I like to serve this Roasted Pork Tenderloin with rice, Simple Roasted Potatoes, Crispy Fried Potatoes, or Cream Cheese Mashed Potatoes, and a sautéed green vegetable like asparagus, green beans, or zucchini. And, if I'm feeling especially indulgent, I'll make some homemade dinner rolls which are perfect for sopping up all that delicious red wine cherry sauce.
What's the difference between Pork Tenderloin and Pork Loin?
Pork loin and pork tenderloin are two different cuts of meat that have a lot in common, but are not interchangeable in recipes. The main difference between the two is in how you cook each of these different cuts of pork:
- Pork Loin is best when slow-roasted or grilled
- Pork Tenderloin is best when cooked quickly over fairly high heat
Both pork tenderloin and pork loin are cut from the loin portion of a pig, which is the area between the shoulder and back legs. The area is is the most lean and tender part of the pig. In addition to pork loin and pork tenderloin, rib and loin chops are also cut from this area.
Just to make things extra confusing, pork loin is also called by several other names:
- Center cut pork loin roast
- Center cut pork roast
- Pork center loin roast
- Pork center cut rib roast
- Pork loin center cut
- Pork loin center rib roast
- Pork loin roast center cut
- Pork loin rib half
Pork tenderloin also has other names, but thankfully (!), not as many:
- Pork filet
- Pork tender
Visually, it's easy to tell the difference between pork loin and pork tenderloin. Pork loin is wide and thick enough to cut steaks from it. It can be sold bone-in or boneless and is often tied up with a string.
Pork tenderloin is long, narrow, small, and always boneless. Because pork tenderloin is so lean and tender, it's super easy to cook. BUT - one word of caution - pork tenderloin is also easy to overcook.
Here's how to cook pork tenderloin perfectly every time...
How to Roast Pork Tenderloin
#1. Sprinkle the outside of the tenderloin with salt 30 minutes before cooking.
Salting meat ahead of time almost always improves the texture and the flavor, regardless of the type and cut of meat. Salting pork tenderloin about 30 minutes before cooking it allows the meat to absorb some of the salt, flavoring it from the inside out.
Simply sprinkle the tenderloin on all sides with salt and then let it stand, uncovered, at room temperature for about 30 minutes.
#2. Sear the outside of the pork tenderloin before roasting.
Searing the outside of pork tenderloin in a hot pan caramelizes the natural sugars in the meat and cooks the proteins in a way that actually produces NEW flavors, aromas, and colors. The outside of the tenderloin will form a rich brown crust that builds flavor in the meat itself and amplifies the flavor of the cherry sauce.
#3. Roast pork tenderloin at 400 degrees F (204 degrees C) for about 20 minutes.
Pork tenderloin is one of the quickest cuts of meat to cook. After searing, remove the tenderloin from the pan and make the cherry sauce. Then, add the tenderloin back to the pan, turning it over in the cherry sauce to coat. Let the pork roast in a 400 degree oven for about 20 minutes, and you're done.
How do you know when pork tenderloin is cooked?
Because pork tenderloin is such a lean and tender cut, it's important to not overcook it. The meat should be cooked until the internal temperature reaches 145 degrees F (62 degrees C).
To ensure that your roast is done, it's important to use a meat thermometer. Stick the thermometer in the thickest section of the tenderloin. If the thermometer registers something close to 145 degrees, 135 degrees for example, don't leave it in the oven for long before checking it again!
The entire roast only takes about 20 minutes to cook, so getting the roast from 135 degrees to 145 degrees will only take a few minutes.
At 145 degrees, the inside of your pork tenderloin will be very slightly pink and super juicy.
How much Pork Tenderloin do you need per person?
A typical pork tenderloin weighs between 1 - 1.25 pounds, and is about 12-inches long and 3-inches wide. I feel this is the perfect amount for 2 people.
Because one tenderloin serves two people, this recipe can easily be scaled up to serve more people just by purchasing another tenderloin and doubling the amounts of the rest of the ingredients.
If you wish to prepare this recipe for more than 4 people, I'd suggest roasting the tenderloins in batches. Prepare two at a time, adding them to a serving platter or baking dish along with the cherry sauce as they are cooked through. When you are ready to serve, pop the whole thing back in the oven for a few minutes to warm it back up.
Super Easy Cherry Sauce for Pork
This cherry sauce is my new favorite thing. It's prepared with sweet cherries that have been simmered in red wine, ground cumin, coriander, crushed red pepper flakes, and a touch of dijon mustard. The combination of sweet, savory, sour, and spicy is unbelievably delicious over roasted pork tenderloin.
Even better, the cherry sauce for this pork roast is super easy to prepare and can be made with either fresh or frozen cherries. Here's what you do...
#1. Sauté some chopped onions in the same skillet you browned the pork roast in. When the onions are soft, add some cumin, coriander, and crushed red pepper flakes. Cook the spices for about a minute to toast them and open up their flavor.
#2. Pour in some red wine that's on the dry side - a red blend or cabernet is a good choice. The main thing is that the wine is tasty enough to drink all on its own. You don't need anything super expensive, it just needs to be something that's good enough to drink. Let the wine simmer for a few minutes, until it's reduced by about half.
#3. Stir in a bit of honey and dijon mustard, then a couple cups of pitted sweet cherries. You can use fresh or frozen cherries. If using frozen cherries, there's no need to defrost them before adding them to the sauce. (By the way - if you're using fresh cherries, a cherry pitter is a GODSEND.)
Add the pork tenderloin back into the skillet, turning it around in the cherry sauce, and pop the whole thing in the oven.
#4. When the roast is cooked through, remove it to a platter and allow the cherry sauce to simmer on the stovetop for a few minutes, just until it thickens up a bit.
Remove the sauce from the heat, stir in a pat of butter, then pour it over the pork tenderloin and you're done. Time to EAT!
The recipe makes quite a bit of sauce in proportion to the tenderloin. It'll seem like too much. But, trust me. Every time I've made this dish, we've devoured up every last drop.
What to serve with pork tenderloin
My favorite thing to serve alongside pork tenderloin with cherry sauce is ether a simple pan of rice or potatoes:
All three potato recipes are creamy and delicious piled up on a plate next to sliced pork tenderloin that's been doused in cherry sauce. Be still my beating heart.
I also like to serve a sautéed green vegetable like asparagus, green beans, or zucchini. And, if I'm feeling especially indulgent, I'll make some homemade dinner rolls which are perfect for sopping up all that delicious red wine cherry sauce.
What to do with leftover pork tenderloin and cherry sauce
I'm just going to tell you right now that unless you make extra on purpose, it's extremely unlikely that you'll have any leftover pork tenderloin at the end of the night. But if you do, here are my two favorite ways to use it:
- Make an incredibly delicious open face pork sandwich: Slice the pork very thin and slather it with however much cherry sauce you have left over. Store it in the refrigerator. The next day, pop it in the microwave to reheat it. Toast a thick slice of good quality bread and then load it up with pork and cherry sauce for the BEST open face pork sandwich ever. Top the whole thing with a handful of sliced scallions if you have them or some fresh chopped parsley.
- Take your salad to a whole other level: Cut the leftover pork into small bite-size pieces and toss them over a salad. No need to reheat. Cold pork over salad is delicious! Add as many yummy vegetables to the salad as you can and use a dressing that's on the fruity side - a good quality balsamic vinaigrette is fabulous. If you have them, toss in a few dried cherries and roasted almonds or pecans. And a few shavings of parmesan cheese is always a good idea.
Pork Tenderloin and Cherry Sauce FAQ's
Q: Can I salt the tenderloin earlier than 30 minutes before I plan to cook it?
A: Yes, but keep it to less than 60 minutes. Salting meat in advance flavors the inside of the meat and creates a more tender texture. But, in lean, tender cuts of meat like pork tenderloin, allowing the salt to sit on the meat for too long can create a mushy texture. So, I don't recommend salting pork tenderloin earlier than 60 minutes before you plan to cook it.
In general, plan to salt the tenderloin 30 minutes in advance, allowing it to stand at room temperature. You can get away with salting the meat up to 60 minutes in advance, but the tenderloin should be stored in the refrigerator.
Q: What do I do if I accidentally over cook the pork tenderloin?
A: If you accidentally overcook the meat so that it's quite dry, simply cut it into bite size pieces and stir it into the sauce. This will allow the cherry sauce to soak into the meat a bit, coating every bite, and keeping it from tasting overly dry.
Q: Can I make this recipe with another cut of pork?
A: Absolutely! Pork chops are my favorite substitute for tenderloin. Cook them the same way - sear them in the pan then roast them in the oven with the cherry sauce.
The amount of time it takes for pork chops to cook through depends on how thick they are and if they are boneless or bone-in chops. Thin, boneless pork chops will only take about 20 minutes. Thick boneless pork chops will take approximately 35 minutes, and bone-in chops can take up to an hour.
Use a meat thermometer to determine when the chops are done.
Q: I love this cherry sauce! How else can I use it?
A: This cherry sauce is also fantastic over chicken, duck, or turkey. Either roast the poultry in the sauce just as instructed in this recipe or make the sauce on the stovetop and pour it over the meat right before serving.
- 1 pork tenderloin, approximately 1 to 1.25 lbs
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, vegetable oil, or canola oil
- ⅓ cup (42g) diced yellow onion
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- ½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 ½ cups (354ml) dry red wine
- 2 tbsp dijon mustard
- 2 tbsp honey
- 2 cups (10oz) pitted sweet cherries, fresh or frozen
- 1 tbsp (½oz) butter
- Use a sharp knife to slice the silverskin from the pork tenderloin - a slick looking slivery white stretch of connective tissue that often runs the length of the tenderloin. Pat the pork tenderloin all over with paper towels to dry, then sprinkle generously with salt on all sides. Let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.
- Heat the oven to 400 degrees F (204 degrees C).
- Add the oil to an oven safe skillet and set it over high heat. When the oil is hot and shimmering, add the tenderloin. Let it sear on one side, undisturbed, for about 3 minutes, until brown. Turn the tenderloin in the pan, letting it brown on all sides. Remove the pork to a plate.
- Turn the heat down to medium low and add the chopped onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and just barely begining to brown.
- Add the cumin, coriander, and red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute to toast and open up the flavor of the spices.
- Pour the wine into the pan and turn the heat up to high. Use a wood spoon or heat proof spatula to scrape any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Cook until reduced by half; about 8 min.
- Stir in the mustard and honey, then add the cherries.
- Add the pork back to the pan and turn it around to coat with the cherry sauce. Place the pan in the oven and cook, uncovered, until the inside of the thickest part of the tenderloin registers 145 degrees F (67 degrees C), about 20 minuntes.
- Remove the pork from the pan, and cover it to keep it warm.
- Set the skillet over medium high heat and let the cherry sauce simmer until thickened slightly - about 5 minuntes.
- Remove the pan from the heat and stir in 1 tbsp butter. Pour the sauce over the tenderloin and serve.
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 855Total Fat: 37gSaturated Fat: 9gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 25gCholesterol: 181mgSodium: 589mgCarbohydrates: 50gFiber: 5gSugar: 39gProtein: 62g