Pork Tenderloin with Charred Tomatillo Salsa

Versatile pork tenderloin has a number of admirable attributes—it’s easy to prepare (just don’t overcook it), it plays well with endless global flavors (from lemongrass to Creole mustard), and feeds a crowd without blowing your budget. But let’s be honest: pork tenderloin will never make your heart race the way a well-marbled rib eye or glistening red snapper does.That is, unless you partner it with a hot grill, wood-fueled fire, and a seductive ally. The lean, mild-tasting meat is made for punchy sidekicks. In this recipe, grilled pork tenderloin is paired with one of my favorite supporting players: a tangy green salsa made from blistered tomatillos, onion, garlic, and serranos, which takes on a complex, caramelized depth from all of the charred and blackened bits. Finishing the sauce with a splash of thickened cream isn’t essential, but it makes everything better, bringing the tart, bitter, and spicy flavors together beautifully.This green salsa can be made up to five days in advance, so it’s a great opportunity to make the most of a lingering fire (from, say, last night’s dinner) and cook ahead—a time-efficient practice that I encourage in my books. Or, you can char the vegetables in a grill basket first, toss them in a food processor, and then puree them into a sauce while the meat rests.Another reason to direct pork tenderloin to the grill? You can use your tongs to roll the meat over the grates for even browning. That means more crispy, delicious exterior—and no panic about flipping, say, a fish fillet or chicken breast without tearing the skin.Serve thinly sliced rounds of pork over a pool of the tomatillo sauce, or pour the salsa over the top. When it’s paired with warm corn tortillas or steaming white rice, I ask you, dear reader, would you call this meal boring? Never.

Pork Tenderloin with Charred Tomatillo Sauce
Photo: Antonis Achilleos
Active Time:
20 mins
Total Time:
1 hrs



  • 2 pork tenderloins

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil 

  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt 

  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


  • 10 tomatillos (about 1 1/4 pounds)

  • 1 small white onion, quartered

  • 2 jalapeño or serrano chiles, seeded, if desired

  • 4 garlic cloves, unpeeled

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 3/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems 

  • 3 tablespoons Mexican crema or sour cream

  • 2 tablespoons fresh oregano leaves


  1. Prepare the pork: Place tenderloins in a baking dish, and drizzle with oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Use your hands to rub oil and seasonings all over meat, and set aside at room temperature.

  2. Prepare a charcoal grill for two-zone cooking, and build a medium-high fire, or heat a gas grill to high. When the coals are glowing red and covered with a layer of fine gray ash, add a few chunks of oak to the fire, and carefully wipe the preheated grates with a lightly oiled paper towel. Using a grill brush, scrape the grill grates clean, then carefully wipe with a lightly oiled paper towel again. Place a grill basket over fire to preheat at least 5 minutes.

  3. Prepare the tomatillo salsa: Combine tomatillos, onion, chiles and garlic in a bowl. Drizzle with oil, and toss to combine. Add vegetables to preheated grill basket. Grill, using tongs to flip and rotate vegetables and basket around heat as needed, until chiles and onions are blistered, about 5 minutes for chiles and 10 minutes for onions; garlic is blackened in spots and feels soft to the touch, about 5 minutes; and tomatillos are charred and their juices begin to bubble, about 10 minutes. Remove each item from heat as it finishes cooking, returning them to same bowl.

  4. Grill the pork: Place pork over direct heat, close grill, and vent for smoking. Grill, using tongs to roll tenderloins every couple of minutes (be sure to close the grill each time to avoid flare-ups), until meat is deeply browned on all sides and cooked to medium (150°F), 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer meat to a cutting board; let rest 8 to 10 minutes.

  5. Make the tomatillo salsa: While meat rests, stem chiles, and peel garlic. Combine chiles, garlic, tomatillos, onion, and salt in a food processor. Pulse until vegetables are coarsely chopped. Add cilantro, crema, and oregano, and puree until smooth. Taste salsa, and adjust seasonings as desired. Slice pork, and serve with salsa.

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