Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
15 Aug

Pork Loin with Mango Salsa

I was so excited to bring home my first organic pork tenderloin from the Rhinebeck farmer’s market that I couldn’t quite process the incredulous faces waiting for me when I got back. “It’ll take so long to cook,” the faces-at-home said, directing their eyes to their stomachs, which audibly growled.

I don’t know where the misconception about pork loin came from – probably from other round, “loaf”-like meats, which are notorious for being part of bigger dinner-time productions, typically seen around the holidays; meats that require  thermometers, significant prep time, and all kinds of extra gadgets to make sure they cook the whole way through. But pork loin doesn’t require a lot of fussing. It just needs a little attention, because it is a very lean cut. And while it doesn’t take years to cook, it can cook too quickly, and come out very dry. If you do it right, though, it is perfect in less than 30 minutes.

After I trimmed the loin just a little bit to make the outside smoother, I patted the rub liberally around the outside until it had a nice brown smoky skin. The rub helps produce a very slight crustiness on the outside that adds delicious texture. This chili-powder/cocoa mixture employed as a rub is an important component, but the key to maintaining the delicious, succulent juices of this tender cut of meat is in the heating method.

The heating method I used to cook the loin is what I like to call a “switcheroo” – that is, after a few minutes browning on the stove top skillet at medium heat, I transferred the pork loin to a glass pan and allowed it to finish cooking in the oven. The initial pan-heat is meant to lock in the flavors by cooking the outermost layer of the loin and leaving less work for the oven to do. Since the oven uses a drier, slower method, and tends to be the cause of making meats dry out, it’s better to give it a simpler job: to turn the pink interior to white. The idea is to cook as much of the outside of the meat as you can before putting it on the rack.

While I waited for the oven to do its duty at around 425 F, I tossed together a nice salsa of fresh mango, minced shallot, lemon juice and cilantro; a very easy side dish which is low in carbs, despite the natural sweetness. I find that when it comes to neutral-tasting meats of any kind fresh fruit adds more flavor than any marinade.

I don’t know about your extended family but, except for me, mine is non-Primal. They are fans of fat, but still very much attached to their pasta and their bread, and their cheese – oh their cheese! Still, it is characteristic of them to be quite Primal in their responses when I am cooking pork loin – or any other Primal entrée – within their sensory trajectory. It’s not like they stand up on the table and start pounding their chests or anything, but they do start in with the “mmmm” and “ahhs”. They occasionally close their eyes after taking a bite. They always linger over the food, taking their time with it, and always clean their plates. There is a very good reason for all this, as you already know: Primal food is satisfying.

Try this dinner tonight. You won’t regret it.


1 pork loin
2 teaspoons chili powder
½ teaspoon natural cocoa powder
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
½ medium mango (sliced and cut into chunks)
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
½ small shallot (minced)


Preheat oven to 425 F. Rinse your pork loin and trim any fat to make the surface of the loin smooth for rubbing. In a small bowl, combine the chili powder and the cocoa. Then use your hands to rub the mixture evenly over the pork.

Heat olive oil in a cast iron skillet over medium high heat. Brown the tenderloin in the skillet on all sides, about 5 minutes.

Being careful not to lose the juices, transfer the pork loin to a Pyrex pan and slide into the oven. Cook for 12-15 more minutes. Check the loin after that time period by cutting into it. If still pink, cook a few minutes longer.

In a small bowl, lightly mix mango, cilantro, shallot and lemon juice. Serve with slices of pork.

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. Totally new to the Primal diet, loved the book, love even more how I look with my shirt off. I love the inventive new recipes I get from MDA, and I love pork and mango pairings. I am in luck. Shirt on (if I win one), shirt off, I’ll rock it like a Grok star.

    Scott wrote on August 15th, 2009
  2. Cool, i just picked up a side of pork from a local farmer yesterday, now i don’t have to decide what to have first. Also if you have a recipe for pork tounge you should post it soon, ALL PARTS MUST BE ATE!!

    JUPITER BOONE wrote on August 15th, 2009
  3. Today is my 30th birthday so hopefully I win the shirt as my present!

    Clint wrote on August 15th, 2009
    • Happy birthday Clint!

      maba wrote on August 15th, 2009
  4. I love to put pork loin on the grill; never tried it with mango. Looks amazing.

    T-shirt looks cool too – living life as prescribed … love it! 1/2 way through the challenge and I’m feeling great!

    Tundra Tomte wrote on August 15th, 2009
  5. Wait, Rhinebeck? as in Rhinebeck NY? That’s my hometown.

    lobo21nyy wrote on August 15th, 2009
  6. Mango salsa is the nectar of the gods.

    JustinKN wrote on August 15th, 2009
  7. t-shirt win!

    Anthony wrote on August 15th, 2009
  8. Mangos + Salsa…two of the earth’s best foods = prandial paradise!

    Josh C wrote on August 15th, 2009
  9. The cocoa powder is a great addition to any spicy dish, often find it in traditional south american fair….it is a must in our beanless chili’s! This will be on the list to make for sure.

    Sully wrote on August 15th, 2009
  10. Mark,

    I’ve been a CrossFitter for two years now and started to get my diet under control first using the Zone. After the initial weight loss though I got very tired of the strict requirements and measuring and fell off the wagon big time. Loving my strength gains in the box, but not my weight gains, I wasn’t happy with my diet. A friend recently recommended your book and your site and for about 2 weeks now I’ve been following your rules for a Primal diet. I’ve lost weight and have noticed a definite difference in my sleep pattern. I initially was concerned about how I would do with Primal eating because I don’t eat seafood but eat a ton of chicken, little beef, and marginal amounts of pork. I was afraid that boredom would kick in and I’d get tired of eating grilled chicken and green beans. But with recipes like these I don’t think I’ll be straying from the Primal diet anytime soon (save the beer that sometimes is a necessity!). Thanks for all the recipes and a BIG thank you for the Primal Blueprint! :) I’m still trying to find what works for me, but I’ve officially been converted. Grok on!

    Katie wrote on August 15th, 2009
  11. This looks delicious and I can’t wait to make it.

    Luke wrote on August 15th, 2009
  12. Think I’ve just found what to have for dinner tonight!

    DaveFish wrote on August 15th, 2009
  13. Looks like I’m making a trip to the store.

    Martin P wrote on August 15th, 2009
  14. hmm, I think I found tonight’s dinner

    Eric B wrote on August 15th, 2009
  15. I love pork loin. Can’t wait to try this.

    IDRISCKY wrote on August 15th, 2009
  16. any veg side dish you recommend?

    BurritoKid wrote on August 15th, 2009
  17. I’m a first time visitor. An excellent presentation. I never would have thought of mixing cocoa and chili powder together. Thanks for the tips.

    Cindy T wrote on August 15th, 2009
  18. Oh, looks wonderful! This site has some great ideas for dinner!

    Laurie Donaldson wrote on August 15th, 2009
  19. This looks absolutely delicious!

    Brian Tinker wrote on August 15th, 2009
  20. Love this recipe! Haven’t had mango in forever.

    Ryan wrote on August 15th, 2009
  21. when I lived in Hawai’i i could eat fresh mango right off the tree all the time.
    want the shirt!

    dennis wrote on August 15th, 2009
  22. Mmm! I make mango salsa quite a bit as an accompaniment to fish. I always like to add a fresh, cubed avocado…yumm! My husband is not a big fan of pork, but this recipe just might change that. Can’t wait to try it!

    Elana wrote on August 15th, 2009
  23. I think I’ll have to adjust this recipe because the girlfriend does not like pork. No matter how many times I’ve tried :)

    brycebolt wrote on August 15th, 2009
  24. Any recipe involving meat and a heaping spoonful of Newman’s Own salsa is a winner in my book.

    Gary-A wrote on August 15th, 2009
  25. mmmmmmm :) looks AMAZING! Definitely gonna give this one a shot :-)

    Craig wrote on August 15th, 2009
  26. You go to the Rhinebeck Farmers Market yet your not a member of Hudson Valley Crossfit,what gives?
    I actually used to be a vendor at that market. Now I like my Sundays off.

    steve wrote on August 15th, 2009
  27. Mhhh, gonne try this soon. Great shirt on the other blog post!

    F. Zimmermann wrote on August 15th, 2009
  28. Can’t wait to try this! Thanks. :)

    Denise Rodriguez wrote on August 15th, 2009
  29. I was always a little leary of pork but now that I’ve gone PRIMAL, I love it!

    Amy wrote on August 15th, 2009
  30. I love pork loin, great recipe!

    Robert wrote on August 15th, 2009
  31. I didn’t think Pork could get any better. Looks like I’m wrong….

    Shaun wrote on August 15th, 2009

    evanator wrote on August 15th, 2009
  33. Looks awesome! Thanks for the recipe.

    Karlin wrote on August 15th, 2009
  34. mmm pork is my favorite meat…not usually a mango person, but this salsa looks great!
    maybe I’ll diversify my pork eating

    Max Lambert wrote on August 15th, 2009
  35. Haha, I actually had Pork loin about a month ago to the horror of my conventional wisdom parents. Since going primal they don’t seem to understand why I eat lots of eggs, red meat, lard/butter/saturated fats…

    I don’t even try to explain, they don’t listen :/

    David wrote on August 15th, 2009
  36. Pork loin is one of my favorite cuts, and definitely underestimated. It takes on tons of flavors well, especially fruits like Mark notes.

    RW wrote on August 15th, 2009
  37. I have never sought out pork from the farmers market, but after reading this post, I think it’s about time.

    Mark must have an amazing kitchen stocked with tons of great food and appliances.

    bfaber87 wrote on August 15th, 2009
  38. I’ve been looking to get into pork. I’ve also been looking to get into a really nice shirt.

    BretMattingly wrote on August 15th, 2009
  39. Wow that looks absolutely amaz-z-zing!

    Dangeruss wrote on August 15th, 2009
  40. Wow that pic looks so good I think I might break my fast early. Haha

    Ryan wrote on August 15th, 2009

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