If you aren’t cooking with pork tenderloin, you are missing out! Start with this Baked Pork Tenderloin recipe for dinner tonight. It’s unbelievably juicy, melt-in-your-mouth tender, cooks in 15 minutes, and the light, smoky rub gives it a fantastic crust.
Why You’ll Love This Easy Pork Tenderloin
- Fast. Pork tenderloin is a lean cut of meat, so it cooks quickly. A quick sear followed by 10 minutes in the oven, it’s one of the fastest among my 30-minute meals.
- Versatile. Pork tenderloin is mild, lending itself well to a wide range of flavors. This one has a tasty BBQ-style rub (so it’s great with Homemade Barbecue Sauce), but it’s certainly not the only option. Check out this Instant Pot Pork Tenderloin and this Grilled Pork Tenderloin (and Pork Tenderloin Marinade) for more excellent variations.
- EASY. If you haven’t cooked it before pork tenderloin can sound intimidating, but I actually think it’s one of the easiest types of meat you can cook. Just rub, sear, and bake.
- Healthy. PSA: Chicken is not the only healthy meat! Pork tenderloin is a lean source of protein that’s high in vitamin B and more.
- A Nice Change of Pace. Speaking of chicken, I rely on solid Baked Chicken Breast as much as the next person, but it’s nice to switch it up, especially if you are hosting.
- Good Enough for a Dinner Party. Seriously—while guests might not get excited about chicken, they’ll certainly be pleased with pork tenderloin (try Stuffed Pork Tenderloin next!). Even Queen Ina Garten serves pork tenderloin to guests.
How to Cook Pork Tenderloin in the Oven
Making juicy, tender pork tenderloin in the oven is EASY (or if you prefer to roast pork without your oven, try Air Fryer Pork Tenderloin).
- Pork Tenderloin. Juicy, tender, and forever a crowd-pleaser. Pork tenderloin is a fantastic lean protein option, as it pairs well with many flavors and does well with different cooking techniques (as evidenced by the plethora of options on my site).
- Brown Sugar. Brown sugar is the secret to the pork’s caramelized, “crusty” exterior. It also adds a bit of sweetness to balance the smoky and spicy flavors. I would not recommend using honey or maple syrup here.
- Cumin. Adds warmth and earthiness.
- Dry Mustard. Tangy and savory with a hint of heat.
- Paprika + Chipotle Chile Powder. These two spices both possess the perfect combination of smoky and spicy.
- Trim. Pork tenderloin has a tough membrane called the “silver skin” that needs to be removed.
- Rub. Get the spice mix all over that pork.
- Sear. This gives the pork a nice crust and brings out the rub’s flavors even more.
- Bake. Cook pork tenderloin in the oven for 8 to 10 minutes at 400 degrees F.
- Let Rest. 10 minutes (even 5 is better than none!).
- Slice. We like 1-inch medallions. ENJOY the melt-in-your-mouth goodness!
- To Store. Refrigerate pork in an airtight storage container for up to 3 days.
- To Reheat. Gently reheat leftovers in a small skillet or gently in the microwave.
- To Freeze. Freeze pork in an airtight, freezer-safe storage container for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
Meal Prep Tip
Up to 1 day in advance, trim the pork and coat it in the spice rub. Cover and refrigerate until you’re ready to finish the recipe.
What to Serve with Baked Pork Tenderloin
Here are a few good side dishes to serve with pork tenderloin.
- Potatoes. Baked pork tenderloin and potatoes are a major crowd-pleaser. Try Instant Pot Mashed Potatoes, Garlic Mashed Potatoes, or Mashed Sweet Potatoes.
- Salad. Kale and Brussels Sprouts Salad or Arugula Salad would be perfect.
- Mac and Cheese. A pairing that will delight everyone at your table. Both Instant Pot Mac and Cheese and Gourmet Mac and Cheese would be scrumptious.
- Vegetables. From Roasted Broccoli to Air Fryer Cauliflower to Smashed Brussels Sprouts, vegetables would pair well with this pork.
- Applesauce. A side of Crockpot Applesauce or Instant Pot Applesauce is always a good idea.
Recommended Tools to Make this Recipe
- Cast Iron Skillet. Helps create a perfect sear on the pork tenderloin.
- Instant Read Thermometer. The foolproof way to check your pork for doneness.
- Non-Slip Cutting Board. Stays secure while you’re slicing your tenderloin.
Recipe Tips and Tricks
- Season the Pork Well. Pork tenderloin is bland on its own. Doctoring it up with the below pork tenderloin rub will give it smokiness and depth.
- Sear the Meat First. Taking a few minutes to sear the outside of the pork on the stove prior to putting it in the oven forms a tasty “crust” that locks in juiciness and it also gives the pork an additional dimension of flavor. You’ll feel like a pro!
- Add Gravy. A Ham Gravy would be a delicious addition to this pork recipe!
- DO NOT OVERCOOK THE MEAT. This is the cardinal rule for lean cuts of meat like pork tenderloin. At 400 degrees F, a 1-pound pork tenderloin will cook in 8 to 10 minutes after being seared on the stove. Unlike tough, fatty cuts of meat (like the shoulder used for Slow Cooker Pulled Pork), leaner cuts like pork tenderloin and pork loin do not become more tender the longer they cook.
- Use a Meat Thermometer. This is the best, truest way to know when your pork tenderloin is done. You can use an inexpensive version like this meat thermometer with excellent results. If you are serious about cooking, invest in this one. It is dead accurate and reads temps immediately.
- Let It Rest (and Expect the Temp to Rise). Per the FDA, pork is considered safe to eat at 145 degrees F; however, the pork’s temperature will continue to rise as it rests. Resting is MANDATORY (it lets the juices reincorporate), so pull your pork out a little early. Not letting pork rest and overcooking are the top two reasons why your pork tenderloin is always dry. That stops today with this juicy recipe!
Baked Pork Tenderloin
- 1 pork tenderloin about 1 pound; or double the recipe to cook 2 tenderloins
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar light or dark
- 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon dry mustard powder
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon chipotle chile powder for less heat, substitute regular chili powder
- 1 tablespoon canola oil
- Place a rack in the center of your oven and preheat the oven to 400°F. With a sharp knife, cut away and discard the silver skin (tough membrane) from the pork.
- In a small bowl, combine the paprika, brown sugar, salt, cumin, mustard, black pepper, and chipotle powder in a bowl.
- Heat a cast-iron pan or similar oven-safe, heavy-bottomed pan over medium-high heat. Once the pan is hot, add the oil and let it warm up for another minute or two.
- Coat the pork tenderloin on all sides with the spice rub.
- Once the oil is hot, sear the pork on all sides (be careful to lower the pork into the pan away from you in case of oil splatters). You’ll need about 2 to 3 minutes per side—it can get a bit smoky, so turn on your fan (or open the windows if you don't have one). The pork should have a nice crust but not be all the way cooked through.
- Transfer the pan to the oven. Bake the pork tenderloin until the internal temperature reaches 135°F on an instant read thermometer, about 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a plate, cover, and let rest at least 10 minutes (pork is considered safe to eat at 145°F, but its internal temperature will continue to rise as it rests). Slice the pork into 1-inch medallions. Serve warm, with pan juices spooned over the top.
- If cooking 2 pork tenderloins, brown them one at a time, then nestle them into the skillet together to bake.
- If you can only find a pork tenderloin that is already brined, rinse it off, pat it dry, and omit half of the salt from the rub
- TO STORE: Refrigerate pork in an airtight storage container for up to 3 days.
- TO REHEAT: Gently reheat leftovers in a small skillet or in the microwave.
- TO FREEZE: Freeze pork in an airtight, freezer-safe storage container for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
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Frequently Asked Questions
No, you don’t need to make your pork tenderloin in the oven in foil. Leave the pork uncovered to help facilitate browning.
Lean, boneless cuts of meat like pork tenderloin do best at a high temperature for a shorter amount of time (you would not want to slow cook pork tenderloin in the oven for this reason). In my opinion, it is better to cook a pork tenderloin at 400 degrees F than 350 degrees F. That said, you could bake it a few minutes longer at 375 degrees F if you need to accommodate other dishes in your oven (350 degrees F or below is at your own risk).
While we’re partial to this particular spice rub mixture (it really is the perfect blend of sweet, spicy, earthy, and smoky), you could swap another combination or store-bought spice rub. Just be cognizant of the high sodium levels in most store-bought, pre-made spice mixtures.
If you prefer to not use canola oil, you can swap it for a different high-heat cooking oil. I wouldn’t recommend using olive oil here, but avocado oil would work well.