Pork Tenderloin with Cilantro Pesto

What drew us in to the pork recipe submitted by Susan Rosenberg (for the Primal Blueprint Cookbook Contest) was not the pork itself, although any meal involving pork tenderloin is bound to be good. The pork preparation is simple and straightforward, involving nothing more than searing medallions in a pan. It is what Susan serves with the tenderloin, a creamy variation of pesto with flavors ranging from slightly spicy and sweet to cool and pungent, that makes us swoon.

As much as we like this pesto with pork, we immediately started thinking about all the other foods we might pair it with. This led to mixing some pesto in with a little shredded cabbage that happened to be in the fridge, and the result was a killer coleslaw. It’s just as easy to imagine serving the pesto over steak or seafood. What, exactly, makes it so versatile? First of all, you’ve got to love cilantro, an aromatic herb that people tend to have very strong feelings about.

From a distance, cilantro can easily be mistaken for parsley, but when you look at cilantro closely, the leaves are flatter and more feathery. Cilantro has a perfumed (some might say soapy) aroma and fresh, clean flavor. Those who love it will put it on just about anything, although the cool flavor makes cilantro especially delicious with Asian, Indian and Mexican dishes. Those who hate cilantro won’t even let it come near their kitchen. If you fall into this category, try the pesto with a different herb, like mint or parsley. You might also consider joining the Facebook group “I Hate Cilantro,” where you can get moral support from more than 700 members.

But if you love cilantro, you’re not going to be able to get enough of this pesto. Although Susan’s right, a little bit goes a long way, so you can make one batch and save half for another meal. The rich texture and bold flavor add an addictive flavor to the pork tenderloin or whatever you choose to serve it with. While the flavor mostly comes from the cilantro and ginger, the almond butter and coconut milk add just the right amount of creaminess.

Marinade Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds of pork tenderloin
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 inch fresh ginger, peeled and chopped


Slice the tenderloin into rounds of 1-inch thickness. Mix oils and vinegar, add garlic and ginger.

Marinate the pork slices in a non-reactive glass container for at least 2 hours or overnight, turning at intervals to marinate both sides of the slices. When the pork is ready to cook, prepare the pesto below:

Pesto Ingredients:

  • 1 bunch of cilantro, leaves only
  • 2 large garlic cloves
  • 1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and sliced thin
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1/4 cup olive oil (or less, to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil (or more, to taste)
  • 1/4 cup almond butter
  • 1 teaspoon honey (optional)
  • 1/2 -1 cup coconut milk
  • sea salt to taste

Blend sauce ingredients in blender or food processor until smooth, adding coconut milk until preferred consistency is reached.

To cook the pork, heat some coconut oil, lard, or olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Quickly sear the slices, turning once, until just cooked through. Do not crowd the pan, cook in batches as needed so they sear and don’t steam.

Keep each batch warm in a warm oven or covered in foil wrap.

To serve: Put a few slices of pork on a plate with a little bit of pesto on each slice, or serve pesto on the side. (A little pesto goes a long way, flavor-wise.)

Serve with cooked greens with sesame seeds and sliced red peppers for a nice color combo.

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40 thoughts on “Pork Tenderloin with Cilantro Pesto”

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  1. FIRST! (sorry, I had to)

    Also- I can’t take it, I’m making it tonight; it sounds too delicious to not enjoy right away!

  2. Newbie question – How long per side for the pork slices to cook through?

    1. I like to do mine about 3.5-4 mins on each side on med-high heat. This works for about 1 inch thick cuts. The thicker the cut the lower the temp and longer the cook time.

      And just to add to the recipie a little, not only should you only flip once but also, don’t move the meat around the pan a whole bunch. The crisp outer layer will give that awesome look and great flavor.

  3. Holy crap that looks good. I’m gonna make this soon, but may instead make regular pesto substituting the basil with the cilantro. Might also be good over chicken or a ribeye.

  4. So many awesome recipes here at marks daily apple. I can not wait to try this out. Need to buy some pork to make it true! Yummy 🙂

  5. Looks yummy – but what could I substitute for the almond butter? (we’ve got assorted nut allergies in the house.)

  6. Wow that looks awesome. I love cilantro, but not too keen on coconut milk, so I will try this w/o the milk and make a more basic pesto.

  7. I think I did the right thing by buying your book AND a food processor. 🙂

  8. In re: the almond butter substitution, you could omit it altogether and I think the dip/sauce would be just as tastey. Are you allergic to seeds? I am sure pumpkin seeds (pepitas), sesame seeds, and/or sunflower seeds (or any comination of those) would be a great substitution. Traditional pesto is made with pine nut-butter (pine nuts ground up with basil leaves, parmesan, garlic and olive oil).

    I prefer crispy pistachio nuts (soaked and dehydrated) in my pesto – 2 c. basil, 1/2 c. crispy (pistachio) nuts, 2-4 cloves of garlic, salt and pepper, and 1/2-3/4 c. olive oil. I never thought to add coconut milk – yum!

  9. I might try this the traditional pesto way, omitting the coconut milk. Depends on how I’m feeling when I finally make it. I don’t imagine it’ll be that long, though, given the pork in my freezer that’s still waiting for a recipe…

    Now, the suggestion for a cilantro alternative mentioned mint. So there is part of me that is thinking this recipe, with mint instead of cilantro, and some lamb. Mmmmm… haven’t had lamb in too long!

  10. sounds great! I just discovered coconut milk again after years of following the low fat high carb western dogma!

    I drink the stuff before working out! Cant wait to try this out.

  11. i have been SEARCHING for uses of ginger….finallllllly found one! this looooks so yummy. i dnt have all the ingredients but ill make it work!

  12. Thanks Susie for a great recipe. Didn’t have any pork on hand, but I made the pesto and added it to shredded cabbage with some cashews, a few raisins and sesame seeds. Yummy!

  13. Made this last night and drizzled it over some pan seared pork chops and broiled asparagus – AMAZING! We added a little balalmic vinegar for a little something extra. My husband and I found this webiste a few weeks back and read the book this weekend. We’ve been living almost primal on and off for about a year now, but we recommitted ourselves this weekend. It was interesting that once we changed the way we looked at things, how big a difference it made in our mindset: We’ve been eating only locally raised and slaughtered meat for over 4 years and we would NEVER consider “cheating” and eating other kinds of meat. But, when we started reducing carbs, sugars, grains, etc from our diet it was sooo tempting to cheat. Then we had the realization that we were approaching it the wrong way. We aren’t denying ourselves; we believe that this is the right way to eat, to live, to exist for health, happiness, and for moral reasons. And if that is the case, then going back is not a simple “cheat” on a few carbs, it is going against what we believe.

  14. I just made the pesto in preparation for tonight. I could literally eat it by the spoonful! So delicious! I can’t wait to put it on everything else in my fridge! THANK YOU!

  15. Maybe it’s already been mentioned, but I’ve found you can use the drippings of the meat as a base for the pesto sauce.

    IE: finish the tenderloins, then de-glaze the leftover pan drippings with some wine (I use rice wine, it’s super cheap if you live near an asian market) and heavy cream, then add that back in to the pesto when you go to puree it.

  16. for a slightly different take on cilantro sauce, i like chimichurri. it goes well on pork tenderloin as well:

    1 cup packed parsley leaves
    1.25 cups packed cilantro leaves and tender stems
    3 serrano chiles (coarsely chopped)
    5 cloves garlic (coarsely chopped)
    1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
    1 teaspoon ground cumin
    1/4 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
    3/4 teaspoon salt
    1/4 teaspoon sugar
    3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
    1/3 cup red wine or sherry vinegar
    1/2 cup olive oil

    put all ingredients in the order listed in a food processor or blender and puree; adjust seasonings if necessary to suit taste

  17. Wow….I am really gratified to see how many people are enjoying this recipe!

    I like to make a big batch of this pesto and use the extra as a dressing for cole slaw. Sprinkled with some sesame seeds, it’s like Asian cole slaw without the sweet restaurant dressing.

    You don’t have to use almond butter, it’s a very forgiving recipe. Walnuts or pine nuts work just as well.

    Bon appetit!

  18. Just a note on pork. It is not as dangerous as many are led to think if it is not cooked well done. Get a good fresh tenderloin and try cooking it Medium and you will find an amazing world of juicy flavor.

  19. I made this last Sunday. Well, I made the pesto sauce with Chicken.

    It is the best sauce I have ever had! I strongly recommend! Cilantro and coconut milk is awesome 🙂

  20. I just made this last night and served it with cod- fantastic recipe. This stuff is so versatile I love it as a vegetable dip too, very versatile.

  21. I made this tonight and it was great! We didn’t use much of the pesto sauce as a little goes a long way, so I froze the extra in an ice cube tray. I do this whenever I make a sauce of any kind — it really helps cut down on meal prep times when all I have to do is cook the meat/fish/veggies and defrost a few cubes of whatever sauce we’re in the mood for.

  22. I haven’t read the book, so I maybe be speaking out of turn, but my only concern is the use of lard. (I don’t even know where I would find that…due to it’s bad rap I think it’s an illegal food product! LOL) Does everyone use lard as a good base? I prefer to use olive oil.

  23. wow, I made this the other night and it was delicious and the cilantro pesto is yummy.. I have been putting it on steamed veggies to. great dinner.

  24. Ate this on Sunday. Fantastic! And easy! And did I mention fantastic?

    We’re using the leftover pesto on anything we can find. Last night it was roasted asparagus. Tonight will probably be the final installation (sigh!) on roast green beans.

    Definitely a keeper. Thanks for this!

  25. Made this pork dish on the weekend for my momsie and it was AH-MAH-ZING (and looked like a great cook)!

    Could really taste the coconut and almond butter in the pesto. yum!

    High recommendation!

  26. Any chance we can get nutritional information breakdown on this meal? Cals, fat grams, fiber, protein, etc?

  27. hmmm..

    I’ve never heard of cilantro but it looks suspiciously like coriander? Is this another trans-atlantic language difference?

    cool recipe though and loving the site..getting preparing and organising to hit this diet once I get paid!

  28. Ate this on Sunday. Fantastic! And easy! And did I mention fantastic?

    We’re using the leftover pesto on anything we can find. Last night it was roasted asparagus. Tonight will probably be the final installation (sigh!) on roast green beans.

    Definitely a keeper. Thanks for this!

  29. Hmm, just made this…wow, the dressing is delish! I made it without the almond butter and honey, and it’s amazing

  30. I realize this is an old one, but I just made this over the weekend and had to add a comment – it’s absolutely gorgeous! I served it with steamed brocolli, and I smothered the veg in sauce as well – it worked wonderfully. Made as instructed, except I used less olive oil and more sesame oil (sesame makes more sense to me with these flavours), and used around the minimum amount of coconut milk. Don’t skip the almond butter – it adds an amazing, yummy richness to it! There’s a half-portion of the sauce left in the fridge right now, calling my name – it will definitely be involved in today’s lunch.