Traditional Kalua Pig Cooking in Hawaii

One of the traditional Hawaiian dishes that you may come across in Hawaii is Kalua pork (or Kalua pig). The word “kalua” is a Hawaiian word that refers to cooking in an underground oven or Hawaiian “imu”.

Typically, a large pit is dug in the ground, and lava rocks are heated over an open flame until they are extremely hot. The rocks are placed in the pit, which is lined with greenery such as banana leaves or ti leaves (they insulate, aid the steaming process, and add flavor). A cleaned whole pig (seasoned with Hawaiian sea salt) is placed inside the hot pit and then covered with more greenery for insulation and flavor – it is then covered with a protective covering, more soil, and left to cook through the day (about 8 hours).

Kalua pork (cooked in the traditional method) is typically served at Hawaiian Luaus, or family gatherings or parties. One can also find kalua pig in restaurants (typically smoked in a traditional smoker or oven). It is typically served with steamed white rice and/or poi (a taro root paste).

The pork meat falls off the bone, and is typically very tender and moist, with a slightly salty, smoky flavor that is just delicious.

If you have an opportunity, give kalua pork a try in Hawaii!

Here’s a really nice video showcasing the finished pig coming out of the underground imu/oven:

Are you hungry yet???


  1. whole pig cooking in imu said

    am May 30 2008 @ 12:04 pm

    […] Hawaiian “imu” … A cleaned whole pig seasoned with Hawaiian sea salt is placed inside the hot … food is placed on top of the ti leaves. If you are cooking a whole pig, … A large whole […]

  2. Pig Roasting Box said

    am July 21 2008 @ 1:07 am

    Nothing like when the meat practically falls from the bone, I love how the banana leaves make it taste.

  3. Rick Patrilla said

    am July 22 2008 @ 11:04 am

    I just came back from Maui. I helped with lau lau and went to the imu when the pig came out. Less than 10 minutes from the imu I tasted the pork. Outstanding. Da kine grines. Ono. This time I ate all my poi.


    am October 17 2008 @ 10:52 am

    yes I have had pig this way, yum yum. Its so good it will make your tongue slap the brains out of your head!

  5. Luau and Snorkel Tour » Mary Lis Travel Blog said

    am September 27 2009 @ 1:20 am

    […] enjoyed it. I remembered it as being a silly tourist thing, but I liked the Polynesian show and the pig cooked in the ground all day had been delicious, and it had been fun. In researching this trip, we […]

  6. Oscar Party Pork | Loyal Terrier said

    am March 6 2012 @ 10:33 am

    […] family gatherings, and it’s not out side of my imagination that in one of those gatherings a Kaula Pig was served. Since I can’t really create my own underground pit in an apartment complex in the […]

  7. How to Cook a Pig Hawaiian Luau Style - Move to Hawaii! : Move to Hawaii! said

    am April 29 2014 @ 9:57 am

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