This wicked good slow cooker pork chili recipe swaps ground meat with one of the leanest, most tender cuts of premium pork, the tenderloin. Pork tenderloin is cooked low and slow with onion, bell peppers, black beans, tomatoes, green chilies, warm chili spices, and the secret to making the best Pork Tenderloin Chili -a jar of fruit-infused salsa! This hearty chili packs 32 grams of protein per serving!
Can you use pork tenderloin in chili? Good question. People tend to have strong opinions about chili and may argue using anything except ground meat is chili blasphemy, but this slow cooker recipe for chili with pork tenderloin is here to prove those people wrong.
Pork tenderloin is pure meat, no bones about it! It's cut from the loin alongside the ribcage and is unarguably pork's best cut. It's perfectly suited for quick-cooking methods like grilling and roasting, but it also benefits from slow cooking.
You'll love tossing all of the ingredients for this pork tenderloin chili into the slow cooker first thing in the morning and returning to a simmering Crockpot of sweet and smoky black bean chili with fruity undertones and succulent morsels of pulled pork tenderloin in every bite!
Why You'll Love This Recipe
- It's healthy and made with gluten-free, natural ingredients packed with lean protein and fiber.
- The ingredients are versatile and easy to adapt with items you already have.
- You can fix it and forget it. After dumping the ingredients into your slow cooker, the equipment takes care of the rest.
- It's a family favorite perfect for any occasion: weeknights, gamedays, potlucks, and more.
Ingredients You'll Need
- Pork tenderloin - Tenderloin is perfect for pork chili because you get all the protein yet a fraction of the fat in other cuts of pork and ground meat varieties.
- Onion - Enhances the savory flavors. You can use any onion (red, white, or yellow), keeping in mind that they vary in pungency. I love and use sweet vidalia onions in this recipe.
- Bell peppers - Add a sweet and tangy element to the chili and a pop of color. I like using red and green peppers, as red peppers add sweetness, and green peppers are savory. Feel free to add yellow and orange bell peppers.
- Black beans - We're big fans of black beans. You can also add kidney and pinto.
- Fruit-flavored salsa - I originally shared this recipe in October 2011 recommending Trader Joe's Spicy, Smokey Peach Salsa, but it was sadly discontinued in 2020. So for this new and improved version, I made it with Trader Joe's Pineapple Salsa. The slow cooker's heat amplifies the tropical fruit flavors, complementing pork's naturally salty and savory flavor.
- Diced tomatoes and green chilies - RO-TEL, or a can of diced tomatoes and a can of diced green chilies for flavor and texture. Fire-roasted tomatoes are great here!
- Broth - I used chicken broth, but you can also use beef broth as well.
- Spices & seasonings - I like seasoning chili with oregano, cumin, and chili powder (ancho or regular). Paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, cayenne, and red pepper flakes are also delicious in chili.
How To Make Chili with Pork Tenderloin
Step 1: Prep pork tenderloin for chili. Before getting started, check if the silverskin was already removed from your pork tenderloin. If it is still attached, slide a sharp de-boning knife under the edge of the silverskin and cut it off. Then, cut the tenderloin into 2" thick filets and cut the filets into 2" strips. Pat the strips dry with a paper towel.
Step 2: Combine all ingredients in the slow cooker. Add the pork strips, chopped onion, and bell peppers to your slow cooker. Next, add the black beans, salsa, diced tomatoes and green chilies, chicken broth, and dried spices.
Step 3: Slow cook pork chili. Give everything a good stir, then cook on low heat until the pieces of pork shred effortlessly ( 8-10 hours). Use a fork to pull apart the tender pieces of pork, creating a thick, meaty consistency.
- The silverskin on pork tenderloin is a tough, extremely chewy connective tissue that doesn't melt like fat, so it must be removed.
- Make sure you're removing the silverskin, not the fat. The opaque, marbelized fat dissolves as it cooks, adding moisture and flavor to the meat.
- This is entirely optional, but searing the strips of pork in a hot skillet is worth the extra step. The fat and flavor caramelize on the surface, ultimately elevating the rich, dynamic flavors of the finished pork chili.
- If making pork chili for game day, I suggest cooking it the day before. Then, you can easily transport it to your destination, reheat it directly in the slow cooker, and serve! Besides, chili is always better the next day.
- When it's finished, stir in a tablespoon of cocoa powder to intensify the sweet, savory, smoky, and spicy flavors and help thicken.
Meat choices - If pork's not your thing, replace it with lean cuts of beef like chuck, sirloin, round, or brisket. Chicken breasts are also an option.
Fruity salsa options - Opt for jarred fruit salsas with a saucy, chunky consistency like mango, peach, corn, pineapple, and strawberry.
Make it VERDE - Turn this red chili into a pork chili Verde with a jar of salsa verde, tomatillos, poblanos, and plenty of green chilies.
Serving Pork Chili
This pork chili isn't complete without a side of old-fashioned cornbread and garnished with your choice of chili toppings. We love the Trader Joe's Corn and Chili Tomato-Less Salsa on this chili! Check out the list below for recommendations.
- Cheesy - Shredded cheddar, crumbled queso fresco, or taco blend
- Creamy - Sour cream, plain Greek yogurt, or a dairy-free substitution
- Spicy - Fresh or pickled jalapeño slices, Tabasco, or other hot sauces
- Fresh - Diced green, red, or sweet onion, sliced avocado, guacamole, diced tomatoes, pico de gallo, lime wedges, cilantro, chives, and parley
- Crunchy - Tortilla strips, crackers, croutons
Storing & Freezing
Storing: Let the chili cool to room temperature, then refrigerate in an airtight container or portioned into individual meal prep containers for 3 to 4 days.
Freezing: This pork chili freezes nicely, so double up and freeze half in an airtight container for 3 to 4 months. Thaw overnight in the fridge before reheating in a saucepan, slow cooker, or microwave.
You can! Follow the recipe as instructed with pulled barbecued pork leftovers instead of tenderloin, and cut the cooking time in half (about 4 hours on low).
Absolutely. First, brown the ground pork and drain the excess fat. Then, add all the chili ingredients to the slow cooker and cook on low for about 6 hours.
Yes. If you use loin instead of tenderloin, I suggest searing the whole surface in a hot skillet, then transferring the entire loin to the slow cooker, fat cap facing up. Dump the remaining ingredients on top and cook on low until the pork loin is tender and easy to shred.
More Chili Recipes You'll Love
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Wicked Good Pork Tenderloin Chili
- slow cooker
- 1 ¾ lbs pork tenderloin cut into 2 inch strips
- 1 small onion coarsely chopped
- 1 small red pepper chopped
- 1 small green pepper chopped
- 45 oz canned black beans, rinsed and drained (3- 15 oz cans)
- 12 oz jar salsa Trader Joe's Spicy, Smokey Peach Salsa recommended
- 10 oz can diced tomatoes and green chilis
- ½ cup chicken broth
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 2 teaspoon chili powder
- Combine all ingredients in a slow cooker and cook on low for 8-10 hours.
- Break up pieces of pork to thicken chili before serving.