Sweet and Spicy Pork

These super easy Sweet and Spicy pork chops with a homemade brown sugar spice rub will quickly become a family favorite.

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I am always on the hunt for new quick cooking proteins and center cut pork chops are a new favorite, especially when they are covered in this sweet and spicy pork rub. It's sweet, savory, and just slightly spicy for a ten minute meal the entire family will devour.

Chicken breasts have their time and place, that's for sure. I eat chicken often and in a variety of different ways. Chicken is healthy and a good source of lean protein. BUT do you know what else is a great source of lean protein? Pork tenderloin.

Lean cut pork chops are an often overlooked lean protein source that can be a terrific addition to your weekly meals, especially if you are getting tired of chicken breast (which we all do from time to time for sure). Center cut lean pork chops are not only low in fat and calories, but bonus: they are also easy and quick to cook, making it a great option for quick-and-easy weekday (or weekend) meals.

Today's recipe for sweet and spicy pork comes to you courtesy of a rub. The spice rub I created for this pork recipe combines a hint of brown sugar with some chili powder and other spices to make the pork’s outside crust both sweet and spicy. After the pork is coated on both sides, it can be quickly grilled or broiled until just cooked through.

My only caution to you when making this recipe is to try not to overcook the pork because it can dry out very quickly. So do use a timer to make sure you're only cooking it 3-5 minutes per side, depending on if you are grilling or broiling and the thickness.

Spice rubbed lean pork chops with parsley being cut by a fork.

How to make a dry rub for pork?

A spice rub is a combination of spices that you mix together and put on your meat dry (i.e. no olive oil or other wet conduits to help the rub stick to the meat). Dry rubs often have a sugar component to them (though not always) that caramelizes the rub when cooked to help develop a nice crust on your meat. In this rub, I used brown sugar to serve that purpose. Here’s the basic recipe:

  • 4 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • Optional: Add onion powder, oregano, cumin, cinnamon, or cayenne pepper to taste.
  • Store in an airtight container for up to 6 months in a cool, dry pantry.

Side Dish Ideas

There are plenty of side dishes that go along with this Sweet and Spicy Pork.

  • Brussels Sprouts with Garlic, Bacon, and Parmesan are one of my go-tos when making pork tenderloin. A little of each ingredient goes a long way in this recipe. Savory, garlicky, bacony goodness all packed into a nutritious vegetable? Sign me up!
  • Roasted Squash is another side dish that just screams fall to me and the sweetness of the squash is very complementary to the slight sweetness of the pork tenderloin.
  • Of course, one of the easiest sides to pull together is to make a side salad. Start with any lettuce you have, or a mixture of them and dice up veggies, mushrooms, olives, banana peppers, anything you have in your fridge that you think would go together and toss. Serve with a light vinaigrette to as a dressing.
  • Rolls or a slice of French or sourdough bread would go great with the pork tenderloin. Use Hawaiian rolls to make sliders and serve with a side of vegetables for a protein-filled, satisfying meal.
  • You can have this Slow Cooker Garlic Mushroom Quinoa dish cooking right alongside your pork tenderloin. These two recipes are a match made in healthy meal heaven.

Lean pork chops with homemade spice rub on a plate with cherry tomatoes.

What temp should center cut pork chops be cooked to?

I have found that cooking lean center cut pork chops for 3-5 minutes per side yields a completely cooked piece of meat. However, if you are not sure that your meat is done or want to take the internal temperature, then the correct temperature should be 160 degrees. Pork will rise in temperature while it rests.

So for best results, pull it out at 150 degrees and let it rest for 10 minutes. At that point, it should reach an internal temperature of 160. Taking the temperature of the meat will also help you to avoid overcooking it.

I hope you'll find this Sweet and Spicy Pork as satisfying as my family did. Keep a tenderloin in your freezer for those nights when you simply want to try something new, you will not be disappointed.

Looking for more healthy pork recipes?

The Recipe
Sweet and spicy pork chops piled on a brown sugar spice rub on a plate with parsley.

Sweet and Spicy Pork

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  • 1.33 lb lean center cut pork chops, boneless
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/8 tsp chili powder
  • 1/8 tsp salt

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Mix together the brown sugar, paprika, garlic powder, chili powder, and salt to make a rub. Coat the pork on both sides.


To grill: Grill on medium high for about 5 minutes per side depending on thickness.


To broil: Broil 4-5 inches from heat source for about 4-5 minutes per side

Nutritional Facts
Serving Size: 6 oz.
Amount Per Serving
Calories 207
Calories from Fat 47
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 5g
Saturated Fat 2g
Monounsaturated Fat 2g
Polyunsaturated Fat 1g
Cholesterol 100mg
Sodium 151mg
Total Carbohydrate 4g
Dietary Fiber 0g
Sugars 3g
Protein 34g

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

The Nutritional Values provided are estimates only and may vary based on the preparation method.

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About the author Meet Kristen McCaffrey
Hi, I’m the cookbook author, recipe developer, and food enthusiast behind Slender Kitchen. I am obsessed with making healthy food that is easy to prepare and absolutely delicious. Meal planning is my secret weapon and I hope I can make meal time easier for you with our tried and tested recipes and foolproof meal plans. Learn More
1 Comment
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November 6, 2019 - 17:19
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