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These smoky Kalua Pork Meatball Sliders are a play on the classic Hawaiian luau favorite ~ Kalua Pork.

The meatball alone is slightly salty, a little smoky, very juicy and oh so delicious.

Not going to lie, several meatballs never found their way to the Hawaiian sweet rolls, they were that good.

Jump to Recipe

The Ingredients

For the Kalua Pork we used ground pork shoulder plus two key ingredients. Liquid Smoke and Hawaiian Sea Salt are the signature ingredients.

First for the pork, I wanted to be sure the fat content was high enough to keep the meatballs juicy. So I had the butcher grind a boneless pork shoulder roast (Boston butt).

The Liquid Smoke was a first for me. Every Slow Cooker Kalua Pork recipe I could find (and there are hundreds) included it. I feared a ‘fake’ smoke taste but was pleasantly surprised. Just a small amount (1/2 teaspoon) deliver a great smoky flavor.

The final and truly authentic ingredient was the Alaea Sea Salt, also known as Hawaiian red salt.

Black Lava Salt and Red Clay Sea Salt

For the sea salt, we actually brought back a couple different salts from a trip to Hawaii, both very reminiscent of the beautiful beaches we explored.

No worries if you don’t have a Hawaiian vacation in your near future, you can find the Hawaiian Alaea Sea Salt at Cost Plus World Market or online.

I interrupt this Kalua Pork Meatball Slider recipe post to share some black lava and red clay pictures from our Hawaii vacay 2019.

Black Lava Rock
Lava Tubes
Mauna Kea Volcano
Nā Pali Coast

And we’re back!

Classic Kalua Pork is a whole pig wrapped in banana leaves, then slow roasted in an underground oven called an Imu and traditionally served at a Luau.

However on the mainland, it is also very common (and much easier) to make Kalua Pork in a slow cooker with the same three ingredients – boneless pork shoulder, Alaea sea salt and Liquid Smoke.

I wanted to infuse all of the smoky slow roasted flavor I possibly could into our Kalua Pork Meatballs so I cooked them on our Primo Smoker at 275 -300 degrees F for an hour.

The Process

While bacon wasn’t part of my original plan, it served as a way to keep the meatballs from sticking to the pan and in turn became the perfect addition to our Kalua Pork Meatballs Sliders.

If you don’t have a smoker you can certainly cook these in the oven at 350 degrees. F. for 20 minutes.

How to Build the Sliders

Here’s how we build the sliders.

First I grilled King’s Hawaiian Sweet Rolls and fresh pineapple rings (which I trimmed slightly first so they would fit the bun).

I made a simple coleslaw of cabbage and carrot tossed in a little mayonnaise dressing (same that we use for the Hawaiian Macaroni Salad) and a spicy mayo spread for the toasted buns.

The flavor combinations were out of this world.

The Kalua Pork Meatball was definitely the star with a nice smoky flavor.

The sweetness of the Hawaiian Sweet Rolls and grilled pineapple balanced the spicy mayo, while the coleslaw brought a little crunch.

The bacon was a straight up bonus to this handheld slider!

I made a classic Hawaiian Macaroni Salad to go with our Kalua Pork Meatball Sliders. What a perfect lunch plate or addition to your game-day spread or backyard gatherings!

Don’t forget to follow us @LemonyThyme on Instagram and Facebook! And check out our latest TikTok videos and Pinterest boards too!

All my best,
xo Libby

Kalua Pork Meatball Sliders

Libby with Lemony Thyme
The flavor combinations were out of this world. The Kalua Pork Meatball was definitely the star with a nice smoky flavor. The sweetness of the Hawaiian Sweet Rolls and grilled pineapple balanced the spicy mayo, while the coleslaw brought a little crunch. The bacon was a straight up bonus to this handheld slider!
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 1 hr
Course Burger, Entree or Appetizer, Sandwich
Servings 4

Ingredients
  

For the Meatballs

  • 1 pound ground pork shoulder
  • 1 teaspoon Alaea sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon Liquid Smoke
  • 4 slices thick cut bacon

For the Coleslaw

  • 3/4 cup finely shredded cabbage
  • 1/4 cup finely shredded carrot
  • 3 Tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 Tablespoon milk
  • 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
  • salt & pepper to taste

For the Sliders

  • 8 Hawaiian sweet rolls
  • 8 slices grilled pineapple
  • 1 cup cabbage/carrot coleslaw see recipe above
  • 3 Tablespoons Spicy mayo equal parts mayonnaise and sriracha

Instructions
 

For the Meatballs

  • Preheat smoker grill to 250° F or oven to 350° F. Combine ground pork, liquid smoke and sea salt. Form into 8 meatballs, about 2-inch in diameter. Line a cast iron skillet with bacon slices. Place meatballs on top of bacon and smoke for 1 hour at 250°-300° F or bake in oven at 350° F for 20 minutes or until internal temperature of meatballs reaches 165° F.

For the Coleslaw

  • Combine coleslaw ingredients in a small bowl.

For the Sliders

  • Grill the pineapple slices and sweet rolls. Layer each toasted roll with a pineapple slice, 1/2 slice of bacon, a meatball, a small spoonful coleslaw, spicy mayo and top of roll. Secure each with toothpicks.