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This Pork Tenderloin Sandwich is crispy, tender, and loaded with flavor! Top it with French’s fried onions, pickle chips, sliced red onions, or any of your favorites for the ultimate in fair food at home! Whether you’re looking for comfort food or a quick weeknight dinner, this classic Iowa state fair recipe delivers big on flavor.
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- 🍔 A sandwich from the Midwest
- 🥩 Pork tenderloin vs pork loin
- 🍳 Can you deep fry in cast iron?
- 🥘 Understanding Frying Oil
- 👍 Reusing Frying Oil
- 👉 What oil is best for frying?
- 🛒 Ingredients you’ll need for this pork tenderloin sandwich
- 👩🏻🍳How to make a fried pork tenderloin sandwich
- 🥘 Tips and notes
- 🌡 How to store breaded pork
- 🍽 What to serve with pork chop sandwiches
- 🎯 Pin it for later!
🍔 A sandwich from the Midwest
If you’ve ever been to the Midwest, you’ll know it’s famous for the breaded pork tenderloin sandwich. This iconic food is often served up at state and county fairs, like the Iowa State Fair, and for good reason! It’s crunchy, hearty, and comforting.
My family loves fair food just as much as the next family, so I wanted to make a quick and easy version at home that hits all the same great flavors. It’s easily one of our favorite recipes to date! Even my pickiest eater was all about it due to its resemblance of Fried Chicken!
🥩 Pork tenderloin vs pork loin
I know this recipe is labeled as a pork tenderloin sandwich, but I’m actually using pork loin chops! I realize this may spark some confusion, but bear with me here.
Normally, these two cuts aren’t used in place of one another because they’re actually quite different! Pork tenderloin comes from the muscle along the backbone of the pig on the inside, so it’s narrow, extremely lean, and cooks fast. Pork loin includes the tenderloin and the entire spine section (for ease of explanation).
Pork chops come from the outside of that spine section (opposite the tenderloin, separated by the spine itself) and are closest to the back skin. When you get bone-in pork chops, that bone is part of the spine.
Because the meat will be pounded until extra-thin and tender, they both work equally well for this sandwich. And since pork chops come evenly sliced, I find this cut much cheaper and just as easy to prep. I’ll save the tenderloin for a roast.
You can absolutely grab a tenderloin, cut your own chops and skip the butterfly method. This will result in a chop that doesn’t overhang from your burger bun – which is part of the charm in this deep-fried fair favorite. It’s really up to you!
🍳 Can you deep fry in cast iron?
Deep-frying in cast iron is absolutely possible! In my opinion, it’s the very best choice! You can absolutely use a regular pan, but cast iron retains heat extremely well, which is a plus when you’re frying foods. This way, the oil temperature stays even and recovers quickly.
🥘 Understanding Frying Oil
And I’ll point out here that though we’re saying “deep-fry” we’re actually skillet-frying. To deep fry you would use a Dutch oven to get the depth in oil and be able to fry large quantities at once. Here we’re using a skillet (10 or 12 inch) where we can use a quarter of the oil. With prices of food being what they are, let’s save a few bucks. Just fry one loin chop at a time, one side at a time. No need to fully submerge these.
👍 Reusing Frying Oil
Once all is said and done, allow your oil to cool to room temperature before passing through a fine mesh strainer into a glass. Then pour the now clean oil back into your initial bottle. You can reuse this oil for quite a while. The only time not to reuse oil is if it has been burned or used with seafood (I’m just weird about seafood). You’ll be able to smell a difference in it. If it still smells like the initial oil, go ahead and add it back into the original container.
👉 What oil is best for frying?
I love peanut oil! The way it holds temperature and the flavor it gives to the end dish is fantastic! That being said, it’s hard to find it in stores in bulk. Plus, you may have a peanut allergy in your house, in which case a canola oil, corn oil, or vegetable oil is just fine. Remember, this is for frying only. If you want to know my thoughts on oil for the care of your cast iron, check out this post.
🛒 Ingredients you’ll need for this pork tenderloin sandwich
This pork tenderloin sandwich is made with simple ingredients, but it’s packed with flavor! Here’s what you’ll need:
- Vegetable oil – Choose a neutral-flavored vegetable oil to fry the breaded pork chops in. The best choices include canola, peanut, or corn oil.
- Pork loin – Look for pork loin chops that are about an inch thick. I prefer the richer flavor of pork loin chops, but pork tenderloin works equally well. Just be sure to cut it into pieces that are around six ounces each.
- Flour and egg – We’ll be using all-purpose flour followed by farm-fresh eggs to dredge the pork tenderloin in. Make sure they are on separate dishes.
- Oyster crackers – My family is from Maine, so we always have oyster crackers kicking around! They’re savory, buttery, and perfectly salty (notice the lack of salt in the recipe!). If you can’t find oyster crackers where you live, replace them with regular saltine crackers.
- Seasoning – I add Italian seasoning, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, and pepper to my breading. If you don’t have any Italian seasoning, you can easily make your own with equal parts of these dried herbs: basil, oregano, thyme, sage, rosemary, and parsley.
- Buns – Regular burger buns will do the trick! There is no need to get fancy (although a pretzel bun would be amazing!), just make sure the bun is sturdy enough to hold up against the breaded pork.
- Purple onion – Use fresh, thinly sliced red onion. If you don’t have any red onion, white or yellow onion both work just as well.
- Pickle chips – For quicker and easier prep work, I recommend pickle chips. You can also use regular pickles, and slice them yourself. Bonus Tip: Use the bread and butter pickle chips! The sweet and sour tang cuts through the richness of the fat and fried sandwich.
- Fried onions – I equate fried onions with adding potato chips to a sandwich, just with a little extra oomph! We always use French’s crispy fried onions, but any brand will do. If you want to get ‘extra’ with it, whip up some Beer Battered Onion Rings instead!
- Sauce – Mayonnaise, BBQ sauce, and ketchup are my family’s go-to choices. The combination of crispy pork chops, zesty pickles and onions, and creamy sauces is pretty hard to beat!
👩🏻🍳How to make a fried pork tenderloin sandwich
I really can’t say enough times how quick and easy this fried pork tenderloin sandwich is to whip together. Check out this detailed collage and printable instructions if it’s your first time making pork chop sandwiches.
- First, you will need to butterfly the pork loin chops. Next, pound them with a meat mallet between two pieces of plastic wrap until they are quite thin.
- In a large Ziploc bag with a rolling pin, or in a food processor, crush the oyster crackers by about half. You still want there to be some texture! Add all seasonings to the bag, and shake it up thoroughly to combine everything.
- Add all-purpose flour to a rimmed plate or dish, and whisk the eggs on another. Dredge the pork chops first in the flour, then in the whisked eggs to coat them fully.
- Add the oyster cracker coating to another rimmed plate, and dredge the pork chops a final time. Set each pork chop on a plate or wire rack-lined sheet pan, repeating the same process with the remaining chops.
- Heat vegetable oil in the bottom of a 10 or 12-inch skillet over medium. You’ll know the oil is ready when it’s simmering and “dancing.” The temperature should be about 350-375 degrees F.
- Using tongs, fry the pork chops 2 at a time until the bottoms are golden brown. Flip gently, and fry them on the second side. Repeat the same steps with all remaining pork chops.
- Let the cooked pork chops drain excess oil on the wire rack-lined pan for a few minutes, then prepare your sandwiches and enjoy!
That doesn’t seem like too much work, right? See the recipe card below for a quick print out of these instructions.
🥘 Tips and notes
Use an oil thermometer. For evenly cooked pork chops, it’s best to use an oil thermometer to ensure your oil maintains a temperature of 350-375 degrees F.
Use enough oil. The oil should come up about half an inch from the bottom of your skillet. This will prevent the breading on the pork chops from sticking to the skillet and burning.
Keep the pork chops warm. If you’re making a double or triple batch, keep the pork chops warm in your oven at 200F until you’re ready to serve.
Other breading. Obviously, my family is partial to oyster crackers. But, you can try panko breadcrumbs or cornflakes to see what your family prefers! Try switching up the flavors of the breading with spices like cayenne, chili powder, cumin, Cajun, or Creole seasoning.
Different toppings. Change up the toppings to make this dish your own. Try pickled jalapeños and hot sauce for a spicy kick. If you’re feeling adventurous, drizzle barbecue sauce on for a smoky flavor or mustard for more tang.
🌡 How to store breaded pork
For the best taste and texture, serve your pork tenderloin sandwiches immediately after frying.
If you do have extras, make sure to keep the pork chops separately from the bun and toppings. Once completely cooled, transfer them to an airtight container and store in the fridge for about 3-4 days.
To reheat, you can fry the pork chops once more to achieve a crispy texture. If you don’t want to go through the trouble, you can always heat them in the oven at 350F, or until warmed all the way through. If you happen to have an air fryer, I love using mine to reheat leftovers! It’s very quick like a microwave, but heats like an oven!
🍽 What to serve with pork chop sandwiches
You can go traditional and serve pork chop sandwiches with potato chips for a quick lunch or with comforting side dishes for more of a fun dinner meal. These are some of my favorite pairings!
- Lemon Garlic Baked Beans
- Roasted Brussels Sprouts
- Dutch Oven Bacon Mac and Cheese
- Brown Sugar Cornbread
🎯 Pin it for later!
Crispy Pork Tenderloin Sandwich
- 3 rimmed plates or pie plates for dredging
- sheet pan with wire rack
- 10 or 12 inch skillet
- Rolling Pin
- gallon ziploc bag
- Cutting board
- measuring spoons
- 4 cups vegetable oil for frying
- 4 pork loin chops (pork chops) 1 inch thick
- 1 cup flour all-purpose
- 2 eggs
- 2 cups oyster crackers
- 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 4 burger buns
- sliced purple onion
- pickle chips
- french’s onions
- mayonnaise ketchup etc.
- Butterfly the pork loin chops and pound with a meat mallet between two pieces of plastic wrap until about 1/4 inch in thickness.
- In a large Ziploc bag with a rolling pin, or in a food processor, crush the oyster crackers by about 50%.
- Add the spices to the bag with the crushed oyster crackers and mix.
- Add flour to a rimmed plate and dredge the pork chops.
- Whisk the eggs in a separate rimmed plate. Dredge floured pork chops in egg and coat fully.
- Add the oyster cracker coating to another rimmed plate and dredge. Set pork chop on a plate or wire rack lined sheet pan and repeat with remaining chops.
- Add enough oil to the skillet, about 3 cups, to coat the bottom of a 10 or 12 inch skillet about 1/2 inch. Heat over medium heat. Oil should simmer and dance when ready. The temperature should be about 350F.
- Use tongs to fry pork chops 2 at a time in the oil until the bottom is golden brown, about 4 minutes. Flip gently using the tongs and fry for an additional 2 minutes. Repeat with remaining pork chops.
- Remove from the oil and set on the wire rack to drain of excess oil.
- Prepare sandwich and enjoy.