Forget Taco Tuesday – these pork tenderloin tacos with street corn avocado salsa make a great recipe for any weeknight dinner. The marinade and toppings give them flavor and texture, and they have half the calories of traditional pork carnitas. Your taste buds will throw a fiesta over this taco recipe.
Speaking of a fiesta, what’s a taco without a margarita? Serve this recipe up with these tasty blood orange margaritas, cucumber margaritas, or mango margaritas.
For more Mexican-inspired recipes the entire family will enjoy, try these ground pork tacos or easy Mexican chorizo tacos.
Not to be confused with carnitas, like these Instant Pot carnitas, you make pork tenderloin tacos with sliced pork tenderloin rather than a pork butt or shoulder. Both are equally delicious!
Why You’ll Love This Pork Tenderloin Taco Recipe
- Healthy: This pork tenderloin taco recipe has half the calories of traditional carnitas thanks to the leanness of the pork tenderloin. The cashew crema is dairy-free and vegan and you can substitute the taco shells with grain-free or gluten-free options.
- Flavorful: The crispy, smoky pork, tangy lime, sweet but charred corn, and rich, creamy cashew crema altogether make the ideal bite.
- Filling: All of the fresh ingredients load this dish with protein, healthy fats, and veggies that will keep you plenty satisfied.
Ingredient Notes and Substitutions
Here are the simple ingredients for this pork tenderloin taco recipe. Jump down to the recipe card for exact measurements.
Pork Tenderloin Tacos
- Pork tenderloin: If you don’t have pork tenderloin, chicken has a similar texture and nutritional profile.
- Olive oil: avocado oil another great substitute—it has a high smoke point!
- Lime juice: Squeeze the juice fresh from the lime.
- Honey: The sweetness of the honey and the corn are a nice contrast to the smokey flavors of this dish. Brown sugar can act as a substitute instead.
- Garlic: You can add more or less garlic based on your taste preference.
- Spices: Ground cumin, chili powder, paprika, dried oregano, kosher salt, and onion powder combine for a smoky, delicious pork marinade.
- Corn or flour tortillas: You can also use gluten-free or grain-free tortillas as well.
Corn Salsa and Crema
- Corn: Use grilled or steamed corn (fresh or frozen). If you don’t like corn, try this mago pineapple salsa instead.
- Jalapeno: It adds an extra kick to your salsa, but feel free to skip if you’re not a fan of the heat.
- Red onion: White onion, Mexican pickled onions, or radish can act as substitutes that still give a nice crunch. You can also add more to taste.
- Avocado: The soft texture of the avocado is a great contrast to the crispy pork and the crunch of the red onion and corn.
- Cilantro: This is optional depending on taste, but what’s a taco without cilantro?
- Cashews: Blended cashews creates the creamiest texture.
If you’re not a fan of the cashew crema, try this avocado crema instead. Or drizzle them with this whole30 ranch, or creamy cilantro lime dressing.
Then use any leftovers to top these crispy buffalo cauliflower tacos.
Cooking with Pork Tenderloin
Pork tenderloin is the leanest and most tender cut of pork with very little visible fat. Although it sounds similar, it’s not to be confused with pork loin, which is a thicker cut of meat that doesn’t cook the same way. Here are some tips for cooking with pork tenderloin:
- Because the meat is so lean, it can easily dry out, so a marinade is a great option to keep it moist.
- It also cooks up faster, so quick sauteing or grilling is key. (Not to worry though, the crispier the better when it comes to these tacos.)
- With such a mild taste, it’s a great base for lots of added spices, fresh salsas, or dressings – just like the ones in this recipe!
How to Make Pork Tenderloin Tacos
The full printable recipe is below, but let’s walk through the steps with some photos and a video so you have a clear idea of what to expect. This pork tenderloin taco recipe is really easy and these step-by-step instructions will make sure they turn out every time.
Video: Watch How to Make Pork Tenderloin Tacos
Marinate the Pork Tenderloin
Lay the pork tenderloin lengthwise on the cutting board and slice it into ¼-inch slices with a sharp knife. Take those ¼-inch slices and cut them into ⅛-inch strips. The thinner they are, the quicker they cook and the crispier they’ll be.
Combine all of your marinade ingredients, including the oil, lime juice, honey, garlic, and spices in a large bowl or Ziploc bag, mixing or shaking it all together. Then place the sliced pork tenderloin in the marinade and toss to coat. Allow the pork tenderloin to marinate for 20 minutes or up to 12 hours.
Marinating pork is similar to marinating chicken. Follow these steps for how to marinate chicken for the best results.
Make the Salsa and Crema
As a time saver, prep the salsa and crema while the meat marinates. Add all of your salsa ingredients to a medium bowl and toss to combine. Store the salsa in the refrigerator until you’re ready to serve it.
To make the crema, add the cashews to a microwave-safe bowl and cover them with water. After that, microwave on high for 3 minutes then drain the water from the cashews and rinse them with cold water to bring them back to room temperature.
Add the softened cashews to a high-speed blender or food processor with the freshwater, garlic, salt, onion powder, and lime juice. Blend on high speed for at least 2 minutes until it’s really creamy and smooth.
Heat a bit of olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Once it’s hot and shimmering, add half of the marinated pork, first shaking the pork to remove any excess marinade. Allowing too much moisture from the marinade into the skillet and overcrowding the pan will cause the pork to steam rather than crisp.
Cook the pork slices on both sides for 2-3 minutes, or until they reach an internal temperature of 145°F. The thinner the pork slices, the faster they cook. Use tongs to transfer the first batch to a clean plate or bowl and repeat with the remaining half of the tenderloin.
Warm or char the taco shells by heating an open burner over medium-low heat. Cook the shells for approximately 45 seconds on each side, until they begin to bubble and char around the edges.
Fill them with your delicious seared pork. Top the tacos with corn salsa, drizzle all over with crema, and finish everything off with finely chopped cilantro.
This pork tenderloin taco recipe is a healthier version of the traditional Mexican pork dish, carnitas (try our Instant Pot carnitas!). Spanish for “little meats”, you make carnitas with fattier, heavily marbled cuts of pork like a pork shoulder (which is often called a pork butt).
The meat is braised, shredded, and then roasted to a crispy texture. (Think of it like a Mexican version of Instant Pot pulled pork). It can be served on its own with salsa or as a taco filling.
The best way to shred pork tenderloin would be to first cook it in a crockpot. Cut the meat into cubes and place it in a single layer at the base of the slow cooker. Getting it to the 200-205 degree range will make shredding easier.
What to Serve with Pork Tenderloin Tacos
- Use your leftover cashews to make this delicious vegan cashew queso that requires minimal cooking time. Have it as an appetizer to snack on while you cook.
- Serve your tacos alongside these garlic roasted mini peppers that won’t overfill you, but will round out your meal.
- Mix some of this tasty avocado crema with some shredded cabbage to make an easy slaw.
- Bring out the store-bought refried beans for a no-prep side that pairs perfectly.
Meal Prep and Storing Tips
Meal prep: You can prep the pork tenderloin and marinade the night before to save on meal prep time, but also to allow the smokey flavors to really soak into the meat. Try prepping the salsa ahead of time too. The lime juice will help to keep the avocado fresh for longer.
Storage: Allow leftovers to cool completely then transfer the meat to an airtight container or resealable plastic bag. Store in the fridge for up to 4 days. Pork tenderloin freezes well for up to 3 months. When you're ready to eat it, reheat it thoroughly in the microwave or in a nonstick skillet over medium heat.
Store the leftover salsa in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. I don't recommend freezing this salsa.
The cashew crema will keep for up to one week in the refrigerator. You can freeze it in silicone storage containers for up to 3 months.
Note: I don't recommend storing assembled tacos. Store the ground pork, tortillas, and salsa separately and assemble them when you're ready to eat.
More Mexican-Inspired Dishes
For those busy weeknights, try this one pot taco pasta. If you’re looking for more ways to use your pressure cooker, this instant pot taco soup is a favorite. And a good choice for a healthy dinner would be these taco stuffed sweet potatoes or easy turkey taco stuffed peppers.
Pork Tenderloin Tacos
Pork Tenderloin Tacos
- 1 ½ lbs pork tenderloin thinly sliced into ⅛-inch strips (Note 1)
- ¼ olive oil or avocado oil
- Juice from 2 limes (⅓ cup lime juice)
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 3 cloves minced garlic
- 2 teaspoons EACH: ground cumin, chili powder
- 1 teaspoon EACH: paprika, dried oregano, kosher salt
- 12 corn or flour tortillas more if double wrapping
Street Corn Avocado Salsa
- 2 cups grilled or steamed corn fresh or frozen
- ½ jalapeno seeded and minced
- ¼ cup finely diced red onion
- 1 large avocado diced
- 1 clove minced garlic
- Juice from 1 lime (2 tablespoons)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- ½ cup finely chopped cilantro
- ¼ teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup raw unsalted cashews plus water for soaking
- ⅔ cup fresh cold water
- Juice from 1 lime (2 tablespoons)
- 1 clove garlic
- ½ teaspoon EACH: onion powder and kosher salt
- Large skillet
- High speed blender or food processor
- Add all of the marinade ingredients, including the oil, lime juice, honey, garlic and spices to a bowl or ziplock bag and mix or shake to combine. Place the sliced pork tenderloin in the marinade and toss to coat. Marinate for 20 minutes or up to 12 hours. You can prep the salsa and crema while you wait to maximize time.
- To make the salsa, add all of the ingredients to a medium bowl and toss to combine. Store in the refrigerator until you’re ready to serve.
- To make the crema, add the cashews to a microwave-safe bowl and cover them with water. Microwave on high for 3 minutes then drain the water from the cashews and rinse them with cold water to bring their temperature down. Add the softened cashews to a high-speed blender or food processor with the fresh water, garlic, salt, onion powder, and lime juice. Blend on high speed for at least 2 minutes until it’s really creamy and smooth, with no visible lumps from the cashews. Transfer it to a bowl and store in the fridge while you finish the tacos.
- Heat a bit of olive oil in the bottom of a heavy bottom skillet or cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Once it’s hot and shimmering, add half of the marinated pork, shaking the pork to remove excess marinade. Too much moisture from the marinade and overcrowding the pan will cause the pork to steam rather than crisp. Cook the pork slices on both sides for 2-3 minutes, or until it reaches an internal temperature of 145°F. The thinner the pork slices, the faster it cooks. Transfer the first batch to a clean plate or bowl and repeat with the remaining half of the tenderloin.
- Warm or char the taco shells (Note 2) then fill with seared pork. Top the tacos with the corn salsa, drizzle with crema and finish with finely chopped cilantro.
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