Unlocking the flavors of coffee and vibrant citrus in an evening entrée, our Air Fryer Coffee-Citrus Pork Tenderloin recipe promises a culinary experience like no other. This dish beautifully marries the deep richness of coffee with the vibrant notes of orange, offering a unique flavor profile that’s both invigorating and comforting. Prepared effortlessly in the air fryer, it’s not only a flavor masterpiece but also a testament to modern, easy cooking.
What is Coffee-Citrus Rubbed Pork Tenderloin?
Using coffee grounds in a pork rub isn’t about turning your dinner into a coffee-flavored dish. Think of it more as a flavor booster. You’ll get a hint of coffee flavor along with a warm undertone that complements and highlights the meat’s natural flavors. We’ll add to it some simple spices including brown sugar and chili powder to further make it sweet and savory, then top it off with the bright effervescence of citrus by using the zest of an orange to create a flavor like no other.
Equipment and Ingredients
I love recipes that are easy to make and use simple ingredients and this recipe is no exception. We’ll be using an air fryer to make this recipe. Air fryers are great because they cook the pork tenderloin to perfection while giving us a nice crust on the outside that will be loaded with flavor. And the fact that the dish is done in 20 minutes… I love it!
The only special kitchen tool you’ll need is a zester. Sometimes they’re called a lemon zester or microplane grater. These are used to scrape the peel of citrus fruit to create the zest, which can be an awesome ingredient in many delicious dishes. Lemon zest is very popular in a variety of recipes. For this, we’ll be using the zest on an orange.
How to Zest without a Zester
If you don’t have a zester and don’t want to purchase one (I highly recommend having one, they’re great for many uses), you can use a vegetable peeler to peel the outer layer of the orange, then dice up the peel with a sharp kitchen knife. You can also use the small holes on a box grater if you have one.
Our ingredient list will be mostly pantry-friendly ingredients including:
- 2 pork tenderloins
- Ground coffee
- Brown sugar
- Chili powder
- Cocoa powder
- Salt and pepper
- Zest of one orange
- Olive oil
You can use any brand of coffee you like. Darker roasts will add a deeper, more bitter flavor, while lighter roasts will be more subtle. I tend towards the lighter roasts. But any ground coffee you have will be fine. Decaf too.
You’ll notice a couple of ingredients you might not expect: cocoa and cinnamon. Don’t worry, the pork won’t taste like a chocolate cinnamon roll (although a chocolate cinnamon roll sounds really good!). The cocoa and cinnamon work together in harmony with the other ingredients to further deepen the flavor profile. The cinnamon has a warm, slightly spicy character that complements the bitter richness of the coffee. It adds depth and complexity to the rub. Cocoa powder is naturally bitter and aromatic, and it pairs wonderfully with the flavors of roasted coffee grounds. These ingredients also help with the formation of the crust to create a very rich and savory flavor.
The orange zest brings a whole new level of excitement to the already amazing coffee rub. You can almost think of it as icing on a cake. It adds a bright, vibrant but not overpowering flavor which perfectly harmonizes with the coffee rub. The kind of orange you use doesn’t matter either. A regular naval orange is just fine and has a nice thick skin. Juice oranges work just as well. I’ve even used clementine zest when I didn’t have an orange. Worked great!
We’ll start by trimming the pork tenderloin of any extra fat or silver skin. Pork tenderloin is very lean and will only have small amounts of fat, if any, that needs to be trimmed. Additionally, check for silver skin – a thin membrane on some sections. If present, it can be easily removed.
Now mix up all the dry ingredients, except for the orange zest, in a small bowl. Brush the pork tenderloins all over with olive oil and liberally apply the rub. I like to place the tenderloins in a large, gallon-sized zip-top bag, add the oil and push it all around to coat the pork, then dump the seasoning mixture in. Shake, toss, rub it all around and that seasoning will coat every little crevice of the meat nicely.
Now it’s time to add the orange zest on top. The zest can be sticky and moist, so you can use the tines of a fork to pick it up and spread it around. You don’t need to get all the sides, just the top. A little goes a long way so it doesn’t have to cover the entire thing. You just want it “sprinkled” on top.
Don’t get Pithy
When zesting citrus fruit, it’s important only to peel/zest the outermost layer of the peel. The part with the color (in this case orange). That white part of the peel is called the pith. It’s very bitter and doesn’t carry the goodness of the outer layer.
Start by preheating your air fryer at 400°F for 5 minutes (or whatever time it may automatically select for preheating). Once it’s ready, add the pork tenderloins directly to the air fryer basket or tray (depending on your style of air fryer), and set to 400°F on the air fry setting for 17-20 minutes. Smaller tenderloins will be closer to 17 minutes, larger ones closer to 20 minutes. Keep an eye on the internal temperature of the pork, this is really the key. They’re ready when the internal temp reaches 145°F.
There’s no need to flip or turn during cooking.
Let Rest Before Serving
When the pork tenderloins are done, remove them to a platter or cutting board and let rest for at least 5 minutes. This allows the natural fibers of the meat to relax and for the juices to redistribute throughout the meat.
When ready, slice into medallions of about ½ – 1 inch thick.
Goes Great With…
Roasted Carrots: Our Air Fryer Honey Maple Roasted Carrots are an excellent side for any pork dish, especially with one as savory as this. With that citrus flavor on top, the carrots provide a wonderful accompaniment.
Coleslaw: Enjoy the crisp, cool tanginess of fresh Country Coleslaw with your coffee-crusted pork tenderloin. Another excellent compliment of flavors and textures.
Sweet Potatoes: Another root vegetable, our Air Fryer Sweet Potatoes balance nicely with the pork and coffee rub.
Storage and Reheating
Pork tenderloin is great to make ahead and enjoy the next day or for your weekly meal prep. Let it completely cool and store the sliced pork in air-tight containers in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
To reheat in a microwave: place the desired amount of sliced pork tenderloin in a microwave-safe dish and drizzle with a little water to help prevent drying out. Cover and heat in 1-minute increments until heated through.
To reheat in an air fryer: use a low-temperature setting of about 325°F and drizzle each slice with a little oil to prevent drying. Use the air fry setting for 3-4 minutes or until the slices are heated through.
Frequently Asked Questions
It sure can! Follow all the steps for preparation, and place the pork tenderloin on a baking sheet lined with foil. Bake at 425°F for 25-30 minutes or until internal temperature of pork reaches 145°F when measured with an instant-read thermometer.
Absolutely! While the orange zest is a wonderful top note, the coffee rub, by itself, has a wonderfully rich, savory flavor that shines all by itself.