Pork Tenderloin vs. Chicken Breast: Differences & Which One to Use?

Pork Tenderloin vs. Chicken Breast

When it comes to buying meat, there are so many different options to choose from. Chicken breast and pork tenderloin are two of the most popular choices for lean meat. But do they provide the same level of nutrition? What are the differences between pork tenderloin and chicken breasts, and which is a better choice?

Pork tenderloins usually taste saltier and fattier, while chicken breasts are sweeter and tender. Tenderloins have fewer calories and cholesterol than chicken breasts. Conversely, chicken breasts offer more protein in the same amount of servings.

In this article, we will take a detailed look at these two types of meat. We will compare their nutritional value, effect on health, taste, appearance, use, price, etc. Plus, we will look at some scenarios where you can perhaps substitute one meat for the other.

Pork Tenderloin vs. Chicken Breast: Differences

Aside from the obvious fact that they come from two different animals, pork tenderloin and chicken breast have plenty of noteworthy distinctions. 

Here is a cheat sheet to help you out.

For this comparison, we will first compare the nutritional data for pork tenderloin and chicken breast, as provided by the USDA. [1] [2] Note that this comparison is between 100 grams of samples of each meat:

Nutrition Chicken Breast (skinless)Pork Tenderloin
Calories 165 kcal143 kcal
Total carbohydrates0 g0 g
Total fat3.24 g3.51 g
– Unsaturated fat2.23 g2.31 g
– Saturated fat1.01 g1.2 g
Protein 32.1 g26.2 g
Cholesterol116 mg73 mg
Sodium47 mg57 mg
Calcium 6 mg 6 mg
Iron0.5 mg1.15 mg
Zinc 0.9 mg2.42 mg
Vitamin B60.9 mg0.74 mg
Phosphorus241 mg267 mg
Magnesium32 mg29 mg
Niacin9.45 mg7.43 mg

Now, let’s see their differences in detail.

Nutrition

It is apparent from the chart that both chicken breast and pork tenderloin qualify as lean meat since they both contain less than 10 grams of fat per 100 grams of meat. And their total fat amount is pretty much identical. Both types of meat are also completely free of carbohydrates. 

However, chicken breast has more calories than pork tenderloin. This is mainly because chicken breast contains significantly more protein than the same portion of pork tenderloin. Pound per pound, chicken breast can have about 23% more protein than tenderloins.

Similarly, chicken breast has the advantage over pork tenderloins in vitamin B6, niacin, and magnesium. These are all valuable nutrients for our bodies.

On the other hand, pork tenderloin is a better source of dietary iron and zinc, both of which are essential for normal bodily functions. Moreover, tenderloins tend to have less cholesterol than chicken breast. This part is especially relevant for people suffering from high blood pressure and other macro-vascular diseases.

Difference Between Skinless and Skin-on Chicken Breast

It is important to note that, in the previous section, we examined 100 grams of skinless chicken breast. Whether or not the breast has skin attached will drastically alter its nutritional value.

A single average chicken breast with its skin on has a calorie count of 386. In contrast, that same chicken breast with its skin removed will have about 284 calories. So, that is a difference of 100 calories, which is a very big difference. 

The skin on a chicken is mostly fat. And fat generates more energy by mass than protein. When you include the skin with your breast, the calorie level and fat content will dramatically increase. A chicken breast with its skin is not considered lean meat, as the fat content is too high.

Protein Quality

Consider pork tenderloins and chicken breasts a complete source of proteins, comprising all essential amino acids. However, in terms of quantity, chicken breast has nearly 20% more protein than pork tenderloins. In a 100 grams serving of both types of meat, you will get 6 grams more protein from the breasts than the tenderloins.

Health Effects

The quality of your meat has a huge bearing on your health and wellness. Ideally, the meat you eat should be rich in protein and low in fat and carbohydrates.

Chicken breast has a higher protein count than pork tenderloins. This is relevant for people who are looking to build more muscles. This is because muscles are mostly water and protein. And since chicken breasts are relatively low in calories, they are excellent for building your muscles without overloading calories.

Speaking of calories, that is another important factor to consider when choosing meat. Chicken breast has more calories than tenderloins. And the difference is not insignificant. Per 100 grams, you will get 15-20 calories more from the breasts. So, you must keep that in mind, especially if you are looking to cut back on your calorie intake.

Apart from protein and calories, there are other nutrients worth mentioning here. For example, chicken breasts are an excellent source of vitamin B6 (30% of RDA), niacin, and phosphorus. They also possess a good amount of magnesium (7% of RDA). These vitamins and minerals are essential for the body.

On the other hand, pork tenderloins are rich in zinc, cobalamin (10% of RDA), potassium (12%), and iron. They, too, have a good amount of vitamin B6 and niacin in them. 

Taste

Pork and chicken share many of the same cooking methods and recipes. But the taste is not identical. In general, pork tastes noticeably saltier and fattier. This happens mostly because pork meat is softened and cured in brine or salt. In contrast, chicken breast is much more tender and sweeter. 

Of course, how you cook the meat, and the ingredients you pair it with will determine a lot of the flavor. 

Appearance

Pork tenderloin is a thick, long piece of meat with very minimal visible fat. This is one way you can identify tenderloin from the loin meat. Pork loins have a thin, pale-colored strip of fat on the top of the muscle, which is absent in tenderloins. It has got a brownish-red complexion that is darker than a cut of beef.

On the other hand, chicken breast has a light pinkish complexion. Since chicken breasts are white meat, they are noticeably paler compared to the thighs and drums. It has a softer texture than pork tenderloins.

Preparation

You can pan-sear the tenderloins to add them in stir-frys. You can also grill them and serve them with a side of roasted potatoes or salad. Pork tenderloins have very little fat as it is a lean cut. So, the cooking time is lower than other cuts of pork. The tenderloins have a safe temperature of around 145 °F.

You can cook chicken breast by grilling, frying, or roasting them. Chicken breasts are often deep-fried to make chicken fries, something you do not often see with pork tenderloins. Alternatively, you can sear the breasts in a pan or oven-roast them. The safe temperature for cooking chicken breasts is around 165 °F. 

Price

The price of chicken breasts will vary drastically depending on whether or not the bone and skin are still attached. On average, one pound of chicken breast, with its skin and bones attached, will cost you around $1.8. In contrast, a pound of boneless chicken breast can cost you $3.50 to over $4. So, more than twice the price.

Compared to chicken breast, pork tenderloins are almost always more expensive. The price will vary dramatically based on where you are getting it from. One pound of pork tenderloin can cost anywhere between $4.50 and $8. Once again, tenderloins with their bones attached will be cheaper than those without.

Risks

Despite pork tenderloins and chicken breast being lean cuts of meat, there are still factors you need to consider regarding adverse effects on health.

A lot of pork tenderloin comes cured or brined in salt water, making them very high in sodium. [3] So, if you are someone who has to keep their salt intake to a minimum, this may be a problem. High sodium intake is often associated with high blood pressure. 

Chicken breasts are a lean cut of meat and a rich source of protein. But this trait is undesirable in some cases. [4] For example, if you are suffering from chronic kidney disease, you need to be wary of the amount of protein you intake, especially in one sitting. 

In both cases, it is best to consult with a physician about your daily allowance of salt and protein, particularly if you are already suffering from any of the aforementioned clinical conditions. This will inform you which meat you can eat and how much of it.

Features Chicken BreastPork Tenderloin
Calories 165 calories per 100 grams143 calories per 100 grams
Protein QualityHigh; 32 g per 100 g servingHigh; 26 g per 100 g serving.
Taste Tender and sweetSlightly saltier
Price CheaperMore expensive
Preparation Grilled, fried, or roastedStir-fry, roasted, grilled.
AppearancePale and pinkishDark pink to brownish.
Safe cooking temperature165 °F145 °F

Pork Tenderloin vs. Chicken Breast: Which Is Better?

In terms of nutrition, chicken breast offers you more protein and calories per serving. But it also contains significantly more cholesterol. Pork tenderloins, on the other hand, have fewer calories and cholesterol. 

So, if you are looking for a rich source of protein that is low in calories and cholesterol, tenderloins are the better option. But if you have to keep your salt or sodium intake to a minimum, go with a chicken breast.

Taste is a lot more subjective and will depend heavily on what you are looking for in the meat. If you want a sweeter taste, chicken breasts are always the better choice. But if you want something saltier, pork tenderloins are an ideal choice. 

Pork Tenderloin vs. Chicken Breast

Is Chicken Healthier than Pork?

The nutritional value can change drastically depending on which part of the animal the meat is coming from. For example, chicken breasts and thighs have different calories, protein, and fat levels per 100 grams of serving.

On average, pork is significantly higher in calories and cholesterol. However, some cuts of pork have fewer calories than chicken, such as the tenderloin. 

Apart from protein, chicken breasts are a great source of vitamin B6, niacin, phosphorus, selenium, calcium, and magnesium. Pork is a much better source of zinc, iron, and sodium.

Overall, in terms of calories and cholesterol, chicken meat is superior to most cuts of pork, especially if the pork is converted to bacon.

Is Pork or Chicken Better for Weight Loss?

When it comes to weight loss, choosing the right cut of meat is far more important than the animal it is coming from. The meat has to be high in protein while simultaneously low in carbohydrates and calories. 

In this regard, chicken is better since it has fewer calories than many popular cuts of pork. But within a chicken, a skinless breast is the leanest cut. So, if you want to eat chicken and lose weight simultaneously, you should eat skinless chicken breasts, preferably with other low-calorie foods.

Pork, especially in the form of ham or bacon, is abundant in cholesterol and calories. The excess calories are not good for keeping your body weight low. But even in pork, lean cuts can have fewer calories than chicken. The tenderloins are great examples of lean cuts of pork.

Can You Substitute Pork Tenderloin for Chicken?

You can substitute pork tenderloin for chicken in certain dishes. For example, you can substitute burger patties made from tenderloins with chicken patties. Of course, the taste will not be identical, but the dish will still be delicious. 

You must be mindful of the cooking temperature when replacing the tenderloins with a whole chicken breast in roasted or grilled dishes. The safe temperature for breast meat is 20 degrees higher than the tenderloins.

Can You Substitute Chicken for Pork Tenderloin?

Alternatively, you can replace the chicken in your dish with pork tenderloins, such as stir-fry or meatballs. Keep in mind that pork tends to be saltier than chicken breasts. So, you have to adjust the seasoning of your dish accordingly.

To conclude, chicken breasts and pork tenderloins are great options for lean cuts of meat. They are ideal protein for weight loss, versatile, packed with nutrients, and most importantly, delicious when cooked properly.

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