Pork Loin vs. Tenderloin: Is There Really A Difference Between The Two?

Pork Loin vs Tenderloin

Pork Loin vs. Tenderloin: Is There Really A Difference Between The Two?

What is the difference between pork loin and tenderloin? It can be easy to mix the two up. After all, they have very similar names, and both come from pigs. However, some main differences set the two apart! Pork loin is bigger, wider, and takes longer to cook than pork tenderloin. On the other hand, pork tenderloin is thinner, narrower, and comes from a pig's spine. 

While pork is often called the “other white meat,” it is actually a red meat. Therefore, because it is red meat, it offers fewer health benefits than chicken. With this in mind, it can still be an excellent source of vitamins and nutrients and contain so much flavor! You may have heard of pork tenderloin and pork loin. The similar names mean that mixing up these two cuts of meat can be easy. However, some fundamental differences set the two apart. 

The only similarities that pork loin and tenderloin share are being cut from the same area as the pig, tasting a little similar, and having a similar name. From there, we will cover a wide variety of differences. The main difference is that pork tenderloin is a cut of meat that runs along the pig's backbone. As a result, it is long, narrow, and red in color. On the other hand, a pork loin is larger, bone-in or boneless, flatter than a pork tenderloin, and lighter in color. The differences continue; let's look at a few more below. 

Pork loin roasted filled with cranberry bread stuffing
Many people agree, pork loin is excellent in a variety of ways, including stuffed!

©Elena Veselova/Shutterstock.com

Pork Loin vs. Tenderloin: What are the Differences?

Pork loin and tenderloin both come from a pig. Both types of meat also come from the same area, the back. However, pork loin is a more significant cut of meat than tenderloin and is where pork chops come from. Both tenderloins and pork loin have little marbling and little to no fat. Tenderloins, however, have less fat.

Another difference between the two is the cooking methods. Tenderloins are excellent when cooked on high heat for less time. The shorter cook time is because they are relatively smaller than pork loins. Contrariwise, pork loins take a longer time to cook. Often, people enjoy searing this meat and then placing it in the oven or crock pot to finish cooking. Depending on how large the pork loin is, the general rule of thumb is to cook the meat for 25 minutes per pound at 350 degrees Fahrenheit or until it reaches an internal temperature of 145 to 150 degrees Fahrenheit. 

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Another difference between the two, aside from size, is the color. Pork loin is fairer in color, while the tenderloin is dark red or pink. Also, the fat content of pork loin and tenderloin varies. There is a higher amount of fat content in pork loin. The higher fat content is because a fat layer runs across the top. 

Pork Loin vs. Tenderloin Nutritional Value

Regarding nutritional value, the two are similar. Tenderloin tends to carry more nutritional value than pork loin, although it is higher in calories. Pork tenderloin has more B12, zinc, carbohydrates, and saturated fats. Although it also carries more cholesterol, however, not by much. Read below for more information on the health benefits and comparing pork loin and tenderloin! 

Pork Loin vs Tenderloin Nutritional Facts


What is Pork Loin?

The pork loin cut is from the pig's back, between the shoulders and the bottom. One of the defining characteristics of this meat is the fat cap that lies on top of it. The fat cap on top of the pork loin traps moisture while cooking, resulting in a juicy and tender cut of meat. Also, When you buy it, there are options between boneless pork loin or bone-in. Finally, pork chops come from pork loin; therefore, if you are trying to imagine exactly what a pork loin tastes like, picture pork chops! 

Pork loin is delicious when cooked slowly in the oven or crockpot after being seared. It is versatile and large enough to feed many people, making it perfect for a dinner party or a large family. 

What is Tenderloin?

Tenderloin also comes from the back of the pig. However, it is a muscle that is quite tender and has little to no fat. This meat is thin and long and more petite than pork loin. It is cut from the muscle attached to the spine and has no bone. Cooking pork tenderloin is best when seared and then grilled or baked on high heat. You will want the internal temperature to reach 145 degrees Fahrenheit. When it comes to the color of this cut of meat, it is redder than pork loin. It is also leaner and has a milder taste. 

Can You Substitute Pork Loin for Tenderloin?

No, not really; you cannot substitute pork loin for tenderloin. The reasoning is straightforward. Tenderloin is smaller than pork loin and requires a different cooking temperature. Therefore, if the recipe calls for one or the other, there would be better choices than substituting the two. In addition, you may risk undercooking the pork loin or burning the tenderloin. 

What are Substitutes for Pork Loin?

If you are looking for a good substitute for pork loin, there are many to consider. If you like the beefy and robust taste of beef, you can try beef loin; it is cooked similarly and offers a tasty alternative to pork. Chicken breast is also very versatile and healthy. However, it can tend to be chewier or tougher than pork loin. Tofu or mushrooms make excellent meat substitutes if you do not eat meat or want to switch up the recipe! 

Homemade Hot Pork Tenderloin with Herbs and Spices
Pork tenderloin is smaller and thinner than pork loin. It cooks quicker and makes a great evening dinner that requires little preparation.

©Brent Hofacker/Shutterstock.com

What are Substitutes for Tenderloin?

Beef tenderloin is an excellent substitute for pork tenderloin. It has similar nutritional values and cooking methods, and both are tender and juicy when cooked correctly. Chicken breast can also be a good alternative. However, you may have to change the cook times. Soy products, tofu, and mushrooms are also great meatless alternatives. If you are looking for a substitute for either pork loin or pork tenderloin, do not be afraid to experiment! There are many fantastic, healthy, and delicious alternatives to try. 

Final Thoughts

Infographic showing the difference between pork loin and pork tenderloin.
These two cuts of meat are often confused for one another.
  • Pork loin is bigger and wider than pork tenderloin, giving you one way to tell the difference between the two.
  • Due to its larger size, pork loin takes longer to cook than pork tenderloin.
  • Pork loin has more fat than pork tenderloin, although both cuts are relatively low in fat.

Pork loin and pork tenderloin can be easily confused with one another because their names are very close. However, aside from having close to the same name, similar taste, and both coming from a pig, there are not many more similarities. 

Pork loin is larger and broader than tenderloin. As a result, it also requires longer cooking time. Pork tenderloin, on the other hand, is thinner, more narrow, and has less fat than pork loin. Therefore, it can be cooked at high temperatures and only requires a little time before reaching the perfect doneness. Another difference is the fat cap that runs across the pork loin. The fat cap traps moisture, helping keep the pork loin tender and juicy. When cooked correctly, both of these cuts of meat will produce delicious, juicy, and tender pork. They are also versatile and mild in taste, making it easy to enjoy pork loin and pork tenderloin with many different sides. 

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Pork loin and tenderloin are not great substitutes for one another. However, some easy alternatives can be great options for the two. Additionally, pork loin and tenderloin make excellent meals and are bursting with flavor! 

Pork Tenderloin

Pork Loin

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Sunday roasted pork tenderloin, juicy and succulent oven-baked piece of meat rubbed with mustard and spices: rosemary, bay leaf, lime juice, and pepper on a wooden background, close-up, top view

Brown Sugar Glazed Spiced Pork Loin

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  • Author: Moms Who Think
  • Yield: 12 servings 1x



2 teaspoons garlic powder
1½ teaspoons ground mustard
1½ teaspoons dried marjoram
1 teaspoon salt
1 bone-in pork loin roast (5 pounds)
¾ cup unsweetened orange juice
¼ cup dark brown sugar
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 Tablespoons grated orange peel

Gravy Ingredients:

3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
Dash pepper
1 medium orange, peeled, sectioned and chopped


1. Combine garlic powder, mustard, marjoram and salt; rub over roast.

2. Place on a rack in a shallow roasting pan. Bake, uncovered, at 325°F for 1½ hours.

3. Remove from the oven; drain.

4. Combine orange juice, brown sugar, cinnamon, and orange peel; pour half over roast.

5. Bake 30 minutes longer or until a meat thermometer reads 160°, basting occasionally with remaining juice mixture.

6. Remove roast to a serving platter and cover to keep warm.

7. Stir drippings in pan to loosen brown bits; pour into a measuring cup.

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8. Skim off fat; reserve 2 Tablespoons drippings.

9. Add enough cold water to remaining drippings to measure 2 cups; set aside.

10. Place flour in a saucepan; stir in the 2 Tablespoons of reserved drippings until blended.

11. Gradually stir in remaining reserved liquid until smooth.

12. Add salt and pepper. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened.

13. Reduce heat; add chopped orange pieces. Serve gravy with the roast.


  • Serving Size: One serving (with 2½ Tablespoons gravy)
  • Calories: 304
  • Sodium: 393mg
  • Fat: 11g
  • Saturated Fat: 4g
  • Carbohydrates: 8g
  • Fiber: 1g
  • Protein: 41g
  • Cholesterol: 112mg
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