This is one of my absolute favorite "make it once, eat it all week" recipes. Dinner is tender, spice-rubbed pork medallions with some quick-sautéed veggies on the side, and the leftovers become pork sandwiches all week long. And not just any pork sandwiches, but the best pork sandwiches — this thinly sliced pork is light-years beyond anything you'll find at the deli counter.
Need any more convincing? How about the fact that this roasted pork is ready in about 30 minutes flat, which is just enough time to cook a pot of rice and set the table for dinner.
We're big sandwich eaters in my house, so I originally conceived of this recipe as a way to give us a break from our deli counter boredom. The result was so good, we had it for dinner instead. The next time, I doubled the amount of pork so I'd be sure to have leftovers for lunch. To get those deli-thin slices for sandwiches, let the pork cool completely, then refrigerate it for a few hours before using your sharpest knife to slice it as thinly as you can.
If you have time, you might also try brining the pork loin before roasting it. Even just a half hour soak gives the pork more flavor and ensures juiciness after cooking.
I love pork tenderloin. It's usually reasonably priced at the store where I shop, making it affordable for even a simple weeknight meal, and it's hard to screw up. Twenty minutes in a hot oven, flip it once during cooking, done. It's perfectly tender, picks up nice flavor from the spice rub, and perfect for pairing with any number of easy sides, from pan-seared cherry tomatoes to roasted sweet potato wedges.
I love this particular combination of Southwestern spices, but you can definitely get creative with your spice cupboard here. Try garam masala, Chinese 5-spice blend, or ras el hanout! Pork on its own has a fairly mild flavor so I tend toward using strong, bold spices like these, but it can also be lovely with subtler, more herbal-leaning spice blends like herbes de Provence.
Anyway you go about it, you really can't mess up. I'd love to hear your favorite ways to season roast pork — please share!
- Emma, August 2014
Southwestern-Spiced Pork Tenderloin
2 to 2 1/2 pounds pork tenderloin (usually 2 tenderloins)
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly-ground black pepper
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
Preheat the oven to 450°F. Place a cast iron skillet or roasting pan in the oven as it is heating.
Pat the pork dry and cut off any large pieces of surface fat. Mix together all the spices in a small bowl and rub them into the surface of the pork on all sides.
Remove the hot pan from the oven and swirl the oil to coat the bottom. Set the pork in the pan and return the pan to the oven. Roast for ten minutes, then flip the pork to the other side. Reduce the oven temperature to 400°F and continue roasting another 10 to 15 minutes, until the internal temperature of the pork registers 140°F to 145°F in the thickest part of the meat (20 to 25 minutes total).
Transfer the pork to a cutting board, tent with foil, and let it rest for 10 minutes before slicing. For extra-thin slices for sandwiches, cool the pork completely, then refrigerate before cutting.
Leftovers will keep for one week refrigerated.
This post and recipe have been updated. Originally published August 2010.
(Image credits: Emma Christensen)