Pork tenderloin lives up to its name, especially when it’s grilled up into meltingly tender, paprika and cumin spiced Pinchos Morunos! These little bites are a fun and tasty addition to a tapas party. And don’t forget the paprika aioli! The only thing better than a Spanish pork kebab is one with a yummy sauce for dipping.
Several years ago I was in the mood to make a little tapas party for dinner. So I spent the day puttering in the kitchen, and in the end, we had all sorts of little bites inspired by tapas I’ve enjoyed in restaurants.
Making lots of appetizers is one of my favorite ways to get all creative in the kitchen. Do you like that too? Are you my people?
Since each bite is only part of dinner, I can try new flavors knowing that there will be other dishes even one doesn’t work out quite the way I wanted. (Or I think it’s perfect, but no one else is a fan, because it contains eggplant or beets or other things the family doesn’t like too much.)
One of dishes I made was these Pinchos Morunos. Which, properly speaking, are not actually tapas! They are pinchos. Or pintxos. Depending on what region of Spain you are in. 🙂
What are Pinchos (or Pintxos)?
While I’m sure a Spanish person could get more into the intricacies of what makes a pincho a pincho, I have learned a few of the rules.
- Pinchos are frequently skewered.
- Pinchos are always separate bites, never one large dish which has been cut up into portions.
- While the cuisine has evolved, pinchos traditionally include a piece of bread at the bottom of the skewer.
- Pinchos can range from very simple bites to complex and inventive dishes.
- Lastly, pinchos are commonly found in the more northern regions of Spain. Particularly Castilla y Leon and Basque. In Basque they are pintxos.
Whether they are pinchos or pintxos or tapas, whether they have a skewer or not, and whether they include the traditional bread or they are pushing the boundaries of the form; they are all delicious little bites and we should include more of them in our lives.
How to Make Pinchos Morunos
So long as you are comfortable with an aioli, this pincho is super simple to make! (And, if you’re not, I’ll allow a ‘cheater aioli’ – but I recommend the flavor of the real thing.)
First up, trim and cube a pork tenderloin. Then mix up your marinade and toss the pork into it. Marinate the pork for at least 2 hours. I like to make the pork in the morning for that night’s dinner, or the night before if I’m having friends over for a midday party.
An hour or two before you are going to grill, start soaking your skewers. If you go for the 2 hour marinade time, put the skewers in the water now.
Preheat your grill and skewer up the pork. I generally use long skewers and then either make up little ones once the pork is cooked or lay out the pork in a bowl for people to pierce with a toothpick.
Grill the pork on high with the grill uncovered. Turning once or twice, until the pork is 140-145F. Don’t overcook! I did that once and I had the toughest pork tenderloin ever. I didn’t know it could be that chewy!
Make the aioli. You can do this the day before, while the pork is marinating, or while it’s cooking (so long as you have someone else to watch the grill).
Whisk together the egg yolk, salt, and a bit of lemon juice. Then slowly add the olive oil, while whisking continuously. Once all the oil is added, sprinkle in the spices and adjust the flavors/consistency to your liking. Keep the aioli chilled until you are ready to use it.
Serve the pinchos morunos with the aioli, lemon wedges, some grilled bread, and a nice glass of wine.
Recipes for a Tapas (Pinchos) Party
While I have a number of tapas on the site in my Spanish tapas category, I picked a few I think go quite well with pinchos morunos. I skipped deep fried (though, if you’re into that, I have some great ones) and went with a mix of tapas which are no-cook or easy to make ahead along others best served warm.
- Spanish Spiced Almonds
- Pan Fried Spanish Cauliflower Tapas
- Marinated Manchego Tapas
- Quick and Easy Romesco Sauce
- Crispy Potato Skins with Chorizo and Cheese
And, since you are going to need a little something to drink, I also have a few yummy sangria recipes! I have red, white, and rose for all your sangria needs. 🙂 You can go simple with some cold Cava, or a Rioja, but I love a sangria for a party.
If you try my recipe for Pinchos Morunos, I would love to hear from you in the comments with your experience and rating! You can connect with me by subscribing to my emails (see the form in the sidebar or below the recipe card), liking my FACEBOOK page, or by following me on PINTEREST.
– Happy Grilling, Annemarie
Pinchos Morunos - Spanish Pork Kebabs
- 1 pork tenderloin, about 1 1/4 lb
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- 1/2 tsp coriander
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1/2 tsp oregano
- 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1 egg yolk
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 2 tbsp lemon juice, divided - 1 tsp to start
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
- 1/2 tsp paprika
- 1 clove garlic, shaved on a microplane or finely minced
- 1-2 dashes cayenne, or hot paprika
- 2 lemons, cut into wedges
- Trim the pork tenderloin, removing silverskin and fat. Then cut it into 1-inch cubes.
- Mix together all the marinade ingredients, either in a container just large enough for the pork (I use a 9x9 baking dish) or in a large sealable plastic bag. Add the pork to the marinade and toss to combine. Cover the container if needed and refrigerate the pork to marinate for at least two hours and up to one day. For the longer marinating time, stir the pork once or twice.
- At least one hour before you are going to grill, begin soaking the bamboo skewers. You will need 4-5 if you are using long skewers, and about 15 for short ones. (Count your pork cubes and plan on one short skewer for every 2 cubes.)
- Preheat the grill to high heat. While the grill is heating, thread the pork onto the prepared skewers.
- Grill the kebabs on high for 4-5 minutes per side, or until the pork reaches 140F in the center. Let the pork rest for a few minutes, then serve with the aioli, and grilled bread if you wish.
- Whisk together the egg yolk, salt, and 1 tsp of the lemon juice. Once the color darkens and then lightens again, begin drizzling in the olive oil. Drizzle in the olive oil in a thin stream while continuously whisking.
- Whisk in another tablespoon of the lemon juice. Then taste the aioli and add more lemon juice if needed. Add the paprikas, garlic, and cayenne. Taste again and adjust the seasonings as needed.
- Aioli can be made up to one day ahead.
- Portions: This recipes serves 8-10 as an appetizer (along with other apps at a tapas party) or 3-4 as the main course of a dinner. For tapas portions, use small skewers which will hold 2 cubes of pork per skewer.
- Bread: Pinchos are usually served with bread. Slice up a nice baguette, brush it with olive oil, and grill it a minute or two a side (until browned). Then sprinkle with a bit of kosher salt and serve alongside the pinchos.
- Aioli: If your aioli is too thick, add water by the teaspoon, while whisking, until it is the consistency you want.
- Cheater Aioli: For cheater aioli, use 1/2 cup of prepared mayonnaise. Add the spices as written, then add lemon juice to taste. I also like to whisk in a tablespoon or so of extra virgin olive oil to give it that olive oil flavor.