein-packed, easy to make, and absolutely delicious. Serve it on its own or alongside a bowl of warm rice.


I don’t know about you, but I think Sundays were made for slow-cooker recipes. If you’re looking for a new one to try, you can’t go wrong with this recipe for Kalua Pork with Cabbage. Made simply with pork tenderloin, olive oil, garlic, and cabbage, this tasty dish is packed with bold, smoky flavors that you won’t be able to get enough of.

Kalua pork is a traditional Hawaiian dish that typically consists of pork shoulder that is seasoned with salt, wrapped in leaves, and stored underground for 16 hours. However, if you don’t have an entire day to spare, you can instead use your handy dandy slow cooker to get the job done.

This slow cooker pork recipe is wildly flavorful and only requires 5 minutes of prep time. No matter what I’ve got going on, I can always spare 5 minutes. All you have to do is rub the pork with olive oil, salt, and liquid smoke, then toss it into the slow cooker and let it do its thing. It couldn’t be easier!

Once ready, you will have a delicious and tender pulled pork dish that is perfect to enjoy over a bowl of rice or greens, stuffed into sandwiches, or on its own for a low-carb meal. The incredible flavors and tender texture guarantee to convince your dinner guests that you worked a whole lot harder in the kitchen than you did.

Kalua pork cooked in the slow cooker with green cabbage served in a bowl with Hawaiian salt on the side.

Key Ingredients

To make this delicious pulled pork dish, you will need the following key ingredients:

  • Pork tenderloin: I recommend using a boneless roast with a leaner cut, which will keep the calories and fat content low, but feel free to use any cut you like. If you decide to use a bigger roast, simply adjust the liquid smoke, salt, and olive oil amount accordingly. Traditionally pork but or pork shoulder is used.
  • Cabbage: This veggie is a fresh and hearty compliment to the smoky flavor of the pork. It’s perfect for soaking up all of the delicious, juicy flavor.
  • Liquid smoke: This is the key to achieving that delicious, smoky flavor at home. You can typically find it in the spice aisle of your local grocery store.
  • Salt: A good sprinkle of salt goes a long way in enhancing the flavor of this pulled pork dish. If you want to follow the traditional Kalua pork route, try using Hawaiian sea salt.

Recipe Tips

Here are some of my top tips for bringing this Kalua pork recipe to life:

  • Cut your pork roast into smaller chunks before throwing it into the pot. This will make your life a lot easier later when it comes time to shred the meat.
  • When you’re all finished, there will be lots of delicious juices left in the pot. For a little extra oomph, I like moving the pork to a bowl and drizzling it with a half cup of juice to maximize on the flavor.
  • For even more flavor, try swapping out the water for chicken or vegetable broth. If you take this route, make sure to reduce the added salt.
  • Don’t like cabbage? No problem! Kalua pork tastes great on its own, or you could try substituting another vegetable. I recommend onions, bell peppers, or snap peas.

How to Serve Kalua Pork

Traditional Kalua pork is often part of a larger meal or plate and is frequently served with rice and macaroni salad. However, if you’re looking for a little more inspiration, here are some of my recommendations on how to serve this dish:

  • With stir-fried veggies. Stir-fried veggies like broccoli, onions, carrots, and bell peppers are the perfect side-dish for Kalua pork. Not only do veggies add tons of nutrients, but soy sauce adds to the smoky flavor of the pork. To complete the dish, throw a fried egg on top.
  • With potato salad. For more of a barbecue feel, try serving this dish with creamy potato salad. The smokiness of this pork goes great with classic picnic fare.
  • As sandwiches. Stuffing this Kalua pork into pita bread or wraps is the perfect way to turn this delicious pulled pork into an easy, grab-and-go lunch.
  • With sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes make for a delicious and nutritious side dish. I recommend tossing them with some olive oil, salt, and pepper, then roasting them for about 30 minutes.
  • Over salad. This savory pulled pork is a great way to add flavorful protein to a simple salad like this Easy Cucumber Salad or this Honey Lime Kale and Quinoa Salad.

Hawaiian pork with cabbage, liquid smoke, and Hawaiian sea salt in a ceramic bowl with fresh cilantro leaves.

How to Store Leftover Slow Cooker Pork

Kalua pork is a great dish to store and enjoy later. Not only do the leftovers taste amazing when served hot or cold, but this savory pulled pork is perfect in lunch sandwiches, grain bowls, and salads. Simply seal the leftovers in an airtight storage bag or container, then store them in one of two ways:

  • In the fridge for 3 to 4 days.
  • In the freezer for up to 3 months.

Frequently Asked Questions

Below are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about this delicious Kalua pork dish

Not only is pork a lean source of protein, but it’s packed with tons of essential vitamins and minerals. However, the key here is to stick with lean pork, as fattier roasts tend to dilute their nutritional value with lots of saturated fat and sodium.

Although this traditional Hawaiian dish is originally made with pork, you can absolutely swap it out for chicken breast or flank steak. Either of these meats would make for a delicious pork-free rendition of this delicious Hawaiian-inspired dish.

Yes! To make this dish in an Instant Pot, brown the pork and season it with salt. Then, add your water or broth and liquid smoke, then add the pork and cook on high pressure for about 45 minutes. Let the pressure release naturally for 10 minutes, then quick release the rest of the pressure.

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