Marinated grilled pork tenderloin is a quick and easy dinner idea for any night of the week. My Caribbean-inspired smoky cilantro lime marinade with cumin, fresh citrus zest and juice, jalapeno, ginger and a shot of tequila is deep and flavorful with a little zing. Serve it with a simple pineapple mango salsa for a healthy dinner idea that everyone will love.
This post has been updated for recipe, photos and content since its original publication in 2015.
This simple recipe is quick and easy to make and only needs to soak in the flavorful marinade for an hour or two (but the longer, the better).
Ingredients for smoky cilantro lime marinade
- Fresh Ginger
- Kosher Salt
- Ground Cumin
- Dried Oregano
- Red Onion
- Olive Oil
None of the ingredients in this simple marinade could be considered a wall flower. Each one is bold and flavorful on its own. Together, they’re a powerhouse.
The cumin adds a smoky flavor to the marinade and seasons the grilled pork with Caribbean flavors. The fresh ginger, garlic and red onion lend a plucky heat to the mix and the honey, lime, tequila and fresh cilantro balance it all out.
Special equipment for the marinade
You don’t need to worry about special knife skills for this marinade. In fact, for the really “fine” stuff like ginger, garlic and lime zest, I recommend using a microplane grater. The microplane breaks down the fibers and rind to release the aromatics and add even more flavor to the smoky tequila cilantro lime marinade.
Use a cutting board and your favorite chefs knife or santoku to roughly chop the onion, cilantro and jalapeno.
Spray the measuring spoons or cup with a bit of nonstick spray before measuring out the honey (or any other sticky ingredient). This will ensure that every bit gets poured into the mix, instead of wasting half of it.
Making cilantro lime marinade for grilled pork tenderloin
- Combine the garlic, ginger, lime zest, cumin, oregano, honey, tequila, and salt in a medium bowl.
- Mix well to combine, then add the chopped cilantro, jalapeno, onions and olive oil. Stir again.
- Use paper towels to pat the pork tenderloin dry and transfer the meat to a resealable zip top bag.
- Pour the boozy cilantro lime marinade over the pork and squeeze out any excess air pockets. Seal the bag and massage the pork tenderloin all over with the marinade.
- Refrigerate the pork tenderloin in the marinade for at least 1-2 hours, flipping it once or twice to ensure that its evenly marinated (you can even let it hang out all day).
You never want to take meat directly from the refrigerator and put it on a hot grill or pan, because it won’t cook evenly. Mediating the temperature by letting it sit out for 30 minutes will help ensure even, reliable cooking.
Therefore, about half an hour before you want to grill the meat, remove it from the refrigerator and let it rest on the counter to come closer to room temperature.
How to grill the marinated pork tenderloin
- Preheat the grill to a medium high heat, about 450°. Don’t add the meat until the grill is hot, otherwise it’ll stick to the grates and won’t release easily.
- Remove the pork tenderloin from the marinade and pat dry with paper towels. This is important because you want the meat to sear, not steam.
- Place the pork directly over the heat source and close the lid.
- Cook the pork for about 5-7 minutes, before flipping it over to cook for another 5 or more minutes or until it reaches your desired doneness.
- The pork is at a safe temperature when it reaches 145°, but we usually remove it a few degrees before it gets there, because the meat continues to cook even after you remove it from the grill. It’s called residual or carryover cooking and it’s real.
Can I use other types of meat with this marinade?
Yes! You can use this on pork loin, pork chops or even a pork shoulder. It’s also good with chicken, beef, fish and other seafood.
How long will leftovers last?
They’ll typically hold up in the refrigerator for 3-5 days (3 days for the pineapple mango salsa)
What can I make with leftovers?
- Slice the pork thinly and stack it on warm ciabatta bread with good mayonnaise, a bit of tropical salsa (or salsa verde) and arugula.
- Top a salad with diced pork and tropical salsa.
- Stuff flour tortillas with chopped warm pork and tropical salsa and a bit of grated cabbage for a Caribbean taco.
Best instant read thermometer
There is nothing worse than taking the time and care to prepare a nice meal and overcooking the meat. It’s a disappointment for everyone involved. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Pro chefs and home cooks alike get great results from using a good instant read thermometer to take the guesswork out of cooking times.
I recommend the Thermoworks Thermapen Mk4. For me — and millions of other cooks, this intuitive probe has made the difference between perfect medium rare and shoe leather.
I’d had other instant reads before, but they never lasted more than 10 months, always required a hard to find battery and usually went kaput on the occasions when I had 10 people waiting expectantly for dinner. Sound familiar?
About the Thermapen Mk4
- Uses everyday batteries.
- Has an easy to read, large display with automatic backlight for grilling in the dark
- The probe is super accurate within seconds.
- It folds up safely in your kitchen drawer, so you don’t inadvertently stab yourself when rummaging through to find it.
(I mention all of these things, because I swear, they’ve all happened more than once to me — but no more.)
The Thermapen is not a cheap item, but it’s one you’ll have your whole life, which seems like a value when compared to the others that I’ve had to replace time and again.
Because this marinated grilled pork tenderloin isn’t a big piece of meat, getting the right doneness is important, so grab your Thermapen with this affiliate link and be the boss of dinner.
What to serve with cilantro lime marinated grilled pork
I like to offset the smoky richness of this grilled pork tenderloin with a vibrant, bright pineapple mango salsa. The sweetness of the fresh tropical fruits with spicy bits of chili pepper adds big pop of flavor to the meat.
My daughter loves the combination of marinated grilled pork with a sweet tropical salsa because it’s light and healthy, but it’s so satisfying. You don’t have to go this route, however.
Here are some other toppings to serve with the grilled pork tenderloin.
You’ll love the straightforward nature of the marinated grilled pork tenderloin. It’s a great dinner idea for summer cookouts and easy family dinners and that cilantro lime marinade is the BOMB. There should be enough marinade to coat 2 or even 3 tenderloins and it’s just as easy to cook more, so feel free to invite your friends or neighbors over. Just be sure to have plenty of the pineapple mango salsa or other fun salsa to go with it!
Easy side dishes to pair with grilled pork tenderloin:
- Black Bean and Rice Salad
- Brussel Apple Fennel Slaw
- Turmeric Pearl Couscous
- Easy Lemon Garlic Green Beans
Cilantro Lime Marinated Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Pineapple Mango Salsa
for the tropical tequila marinade:
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1" knob ginger root grated
- 1 lime zested and juiced
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 2 tablespoons tequila
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 jalapeno minced
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- 1/4 red onion thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup cilantro chopped
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 pound pork tenderloin
- In a medium bowl, combine the garlic, ginger, lime zest, honey, kosher salt, tequila, lime juice, cumin and oregano. Whisk to combine. Stir in the red onion, chopped cilantro and olive oil.
- Pat the pork dry with paper towels and transfer to a zip top plastic bag. Pour the marinade over the pork and press out excess air. Seal the bag and massage the pork, so that it’s coated with the marinade.
- Marinate the pork in the refrigerator for 2 hours. Remove the pork from the refrigerator about 20-30 minutes before you start to grill it, so that it comes to room temperature.
- When you’re ready to grill the pork, heat the grill to a medium high heat (400°-450°).
- Remove the pork from the marinade and brush off the excess. Pat dry with paper towels and transfer to the grill.
- Cook the pork for about 10-15 minutes, turning about halfway through and watching for flare-ups.
- Cook the pork to an internal temperature of 145° for medium rare, 160° for medium. Let the pork rest for at least 5 minutes to allow the juices to settle.
- Slice crosswise into 1/2” thick pieces to serve. Arrange on a platter and serve with pineapple mango salsa either on the side or spooned over the top.