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Cocoa-Chile-Rubbed Grilled Pork Tenderloin

We know cocoa powder is generally used in desserts; however, occasionally, I’ve added it to savory dishes with wonderful results.  

Unsweetened cocoa adds a deep flavor to meat, particularly, when it is combined with chili powder, in a dry spice rub.  To that mix, add a little cinnamon, brown sugar and seasonings to coat pork tenderloin.  I let it stand for about an hour, but for even more flavor, coat the meat and refrigerate it overnite.

I saw this recipe on CHOW, and Bill and I were amazed with how good it turned out.  I adapted the recipe slightly, omitting cumin, as that’s one spice not bought, nor used here.  The spicy rub is easy, has a nice deep color for the pork and tastes scrumptious!  I will be repeating this soon!

Cocoa-Chile-Rubbed Grilled Pork Tenderloin
Ingredients for the spice rub:

1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon Dutch-process unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon packed dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ teaspoon cinnamon
Place all ingredients in a small bowl and mix to combine; set aside.

For the tenderloins:

2 (1 to 1½ pounds) pork tenderloins
1-2 tablespoons oil


Trim pork of any silver skin and pat dry with paper towels.
Using your hands, rub the tenderloins all over with the oil.
Sprinkle them with all of the spice mixture, and rub until evenly coated.
Set aside at room temperature for 30 minutes or cover and refrigerate for up to 24 hours.
Heat grill to medium.  If the meat has been refrigerated, let it sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes before grilling.
Place tenderloin on grill, cover grill and cook, turning every 5 minutes, until the pork is browned all over and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part registers 145 to 150 degrees, about 20-30 minutes.
Transfer pork tenderloins to a cutting board and let them rest for 5 to 10 minutes.
Cut crosswise into ½” thick slices and serve.
4-6 servings




  1. You know I love getting new recipes for pork tenderloin and this is no exception. Yum! I can only imagine how good leftovers (if there are any) would be in tacos or fried rice!!


    1. Thanks, Bonnie! Unfortunately, there were no leftovers so I will be making it again soon, we really liked it! With tacos, great idea! Take care

  2. Good afternoon Pam,
    Wonderful and very tasty recipe I am sure....Enjoy pork and this one sounds great! A little different than what I would make, so I love to try new ways. Like your idea of making tacos with the leftovers...but I see that you didn't have any...Have a wonderful week!
    Dottie :)

    1. Thanks, Dottie! This is a little different and turned out good. Take care

  3. We enjoy pork tenderloins a lot:)

  4. Pam, We eat a lot of pork and we're always looking for new ways to prepare it... We've never made a marinade or rub using cocoa powder but mixed with the other ingredients it sure sounds good! I like the taco idea too... Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

    1. Thanks, Dave! It's surprising what good flavor the cocoa adds. I need to make it again soon, just for tacos! Have a good rest of the week!

  5. My favorite chili recipe has cocoa and cinnamon in it! This sounds great!

    1. Thanks, Nellie! Yes, I add cocoa to chili also and sometimes a touch of cinnamon too. It's great and so is this for pork!

  6. Yummy! That rub sounds really good! I am sure was very suitable for pork :)

    1. Thanks, Medeja! Yes, it's good for pork, and grilling makes it even better. Take care

  7. I have a gorgeous pork tenderloin I am tired of making pulled pork with I am so happy to find this recipe and cant wait to make it! thanks Pam

  8. I have a gorgeous pork tenderloin I am tired of making pulled pork with I am so happy to find this recipe and cant wait to make it! thanks Pam

  9. After pulled pork/pork shoulder, pork tenderloin is my favorite cut of pork - especially for grilling. This sounds like a delicious way to prepare it. So interesting with the cocoa powder!

  10. I have never tried cocoa powder in savoury cooking before, though have seen lots of recipes using it. Your pork tenderloin looks so delicious, no one would have guessed that there's cocoa powder!

  11. I've never used cocoa in a rub before, but I've read about it. I need to try this! This looks sooo good! Thanks for this.

  12. I've had a cocoa rub on salmon so I know how tasty this can be. I have pork tenderloins in the freezer waiting for a new recipe---thanks!!

  13. Hi Pam, love using cocoa powder in a savory recipe once in a while. It can really enhance the flavor for sure. Pork is a great choice, I would not have thought of it, great recipe. Sorry just saw your comment from last week it was in spam. great blog too :-)


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