Kalua Pig Spareribs

Pomai’s Kalua Pig Spareribs on a bed of sauteed cabbage, with Lomi Salmon, Poi, sliced onion and Hawaiian salt

Local style Chinese Sweet & Sour Spareribs

Say what? Yup, Kalua Pig Spareribs! Never heard of it before? Neither have I. I thought of this after recently making several batches of “local style” Chinese Sweet & Sour Spareribs for my mom, who loves the stuff. When I was browning the pork spareribs, I looked at it thinking, “Hmmm, I wonder how this would taste if I “Kalua-fied” it? And here you go!

I scoured the web looking if anyone else had posted such a dish online, and nope, couldn’t find one site that has it. There’s several takes on “Hawaiian Style BBQ Spareribs”, that use various types of BBQ sauces on spareribs, but not exactly what I’m designing and calling it as, being true to the classic, Kalua Pig Spareribs.

Literally taking the Kalua Pig preparation and applying to pork spareribs. Albeit, this is the KEY: the spareribs can’t be roasted too long where it’s falling apart like traditional Kalua Pig. It has to still stick to the cartilage-like “bone”, so you can gnaw at it like any other spareribs dish, or say a good BBQ Rib.

That said, I set my oven to conventional heat, not convection, as I wanted to be careful not to overcook it, which convection might “blow the deal”, cooking it way faster than anticipated.

Other than that, the recipe is still the same for making traditional “just like the Imu” oven-roasted Kalua Pig, using the main 4 ingredients, plus tin foil, no more, no less.

By Pomai


  • Pork Spareribs, about 3 to 5 pounds (more or less, up to you)
  • Liquid Smoke, adjust amount accordingly (eyeball it)
  • Hawaiian Salt, adjust amount accordingly (eyeball it)
  • Green Ti Leaves (not the red ‘kine), enough to completely wrap around the spareribs within the foil “packet”, stems cut off (you can also remove the spine up the back of the leaves if you want to make it easier to wrap, but I don’t)
  • Tin Foil, enough to make a hat, nah just kidding lol… enough to completely envelope the amount of spareribs you’re “Kalua’ing” in the oven


  1. Preheat oven to 350ºF on roast (both top and bottom heat elements working)
  2. If the spareribs are frozen, thaw them completely, and cut them into individual bone sections.
  3. Lay out several long sheets of tin foil on your work surface (preferably heavy-duty foil if you have it, otherwise, use multiple layers of the thin stuff).
  4. On the foil, arrange Ti Leaves, overlapping each other slightly. This is CRUCIAL, as the Ti Leaves will impart a unique “Hawaiian” flavor to your Kalua Pig, so you MUST USE green Ti Leaves! If no more that, use Banana leaves. If no more that, use Pakalolo leaves. Nah, just kidding, don’t use that. lol
  5. Arrange the thawed and sectioned pork spareribs over the Ti leaves and foil wrapper in a single layer (you can probably multi-layer them, but I didn’t)
  6. Drizzle liquid smoke over each sparerib so that it lightly and evenly coats it, then kinda’ “lomi” the liquid smoke on each piece.
  7. Sprinkle Hawaiian Salt over the spareribs so that it’s evenly coated; this is where you have to have a good eye in how much to use. If in doubt, undersalt it, as you can always add more after pau cook. Remember the rule with salt: you can always add, but you can’t take away. Ask Ken the “Sodium Cop”. lol
  8. Wrap the liquid smoke and salted pork spareribs completely with the Ti Leaves and tin foil, crimping the foil so that it makes a tightly-sealed “packet” of Kalua Pig Spareribs goodness. If you need, keep adding more foil in long sheets so that the packet is completely sealed at the TOP, as you want to trap in as much moisture from the roasting pork as possible. Don’t let the dripping seep out of it, as that’s where the flavor is!
  9. Set the “packet” on a roasting pan in the oven and let it roast for about 1½ hours at 350ºF. After that, reduce the heat to 250º, then let it roast at that lowered temperature for another 2 hours. This is approximately about half the time it would take to make traditional “fall off the bone”, pull-apart-with-a-fork Kalua Pig. Again, key here is you want that spareribs pork meat to be still clinging to the bone, yet super juicy ‘n tender where you can easily chew it.
  10. After time is up, turn off the oven and let it rest in there for about a half hour, so that the juices stay in the meat. Then remove the packet and open it up. This is the time to take in the wafting aroma of Kalua Pig Spareribs goodness as the steam is released… whoooooooo, da’ buggah smell so ONO! Then transfer the cooked spareribs and ALL THE DRIPPINGS into an adequately-sized pan or pot on stove top to keep warm-hot.
  11. Serve over a bed of cabbage quickly sauteed in the Kalua Pig drippings, plus coat some of the drippings over the spareribs, along with Lomi Salmon ‘n Poi and enjoy!

REVISION UPGRADE 2.0: Kalua Pig Spareribs with Sauce

Kalua Pig Spareribs with Sauce (rev. upgrade 2.0)

Follow all the steps above up to Step 10.

11.) In the pot of transferred Kalua Pig Spareribs and drippings, if needed, add more water to bring the saltiness to proper taste. Over the stovetop, bring the spareribs and drippings liquid to a boil, then add a “slurry” mixture of cornstarch dissolved in cold water, stir, and watch that the drippings “tighten-up” into a sauce thick enough to lightly coat the back of a spoon. Turn off heat and let it rest.

12.) Plate as shown in photo above, drizzling the “Kalua Sauce” liberally over the Kalua Pig Spareribs.

OK, now that we made it, let’s try it…

And? For a first attempt, WINNAHZ! It turned out exactly as I imagined it, being simply a bite-worthy spareribs version of traditional Hawaiian Kalua Pig.

However it’s my second attempt (this post has been revised) that put it over the top! As noted,

If  there’s anything I’d do in my next attempt is roast it a bit longer to impart more flavor out of the Ti Leaves and Liquid Smoke, like say about 1 more hour, however no more than that. Also, I only thought of this after the fact of making all this and putting everything away, that I should’ve tried making a “Kalua Pig Sauce” out of the drippings  by simply thickening it with a cornstarch and water slurry. This, being while they taste really ono as is, the spareribs look kinda’ “naked” without any sauce on it. I’ll try doing a Kalua Pig sauced version tomorrow and if it turns out better, I’ll revise this very same post with that.

While the non-sauce version was 4-SPAM Musubi “whinnaz!”, adding that cornstarch and water “slurry”-thickened drippings as a sauce over the spareribs totally kicked this dish out the park into the 5-SPAM Musubi realm. Helping that cause was the additional heating time in the pot while the sauce was thickening, which further tenderized and infused that sauce right into the pork meat.

Either way you make it, you DEFINITELY have to serve this with the usual luau food accompaniments, being of course Lomi Salmon and Poi; the brand I used for both of course being Taro brand.

Following is a pictorial step-by-step of my Kalua Pig Spareribs recipe. Enjoy. ;-)

3.25 lbs. pork spareribs, thawed from frozen and cut into individual meat ‘n bone sections, liquid smoke, Hawaiian salt and green Ti leaves

Pork spareribs evenly coated with Liquid Smoke and Hawaiian Salt (critical  that you “eyeball” this part properly; if in doubt, no cook this dish lol)

Green Ti Leaves (not Tea Leaves) are generously wrapped around the pork spareribs to impart that “Hawaiian Luau” flavor; if no more Ti Leaves, use Banana Leaves; if no more that, use Pakalolo Leaves lol j/k

Wrap the entire contents tightly with the tin foil, making sure the eventual fat drippings can’t leak out; make sure it can’t leak; as you want the steam from those drippings to enhance the flavor of the meat and keep it moist

After a total of 3½ hours roasting in the oven and half hour of rest, voila!

Note, as illustrated in my Oven-Roasted Kalua Pig recipe, above is how you DON”T want it to be, where it easily gets pulled of the bone with a pair of forks

Look at all that tasty drippings the Kalua Pig Spareribs are sitting in. That my friends is FLAVAH!

Kalua Pig Spareribs with Sauce (rev. upgrade 2.0): a cornstarch and water “slurry” is added to the drippings and spareribs in a separate pot to thicken the drippings over boiling heat into a rich and decadent Kalua Pig flavored gravy… so ono!!!

Cutting a sparerib apart, notice how the meat is juicy and tender, yet intact where it’s still stuck to the cartilage bone… that’s EXACTLY how it should be

Kalua Pig Spareribs with Sauce (rev. upgrade 2.0): “money shot”, with thickened drippings coating the tender pork meat so silky and… so ono!

As said earlier, you NEED the Lomi Salmon and Poi to accompany these Kalua Pig Spareribs, while I also added a bed of cabbage that was quickly sauteed in the Kalua Pig drippings… oh yeah, that’s how we roll, baby!

Kalua Pig Spareribs with Sauce (rev. upgrade 2.0)

K’ den, I going kau kau now, no boddah’ me. lol

A hui hou!