Back to the Kitchen: Tamarind Roast Pork

Roast Pork Tenderloin with Tamarind Onions

Sometimes you come across an ingredient that inspires you to get into the kitchen and make something delicious. A new (to you) ingredient means that the end result may be unlike anything you ever cooked before. For me, that’s the kind of motivation I need lately and it comes in the form of tamarind paste.

Gosh knows the inspiration came just in time. I’ve been traveling. It was a big trip and the details (and the doing) have taken a lot of my attention this summer. Add that to the caregiving responsibilities that seem to grow in scope every single day. 

All this means that the cooking aspect of my poor little blog has been neglected. I’ve even considered putting it out to pasture. At least for a while…

Then tamarind paste came along, and I couldn’t wait to get in the kitchen and create an original recipe. Just like I used to do when I first started this blog (more than 10 years ago).

It’s not that I’m unfamiliar with tamarind. I come across its particular sour notes quite often in many of the Asian and Latin restaurants I frequent. A sweet and sour tamarindo soft drink sits next to almost every taco my partner Ken orders.

I’ve even bought fresh tamarind in the market. It comes in sticky pods (like a giant vanilla bean) and the flesh is scraped out and the large seeds are discarded before you can use it. It’s a fun chore once in a while, but mostly it’s far too tedious for day-to-day cooking adventures.

Tamarind Paste

One the other hand, tamarind paste comes in a jar. It contains nothing but tamarind. No preservatives, no additives, no added sugar. How have I not known this all these years?

Tamarind paste can be found in a lot big supermarkets these days and keeps forever in the fridge. It’s a great investment in flavor, bringing its own fruity sweet-sour tang to anything from chutneys to curries to the glaze in this roast pork tenderloin. 

Oh yeah, it’s also magical when mixed in with the sauteed red onions that accompany this dish. They’re so easy to make that it may change your allegiance to traditional fruit chutney for good. GREG

Roast Pork Tenderloin with Tamarind Onions

Tamarind and Onion Roast Pork Tenderloin 

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 2–3Published

Chili-garlic sauce is slightly salty, spicy, and pungent; it can be found in the Asian foods section of many supermarkets and at some specialty foods stores and Asian markets.

Tamarind and Onion Roast Pork Tenderloin


  • ¼ cup tamarind paste
  • water (as needed)
  • ¼ cup honey
  • ¼ cup chile-garlic sauce (see notes)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (divided)
  • salt and black pepper (as needed)
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 pork tenderloin (about 1 pound, tied to ensure even cooking)
  • 3 tablespoon canola oil (divided)
  • 2 red onions (peeled, halved, and thinly sliced)


Make the marinade: Mix the tamarind paste with enough water to make a smooth syrupy liquid. Set aside.

Place half of the syrupy tamarind mixture in a large bowl, add honey, chili-garlic sauce, ground cardamom, ground cumin, ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, a teaspoon of salt and a good grind of black pepper. Add the pork, rub the marinade into the meat, then cover and refrigerate for at least two hours.

Roast the pork: Preheat the oven 450 degrees F.

Meanwhile, make the tamarind onions: Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the onion and stir to coat with oil. Stir in salt and black pepper to taste, and add remaining ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes. Cook stirring often until softened and beginning to lightly brown at the edges, about 8–10 minutes. Stir in brown sugar and remaining tamarind mixture until the liquid begins to bubble. Remove from heat, cover and set aside.

Heat remaining 1 tablespoon of oil in a large frying pan on high heat. Lift the pork from its marinade, then sear on all sides for about four minutes. Transfer the meat to a roasting tray, spoon over some of the marinade and roast for about 10–15 minutes, depending on how well done you like your pork. Remove from the oven, cover with foil and leave to rest for five minutes before slicing.

Serve with the warm tamarind onions.