This Hawaiian Pulled Pork recipe is full of amazing flavor, thanks to a dry rub, a sweet and spicy marinade, and then long, slow cooking. It is a dish that is a labor of love – but the end results are so worth it! Serve this dish at tropical themed parties, like a Hawaiian Luau Party, or when entertaining friends and family in the summer. (Although it is delicious all year round!)
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Hawaiian Pulled Pork
I first made this recipe for a tropical themed Cocktails & Dreams Hen Party (Batchelorette) that I threw for my sister back in 2012. It went down so well with the party guests, and my husband and son were grateful for leftovers the next day!
This recipe for Hawaiian pulled pork is my #1 go-to recipe any time I make pulled pork in the slow cooker. Yes I have other pulled pork recipes like this Paleo Pulled Pork, and this Christmas Pulled Pork.
Then there is this Kalua Pulled Pork which is an authentic Hawaiian pulled pork recipe that uses just THREE ingredients – including the pork!
But I always come back to this delicious recipe!
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I guess you could call this recipe Hawaiian style pulled pork, since it’s not actually an authentic recipe, but one I made up after researching lots of pulled pork recipes online. I remember the first time I made this dish and being worried about how it would turn out. But the worry went as soon as I could smell the aromas as it slowly bubbled away in the slow cooker!
Ingredients for Hawaiian Pulled Pork
The number one ingredient you are going to need to make this recipe is TIME! It might just take half an hour to prep the meat with its dry rub and marinade, but it needs at least 2-4 hours for marinating – or overnight for at least 12 hours is best. Then, it takes a minimum of 8 hours on the low setting of a slow cooker – but if you can cook it for 12 hours, even better!
I mean, you could marinate for 2 hours, and then cook on high for 4 hours (or until cooked through)… but I can’t promise you’ll get the same juicy, flavourful, fall apart pulled pork. The secret of good pulled pork is the long, slow cooking process.
What is the best cut of meat for pulled pork?
Now onto the actual first ingredient – pork! You might be thinking you can use any cut of pork for pulled pork recipes, but you would unfortunately be wrong – not all pork joints are created equal!
The best cut of meat for pulled pork is the pork shoulder, also known as pork butt, or Boston butt in the US. This cut is best because it has a good amount of fat that melts away to yield delicious pulled pork.
I always buy boneless pork shoulder, and remove the thick layer of fat and skin. However, don’t discard it – score the skin, season, and roast it for some delicious pork crackling!
If the meat you buy has the bone in, you can still make the recipe – just remove the bone when you start to pull the pork. Alternatively, ask your butcher to remove the bone, and the skin/fat layer for you (keep the latter – see above!)
I remove the fat and skin layer because I don’t want all of that floating around my pulled pork – but some of the fat is a GOOD thing (this is why a cut like pork loin is not good for pulling). The key here is using a sharp knife, and going slowly, cutting away the fat layer carefully without taking away delicious pork meat!
The Dry Rub
A dry rub goes onto trimmed pork butt, and is made simply with smoked paprika, salt, and freshly ground black pepper. This is rubbed all over the meat – really get it in there!
I love using smoked paprika because it adds a smokey note to the dish. Pulled pork is often cooked in barbecue smokers, so is enhanced with lots of lovely natural smoke. Since this is a slow cooker pulled pork recipe, we need that addition. You could add liquid smoke, but I don’t think it is really necessary in this particular dish as there are tons of other flavours.
As well as a dry rub, this pulled pork also gets a wet marinade which is made with:
- chilli sauce (as hot as you like it! I used the regular Maggi brand)
- crushed pineapple in juice
- teriyaki marinade (I used Kikkoman brand)
- light soy sauce
- tomato paste/purée
- light brown sugar
- fresh garlic
- fresh ginger
The dry rubbed pork is placed in a large bowl, and all the marinade ingredients are added. Then you get stuck in with your hands and really get everything mixed up well. Or you could, mix the marinade together first, and then pour it over the meat – but where is the fun in that?!
Cover and refrigerate for a minimum of two hours. Four is better, but 12 hours is best of all. And this is why I said the number one ingredient is time! Think of all the yummy flavour this pulled pork is going to have.
Cooking the Pork
I have mentioned that this is a slow cooker recipe, and I like cooking this way because I can dump and run, and leave it to do its thing. This is a great cooking method when entertaining as it leaves you free to get other stuff done.
When making this pulled pork in the slow cooker, I prep everything in the morning and leave it marinating in the fridge until around 9 or 10pm. I then get it in the slow cooker, and leave it cooking overnight, giving it the 12 hours cook time… and I continue leaving it to cook until eating time. This can mean as much as 18 hours cook time – but I’ve not had a single complaint about this dish yet! Read how long you can safely leave your slow cooker on without freaking out, if you are concerned about cook times.
If you don’t have a slow cooker you could cook this in Dutch oven, or a roasting pan, covering the pork shoulder joint with foil to seal everything. Cook it on the lowest that your oven goes which is likely to be 200F/90C/Gas ¼, until the meat is cooked through.
I have not cooked pulled pork in the oven before, but Hugh F-W at River Cottage has and he says 12 hours at that temperature. His is a “plain” joint, but the meat part is the same, right? Wiki has an article about low temp cooking, and I found online that slow cookers generally have a low temperature of around 190F/200F.
For complete food safety, ensure that meat is cooked all the way through and that the internal temperature (measured with a meat thermometer) is what is should be for the type of meat you are cooking.
And now back to the cooking method. Place some thickly sliced white onion, and some carrots in the bottom of the slow cooker pot. This adds some extra flavour and also keeps the meat from sitting on the bottom of the pot. (When I got my first slow cooker, many moons ago, the manual said to put meat on top of vegetables, and so I’ve done that ever since.)
Add the marinated pork, and all of the marinade to the slow cooker, then pop on the lid and leave to cook!
I personally always pre-heat my slow cooker on high – normally while I’m prepping ingredients, or browning off meat. In this case of this recipe, I just put it on high while chopping the veggies, then added everything else, and kept it on high for an hour, then turned it down to low. You may have your own way of using your slow cooker – so please do what you usually do!
When the Hawaiian pulled pork is ready, take out the carrots (cook’s treat if you like cooked carrots!) then with two forks, start pulling the meat into shreds. I tend do this right in the slow cooker pot, and serve it from that as well, but you could remove the pork and pull it on a separate dish. I just like keeping the meat warm in the sauce while serving.
Once you’ve pulled the pork, it is ready to serve!
Why Is My Pulled Pork Not Falling Apart?
Assuming that you’ve used the correct cut of meat as I described earlier (pork shoulder/butt) the reason why your pulled pork is not falling apart is because you simply haven’t cooked it for long enough. You see, to pull the pork, the connective tissues in the meat need to break down – and that just, takes, time. The pork shoulder has got fat in, and around it, it’s not going to dry out, and time makes it taste so much better too.
What to Serve With Pulled Pork
You might be wondering what can I served with pulled pork besides coleslaw… probably because coleslaw seems to be one of the most popular sides for pulled pork! But there are lots of different things you can serve.
Let me start with the easiest, and the one I do the most –
- Hawaiian pulled pork sandwiches – served simply in soft bread rolls, with some salad leaves and pickled cucumber.
In the US they have a product – King’s Hawaiian Sweet Rolls – which I LOVE, but can’t buy here in the UK, sadly. They are perfect for filling with delicious pulled pork. The closest I guess, would be brioche buns. I found a copycat recipe – but read the comments as there are suggestions on how to make them! I will have to give the recipe a try myself very soon and feedback my results.
If all else fails, just a regular sesame seed burger bun will be just fine! You could serve pulled pork wrapped up in tortilla wraps, or piled into taco shells.
If you want to eat your pulled pork without bread, just add any of these sides:
- Potato salad – you could make this potato salad that I found on the Polynesian Cultural Center website.
- Baked sweet potato – or sweet potato fries – or sweet potato wedges
- Creamy mashed potatoes
- Mac ‘n’ Cheese (and you could make pulled pork mac ‘n’ cheese which I’ve had in the US and is so good!)
- Corn on the cob
- Hawaiian macaroni salad – this recipe says it’s authentic!
- Tropical Island Rice – which is what I served with this pulled pork the first time I made it
- Mixed green salad
- Stir fried noodles with vegetables
- Thick cut potato chips (crisps for us Brits!)
- French fries (chips for us Brits!)
- Tortilla chips – or turn the pulled pork into nachos!
- and of course, coleslaw!
For dessert a fresh, tropical fruit salad would be delicious, or you could get really decadent and make Ohana Bread Pudding, which is a Disney copycat recipe. Chocolate covered macadamia nuts would also be yummy!
Looking for more Hawaiian Recipes? Here are 50 Recipes for a Hawaiian Tropical Party
I hope you try this recipe out – it was very tasty! I’ve also made Hawaiian pulled chicken using boneless, skinless chicken thighs, and not quite as long in the slow cooker. Also good, but not quite as good as the pork! Enjoy!
- 1.5kg/3.3lb pork shoulder
- 1 tbsp smoked paprika
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 142g/5oz can tomato purée/paste
- 1-2 tbsp chilli sauce
- 435g/15oz can crushed pineapple in juice
- 4 tbsp light soy sauce
- 4 tbsp teriyaki marinade sauce
- 100g/3.5oz soft light brown sugar
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tsp grated fresh ginger (approx 1" piece)
- 2 medium onions, peeled and slicked thickly
- 2 medium carrots, peeled and halved
- Carefully remove the layer of skin and fat that is on top of the pork shoulder using a sharp knife.
- Sprinkle the pork with the paprika, salt, and black pepper, and rub in on all sides.
- Place the pork into a bowl and add the tomato paste, chilli sauce, crushed pineapple and juice, light soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, sugar, garlic and ginger. Mix everything together well with your hands and leave to marinade for a minimum 2 hours. 12 hours, or overnight would be best!
- When you are ready to cook the pork, (bearing in mind this takes a minimum of 8 hours in the slow cooker!), turn your slow cooker onto high and add the onion and carrot to support the pork. Add the pork and all the marinade. After 1 hour, turn the slow cooker down to low and leave for at least 8 hours. Up to 12-18 hours isn't going to hurt it!
- When ready to serve, gently pull the pork into strips with a couple of forks.
- Serve piled into soft bread rolls.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 10 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 552 Total Fat: 32g Saturated Fat: 12g Trans Fat: 0g Unsaturated Fat: 17g Cholesterol: 135mg Sodium: 853mg Carbohydrates: 28g Fiber: 2g Sugar: 24g Protein: 37g
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