Kalua pork isn’t just an entree; it’s a whole lifestyle. One of the earliest native Hawaiian foods recorded in the annals of history, it’s been a staple of the culture for thousands of years. It was, and still is, a dish of celebration, a momentous event in and of itself, to be reserved for only the most joyous occasions. Since the traditional approach could easily take all day, it’s not an undertaking for last-minute parties or spur of the moment cravings.
Vegan kalua pork is a whole different story.
What Is Traditional Kalua Pork?
The term kālua in Hawaiian means “to cook in an underground oven.” This is a complicated and time-consuming process, which begins by starting a fire at the bottom of a large pit using koa or kiawe wood. Porous lava rocks are then added like coals and heated for several hours. The hot rocks are then spread out at the base of the pit and covered with banana leaves and ti leaves. A whole pig is then placed on top, covered with additional leaves to trap the steam inside, and finally covered in dirt to seal the entire pit. After 6 to 12 hours, the meat will emerge fully cooked and infused with smoky flavor.
What Makes Vegan Kalua Pork Better
Most recipes for plant-based kalua pork start with jackfruit, given its uniquely fibrous texture that shreds beautifully. Not knocking it, but jackfruit itself is pretty bland, and can be downright woody when not cooked properly. Start with Sugimoto shiitake that are guaranteed to give you a tender, meaty bite and an incredible depth of flavor, every single time.
- Ready in minutes. Bad at planning ahead? Me too! This recipe is so easy that you can whip it up in 15 minutes, from start to finish, if you have soaked shiitake ready to go.
- Hearty and healthy. High in fiber, potassium, and Vitamin D. Sugimoto Shiitake in particular have the most natural Vitamin D of any dried mushrooms on the market.
- Meatless. Naturally, by omitting the pork, you get a cholesterol-free, low-fat treat that’s still rich in Guanylate, which enhances flavors and creates a much more intense overall umami flavor.
Tips For Success
No matter what, you can’t go wrong with this brilliantly simple, quick recipe. To get the maximum enjoyment out of the process and best result, here’s what you need to know.
- Start with Sugimoto Koshin Shiitake. These particular shiitake have larger, flatter caps, which makes for a much finer shredded texture, just like pulled pork.
- Save any excess mushroom soaking water and stems for another recipe. These are great in all sorts of soups and stews!
- Use a sharp knife to make fine shredded ribbons. Take your time; this step is key for getting the right mouthfeel.
What To Serve With Meatless Kalua Pork
All you really need to enjoy this entree is a fork, but like any other simple dish, it only gets better with accompaniments and garnishes.
- Slap some vegan kalua pork on a soft slider bun or vegan Hawaiian roll and top it off with a crisp, crunchy slaw. This is the ultimate backyard BBQ or potluck offering, sure to be a hit with kids and adults alike.
- Dress it up as a typical Hawaiian plate lunch, with a generous scoop of hot white rice and creamy mac salad. Use your favorite pasta salad recipe or toss together cooked macaroni noodles and vegan mayo with a pinch of shredded carrots, minced onion, and relish, to taste.
- To drink, you can’t go wrong with pure coconut water, or go all-out with a cherimoya lava flow.
For a proper luau, you can go all-out and serve an abundant spread of other Hawaiian staples, such as poke, chicken long rice, and lomi lomi. Don’t forget the mochi brownies for dessert!
Q: Can I make this vegan kalua pork recipe oil-free?
A: While the oil contributes critical richness to mimic the naturally fatty pork and is very strongly recommended, you can omit it if necessary. Simply cook the shredded mushrooms with the marinade until all the liquid has been absorbed.
Q: How can I add more protein?
A: Believe it or not, Sugimoto Shiitake actually do contain protein, to the tune of 1 gram per serving, or 14 grams per package. If you’d still like to add more to your meal, consider incorporating up to one cup of shredded seitan or soy curls.
Get a taste of the Hawaiian islands from the comfort of your own home any day of the week. Create an incredible depth of savory flavor with minimal ingredients and just minutes on the clock. You’ll want to save this recipe as your new all-purpose entree for parties, weeknight dinners, or midnight munchies.