Come Into My Kitchen

KC cook shares her Kalua Pig recipe with banana leaves that’s easy and great for parties

Denise Himmelberg’s Kalua pig is usually served on Hawaiian rolls.
Denise Himmelberg’s Kalua pig is usually served on Hawaiian rolls. Special to the Star

Though Denise Himmelberg works full time, she still feeds her passion for food and entertaining.

She and her husband Mike, who have two daughters, live in Kansas City, north of the river.

Q: Where did your passion for cooking come from? Does your family enjoy cooking, too?

My love of cooking and baking came from by mother and grandmother, who both enjoyed baking. Cooking is my “de-stressor” and I love it. When I need to chill, I bake. My husband enjoys cooking and grilling.

We have instilled our love of cooking and baking in our daughters, so we have fun cooking as a family.

Q: What do you like to cook? Where do find your recipes?

I have an overflowing recipe box, filled with many old, favorite recipes. I often bake breads for my neighbors. I love to bake my grandmother’s recipe for banana bread, and I bake delicious pumpkin and apple breads. I bake, then decorate cupcakes, a treat my friends love, so the cupcakes are in demand for showers, birthdays or special events.

Now, I get new ideas from Pinterest, recipe blogs or other online sites. When I find a new recipe, I first make it to see what it is like, then I tweak the recipe.

Q: Why did you select the Kalua Pig recipe to share? When do you serve it?

I love to entertain and Kalua Pig is our go-to recipe. We entertain all year, from the Super Bowl to Halloween and the upcoming holidays, and always enjoy a reason to gather with friends and family.

This delicious pork has quite a reputation with everyone who tastes it and it is a big hit any time I serve it. These easy pork sandwiches are the perfect main dish for any fun, casual gathering, for a neighborhood party or when tailgating.

I discovered the recipe many years ago online, when a friend and I were planning a luau. It tastes great and even those picky eaters enjoy it. It serves a crowd yet begins with an inexpensive meat cut. I typically buy the pork shoulder at one of the membership warehouse stores. I have even found the pink Hawaiian salt for the recipe at those stores.

Q: The pork is wrapped in banana leaves. Why is that and where do you buy them?

The banana leaves help to keep the meat juicy. The one time I made it without the banana leaves, it just did not taste as juicy, so I won’t fix another roast without them.

Banana leaves are readily available, in packages of frozen sheets, at Asian grocery stores. They are inexpensive and while one package is generally plenty for this recipe, I typically buy two packages at once and keep a spare in the freezer. Thaw the leaves, unfold them, rinse them off, then wrap the pork roast in several layers of the banana leaves, making a packet. Finally, wrap the banana leaf packet tightly in aluminum foil.

Q: What do you serve with Kalua Pig?

When entertaining, I often announce that I will make Kalua Pig as the main dish, then ask my friends to bring a side dish. Many times, those side dishes include macaroni and cheese, cheesy potatoes or cole slaw. These pork sandwiches go well with so many appetizers and side dishes.

Kalua Pig

Makes 15 to 18 servings

Banana leaves

1 (5-pound) bone-in pork shoulder or Boston butt roast

1 tablespoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 1/2 tablespoons Hawaiian sea salt or red sea salt (not iodized, table salt), plus additional salt for finishing

1 1/2 tablespoons liquid smoke

2 cups water

Hawaiian sweet rolls

Hawaiian barbecue sauce or barbecue sauce, optional

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Line a roasting pan with sheets of aluminum foil, leaving the edges of the foil up and leaving enough so you can wrap over the top of the roast. Rinse the banana leaves and set them aside.

Score the meat. In a small bowl, stir together the garlic powder, ginger and salt. Rub the seasoning mixture into the meat, covering completely. Place the meat, fat-side up over the banana leaves. Drizzle with the liquid smoke. Wrap in several layers of banana leaves, making a tight, sealed package.

Place the banana-leaf covered meat in the pan, fat side up and wrap tightly in the aluminum foil, creating a tightly sealed packet. Pour the water into the roasting pan.

Roast at 300 degrees for 10 to 12 hours, or until the meat is very tender and the internal temperature of the meat reaches 160 degrees. Remove the meat from the oven and allow to rest, covered, for 30 minutes.

Just before serving, shred the meat using two forks. Taste, and sprinkle with additional salt if desired. Serve the meat warm, on Hawaiian sweet rolls. If desired, drizzle the sandwiches with Hawaiian barbecue sauce.


To use the banana leaves, thaw and unfold them, then rinse with water. Wrap the roast in layers of leaves, making a packet. Then, wrap the leaf-wrapped roast in aluminum foil, making a tightly sealed packet.

Hawaiian red or pink salt is a distinctive, flavorful, coarse finishing sea salt. The red or pink color comes from the alaea clay, a volcanic byproduct, that give the salt its distinctive flavor and color. Do not substitute table salt for the pink or red sea salt.

Roxanne Wyss and Kathy Moore are cookbook authors and food consultants that make up The Electrified Cooks. They have published over 11 cookbooks and thousands of recipes. They are members of Les Dames d’Escoffier and blog at Email them at