A breaded pork tenderloin sandwich was always my mom’s favorite when she would occasionally take my sister and me to a cafe for lunch. This was in west-central Illinois and I’ve been reading that the breaded pork tenderloin sandwich was either an Indiana thing or an Iowa thing.
I’m not sure where Illinois fits in all this, but it seemed to me that all the little cafes would serve some sort of pork tenderloin sandwich.
These breaded pieces of pork were usually twice the size of the bun they were served with, so you had a breaded pork tenderloin appetizer to bite off before you got to the real deal.
The sandwiches were way too big for a 5 year old to order, so mom would occasionally give me a bite of the appetizer part and I’d get to savor the crunchy goodness, if only for one bite.
And as I recall, these boneless pork loin chops were breaded with saltine crackers. Not bread crumbs or panko breadcrumbs but ordinary Nabisco saltine crackers.
Here’s some history about the breaded tenderloin sandwich as told by two websites, one explaining Indiana pork tenderloin sandwich and the other Iowa breaded tenderloin sandwich.
Sort of a dueling banjos thing over who makes the tastiest breaded pork tenderloin sandwich.
Making the Sandwich
Honestly, I can’t recall making a breaded pork tenderloin sandwich in the past. Maybe I have.
All I know is my recollection of the taste from so many years ago. It was a simple, no-frills pork tenderloin. Pounded flat with a meat mallet, floured, drenched in egg wash then generously coated with saltine cracker crumbs containing onion powder and garlic powder, and deep-fried until golden brown.
There are different cuts of pork you can use for these sandwiches.
First, there is loin which is like the boneless pork chops that you will find in grocery stores.
You can pound these flat but they tend to be a bit less tender than the ‘tenderloin’.
The other is the actual tenderloin or pork filet which is a long thin cut from the central spine area of the pig. These are normally packaged in plastic and will require you to give them a wipe with paper towels to dry them.
Both cuts of pork will work equally well for these crispy pork chops.
How to Flatten the Pork Tenderloin
The tenderloin is small, only 3 to 3 1/2 inches in diameter. You cut off the silver skin if there is any, then cut off fillets that are 1 inch wide, then butterfly the fillets by cutting down the middle with a very sharp knife to about 3/4 to 1/2 inches of the other side, then laying them flat.
Then one by one, cover the butterflied pork with plastic wrap and use a meat tenderizer mallet or a flat-bottomed 8-inch skillet as I did, to pound the pork flat to about 1/4″ to 3/8 inches thick.
Just don’t go so far as to start putting holes in the tenderloin. It took me 8 to 12 hits to get them to where they were flat enough.
When I make these now, I use a tenderizing mallet and it does a better job and is easy to control the thickness you are getting. You should end up with a 5″ to 7″ diameter pork patty.
Being this flat, it will only take about a minute and a half to fry each side in 350° vegetable oil. The pork will be perfectly done and still nice and juicy on the inside.
When you cook these, use a heavy skillet, preferably a cast-iron one to hold the heat.
I used my infrared thermometer to keep tabs on the oil temperature. When frying these, I actually had to turn off the gas at one point because it got too hot. Try to keep the oil temperature at 350° to 375°F.
Just keep an eye on the temperature the best you can. As you can see, even with these somewhat smaller tenderloins. I just fried one at a time but the cooking went really fast.
You can use a baking sheet with a drying rack to place the finished tenderloins in the oven with the toasted buns. These are best when served nice and warm.
How to Eat a Breaded Tenderloin Sandwich
Now to put this sandwich together. First I lightly buttered the bun halves and toasted them in the cast iron frying pan before I did anything else.
I put them on a plate and in the oven on super low to keep warm. Then traditionally you need lettuce, hamburger pickle slices, and a slice of red onion.
The final touch is a good amount of plain old yellow mustard.
If you need any other condiment with this, maybe a small amount of mayo on the bun would be acceptable. But just so no one else could see it!
Serve this easy dinner recipe with cole slaw, baked beans, potato chips, potato salad, or any other favorite sides.
That’s what my mom’s breaded pork tenderloin sandwich recipe would look like. And Mary Jo said, “where has this been all my life?…you can keep making this on a regular basis.” I think I will.
How To Reheat Leftovers
Reheating the breaded pork tenderloins is easy. First, keep leftovers in a covered container in the refrigerator. Make sure that the pork cutlets are at room temperature before refrigerating. Otherwise, they will have moisture condensing on them.
Oven Place the pork on a lightly oiled baking sheet and heat for 15 minutes at 350°F.
Microwave They can be reheated in a microwave but they will not be as crispy as if heated in an oven.
This easy pork chop recipe can even be made on busy weeknights and everyone will love it.
Breaded Pork Tenderloin Sandwich Recipe
- 12 oz . pork tenderloin , sliced into 4, 1" fillets then butterflied and pounded to 1/4" to 3/8" thickness
- 4 bakery hamburger buns , insides lightly buttered and toasted on the stove top in a heavy skillet, kept warm in a low oven.
- 1 cup flour
- 2 eggs
- 3 tbsp whole milk
- 1 sleeve of saltine crackers (40 crackers)
- 1 tbsp onion powder
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp salt
- vegetable oil , enough to fill a large skillet 1/2 inch deep, about 1 cup
- lettuce leaves
- sliced red onion
- hamburger pickle slices
- yellow mustard
- Lightly butter then toast the buns in a heavy skillet on the stovetop and keep warm.
- Cut, butterfly, and pound the pork thin, (1/4" to 3/8"), with a tenderizing mallet and place on a plate
- Beat eggs and milk together and place in a large, shallow bowl or pie plate.
- Put saltines in a food processor and pulse until you have a coarse to medium chop then add onion powder, garlic powder, and salt and give one or two more pulses to combine.
- Put saltines in a shallow bowl or pie plate.
- Put flour in a shallow bowl and set up a dredging line with flour first, eggs second and saltines last.
- Heat vegetable oil to 350°-375°F preferably in a cast iron skillet or other heavy skillet.
- Take one of the pork fillets and coat with flour, then place in the egg wash, let the excess drip off then place in the seasoned cracker crumbs and coat well by patting the crumbs on.
- Place in the 350° oil for 1 1/2 to 2 mins. until the crumbs are browned.
- Use a spatula and fork to gently turn to the other side and fry that side until browned 1 1/2 to 2 mins.
- Remove from the oil and place on a cooling rack over a paper towel lined baking sheet and place in a warm oven.
- Continue with the remaining pork.
- Serve right away on the hamburger bun with lettuce, pickles, onion and mustard. (A tomato slice is good also).
- This recipe will also work with store bought tenderized pork loin cutlets. Just make sure they are 1/4" to 3/8" thick and trim any fat from the edges.
- Canola oil or corn oil is the best for frying.
- An instant read thermometer or a laser type thermometer is good to use to make sure the oil doesn't get too cool or too hot.
Here are a couple more pork tenderloin recipes to try.
Healthy pork tenderloin steaks with spicy salsa
How i miss these…moved from North Central IL to Florida nearly 10 years ago. Could not and still never found a restaurant who made these. Finally found this recipe and bought some pork cutlets and made them. Such a hit!!thank you sincerely for posting!!!!!
Hi Barbara, Thank you for trying this and for the nice comment. You are making me hungry!
thank you for the detailed instructions, i wasn’t sure about the cutting/pounding part. I confess i have not made this yet — but i have a tenderloin in the fridge!
You can do this Laura! It’s not that hard to slice the meat open and pound it down until it is about 1/4″ to 3/8″ thick. Take it slow and use a really sharp knife. The rest of the recipe is easy once you have the thin pork filets. And the sandwiches are so good. I think you will love it.
Thank you for the comment.
I made a vegan version of this using vegan pork and just egg and it turned out great!!
I’ve never had vegan pork, but I’m glad it worked for you.
Thanks for the comment.
Oh wow! I fondly remember pork tenderloin sandwiches from my childhood. My mom was from Marseilles, Illinois. Whenever we visited my Grandma, we’d go out for pork tenderloin sandwiches and root beers from the A&W. This was back in the 70’s. I always heard the sandwich originated in Ottowa Illinois. Anyway, thanks for this. I can’t wait to make it.
Hi Joanna. When I was a kid, we would launch our runabout in Marseilles on the Illinois River and run down to Starved Rock State Park. My aunt, uncle and cousins lived in Princeton. Great memories and I hope that my pork tenderloin sandwich renews some of yours. Nice story and thanks for the comment.
I use the cubed pork (like cubed steak). A lot less work and very tasty. I’m from Indiana so these have been a staple all my life.
Hey Pam…cubed pork is a good, easy way to make the breaded pork tenderloin. Same great taste without the pounding. Thanks for the comment.
Oooo these look so tasty & surprisingly simple. Can’t wait to test them out myself. I have a feeling they won’t look quite as good though haha!
Hey Corran…they are very tasty and they will look good…just put them on colorful plates!
The beautiful picture of this sandwich makes it tempting to try immediately!
I promise not to use ketchup!
I’m making them again tomorrow Al. Back by popular demand!
In Iowa we use ketchup. So there! Home of the best tenderloins! lol
Aaaannnnnd, we have another WINNER!! I’ve always loved pork tenderloin sandwiches, but I never had one like this before. When I bit into it, I got a wonderful light crunch which I have never had in any other pork tenderloin sandwich I’ve eaten in the past. And the flavor was great, too. Joe’s going to have to make this on a regular basis for me. You know what they say, “happy wife, happy life”.