Hawaiian slow cooker pulled pork is the perfect summer meal. It’s so easy to make, just throw all the ingredients into the slow cooker and pull it apart! Based on kālua pork, it is sweet, smoky, and oh so tender. Enjoy it with a side of salad for a delicious low-carb dinner.
Hawaiian Kālua pork is traditionally cooked in an underground oven. A fire is lit at the bottom of the pit and when the embers are hot enough, banana leaves are spread over the embers. The pork is laid on top and covered with more leaves, then the whole thing is covered with dirt and left for hours to cook. Liquid smoke and a slow cooker are as close as I can get to recreating it in a small Brooklyn apartment!
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Notes on Ingredients
Getting a shoulder with the bone out makes it easier to pull apart. However, if you can only get bone-in, it’s no big deal to use that instead. The meat should fall off anyway and the bone will give it extra flavor.
Needless to say, happy pigs are healthy pigs. Pigs that are raised on the pasture with access to a wide variety of foods and that get plenty of exercise have a higher nutritional value than factory-raised pigs. You can find heritage breeds at farmers’ markets.
Liquid smoke is usually in the supermarket section with hot sauce. This is not completely necessary so if you can’t find it, don’t worry. However, it does give this pork an extra depth of flavor.
There are different types of liquid smoke depending on the wood that it’s made from. Hickory has a milder flavor than mesquite and goes better with pork and poultry. Mesquite is much more assertive and is better with beef and duck. If that’s all you have just reduce the amount to 1/2 teaspoon.
If you are doing Whole30 or Paleo carefully check the ingredients of the brand you use because not all of them are compliant. Some include artificial sweeteners.
Coconut aminos is a dark-colored sauce that comes from the sap of a coconut plant. It has a similar flavor profile to soy sauce but it is gluten-free and does not have any of the hormone disruptors that soy sauce has. It’s also lower in sodium and surprisingly doesn’t taste like coconut at all. Coconut aminos can generally be found in health food stores or in the supermarket next to the soy sauce. I get mine in Trader Joe’s.
Use fresh pineapple if you can. Pineapple from a can has fewer vitamins and nutrients and is typically higher in sugar and calories according to the USDA. This is a handy video on how to cut a pineapple.
Tips for Making Hawaiian Slow Cooker Pulled Pork
- Put the shoulder in the slow cooker with the fat on top. The fat will melt down through the meat keeping it moist as it cooks.
- Mix the seasoning ingredients together before adding them to the slow cooker. They’ll be evenly distributed that way.
- Allow the meat to rest for 30 minutes before pulling it apart. This gives the meat time to absorb the juices and it won’t make as much of a mess.
- Put the shoulder in a roasting pan to pull it apart. It catches all the juices a lot better than a chopping board.
Slow cookers are often called Crockpots which is a brand name. Many other companies make them too, such as Hamilton Beach, Crux and Ninja. I highly recommend getting a programmable slow cooker. You can set the amount of time you want it to cook and it will switch off when it’s done.
Personally, I use Crux 6-Qt. Programmable Slow Cooker. It’s the perfect size to cook meals for 4 people. It was made specifically for Macy’s and at the time of writing, it is unavailable. However, Crock-Pot 6-Quart Countdown Programmable Oval Slow Cooker is very similar.
Pork contains high-quality protein in the form of complete amino acids. There are nine essential amino acids that we cannot produce ourselves and need to get from our food. Pork is considered red meat and can contain high levels of saturated fat and cholesterol. However, when consumed in moderation, it can be a good addition to a healthy diet.
Pineapple has a whole range of health benefits. It contains high levels of antioxidants and its enzymes can aid digestion. Bromelain, an enzyme found in pineapple, has been found to help reduce inflammation. Bromelain is destroyed during the canning process which is a good reason to use fresh pineapple instead of canned.
Ginger has also been found to have anti-inflammatory properties. Women with PCOS often suffer from chronic low-grade inflammation. This is when your body reacts to its own tissue and cells. The inflammatory response can cause fatigue and headaches amongst many other things. A study done on people with PCOS who followed an anti-inflammatory diet for 3 months, lost 7% of their body weight and showed significant improvements in other markers such as cholesterol and blood pressure.
To make this a balanced meal, slow cooker pulled pork should be paired with some greens. The greens will add fiber to the meal. Pineapple is high in sugar and fiber can help slow down digestion so it won’t spike your blood sugar as much. In the summer, a coleslaw mix with apple cider vinaigrette is a perfect accompaniment. Apple and pork are such a winning combination! In the winter, I recommend have Hawaiian pork with a side of roasted broccoli. Garlicky kale would also be delicious!
If you make this recipe, please let me know in the comments below! I love hearing what people think and what changes or additions you make.
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Hawaiian Slow Cooker Pulled Pork
- Slow cooker
- Chopping board
- Sharp knife
- Two forks
- Immersion blender
- 4-4.5 lb pork shoulder
- 4 cloves garlic chopped
- 1 tbsp fresh ginger chopped
- ¼ cup coconut aminos
- 1 tsp Hickory liquid smoke
- 1 fresh pineapple cut into bite size pieces
- 1 tbsp cornstarch
- 1 tbsp cold water
- Place the pork shoulder in the slow cooker with the fatty side on the top. The fat will melt down through the meat as it cooks making it nice and moist.
- Mix together the garlic, ginger, coconut aminos, liquid smoke, and half the pineapple then add to the slow cooker with the pork shoulder.
- Cook on low for 8 hours or on high for 5 hours. Allow to rest for 30 minutes.
- While the pork shoulder is resting, skim off the fat from the top of the juices left in the slow cooker. Add two cups of the remaining liquid to a saucepan and using an immersion blender, blend until smooth.
- Mix one tablespoon of cornstarch and one tablespoon of cold water in a cup. Put the saucepan of liquid over a medium heat and gradually pour in the cornstarch mixture stirring all the time. The mixture will turn cloudy. Keep stirring as it comes to a boil and it will gradually thicken and darken, about 5 minutes. It's ready when it is a golden brown color. Taste and add salt and pepper to taste.
- Trim off the excess fat and skin then pull apart the pork shoulder with two forks. Mix in half the sauce and set aside the rest to pour over the meat before serving. Serve with the other half of the fresh pineapple and salad.