This Crock Pot Pork Loin recipe is outrageously juicy with the best sauce – plus it’s prep ahead friendly!
This Crock Pot Pork Loin will blow your mind! The pork loin is ridiculously melt-in-your-mouth-tender from a simple brine and dripping with flavor from slow cooking directly in the sensational sauce – and the best part is, the slow cooker does most of the heavy lifting! As far as sauces, choose from either buttery honey citrus sauce or buttery berry citrus – both 5-star winners. This crock pot pork loin is company pleasing and holiday worthy but family friendly and everyday easy! As much as you love this slow cooker pork loin recipe the day off, it makes fantastic leftovers as well. I’ve included detailed instructions, tips, tricks and everything you need to know to make the BEST pork loin every time!
Pork is an underrated protein that emerges buttery tender with the correct preparation. In fact, when my husband was eating this pork loin roast, he stated, “If I close my eyes, I would think this was steak!” In other words, you need more pork in your life! Start with this fanatic crock pot pork loin then try my garlic butter pork tenderloin, chili Dijon pork tenderloin, blackberry hoisin pork tenderloin, and pork tenderloin with pineapple glaze.
crock pot PORK LOIN RECIPE
Can you believe Christmas is around the corner? While many will be reaching for honey ham, brown sugar ham or maple ham for their Christmas dinner, I wanted to bring you an alternative that was seeping with flavor, can be prepped the day ahead and frees up the oven – enter slow cooker pork loin!
There are just SO many reasons to love succulent pork loin. Slow cooker pork loin is a fantastic alternative to pork tenderloin because it is less pricy and larger so it feeds a crowd. It also boasts fabulous flavor even though it is extremely low in fat – leaner than chicken thighs! Pork loin roast is also extremely easy to cook to tender, juicy perfection in the slow cooker.
This crock pot pork loin recipe requires a few simple steps to prep the pork, but once it’s in the slow cooker, it’s hands-off cruising. To make this pork loin recipe, the pork is first brined in a salt solution for 60-90 minutes. This step is optional, but so easy and hands off, and most importantly, it is CULINARY CHANGING! It will deliver the juiciest pork loin roast you’ve ever tasted. But you don’t have to take my word for it. I use this brine in my baked pork tenderloin recipe and there are hundreds of comments attesting to the tenderizing powers of a brine.
After the pork loin roast is removed from the brine, it is coated in a spice rub and seared to create a flavorful crust and to seal in the juices, ensuring each and every bite is gloriously fabulous – with or without the sauce. Next, the pork loin is cooked low and slow in the crock pot for 2.5-4.5 hours. It cooks directly in a bath of honey citrus sauce or berry citrus sauce so it soaks in flavor as it tenderizes. Lastly, it’s a 5-minute simmer on the stove to thicken the sauce while your pork rests and then you get to sink your teeth into swanky, succulent, unabashedly flavorful crock pot pork loin. I can’t wait for you to try it!
What sauce for pork loin roast?
The sauce for this slow cooker pork loin elevates this recipe from ordinary to extraordinary. I have included two sauce options. The first option, Honey Citrus, is made with honey, apricot preserves (my favorite secret ingredient), orange juice, balsamic vinegar, splashes of soy sauce and Dijon mustard and a bevy of herbs including parsley, basil, thyme and rosemary. The sauce is bright, sweet and tangy and the best part is you can use as little or as much as you’d like to glaze the pork loin roast depending on how strong of flavor you like.
The second sauce option is Berry Citrus which is made with the same ingredients as the Honey Citrus except the honey is swapped for pure maple syrup and the apricot preserves is swapped for blackberry preserves. It’s sweet, tangy with a berry forward flavor that I adore.
So, basically, if you want honey and orange to be the dominant flavors, go Honey Citrus, if you want blackberry to be the dominant flavor, go Berry Citrus. Both are wonderful – just different. You can even try swapping the apricot/blackberry preserves for raspberry, strawberry or apple preserves to mix up the flavor profile, but I have not tried any of these options.
Once the slow cooker pork loin is done cooking, the sauce will be a little thin. We will thicken it while the pork loin roast is resting by whisking it with a cornstarch slurry in a small saucepan and simmering to a syrup like consistency. There will be quite a bit of sauce at this point which you can use on sautéed or roasted veggies – yum! You can even freeze the sauce in portioned bags to use on protein or veggies later.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN PORK LOIN AND PORK TENDERLOIN?
Before you make this crock pot pork loin recipe, it’s important you purchase pork loin and NOT pork tenderloin – they are not the same. If you use pork tenderloin, you will need to brine for only 20 minutes and cook for less time.
- Cut of Meat:
- Pork loin roast comes from the back of a pig, starting from the shoulder and running to where the animal’s leg begins.
- Pork tenderloin comes from the loin of the pig, which runs from the hip to the shoulder.
- Pork loin is long and cylindrical in shape. A whole loin weighs up to 20 pounds, which is then cut down into various chops and roasts. Pork loin roast can be cut to order anywhere from 3 to 5 pounds.
- Pork tenderloin is thin and small, usually 1-2 pounds; it usually comes in a pack of two tenderloins.
- Texture and flavor:
- Pork loin roast is mildly flavored and relatively lean but can become extremely tender when cooked low and slow.
- Pork tenderloin gets its name for a reason – it is one of the most tender cuts of pork because it comes from a muscle that doesn’t receives much, if any, exercise.
- Cooking Method:
- Pork loin should be slow slow-roasted in order to become tender. It should not be cooked quickly or roasted at high temperatures.
- Pork tenderloin cooks quite quickly at higher temperatures, anywhere from 350 degrees to 425 degrees F.
What are other names for pork loin?
Pork loin goes by a few different names and can be a few different cuts, so don’t be confused when you go to the grocery store. When a recipe calls for pork loin, it is referring to the most common cut of pork loin: top loin roast which is boneless from the end of the loin near the sirloin/rump. This cut of pork loin may also be called “center cut pork loin roast,” “center-cut pork roast,” “center loin roast,” or “pork loin center.”
Pork loin from the shoulder area can contain bones and is called “pork loin center rib roast,” “pork loin roast center cut,” or “pork loin rib half.”
For this crock pot pork loin recipe, we want boneless pork loin roast.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A PORK LOIN ROAST?
You can purchase pork loin in the meat section of your grocery store or from the butcher counter. When I picked it up last time, there weren’t any displayed, so I simply asked the butcher and he had one in back – so when in doubt, ask! Pork loin is typically $1.50-$2.50, so less than $10 to feed a crowd a restaurant worthy dinner.
- Weight: Pork loin roast weighs 3-5 pounds and comes single in a package. Please note this is different than pork tenderloin that can also weigh 3 pounds but contains TWO pork tenderloins in a package (each weighs 1-1 ½ pounds) – so choose the correct cut of pork! Pork loin and pork tenderloin vary in size and cooking method, so they should not be directly substituted for each other.
- Packaging: You will want to look for pork loin roast that is NOT packaged in a rub or marinade because we are going to brine and season the meat ourselves. This way, we not only control the flavor, but we can control the amount of salt and eliminate the oil in the marinade.
- Color: When choosing pork loin roast, look for a meat that’s pinkish-red in color with some marbling. It will also come with a thin layer of fat on one side. Avoid pork loin that is pale in color or has dark spots on the fat.
- Storage: The sooner you cook your newly purchased pork loin, the fresher it will be, although it will keep for two to three days in the refrigerator. If storing longer than three days, transfer the pork loin roast to the freezer for up to three months. Thaw in the refrigerator 24 hours before using.
DO I NEED TO REMOVE THE FAT BEFORE COOKING?
Pork loin comes with a thin layer of fat on the top. I recommend trimming all of it off except a thin layer. The thin layer of remaining fat will create a self-basting effect along with the butter as it breaks down and drips over the meat, resulting in extra juicy and extra flavorful pork, with little surface fat remaining after roasting.
If you leave thicker fat on the pork loin, most people will trim it off as they eat, along with the wonderful caramelization and browning flavors created by the Maillard reaction.
THE SECRET TO THE JUICIEST PORK LOIN
The best crock pot pork loin recipe has to be the JUICIEST and you will be BLOWN AWAY at how juicy this pork is! The secret? Brining the pork loin. You are probably familiar with brining a turkey, but brining pork will change your life.
Brining produces tender, juicy pork loin roast every single time because it actually changes the molecular structure of the pork without having to prep and plan ahead with an overnight marinade – just 90 minutes will do the trick, but you are welcome to brine overnight if you prefer.
How does it work? The salt accomplishes two things: 1) hydrates the cells of the muscle tissues via osmosis; 2) allows the cells to hold on to the water while they are cooked by breaking down the proteins so they can no longer contract when cooking. This means less water will be squeezed out and lost, resulting in juicier pork loin.
If you’ve never brined any protein before, don’t be intimidated – you are simply immersing the pork loin roast in a salt solution, similar to a marinade. To brine pork loin, you will combine the following in a large disposable bag:
- kosher salt
- warm water
- apple cider vinegar
- brown sugar
- bay leaves
- ice cubes
First, you’ll mix the kosher salt and warm water to dissolve the salt. Next, you’ll add the vinegar, brown sugar, bay leaves and ice cubes. The ice cubes cool the water back down so it’s ready to receive the pork. Lastly, you’ll add the pork.
Quick tip about brining – Do NOT evenly swap table salt in your brining solution for kosher salt or your pork will be too salty. You will need half as much table salt as kosher salt.
TIPS FOR THE BEST PORK LOIN RECIPE
Brining pork is the first step to achieve the best pork loin roast of your life, but it also is elevated by some other key steps. Here is how to make the juiciest crock pot pork loin recipe:
- Rinse pork loin: after you brine the pork loin, rinse it thoroughly to remove excess salt. You can always add salt after cooking but it’s hard to take away!
- Sear before cooking: searing the pork loin roast creates the Maillard reaction resulting in rich, deep, complex flavor and locks in the juices. It also prevents the surface of the pork loin from becoming dehydrated when cooked for an extended period of time.
- Braise in sauce: braising means cooking a tougher cut of meat gently in liquid until it is succulent and buttery tender. In this crock pot pork loin recipe, the pork loin is slow cooked directly in the sauce to create a hot steaming environment that locks in all the juices so the surface doesn’t dry out. It also infuses the pork loin with loads of flavor as it cooks. The acid from the orange juice and balsamic vinegar also help breaks down the meat while it cooks, yielding an even more tender result.
- Cook slowly: pork loin roast is a lean cut of meat so it needs to be cooked low and slow to give the protein time to break down. You don’t want to cook on high because this setting will boil the pork loin instead of braise it.
- Butter: adds richness and flavor to an otherwise extremely lean pork. The pads of butter on top of the pork loin melt as it cooks, essentially self-basting the pork in buttery moisture. The crock pot traps the butter so it seeps back into the pork as it sits in the buttery sauce.
- Don’t overcook: pork loin roast is extremely lean so it can dry out very easily when overcooked. Use your meat thermometer and check your pork frequently towards the beginning of the cooking window (2.5 hours) so it doesn’t become dry and chewy.
- Use a meat thermometer: the only accurate way to check your pork loin temperature is with an instant read thermometer. It will save you all the guessing and deliver perfectly juicy pork every time.
HOW LONG DOES PORK LOIN TAKE IN THE CROCK POT?
Pork loin is a very lean cut of meat so it should be cooked LOW and slow. Please do NOT cook your pork loin on high in the crock pot. Cook on LOW for 2-4 hours. In general, smaller pork loins (3 pounds) will take closer to 2 hours and larger pork loins (5 pounds) will take closer to 4 hours). Note that this pork loin cooks faster than other recipes because it is brined first.
There are several factors that contribute to cooking time such as size of pork, width of pork, size of slow cooker, type of slow cooker and age of slow cooker. When I made my honey balsamic pork for party (years ago, pre-pandemic) using 12 different slow cookers – they were all done at different times! I have also cooked this recipe multiple times and my pork loin roast required different cooking times each time due to the varying sizes. Moral of the story – use an instant tread thermometer and check at 2 hours then as needed.
what temperature should pork loin be cooked to?
Pork loin roast is a lean cut of meat, so it is important not overcook it; overcooked pork loin is dry pork loin. The USDA guidelines state that pork can be safely consumed when cooked to an internal temperature of 145 degrees F with a resting time of three minutes, however, anywhere from 145-160 degrees is considered acceptable.
Your pork loin roast will increase in temperature anywhere from 5-10 degrees as it rests, so I remove my pork from the crock pot as soon as it hits 145 degrees. To check the temperature of your pork loin, insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the meat.
I HIGHLY recommend an instant-read meat thermometer if you don’t own one. They are a small investment and come in handy ALL the time to eliminate all of the guess-work. You simply cannot make perfectly cooked pork loin roast without one. As long as you keep your instant read thermometer handy – your pork loin will be one of the juiciest pieces of meat you’ve ever sunk our teeth into.
WHAT SHOULD PORK LOIN LOOK LIKE WHEN DONE?
Your crock pot pork loin is safe to consume when a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat registers 145 degrees F. This means it will be slightly pink inside which is OKAY.
This 145-degrees temperature is 15 degrees less than the old standards of 160 degrees F which would mean the pork would be completely cooked through without any pink. The research shows, however, that 145 degrees F is the same safety-wise as cooking pork to 160 degrees F AND yields much more tender pork.
This is what your pork will look like with the allotted 5-minute resting time:
- take pork out at 145 F, will rise to 150 F – slices will be somewhat pink and moist
- take pork out at 150 F, will rise to 155 F – slices will be a little pink and moist
- take pork out at 160 F, will rise to 165 F – slices will not be pink but still should be relatively moist
HOW TO make PORK Loin in the crockpot
Crock pot pork loin is very simple to make but it is not a dump and run recipe, so you’ll want to plan a couple hours ahead for the brine or you can brine and sear the pork a day ahead of time. Here’s how to make the best pork loin roast every time:
- Brine pork loin for juiciness. Mix the kosher salt with warm water in order to dissolve the salt, then mix in the cider vinegar, brown sugar and ice cubes. Add the pork and brine for 90 minutes up to overnight. The brining process increases the moisture capacity of the pork for outrageously juicy pork every time.
- Submerge pork in brine. The only real trick about brining pork loin roast, is that it’s larger than a freezer size bag so you’ll need a bag large enough to enclose it. You can use an oven/turkey roasting bag or even a plastic grocery bag. I find it helpful to place the bag in a large bowl to stabilize it and secure the bag by folding the edges around the rim of the bowl (see photo below). This will prevent the brine contents from pouring out while mixing.
- Dry before seasoning. When your pork loin is done brining, rinse in cool water and pat dry with paper towels. If you don’t rinse your pork, it will be too salty – so don’t forget this step! It is important the pork loin is quite dry after brining so the rub will stick it.
- Season generously. Mix chili powder, garlic powder, salt, onion powder, paprika and pepper together then rub onto all sides of the pork. These spices create a wonderful flavor base for any sauce direction you want to go. We will add the herbs directly to the sauce so they don’t burn when we sear the pork.
- Sear for flavor and moisture. Heat vegetable oil over medium-high heat and swirl the pan to evenly coat the bottom of oil. Don’t substitute olive oil for vegetable oil because we need an oil with a high smoking point. You will want to use a large cast iron skillet and squish the pork loin roast in the best you can. Sear the pork loin roast until golden on all sides.
- Whisk sauce in slow cooker. This saves you one extra bowl to wash!
- Slow cook on low. Add the pork loin to the slow cooker and spoon the sauce on top. Top pork with butter then cook until pork loin registers between 145- and 150-degrees F (63 and 65 degrees C) at the thickest part of the meat, 2 – 4 hours depending on size. This means the pork will be juicy and slightly pink in the middle. Do NOT overcook or your pork will not be as tender and juicy.
- Rest for 15 minutes. Remove pork from the slow cooker and let rest for 15 minutes while you thicken the sauce. While the pork loin roast cooks, the juices are forced away from the heat to the middle of the meat. The resting time allows for the redistribution and reabsorption of the juices throughout the whole pork loin.
- Thicken sauce to syrupy consistency. Drain all of the liquid from the slow cooker into a medium saucepan. Whisk cornstarch with water then whisk into saucepan. Simmer until thickened. It is important to adjust the sauce to taste. Some like it sweeter, some like it tangier. For sweeter, add additional honey or maple, for tangier, add additional orange juice.
- Serve. Slice pork and serve with sauce.
This crock pot pork loin recipe is fabulous as is or you can use the basic cooking technique and make it your own. Here are a few ideas:
- Brine: mix up the brine by adding peppercorns, rosemary and/or thyme. You can swap the vinegar for orange juice or red wine vinegar.
- Spice rub: can be made with any mix of spices or you can play with the ratios – swap the chili powder for paprika, add additional pepper, chipotle chile powder, go Cajun, etc.
- Sauce: you virtually can use anything here! Pick a sauce from your favorite recipe and add it to the slow cooker. You can also play with the current sauce and mix up the flavor profile by using either honey or pure maple syrup, and swapping the apricot/berry preserves for raspberry, strawberry, apple, jalapeno jelly, etc.
WHAT SIDES ARE BEST with PORK loin roast?
This crock pot pork loin recipe pairs beautifully with practically everything! It also is made in the slow cooker which frees up the oven for favorites such as Million Dollar Macaroni and Cheese, and Roasted Parmesan Broccoli along with any of the following:
- Potatoes: Company Mashed Potatoes, Smashed Potatoes, Twice Baked Potatoes, Au Gratin Potatoes, Roasted Pesto Potatoes
- Rice: Rice Pilaf, Cranberry Apple Wild Rice, Parmesan Risotto, Spinach Risotto, Butternut Squash Risotto
- Veggies: Roasted Cauliflower, Brown Butter Asparagus, Creamy Brussels Sprouts, Roasted Carrots, Roasted Butternut Squash, Glazed Carrots.
- Salads: a big green salad, Wedge Salad, Apple Salad, Fall Salad, Roasted Butternut Squash Salad or Green Bean Salad.
- Fruit Salads: Winter Fruit Salad, Perfect Fruit Salad, Creamy Grape Salad, Pina Colada Fruit Salad, Berry Salad in Honey Mascarpone Dressing
- Breads: Pesto Pull Apart Bread. Award Winning Cornbread, Perfect Dinner Rolls, Buttery Breadsticks or Garlic Bread.
MAKE AHEAD slow cooker PORK LOIN
To make ahead, brine the pork loin, season and sear the pork loin, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate or refrigerate in the crock pot insert up to one day ahead of time. You can also whisk the sauce ingredients together and store separately. When ready to cook, add the sauce to the slow cooker and proceed with the recipe. Your pork will take an additional 30 minutes or so to cook because it’s starting cold.
HOW TO USE LEFTOVER PORK LOIN
If you are fortunate to have leftover pork loin roast, it reheats beautifully or you can repurpose in sandwiches, wraps, eggs, omelets, hash browns, breakfast enchiladas, breakfast casseroles, salads, pastas or pasta salads, rice, soups (amazing in ramen!) or plain!
HOW LONG IS LEFTOVER PORK loin GOOD FOR?
Leftover pork loin should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. When properly stored, pork is good up to 5 days.
How to reheat pork loin roast
- Stove: heat a drizzle of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat along with a splash of water. Add sliced pork loin in a single layer and heat through, flipping halfway.
- Microwave: transfer sliced pork loin to a microwave-safe dish and microwave for 1 minutes, then continue to microwave for 20-second intervals, if needed.
CAN I FREEZE LEFTOVER PORK LOIN?
Yes! You can freeze pork loin whole, chopped or in slices. Frozen pork loin roast should be used within 3-4 months.
LOOKING FOR MORE PORK RECIPES?
- Slow Cooker Asian Caramel Pulled Pork
- Tacos Al Pastor
- Brown Sugar Glazed Ham
- Sheet Pan Chili Dijon Pork Tenderloin with Green Beans and Potato
- Chipotle Sweet Pulled Pork
- Cajun Pork with Pineapple Glaze
- Slow Cooker Pulled Pork Sloppy Joes
- Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas
- Maple Cider Ham
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