This Instant Pot Pork Tenderloin recipe is courtesy of September 2021 Featured Chef Katie Kimball, with a little help from her son, John.
I tend to hang onto pork tenderloin in the freezer until a “special occasion” like Christmas or Father’s Day, but I’ve decided that’s silly.
Last spring as school events picked up, more and more often I needed a QUICK meal. Even the Instant Pot never seems fast enough, because it often takes 30-60 minutes to cook!
Enter the pork tenderloin: my new favorite cut of meat for a quick weeknight dinner.
Plus, it’s part of our family culture that our kids help cook, and John, age 9, was my sous chef for this recipe development.
Giving kids agency, a sense of choice and control over their situation, is key to their growth and independence, so I decided John would make the decisions about what went into the recipe.
I pulled a few pork tenderloin Instant Pot recipes up and wrote down all the dry herbs used and all the liquids. I knew the timing that had worked for me previously, and John and I got down to business.
The two-pound tenderloin pieces were uneven, so John helped me decide how to engineer similar sizes for even cooking.
We turned the IP on to saute, added the oil, and set about mixing the dry rub.
I gave John the following choices:
- Garlic (powder or minced)
- Thyme (powdered and whole leaf)
- Rosemary (powdered; I was out of whole)
I knew that as long as we had some salt and garlic, the tenderloin would be delish, so he got to sniff to his heart’s content and choose everything else.
I told him to use a teaspoon of salt and a half teaspoon of pepper, and beyond that, he could choose either a teaspoon or half teaspoon of his other herbs.
Because he wanted to use minced garlic, we decided we would add that last so it didn’t muck up the dry rub.
John rubbed the seasoning blend all over the tenderloin pieces, and I lowered them into the hot oil. I taught John to put the seasoning bowl and fork directly into the dishwasher because they had raw meat on them, place the plate in the sink while he washed his hands, and put the plate directly in the dishwasher.
We browned each one for a few minutes per side, flipping once, and meanwhile, John chose the liquid. He had the following options:
- Balsamic vinegar
- Chicken broth
- Red wine
He chose balsamic vinegar, so he measured 1/3 cup and poured it around the pork to deglaze the pan. We added another 2/3 cup water to make the required 1 cup liquid for pressure cooking.
John set our Instant Pot to 1 minute using the manual button, and we prepared our side vegetables and salad veggies.
It turned out that with the smaller pieces of tenderloin we ended up with, we should have set the IP to “zero” minutes, because the meat was all the way up to 172-200F and “perfect” is right about at 145F.
Luckily, pork tenderloin is SO moist and SO forgiving and, well, so TENDER that our cuts didn’t feel tough or chewy in the least. In fact, most of us didn’t even need a knife at the dinner table to cut the meat.
That may or may not be because I have three boys who sometimes eat like Neanderthals and pick up a hunk of meat with their fork, gnawing off each bite with their teeth.
Their sister does not approve!
If an easy, quick, forgiving weeknight meal sounds like your cut of meat, here’s how John and I prepared it.
John’s Instant Pot Pork Tenderloin
Recipe By: Katie Kimball & John | Kids Cook Real Food
USWM Shopping List: Pork Tenderloin
- 1 tsp. oregano
- ½ tsp. powdered thyme
- ½ tsp. powdered rosemary
- 1 tsp. salt
- ½ tsp. black pepper
- 2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
- 2 lb. pork tenderloin
- 1 Tbs. minced garlic (we used it from a jar)
- 1/3 c. balsamic vinegar
- 2/3 c. water
- Make sure your pieces of pork tenderloin are even sizes. Cut if necessary.
- Press “saute” on your Instant Pot and add 2 Tbs. cooking oil.
- While the pot is heating, prepare the dry rub in a small bowl.
- Using your hands, coat all sides of the meat with the rub. Carefully place the pieces of meat into the hot oil.
- After a few minutes, flip the meat over, looking for browning on both sides. Add the minced garlic for just the last minute so it doesn’t burn.
- Once browned, pour the balsamic vinegar around the meat. Use a wooden spoon to stir and get the bits of meat off the bottom. (Be careful because the vinegar creates some fumes, so don’t lean in or you’ll get an eyeful!)
- Pour the water into the Instant Pot, lock the lid and set the valve to “sealing,” and use the “manual” button to set the Instant Pot to 1 minute (or zero minutes if your pieces are smaller than 2 inches thick).
- When the one minute is up, set a timer for 10 minutes for a natural pressure release.
- Open the valve, remove the meat to a plate, and after a few minutes of rest time, slice the meat.
- Optional: There’s a lot of good flavor in the pot, so you can either serve the juices right on the meat or press “saute” again and reduce the balsamic solution until it thickens up.
- Serve with side vegetables, salad, and a smile!
Find more recipes by Katie and past Featured Chefs on the Discover Blog.
Katie Kimball is the voice of healthy kids cooking, working to restore the health of our young generation one kitchen at a time. She’s a cookbook author, Certified Stress Mastery Educator, and regular TV contributor who has shared her journey to real food and natural living for 12 years at Kitchen Stewardship, a blog that helps families stay healthy without going crazy. Along with her 4 children, she created the Kids Cook Real Food eCourse to help other parents teach their kids to cook, build family connection in the kitchen, and supercharge kids’ confidence and creativity. In 2020 the Wall Street Journal recommended Kids Cook Real Food as the best online cooking class for kids. She is actively masterminding the Kids’ Meal Revolution, with a goal of every child being able to cook.