Pork Tenderloin Salad with Maple Mustard Dressing

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Make salad for dinner exciting with this delicious 35 minute pork tenderloin salad. Simple spinach topped with fresh apples, candied pecans, juicy sliced pork tenderloin and drizzled with a maple mustard dressing makes a satisfying salad for dinner or lunch.

a platter of spinach with sliced pork tenderloin beside it drizzled with a yellow dressing.

Salad used to be a struggle for me. I know I should eat them, I know they can taste good but for some reason when I contemplate dinner salads are low on the food chain as far as inspiration goes.

Then I started creating salads like this one. I officially love salad now. I might make this every week. Yes, it is that good.

Recipe Highlights

  • Simple is best – There are just a handful of toppings and a dynamite vinaigrette.
  • Perfect blend of textures and flavors – Crisp apples, crunchy sweet candied pecans, tangy and creamy dressing, bitter green spinach, and a spice rubbed oh-so-juicy pork tenderloin…need I go on?
  • 35 minute meal – From start to finish, 30 minutes, and yes, it’s definitely perfect to serve as a main course.

Ingredients

This salad is incredibly simple. With just a handful of fresh ingredients and a few pantry staple, it comes together quickly and easily.

ingredients to make pork tenderloin salad including spinach, pecans, apples, salt and pepper, dressing, and powdered sugar.
  • Pork Tenderloin – I used a 1 1/4 pound pork tenderloin here. Be sure it’s a tenderloin, not another cut. Please see the note below!
  • Spinach – You can use baby or regular spinach, you’ll need about 7 cups (not packed).
  • Pecans – Start with plain, unsalted pecans to candy your own. Or use spiced pecans, or pre-candied ones from the store and skip the candying steps below.
  • Apple – Use a granny smith, pink lady, or other tart, crisp apple.
  • Maple Mustard Vinaigrette – You’ll need maple syrup, apple cider vinegar, whole grain mustard, yellow mustard, and olive oil to make this. It’s so easy (just shake and pour), and the mustard pork combination is a classic!
  • Oil – Olive, canola, grapeseed, or your preferred cooking oil.
  • Powdered sugar – Also called confectioner’s sugar. It contains cornstarch which is important for coating the nuts. If you only have regular, white sugar, check out this post on how to make powdered sugar from granulated sugar.

Pork Tenderloin vs. Pork Loin

This pork tenderloin salad recipe is easy, but choosing the right pork is key. As written, the instructions will not work for a pork loin. Here’s how to tell the difference:

  • Pork Tenderloin is a narrow, long cut of pork that averages between 1 to 2 lbs. It’s extremely tender and works great at high heats/fast cooking. When cooked to the proper temperature, it’s juicy and completely delicious.
  • Pork Loin is another beast entirely. Often large, wide roasts with fat caps, a pork loin needs to be cooked slowly at lower temperatures or it will be tough.

If you’re staring in your fridge at a pork loin not a pork tenderloin and swearing under your breath, just check out my Pineapple Pork Loin instead, it’s tasty!!

How to Make Pork Tenderloin Spinach Salad

Since we’re roasting a pork tenderloin, there’s some cooking involved with this salad. Tenderloin becomes tender and juicy when cooked fast and hot, which keeps this as a nice 35 minute meal.

a pork tenderloin rubbed with spices.

Steps 1-3 – Prep and Preheat

Start by preheating your oven to 350°F. Then mix together the paprika, 3/4 tsp salt, and pepper to create a pork rub. Pat the tenderloin dry then rub it generously with all of the spice blend.

Combine the powdered sugar, ginger, remaining salt, and water in a bowl. When smooth add to the pecans and toss to ensure they’re all coated thoroughly.

Place a large, oven safe skillet over medium high heat on the stove.

a seared pork tenderloin and pecans in a steel skillet side by side.

Steps 4-8

Pour the oil into the hot pan and swirl to coat the pan. Then place in the tenderloin and sear for 2-3 minutes on each side, until golden brown. This should take about 8 minutes total.

Remove the pan from the heat and move the tenderloin over to one side of the skillet. Pour the coated pecans into the open side of the pan and spread them into an even layer (carefully, the pan is HOT).

Place it into the oven on the middle rack to cook for 15 minutes. Meanwhile prep the remaining ingredients. To make the dressing, simply combine everything in a jar and shake well.

Remove the pork and pecans from the hot pan as soon as the pork reaches 145°F. Set it aside to rest for at least 5-10 minutes. That allows the juices to redistribute so it’s tender when you slice and won’t dry out.

Spread the pecans out in an even layer to allow the sugar to cool and harden.

a spinach salad with apples and pecans with slices of pork tenderloin on a platter being drizzled with dressing.

Then it’s time to eat! Arrange your platter with slices of tenderloin and bed of spinach with pecans and apples on top. Drizzle with dressing and serve. We love a good garlic bread roll or slice of asiago cheese bread on the side!

Expert Tips

Cooking the pork properly is an important component to this salad. The food safe temperature is between 145°F and 160°F (medium rare to medium, we prefer 145°F for tenderloin followed by a resting period).

To ensure this happens in the 15 minute oven time, let your pork come closer to room temperature by pulling it out of the fridge 20 minutes or so before you cook, and by properly searing it. Use medium high heat and make sure you have a hot pan before the pork hits it.

FAQs

Can I use a different cut of pork?

You can make a variation of this pork tenderloin salad with another quick cooking cut like boneless pork chops.

I can’t/don’t want to make the maple mustard dressing, what can I replace it with?

I recommend any tangy, and slightly sweet dressing. Mustard and maple are both flavors that pair well with pork, so try to pick a dressing that compliments the pork similarly.

Can I use a different green?

Sure, arugula, mustard greens, a mix of baby greens, really any tender leafy green will do.

Can I use pre-candied pecans?

Yes. If you prefer to use pecans that are already candied, please do. The pecans I candy for this recipe are salty and sweet so anything similar (or even a little spicy) will do great.

a white dinner plate with three slices of pork with a spinach salad and whole grain mustard vinaigrette on top.

There you have it! A simple 30(ish) minute pork tenderloin salad with spinach, apples, and seriously the best mustard dressing you’ll ever have. While you’re here, check out my other tasty salads for more inspiration!

You may also enjoy these salad recipes…

Love this recipe? Please consider leaving a 5 star rating in the recipe card below, or a comment to share your experience with fellow home cooks. I hope you enjoy and as always, Happy Eating!

three slices of pork tenderloin with spinach, apples, and pecans, drizzled with a yellow, whole grain mustard vinaigrette.

Pork Tenderloin Salad with Spinach

Mikayla M.
A satisfying, but quick dinner salad with fresh spinach, crisp apples, candied pecans, and a juicy pork tenderloin, all drizzled with a mustard maple dressing.
5 from 23 votes
Prep Time 7 minutes
Cook Time 22 minutes
Resting time 5 minutes
Total Time 34 minutes
Course dinner, Lunch
Cuisine American
Servings 4
Calories 824 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 1 – 1.5 lb pork tenderloin
  • 7 cups spinach not packed
  • 1 large apple
  • 3/4 cup pecans, unsalted
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon salt divided
  • 3/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 3/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 3 tablespoons powdered sugar
  • 1.5 teaspoon water
  • 1 tablespoons oil

Maple Mustard Vinaigrette

  • 2 tablespoons whole grain mustard
  • 2 tablespoons yellow mustard
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1/3 cup olive oil

Instructions
 

  • Preheat your oven to 350°F and start preheating a large skillet over medium high heat.
  • Combine 3/4 tsp of salt, pepper and paprika in a bowl and stir to mix
  • Pat your pork tenderloin dry and apply the seasoning mixture, rubbing it in generously.
  • Add the oil to the hot skillet and swirl the pan to coat it. Place in your pork tenderloin. Allow to sear on all sides, about 8 minutes total.
  • Meanwhile, combine your ginger, powdered sugar, remaining 1/2 tsp of salt, and water in a small bowl to form a syrup. Add in the pecans and toss to coat completely.
  • Remove the skillet from heat and move the pork tenderloin to the side of the pan. Pour in the coated pecans on the other side, pressing into an even layer. Place in preheated oven for 15 minutes.
  • Prep your remaining salad components and make the dressing by combining all the ingredients in a jar and shaking vigorously until well mixed.
  • When pork and pecans are finished, remove from oven. Pork should be between 145°F and 160°F. Place on a plate or cutting board to rest for 5 minutes.
  • Transfer the pecans to a plate in a single layer to cool and harden.
  • Arrange spinach on a platter or dinner plates. Top with apples and the candied pecans when they're cool.
  • Slice your pork tenderloin and arrange on salad. Drizzle with a generous serving of dressing and enjoy.

Notes

For more information on a the dressing, please check out the full maple mustard vinaigrette post.
Pork tenderloin cannot be substituted with pork loin. If you have a 2 pound or larger tenderloin, you’re cooking time may be longer.
To ensure the pork cooks evenly and quickly remove it from the fridge 20 minutes before cooking so it’s not cold when it hits the pan.
You can use pre-candied pecans. Simple skip the ginger, powdered sugar, and water ingredients and the steps for cooking them.

Nutrition

Calories: 824kcalCarbohydrates: 14gProtein: 62gFat: 59gSaturated Fat: 11gCholesterol: 184mgSodium: 917mgPotassium: 1553mgFiber: 5gSugar: 8gVitamin A: 5165IUVitamin C: 17mgCalcium: 85mgIron: 5mg
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Nutrition information and cooking times are provided as a best estimate. Values may vary based upon ingredients and equipment.

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5 from 23 votes (8 ratings without comment)

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32 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    This recipe is simply FABULOUS! It’s easy to make, very tasty and refreshing, and everyone loved it! I didn’t have pecans, so I caramelized walnuts using the same instructions; don’t know how much better it would have been with pecans, but the walnuts were a perfect complement. Definitely a new favorite to prepare often, or anytime I have the ingredients handy!

    1. I’m glad to hear you love it! It’s one of our go to salad dinners :). None of my recipes use walnuts simply because I’m allergic, so pecans are my go to instead, but thank you for sharing that it works well with them!

  2. 5 stars
    Made this for my boyfriend and he loved it. He said it was so flavorful and the pork tenderloin was perfectly tender. Thank you!

  3. 5 stars
    That mustard vinaigrette is fabulous! Not only did I use it on this recipe (so good!) but I’m using that vinaigrette on other proteins and salads! So versatile! Loved this recipe!

    1. Amanda I’m really pleased you found this dish so good and that you love the vinaigrette. I too use it on many other dishes.

  4. 5 stars
    I am a very picky eater since I was a child. But I really loved your pork-spinach salad, I will definitely make it again, thank you!

    1. I’m glad you liked it so much! I at one time was also a picky eater, as an adult I have developed a love for all foods. I hope that you can find many more recipes you love to prepare and eat.