Pan-roasted Pork Tenderloin with Cocoa-Spice Rub

Pan-Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Cocoa-Spice Rub

Pan-Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Cocoa-Spice Rub

Pork and chocolate? It may sound unusual, but this is a partnership that really works.

The combination of crushed cocoa nibs, unsweetened cocoa powder and sweet, aromatic spices highlights tender, naturally succulent pork tenderloins in a surprisingly effective way.

Cocoa nibs and beans

Cocoa nibs & whole cocoa beans

Cocoa nibs are roasted, coarsely crushed cocoa beans, the raw ingredient that is the starting point for all chocolate. Closely resembling coarse-ground coffee, cocoa nibs have a complex chocolaty flavor and nut-like crunch, without the sweetness of processed chocolate. While rather underappreciated as an ingredient in the kitchen, the fruity flavor of cocoa nibs complements many foods exceptionally well, including pork. Aromatic spices – cinnamon, allspice, cumin and paprika – also enhance the naturally sweet flavor and delicate texture of the most tender of all cuts of pork, the tenderloin.

Pork tenderloins typically come two to a package when purchased in the grocery store, so we’ve tailored our recipe to accommodate two tenderloins of about 1 pound each. It’s easy to scale this recipe up or down, depending on how many portions you want to make. Plan on about 6 ounces per serving, but since delicious leftover pork tenderloin makes for quick & easy meals whether hot or cold, don’t hold back.

Cocoa nibs have become easier to find in recent years, but if you can’t find them in your local specialty food markets, order them online at our sponsoring site,

Pan-roasted Pork Tenderloin with Cocoa-Spice Rub

  • 2 Tbsp cocoa nibs
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/4 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves, chopped
  • 1-1/2 to 2 lb lbs pork tenderloin
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil, plus more as needed
Searing the spice rub covered pork tenderloins

Searing the pork tenderloins

Preheat the oven to 450°F. Using a spice grinder or food processor, coarsely grind the nibs until pulverized into small pieces. Mix the nibs with all of the remaining ingredients, except the pork and olive oil.

Trim the silverskin from the pork and remove excess fat, if any, then rinse under cold water and pat dry with a paper towel. Lightly coat the tenderloin with the olive oil. Rub with a generous amount of the cocoa-spice mixture and set aside for a few minutes or up to overnight, refrigerated.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in an ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add the pork to the hot pan, turning to sear on all sides until golden brown. Slip the hot skillet into the preheated oven and roast the pork until the internal temperature of the pork reaches 145°F, about 15 minutes. Remove the tenderloin to a platter.  Let rest at least 10 minutes before slicing.

Optional:  Make a quick pan sauce by deglazing the skillet with 1/2 cup chicken or veal stock.  Heat until pan juices and stock have reduced by half.  Pour off the sauce, leaving any crusted bits behind.  Serve the sliced pork drizzled with the pan sauce.

Pork tenderloin with fresh thyme


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Many of the ingredients used in this recipe, and other recipes on the Earthy Delights Blog, can be purchased online at our retail website, We welcome you to visit the website to view our extensive selection of hard-to-find ingredients and our complete Recipe Collection of over 500 tested recipes.

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