Grilled Pork Chops with Cherry Salsa

Cherries are the first fruit to arrive in the summer here in Northern California, and when the trees are laden with them, you have to pick and eat as many as you can, before the worms and birds get to the rest. Friends with cherry trees are good friends indeed, especially when they arrive with baskets filled to the brim. Mostly this is an opportunity to gorge, and engage in pit spitting contests. (I’m still mad that they’ve cross-bred the seeds out of watermelons, depriving me and thousands of kids of the summer rite of seed spitting, but am happy to engage with cherry pits.) But if you want get all grown up on us, you can do other things with fresh cherries—clafouti, cherry fro yo, and sweet cherry pie—or make a simple cherry salsa to accompany pork chops or pork tenderloin.

Now a note about salsa. Just because many of us are used to salsa served with tacos doesn’t mean that salsas are inherently spicy. Salsa is just the Spanish word for sauce. In Mexico that usually means the addition of a spicy element such as dried red chiles or chopped fresh jalapeños. Salsa can also be Spanish or Italian inspired, without chiles, which is what we’ve chosen to do here. I actually tried without success to make a spicy cherry salsa; any chile heat ended up detracting from the sweet flavor of the cherries. We finally settled on this simple version with red onions, a little lemon juice, and some balsamic and a touch of sugar to intensify the flavor of the cherries. Lovely served with grilled pork chops.

Any other ideas out there for savory spins on fresh cherries? Please let us know in the comments.

Grilled Pork Chops with Cherry Salsa Recipe

  • Prep time: 15 minutes
  • Cook time: 10 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4.

If your cherries are juicy, the salsa will be juicy too. If you want the salsa less juicy, put the finished salsa into a fine-meshed strainer and strain off some of the excess juice.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup chopped red onion
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 pounds cherries, about 4 cups
  • 4 pork chops, about 3/4-inch thick
  • Salt
  • Olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh basil
  • 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 heaping teaspoon sugar

Method

1 Mix the chopped onion with the lemon juice in a small bowl and set aside. The lemon juice will help take the edge off the onions.

2 Coat the pork chops in olive oil and sprinkle salt over them. Set aside at room temperature.

3 Pit and de-stem the cherries. A cherry pitter is magical for this task, but if you don't have one, use a small knife. Double check for stray pits, they always seem to find their way into dishes that call for fresh cherries.

4 Put the cherries, onions and chopped basil into a food processor. Pulse a few times until you have a chunky salsa, with differing textures of cherry. Alternately, you can chop everything by hand.

5 Mix in the balsamic vinegar, the 1/2 teaspoon salt and sugar. Add more of any of these ingredients to taste. Set aside at room temperature. You can make this salsa up to 8 hours in advance.

6 Prepare your grill for high direct heat. Grill the pork chops over high heat with the grill cover closed for 3 minutes. Turn them 45 degrees on the same side to get a pretty cross-hatch pattern, then close the grill cover and cook another 3 minutes. Turn the pork chops over, but this time keep the grill cover open and cook for a final 2-3 minutes. Allow to rest for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Serve the pork chops with the cherry salsa.

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Links:

Pork Tenderloin with Indian Spiced Cherry Chutney - from Food Blogga
Cherry Glazed Pork - from Our Life in the Kitchen
Pork Medallions with Pinot Noir-Cherry Sauce - from the Noble Pig

15 Comments

  1. Adam Hertz

    What an interesting combo of flavors. I don’t do pork, so I’m thinking of trying this with duck breasts.

  2. Barbara Tarrh

    Have done a similar salsa with pork tenderloin but cilantro lime and jalapeno. It’s very good. Last night used leftover cherries and blueberries w/OJ and sugar to make a compote for waffles. Also yummy.

  3. Linda Connelly

    This sounds lovely, but we don’t grill much. Is there a way to make this dish on top of or in the oven?

    Just make pork chops in the regular way, like this, but with salt and pepper instead of a spice rub. ~Elise

  4. Gloria

    Tucos in Davis makes a wonderful cherry gazpacho. It’s apparently so popular that when I asked for the recipe, the chef had a pre-printed handout.

  5. Scott McGlinchey

    This is a very nice salsa recipe however, Pork chops react better to moderate heat for a bit longer time period vs. high heat and fast cooking like a steak does. They come out more tender and jucier using lower heat. I love the salsa!

  6. Celeste Quinn

    How about a curried couscous salad with cherries and parsley and pine nuts? A local co-op does something like that with dried cherries, why not fresh? Suspect other grains, rices would also do nicely as a salad served room temperature and would be a make ahead thing w/out mayo for a summer time savory treat. Thanks, Elise. Happy Father’s Day to your father and all the best to your entire family. Celeste

    Great idea Celeste and I’ll pass your father’s day greeting along to my dad! ~Elise

  7. patricia

    Love the sound of this salsa – don’t eat pork, but will try it with grilled chicken.
    I love cherries and use them for several types of sweets (muffins, tarts, cake, sauce for ice cream, etc.) As for savory, I’ve only done salad. Not really much of a recipe, but I like mixed greens salad with cherries, fresh goat cheese, olive oil and balsamic reduction. One of my summertime favorites.

  8. Rachel

    This sounds terrific, but my husband has an allergic reaction to uncooked stone fruits. Any idea if this would work with cooked cherries?

    I would use our cherry compote which is cooked. Leave out the nuts if you want. ~Elise

  9. Anna

    I made this recipe for Father’s Day and the cherry salsa is DELICIOUS!! We had it with salmon a few days later and it was also very good! I will definitely make this recipe again.

  10. Debbie

    I made this last night and had a hard time time not eating all the cherry salsa before the pork chops were grilled! Delicious recipe and combo. Thanks Elise.

  11. juliemarg

    It is really a great combination. So delicious!

  12. SaraR

    My husband made this for dinner a couple of nights ago, and it was SO delicious. Thank you!! We always love all of your recipes, but I am still dreaming about this one – YUM!

  13. RachH

    My husband and I made this for dinner tonight, and it was superb!!! I’ve been a canning fool this weekend, but I could not bear to can any more cherries and still had 2 lbs. left. This recipe is a lifesaver, and I am so excited to have leftovers for tomorrow. Thanks for your wonderful site and recipes!

  14. Sara

    Made this tonight and it was awesome! I only made half the amount of the cherry salsa and found it to be plenty. My fiance and I both really enjoyed it – a great use for the cherries I picked up at the farmer’s market yesterday!

    I marinated my pork chops in red wine vinegar for about 45 minutes, then rinsed, dried, covered each side with salt and pepper, and cooked on the stove as described in your recipe for “mom’s perfect pork chops” – they turned out perfectly juicy and were delicious alongside this unique salsa! Thanks Elise!

  15. janet

    made this this evening, family loved it! to add heat to the salsa, i added probably 2 tsp of pepper, gave it heat, but didn’t change the taste. this is definitely a keeper! thanks!

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