Cocoa-Rubbed Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Cherry Salsa

Cherries can be such teases. I mean, who do they think they are, tasting so amazing but coming in season for such a teeny sliver of a moment?

They are the only fruit that lead me to excess. When cherries are at their prime, I go on a hunt, stalking them from market to market in search of the best ones. And then I horde them — in a bowl in the fridge until they’re chilled to the core and perfect for snacking.

And then I eat and eat until I can’t eat anymore. I know that this will lead to a stomachache or a sugar high or both, but there’s no hope for me when it comes to cherries. Please tell me you relate and I’m not the only who manically stuffs her face like a chipmunk.


But then I love that cherries are a reminder of seasonality and how something at its prime really is at its prime and far superior in taste that any other moment in the year. So, I take what I can get — be they Bing, Chelan, Lambert, or Rainier — and use them in as many recipes as possible, provided of course I haven’t eaten them all first.

This spicy cherry salsa is a favorite around here because it’s sweet, spicy, tart, and herby and can be made in approximately two and a half milliseconds. No, really, it’s fast (so long as you have a cherry pitter, of course). And though cocoa-rubbed pork is as 90s a trend as the Backstreet Boys, it’s really a perfect pairing here. The earthy cocoa flavors, the spice of the chiles, the sweetness of the cherries, this recipe is a serious seasonal winner.


Cocoa-Rubbed Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Cherry Salsa

  • Makes: 6 servings
  • Total Time: 2 hours 25 mins (or longer for marinating)
  • Hands-On Time: 25 mins


For the cherry salsa:

  • 2 cups sweet cherries, pitted and halved (about 12 ounces)
  • 1 jalapeño, stemmed and finely chopped (about 3 tablespoons)
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped (1/4 cup)
  • 1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
  • 1/4 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For the pork:

  • 1 (1 1/2 pound) pork tenderloin
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon red chile powder
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


For the cherry salsa:

Toss all ingredients together in a large nonreactive bowl. Cover and chill for at least 30 minutes before serving. (Can be made up to 1 day in advance. Stir in basil leaves just before serving.)

For the pork:

To butterfly the pork, place the tenderloin on a cutting board with one end pointing toward you. Slice lengthwise down the center, almost but not quite cutting through the tenderloin, leaving about 1/4- to 1/2-inch thickness of meat intact. Open like a book and push on it to flatten.

Starting on the left side, with the blade of the knife parallel to the cutting board and the blade facing left, slice down the length of the seam, maintaining the 1/4- to 1/2-inch thickness. Pull the meat open and press down to flatten. Continue cutting and flattening until the entire left half is 1/4- to 1/2-inch thickness. Rotate the tenderloin and repeat on the other half.

Combine everything except the pork in a small mixing bowl until well combined then coat the pork all over with the mixture. Cover and chill for at least 2 hours. When ready to grill , remove from the fridge and set aside at least 20 minutes at room temperature before grilling. (Can be rubbed up to 24 hours ahead. Cover and store refrigerated until ready to use.)

Heat an outdoor grill to high (about 450°F to 550°F) and rub the grill grates with a towel dipped in vegetable oil. Place the pork on the grill, and cover the grill. Cook, flipping once, until grill marks appear and the pork registers 140°F on an instant-read thermometer, about 10 minutes total.

Remove to a cutting board, tent with foil, and let rest a few minutes. Slice thinly and serve with cherry salsa.

Beef // Lamb // Pork Recipes