Seriously BIG Flavor with Little Effort

Pernil is a brightly flavored roast pork dish from the Caribbean that is seriously tasty business. This version uses quick-cooking tenderloin in place of the more traditional pork shoulder, but it has the same robust flavorings, including garlic, cumin, oregano, vinegar, and lime. As I write about this delish dish, I fondly recall the tempting fragrant aromas wafting through the house…

In Puerto Rico, the dish covered in a garlicky marinade then roasted, is commonly shared during Christmas, and typically accompanied by arroz con gandules (rice with pigeon peas). When finished, the meat “falls off the bone” and the crispy skin (cuero) is separated, cleared of fat, and then served separately as cueritos (skin chips).


But this Pernil-Style Pork Tenderloin is a quick weeknight version deserving of the “EASY” button. Granted it does not exactly match the caliber of an original slow-cooked, highly seasoned Puerto Rican pernil with the crackling skin, but it’s more than a decent enough facimile when you don’t have the luxury of time. In fact, I think it’s certainly company-worthy (but than you wouldn’t have any leftovers 😉 )

Although rice is typically served as a side, we paired ours with that yummy and very healthy Quinoa and Avocado Salad that I recently blogged about.



  • 3 large cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
  • 2 small shallots, coarsely chopped
  • 4 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbs. distilled white vinegar
  • 1 tsp. chili powder
  • 3/4 tsp. ground cumin
  • 3/4 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. granulated sugar
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1-1/4-lb. pork tenderloin
  • 4 lime wedges


  1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 400°F.
  2. In a food processor, combine the garlic, shallots, 3 Tbs. of the oil, the vinegar, chili powder, cumin, oregano, sugar, 3/4 tsp. salt, and 1/4 tsp. pepper. Pulse for several seconds to make a paste.
  3. Cut the tenderloin in half crosswise (we didn’t have to do this since our package came with two tenderloins) and then butterfly both halves by holding a knife parallel to the cutting board and cutting a lengthwise slit to within 1/2 inch of the other side of the tenderloin. Spread 1 Tbs. of the paste inside each slit. Tie with kitchen string or secure with toothpicks (I used both) and season with salt and pepper.
  4. Heat a heavy-duty, ovenproof, 10-inch skillet over high heat until hot and add the remaining 1 Tbs. oil, swirling the pan to coat the bottom. Add the tenderloins and sear on all sides until golden-brown, 3 to 4 minutes total.
  5. Transfer the skillet to the oven and roast for 8 minutes. Turn the tenderloins over and spread the remaining paste on top. Roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of each registers 145°F, about 6 minutes more.
  6. Transfer to a cutting board, remove the string and/or toothpicks, and let rest for 5 minutes. Slice 1/2 inch thick and serve with the lime wedges.

Scoop up any mixture that falls off while slicing the pork and add it to your plate. Squeeze some fresh lime over the medallions.

By Arlene Jacobs from Fine Cooking

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