31 Days of Healthy Deliciousness, Day 6: Jamaican Jerk Pork Tenderloin with Pineapple Salsa

We have an arsenal of recipes that have been created as a direct result of our regionally-imposed vitamin D deficiency, and they never fail to lift our spirits or bring a little sunshine into our lives, especially in January. Today’s Jamaican Jerk Pork Tenderloin with Pineapple Salsa is no exception. With much of the prep work done in advance, this pork dish makes for an easy, delicious and healthy weeknight dinner.

Take me straight to the recipe.

Pork tenderloin is our go-to meat for a lean, versatile and easy to cook protein.

With just four grams of fat and about 165 calories per four-ounce serving, pork tenderloin is an excellent choice for a healthy diet. We love the versatility of this “other white meat” which can be served in thickly-sliced medallions or as thinly pounded cutlets, also called scallopini.

We start with a whole pork tenderloin which we cut into half-inch pieces. We then use the scaloppine technique to pound the pork into tender cutlets about a quarter-inch in thickness (see instructions below).


Jamaican flavors bring the heat to this tropical pork dish.

Tony and I visited Jamaica numerous times in our former cruise-ship careers, where roadside jerk stands are ever-present, each one offering their own unique version of Jamaican Jerk specialties.

Jerk is a style of cooking native to Jamaica, which involves cooking pork or chicken in a dry rub or wet marinade with a mixture of hot spices known as Jamaican Jerk Spice. While the methods of preparation vary widely, most experts agree that there are three key ingredients to an authentic Jamaican Jerk recipe: allspice, thyme and the super-hot Scotch Bonnet pepper.

Marinating the pork cutlets makes them tender and flavorful.

We use a wet marinade to infuse the pork with Jamaican flavors, and for maximum flavor it’s best to marinate the cutlets for a minimum of two hours. Overnight is even better, which means all you’ll have to do is prepare the pineapple salsa (which can also be done in advance), grill the cutlets and serve.

Skip the Scotch Bonnet and use chili paste, instead. Your tongue will thank you.

Jamaican Jerk is distinctive in its flavor, with various spices blending together to create a dish both savory and sweet. Traditionally, a Jamaican jerk sauce has a strong spicy kick but, for our purposes, we’ve adapted this recipe to make it more family-friendly by substituting Sambal chili paste for the Scotch Bonnet pepper.

This change reduces the spicy heat quite a bit and provides a welcome acidity to the mix, thus making the recipe better suited for a wide variety of people.

A quick turn on the grill ensures that this pork entree is lean and delicious.

The last step is to grill the meat, and in the winter months we use a grill pan on our stovetop which works just fine. If you don’t have a grill pan, you can sauté the cutlets in a frying pan with a little olive oil for about 5 minutes on each side. Because the cutlets are pounded thin, they’ll cook quickly.

Pineapple Salsa

Pineapple salsa brings a welcome burst of tropical sunshine to this pork tenderloin.

Once the cutlets are grilled, arrange them on a platter and cover with a generous portion of Pineapple Salsa just before serving.  Pineapple is currently in season, and this salsa showcases its tart and tangy sweetness which perfectly balances the heat of the pork tenderloin.

The salsa can be made two to three days in advance, adds brilliant color to the plate, and offers a great contrast to the hot, smoky spice of the Jamaican Jerk. You can also serve it with fish and chicken entrees, or as a dip with chips.

Serve this Jamaican Jerk Pork Tenderloin accompanied by Bob Marley tunes, a bottle of Red Stripe beer or a Jamaican-rum piña colada and enjoy a trip to Jamaica without even leaving your home

Jamaican Jerk Pork Tenderloin

¼ cup brown sugar
½ cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon Sambal chili paste
1 tablespoon dried thyme flakes
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon allspice
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
¼ cup diced yellow onion – scallions (green onions) may also be used
1 whole pork tenderloin, cut into ½-inch thick cutlets and pounded to ¼-inch thickness (Scaloppine style)
Pineapple salsa (see recipe)

Combine all ingredients (except the pork) and mix thoroughly. Place the cutlets in a large baking dish and coat with the marinade. Cover and refrigerate for a minimum of 2 hours, or overnight if possible.

When ready to cook, use a grill or stove-top grill pan and cook over medium heat on both sides until cooked all the way through, approx. 5 minutes on each side. (If you don’t have a grill pan, sauté in a little olive oil for 5 min. each side.)

Transfer the cutlets to a serving platter and top with a generous helping of Pineapple Salsa.

How to make Scaloppine:

Scaloppine:  sautéed cutlets (usually veal, pork or poultry) that have been pounded thin and coated with flour.

  • Chicken: Cut the boneless, split chicken breast in half and pound it to approx.1/4-inch thickness.
  • Pork: Cut tenderloin into 4-5 oz. pieces and pound to approx.1/4-inch thickness.
  • Veal: Cut top round into 4-5 oz. pieces and pound to approx. 1/4-inch thickness or even thinner.

With your meat tenderizer (meat mallet), place the cutlets between plastic wrap and use the flat side of the mallet to pound the meat, turning cutlet from one side to the other, until you reach the desired thickness.  This process will ensure that your meat is not only tender but will cook as quickly as possible.

This nutrition data includes both the Jamaican Jerk pork tenderloin and the pineapple salsa.

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