Instant Pot Hawaiian Kalua Pork (in banana leaf)

1 large banana leaf*
5 1/2 lb boneless pork shoulder or butt (may need to cut in half to fit)
1/4 cup Hawaiian Alaea Sea Salt
2 tablespoons mesquite liquid smoke
6 oz pineapple juice
6 oz water

Line the Instant Pot with the banana leaf, leaving enough hanging over the sides to cover the pork. Rub the pork thoroughly with the salt and liquid smoke. Add the pork to the Instant Pot. Pour in the juice and water. Cover with leaf. Secure the lid. Select High Pressure and set timer for 90 minutes. When finished, use a natural pressure release (this means you leave the lid on until the valve drops, about 10-20 minutes). Open the Instant Pot. Remove the pork and use forks or meat shredding claws to shred the pork. Serve or keep warm in the Instant Pot by removing the banana leaf, draining any juices and placing the meat into the insert, pressing the “keep warm” button.

*I buy these frozen at my regular supermarket. The most common brand is Goya. I defrost them overnight in the refrigerator before use. Save the remaining leaves for other recipes like my pork sticky rice.

If you would like to use a 6-quart slow cooker for this, follow the same instructions but cook for 8-10 hrs on low.

My thoughts:

Like pretty much everyone I’ve talked to in the last couple of months, I ordered an Instant Pot when Amazon had them on sale on Black Friday. I lucked out because I missed the flash sale but was able to snag an Amazon Warehouse deal for only $66! That said, it is well worth the current price as well because, unlike my stovetop pressure cooker, it is less scary to use and is a 7-in-1 machine! So far I have pressure cooked in it, sauteed and slow cooked but I can’t want to make yogurt, Jiu Niang, beans, congee and grains in it. It was perfect for making kalua pork because it makes meat incredibly tender and moist (I wish I had a picture of the shredded meat for you, I will update when I make it again) and only took 90 minutes, which is on the long side for pressure cooking, to cook almost 6 lbs of pork!

I was making this for our New Year’s Eve Hawaiian extravaganza and it was wonderful to have something that required virtually no hands-on time to serve with my mac salad while we were busy making drinks and watching Elvis. Not to mention, it was the juiciest pulled pork I think I have ever had! The pineapple juice added a bit of sweetness, but the banana leaf was the real star. It added an authentic earthy, herbal flavor which is hard to get without digging a pit in your backyard, starting a mesquite fire, and then lining the pit with hot rocks and banana leaves the way Kālua is made in Hawaii. A banana leaf-lined Instant Pot is the much easier alternative and quite flavorful!

Have a lot of time? Make it on the grill.

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  1. I just got an Instant Pot, too, and this recipe sounds wonderful!

  2. Would you imagine the instructions would be the same for a stovetop pressure cooker?

  3. I think so, the cooking time will be a few minutes shorter because Instant Pots use slightly less pressure than stovetop cookers.