Sheet Pan

Crock-Pot Brown Sugar & Balsamic–Glazed Pork Tenderloin

July  3, 2013
77 Ratings
Photo by Rocky Luten
Author Notes

This recipe is from: Laura's Sweet Spot. —Melissa Bossler

Test Kitchen Notes

We try to be very thoughtful about featuring recipes (by naming them "Community Picks" or "Wildcard Winners") that weren't developed by the poster—or we're careful to attribute clearly and with the original recipe-writer's permission. The recipe clearly wasn't Melissa's, since she links to her source. And then, upon closer inspection, we realized that the recipe isn't original to the blog Melissa credits, either. We decided it would only be fair to feature the recipe on Food52 with the original recipe-writer's permission, and because that recipe-writer remained a watery figure somewhere off in the internet-distance, we never did.

But let's back up a few steps: The recipe wasn't original to Melissa Bossler or the blog she credits, Laura's Sweet Spot. Laura links out to a user-submitted recipe on the website BigOven, where it has 4 1/2 stars and has been saved over 2000 times. The only difference between the recipe on Laura's Sweet Spot and the recipe on BigOven is that the BigOven iteration is made with a pork loin, not a pork tenderloin. This is an easy mistake to make, writes our butcher friend Cara Nicoletti—and, as it turns out, a crucial one. Pork tenderloin has very little fat; the fat on a pork loin is necessary to keep the meat from drying out during its long cook time.

But people do make it, and overall, the comments on the recipe are hugely positive: "Just perfect." "Even the picky eaters loved it!!!" "One of the best things to ever come out of my crock pot." "SOOO tender!"

Our Creative Director, Kristen Miglore, attributes its success to the brown sugar-balsamic glaze, which is shiny and thick and sweet-salty. "You could put this on anything," she told me.

The rabbit hole goes on and on: A quick search using the same recipe name "Crockpot Brown Sugar Balsamic Glazed Pork Tenderloin" on Google gave me a string of recipes and blog posts 354,000-links long. The same search on Pinterest produces what seems to be a zillion results—many of them with different photos, each cook's own adaptation of another recipe. Sometimes that recipe is exactly the same as the one posted on BigOven and sometimes it's got a few variations: Maple syrup and honey appear in place of the brown sugar; blueberries make an appearance. Sometimes the meat is shredded for sandwiches. The loin becomes chops and ribs and, as on Laura's blog and on Food52, tenderloin.

In 2019, Test Kitchen Director Josh Cohen and Senior Editor Eric Kim decided to test a version of this recipe with half the cook time (2 to 3 hours), or until the pork reached exactly 145°F, and loved how tender it tasted once carved and slathered with the sticky glaze.

Featured in: This Is Our Most-Popular Recipe of All Time...but Why? —The Editors

  • Prep time 15 minutes
  • Cook time 8 hours
  • Serves 6
Ingredients
  • 1 teaspoon ground sage
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 pounds pork tenderloin
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
In This Recipe
Directions
  1. Mix together the seasonings: sage, salt, pepper and garlic, and rub over the tenderloin.
  2. Place 1/2 cup water in slow cooker, followed by the tenderloin, and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours.
  3. 1 hour before the roast is finished, mix together the ingredients for the glaze in a small saucepan: brown sugar, cornstarch, balsamic vinegar, water, and soy sauce.
  4. Heat over medium and stir until mixture thickens, about 4 minutes.
  5. Brush roast with glaze 2 or 3 times during the last hour of cooking. (For a more caramelized crust, remove from crock pot and place on aluminum lined sheet pan, glaze, and set under broiler for 1 to 2 minutes, until bubbly and caramelized. Repeat 2 to 3 more times until desired crust is achieved.)
  6. Serve with remaining glaze on the side.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Julia Manning
    Julia Manning
  • juliunruly
    juliunruly
  • Little Piggy
    Little Piggy
  • Caitlin Raux Gunther
    Caitlin Raux Gunther
  • leigh frat
    leigh frat

161 Reviews

Julia M. January 3, 2021
About 2 hours into this recipe, the pork looked like a dead, grey fish. So I ditched the crock pot, put the pork in my Instapot with the glaze ingredients (doubled) and pressure cooked on high for 45 minutes. PERFECTION and turned it into pulled pork which is really what we wanted in the first place. AHHHHmazing! Highly recommend doing this in the Instapot from the beginning. Probably the best pulled pork I have ever made and because it's done with a tenderloin, it is lean lean, lean!
 
Vermicmpstr January 1, 2021
I saw a revised/updated recipe from Food52 using a pork butt roast. That makes much more sense than using a tenderloin. I don't know why you'd ever use a slow cooker for a tenderloin, cooking for hours when it's a tender cut of meat. A pork butt works perfectly.
 
Seaview1 January 1, 2021
I haven’t seen the revised recipe, but have made it for years with pork tenderloins. The original I have from Laura’s Sweetspot does not have it cooking for 6-8 hours. A hour and half - two hours it comes out tender. I usually have tenderloins around as a staple the only difference is the vessel you cook it in.In the introduction to the recipe listed above they said they shortened the cooking time to 2-3. Which unless you have a weak slow cooker is still too long.
 
Seaview1 July 29, 2020
To add to the history. I have made this for years, pinned from Laura’s blog spot. At some point, when I clicked on the pin the recipe was still there but she became vegan and invited you over to her new blog. Now when I click on my original pin the recipe comes up but it’s says moveable feast? Though it shows her picture and name below. She did credit where the original recipe came from but her difference was removing the tenderloin and glazing under the broiler. She specifically said it makes a huge difference. It does and that’s how it will come out, crusty on the outside doing it that way. The cook time was always too long and I learned to adjust that after the first time. It is excellent, tasty. We usually go the route of using it as pulled pork. It’s 5 star whoever is getting credit. The glaze can take longer to thicken, but I find as in most recipes the timeline is a guide, not a exact science.
 
Karl R. March 10, 2020
Such a shame that readers have to interpret the notes to create a useable recipe. I followed the recipe as written, using pork tenderloin and setting my slowcooker on low for 6 hrs (the low end of what is in the recipe). Checking at 4 1/2 hrs the meat was ruined at 176F!
Food52 should either change the cook time to 2-3 hrs (as buried in the 6th paragraph of the notes!), or change the meat to a pork loin.

I'm very disappointed!
 
cass December 9, 2019
Failure. Used pork tenderloin and cooked half the time in slow cooker. It was dry and tasteless!
 
juliunruly November 18, 2019
This was fine, but it came out nothing like a plump, juicy piece of pork like every other tenderloin I've ever cooked—and like what the photo shows. It was falling apart and shredding. Still fine, but probably wouldn't make again. As one reviewer below said, it managed to be tender and dry at the same time.
 
adavis September 25, 2019
Perfect as is! So tender with a glaze that is not too sweet! Takes a bit longer than 4 minutes to thicken glaze if you have an electric stovetop.
 
amanda L. September 20, 2019
In the video they use oregano, and olive oil for the dry rub paste...not in the ingredient list though. Just a FYI. Trying this tonight.
 
Little P. September 13, 2019
I finally made this last night and thought it was delicious! I chose to do the shorter method. Total cook time was less than 3 hours. At the last hour I prepared the glaze as suggested. I temped the pork and it was already way over 145 only 2 hours in. (so I was afraid it would be WAY dry but it was not) I just removed the pork at that time and let it sit for a few minutes while I preheated the broiler. I brushed the pork with glaze a few times while under the broiler. I never really got the crispy bits that I was hoping for because you can't really leave the pork under the broiler too long as the sugars in the glaze burn easily. I served it with smashed potatoes and sautéed spinach and my husband was in heaven. I will definitely make it again. OH.. and, even with the soy sauce I think the glaze lacked salt so I will add some next time.
 
Caitlin R. September 12, 2019
Um, guys, I don't have a crockpot, but I tried this anyway in a normal (non-cast-iron) pot, with a lid, on low heat for like 4.5 hours, eyeballed all the ingredients, accidentally allowed the internal temp to go WAY past 145 degrees F, and it was STILL DELICIOUS. (Maybe the slightest bit dry inside, but I prefer pork that way anyway.) I turned up the heat at the very end so that the last bits of sauce would get thick and a little crispy/clingy around the meat. Everyone at dinner was asking — but what's in the sauce!?!? WILL do again.
 
Dawn September 11, 2019
I was skeptical about this recipe as 6 hours seems like too much time to cook a cut of pork that is so lean but thought I’d try anyway. As suspected, I found it way over cooked and extremely dry; however, we all loved the glaze. Next time, I’ll seer the pork and then roast at 375 for about 7 min. And then broil/glaze for just a couple of minutes. Until done but still tender & juicy. Rest 5 min then carve.
 
caroline0ne September 11, 2019
Thank you. I like your approach and will try it as you suggest. Seven minutes is a far cry from six hours.👍🏼
 
Fran M. December 10, 2019
I have been cooking my pork tenderloin this way for many years. Delicious.
 
caroline0ne September 8, 2019
I would like to try this in the oven as I no longer have a crock pot; but all I see in the comments is to roast it at 350* and remove it a half hour before it is done. Any idea how long to roast it. Am also wondering about trying it with the St. Louis style ribs I just bought. Does anyone use their oven?
 
Dawn September 11, 2019
Hi Caroline! I just cooked this tonight and would not use a slow cooker next time. Just posted my thoughts. If you cook it in the oven, use a meat thermometer to guide your time. I like mine tenderloin a little pink but most people cook lol until 145 degrees.
 
leigh F. September 3, 2019
I don't get the big deal about this recipe. It is easy. I cooked it less, but don't think I'll make again.
 
Ellen S. September 1, 2019
My family loved this recipe. I served it with pappardelle and it was wonderful with the glaze. My husband said it is one of his favorite meals I have cooked.
 
bekah August 27, 2019
This is too legit to miss. I had two 1ish-pound tenderloins from Costco that I threw in the crock pot this morning and let ride for 6 hours before I remembered the glaze. Did that whole deal and it was magic. Just tender, shreddable, balsamicaramelized goodness with a sauce my husband couldn’t quit dipping bread in. My 1-yr-old, who shares most of what I give her with our dog, had thirds. So there.
 
Andrew M. August 27, 2019
Okay, the pork is good. I make it as a group dinner, but one this year had a vegetarian to cook for.

I’m here to tell y’all you’re being duped.

The best thing for this glaze (sans the cornstarch) is eggplant. Dice it, pan fry in a tablespoon or two of oil until crispy (red pepper flakes in the oil for a little heat is never remiss). Don’t salt the eggplant prior, let the heat take care of the moisture — think mushrooms. Salt after they’ve been in the pan for a bit and absorbed all the oil. Once they’re good and charred, couple spoons of glaze. Remove from heat, stir until sticky thick.
Pile on toasted ciabatta, slather of spicy mayo (sriracha and mayo forever), maybe a pickled onion if you have them.
 
Dawn September 11, 2019
The eggplant is a brilliant idea. Can’t wait to try
 
Tallulah13 October 8, 2019
I made this eggplant variation tonight & it was amazing. Thanks for the recommendation!
 
John December 29, 2019
Made once I'll it make again. I first seasoned the meat seared it before adding to the crock pot .sliced up 2 granny smiths and hand full of dried cranberries threw that in then topped with half the glaze .cooked on low 3 hours . Then i put in the oven on low broil brushed with remaining glaze .came out tender and moist . ( hint I peeled the apples )
 
Debbie R. August 26, 2019
Liked the idea and flavor profile as good, but overall method failed in my book. I really didn't like the texture the glaze with the cornstarch - yes it clings to meat better, but as a sauce it's just odd. Meat was very tender but at same time very dry. Might be better too sear the tenderloin first then slow cook directly in the sauce w/o the cornstarch. Not sure that will help the dryness, but will help the sauce, overall presentation, and flavor penetration.
 
Selma M. August 27, 2019
The last paragraph stated, "In 2019, Test Kitchen Director Josh Cohen and Senior Editor Eric Kim decided to test a version of this recipe with half the cook time (2 to 3 hours), or until the pork reached exactly 145°F, and loved how tender it tasted once carved and slathered with the sticky glaze. "
 
Debbie R. August 27, 2019
Sounds like you're fan. Great! Just doesn't knock my socks off.
 
Eric K. September 3, 2019
Thanks Selma! Yup, I highly recommend the 2-3 hour method. But people do seem to love the slow-cooked flavor and shredded texture as well. Also, there's something to be said for truly being able to set it and forget it. To each their own, I think.
 
m2hunter September 3, 2019
if you cut the cook time by that much, did you up the temp of the slow cooker to high - or is that still on low? Thanks!
 
Little P. September 3, 2019
Cool. I would try it that way next time. Still cook on low in the slow cooker just shorten the time to 3 hours? Thanks!
 
Eric K. September 3, 2019
Yup, low! All Crockpots are different though so check the pork’s internal temperature.
 
Little P. August 26, 2019
It doesn't specify whether to use light or dark brown sugar????? I want to make this today can someone let me know asap?? Thank you!
 
Henry S. August 26, 2019
I used dark, it has more zip.
 
Eric K. September 3, 2019
Dark is wetter too! But both would work fine here.
 
Little P. September 3, 2019
Thanks!
 
Redpine August 8, 2019
After cooking could it be frozen and rethawed?
 
Stevie June 25, 2019
I was concerned that the pork would be dry because it cooked on low for over 8 hours, but it was moist and flavorful (although shredding). Agree that it would be best glazed in the oven, but my pork was too delicate to get it from the slow cooker to a sheet pan.