Instant Pot Kalua Pork and Cabbage combines the tender, smoky flavor of Kalua Pork with the comforting and wholesome goodness of steamed cabbage, creating a mouth-watering meal.
» You might also like these Instant Pot Ranch Pork Chops or simple Instant Pot Cabbage recipe.
The inspiration for this recipe comes from the traditional kalua pig served on the Hawaiian islands during special occasions and luaus.
Traditionally, Kalua Pork is slow-cooked in an underground oven known as an imu. This cooking process imparts the distinct, smoky flavor. Our recipe adapts this classic Hawaiian dish to the modern convenience of an Instant Pot, bringing that authentic taste to your table in a fraction of the time.
The pork is tender and flavorful, thanks to the Hawaiian sea salt and liquid smoke that infuses the meat with a smoky aroma. The cabbage, on the other hand, adds a touch of sweetness and crunch that complements the pork perfectly.
With the convenience of the Instant Pot, you can enjoy this traditional Hawaiian dish without the need for an underground oven or lengthy cooking times. Whether you’re a fan of Hawaiian cuisine or just looking to try something new, the Instant Pot Kalua Pork and Cabbage is definitely worth a try.
What is Kalua Pork?
Kalua pork is a traditional Hawaiian dish made by slow-roasting a whole pig in an underground oven known as an imu. The pig is seasoned with Hawaiian sea salt, wrapped in ti leaves, and placed in the imu, where it cooks for several hours until the meat is tender and falls off the bone.
The smoky flavor of the meat comes from the wood used to fuel the fire in the imu. Once cooked, the pork is shredded and typically served with cabbage or other side dishes.
The Instant Pot makes it much easier to recreate this classic Hawaiian dish. The pork cooks very quickly and is infused with smoke flavor from the liquid smoke. Is it the same thing? Absolutely not. But it’s still very delicious!
- Pork Butt or Pork Shoulder – Either pork butt or shoulder will work for this recipe. If you can only get bone in, remove the bone before cooking.
- Coarse Red Hawaiian Salt – this is also called Alaea salt and can be found at some grocery stores or online. I buy it on Amazon here.
- Liquid Smoke – I use Colgin mesquite liquid smoke. If you don’t like liquid smoke, season the pork with 2 tablespoons of smoked paprika instead.
- Garlic – Use fresh garlic if possible.
- Green Cabbage – Sliced into 1-inch strips.
About Hawaiian Pink Sea Salt
Hawaiian pink sea salt, also known as Alaea salt or Hawaiian red salt, is a unique and flavorful variety of sea salt that originates from the volcanic islands of Hawaii. It is named after the natural red clay called ‘Alaea’ which is found on the island. This clay is rich in iron oxide, which gives the salt its distinctive pinkish-red color and earthy, subtle flavor.
Hawaiian pink sea salt is traditionally used in various Hawaiian dishes, including the famous Kalua Pork, Poke, and Hawaiian sea salt rubs for fish and meats. It is valued for its rich mineral content, unique taste, and beautiful color, which makes it a popular choice for both cooking and finishing salt.
How to Make Instant Pot Kalua Pork & Cabbage
If you’re using boneless pork shoulder or butt, you just need to cut it into a few large chunks and remove any thick skin or large layer of fat. Don’t remove all of the fat though, as that’s what keeps it juicy and tender.
Cook the Pork
Rub the pork chunks with the salt and liquid smoke. Cut 2 slits in each chunk and press a garlic clove into each slit.
Pour the water into the Instant Pot. Place the pork in the water.
Close and lock the lid. Set to cook on high pressure for 60 minutes. Allow a full natural release of the pressure.
When the pin falls, open the Instant Pot and transfer the pork to a cutting board. Once cool enough to handle, shred the pork using two forks. Taste the pork and season if necessary. You can add a bit of the cooking liquid to the pork to make it juicier.
Cook the Cabbage
The second step is to cook the cabbage. I usually cook just half of a large cabbage, or if it’s pretty small, I’ll use the whole thing. Of course, it will cook down quite a bit, but you can maybe gauge how much you’d like to cook and go from there.
This recipe makes a lot of pork, which keeps as leftovers for quite a while, but the cabbage doesn’t keep as well. If you think you’ll only be eating half or so of this recipe and saving the rest for leftovers, you’ll probably want to only cook half of the cabbage right now, and save the rest for when you want to eat it again.
Place the cabbage into the cooking liquid in the Instant Pot. Close and lock the lid. Cook on high pressure for 3 minutes. When the time is up, do a quick release of the pressure and remove the lid. Test the doneness. If it’s not quite done, put the lid back on and let it sit on Keep Warm for 2-5 minutes.
I usually find that 3 minutes is enough cook time when the cooking liquid is hot. If you’ve allowed the cooking liquid to cool down before making the cabbage, you might need longer.
When the cook time is up, do a quick release. Remember that the longer you wait to release the pressure the longer the cabbage will cook, and it can quickly become soggy and overcooked, so don’t leave it!
EXTRA TIP: If you want to make rice to go along with this dish, you can add a third step. I usually make one cup of uncooked rice. For that you will need one cup of cooking liquid or water. Using the cooking liquid gives the rice so much extra flavor!
Measure out 1 cup of the cooking liquid and discard the rest. Return the liquid to the pot. Add one cup of uncooked rice. Close and lock the lid. Set the time for 4 minutes on high pressure. Then give it a 10 minute natural release before releasing the rest of the pressure.
Additional Helpful Tips
- Use a natural release to allow the pressure to release slowly after cooking. This will help to keep the meat tender and juicy.
- Be sure to slice the cabbage into thin strips, as this will help it to cook evenly and absorb the flavors of the pork.
- Don’t add too much liquid to the Instant Pot, as the cabbage will release moisture as it cooks and may make the dish too watery.
- Let the pork rest for a few minutes after cooking to allow the juices to redistribute. This will help to keep the meat moist and tender.
- Serve the Instant Pot Kalua Pork and Cabbage with a side of steamed rice for a complete meal.
Storing Options for Instant Pot Kalua Pork and Cabbage
Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days. Be sure to let the pork cool to room temperature before storing it in the refrigerator.
If you have leftover Kalua Pork and Cabbage that you won’t be able to eat within a few days, you can freeze it for later. Let the dish cool to room temperature, then transfer it to a freezer-safe container or bag. It will keep in the freezer for up to 3 months.
When reheating leftover Kalua Pork and Cabbage, be sure to add a splash of water or broth to help rehydrate the meat and prevent it from drying out. You can reheat it in the microwave or on the stove in a covered pan over low heat until heated through.
Why Use An Instant Pot?
The Instant Pot is one of the most useful kitchen appliances you can buy, because it drastically cuts down on the cooking time for developing flavors in soups and stews, getting tough cuts of meat tender, and even baking a cheesecake. And there are many accessories that will help you get more out of your Instant Pot.
If you don’t have one yet, check out our guide on which one to buy. Also see our guide to How to Use an Instant Pot for more information.
- Don’t Have an Instant Pot Yet? This guide can help you choose the right one.
- See reviews and prices for Instant Pots on Amazon.
- Learn some great Instant Pot Tips & Tricks.
- Click to find more recipes to make in your Instant Pot.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I make Instant Pot Kalua Pork without a pressure cooker?
Yes, you can make Kalua Pork in a slow cooker or in the oven. However, the Instant Pot provides a faster and more convenient option for making this dish.
Can I adjust the recipe to make a smaller or larger batch?
Yes, you can adjust the recipe to make a smaller or larger batch. Simply adjust the quantities of the ingredients accordingly.
Can I make this recipe without the liquid smoke?
You can make Instant Pot Kalua Pork without liquid smoke. Season the pork with 2 tablespoons of smoked paprika instead.
Can I use frozen pork for this recipe?
You can use frozen pork for this recipe. However, you will need to increase the cooking time to account for the frozen meat.
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Instant Pot Kalua Pork and Cabbage
Note: Made in a 6-qt Instant Pot
- 3 pounds pork butt or shoulder cut into 4 chunks
- 1 tablespoon coarse red hawaiian salt https://amzn.to/3MeD8LR
- 2 teaspoons liquid smoke
- 8 cloves garlic
- 1 cup water
- 1 head green cabbage sliced into 1-inch strips, core removed
- Rub the pork chunks with the salt and liquid smoke. Cut 2 slits in each chunk and press a garlic clove into each slit.
- Pour the water into the Instant Pot. Place the pork in the water.
- Close and lock the lid. Set to cook on high pressure for 60 minutes. Allow for a full natural release of the pressure.
- When the pin falls, open the Instant Pot and transfer the pork to a cutting board. Once cool enough to handle, shred the pork using two forks. Taste the pork and season if necessary. You can add a bit of the cooking liquid to the pork to make it juicier.
- Place the cabbage into the cooking liquid in the Instant Pot. Close and lock the lid. Cook on high pressure for 3 minutes. When the time is up, do a quick release of the pressure and remove the lid. Test the doneness. If it’s not quite done, put the lid back on and let it sit on Keep Warm for 2-5 minutes.
- Serve the cabbage and pork together, with some of the cooking liquid on the side, if desired.
- Either pork butt or shoulder will work for this recipe. If you can only get bone in, remove the bone before cooking.
- You can use any type of sea salt rather than the red salt, if necessary.
- If you don’t like liquid smoke, season the pork with 2 tablespoons of smoked paprika instead.
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Laura is a passionate home cook and the owner of A Pressure Cooker Kitchen. She is dedicated to helping people create delicious Instant Pot meals with ease. Laura is an expert at developing recipes that can be prepared quickly and easily using a pressure cooker.