Last Updated on October 2, 2023 by Carne Diem
Origin: American, American Midwest
Method: Fryer, StovetopJump to Recipe
Inspired by the world famous pork tenderloin sandwich from Kitty's Cafe in Kansas City, this epic pork sandwich is tempura battered, fried and then finished with lettuce, tomato, and a little hot sauce. This sandwich is the major reason that this small, unassuming lunch counter restaurant was named one of the 50 best restaurants in America by the New York Times, in 2022.
Thankfully, for those that can't make the pilgrimage to Kansas City to try this sandwich in person, you can make this tempura fried pork sandwich at home.
Table of contents
Making the Tempura Fried Pork Tenderloin Sandwich
To make this fried pork tenderloin sandwich with tempura pork you will just need to prepare your tempura batter, fry the sandwich, load it up with your favorite toppings and dig in.
Selecting your pork
To make a pork tenderloin sandwich you want to find pork loin that is as thinly sliced as possible. You may see these thin sliced pork loin chops labeled as breakfast chops. Other thinly sliced, boneless pork chops will also work in the recipe, but if the pork cutlets are too thick, you made need to pound them with a meat mallet until they are as thin as possible.
Trim any excess or hard fat from the pork cutlets and discard.
Once you have sliced and pounded your pork cutlets thin, season them with a little salt and black pepper. Cover with plastic wrap while you prepare the tempura batter and prepare your oil for frying.
Making the Tempura Batter for Pork
To make the pork tempura batter, mix together all of dry ingredients in a medium sized bowl. Cornstarch and baking powder in this recipe help provide a less dense batter and aid in crispiness. Salt and ranch seasoning in the batter help with flavor.
In a second bowl, beat the egg and then add the club soda and beat to combine. Use a cold club soda, as for best results you want your tempura batter to be chilled.
Next, add the egg/club soda mixture to the dry ingredients and stir together until evenly combined. Dip the pork cutlets into the batter and then fry. We find it best to dip the pork cutlets into the batter just before frying, so it is typically best to work in batches.
Cooking the fried tenderloin sandwich
To fry the pork cutlets, heat oil to 350 degrees. Canola, vegetable, or peanut oil work well for frying pork or use any neutral cooking oil with high smoke point.
Fry the tempura pork tenderloin cutlets for 90 seconds then flip and cook an additional 90 seconds. Cook in 30 second intervals, as needed, to reach desired color and an internal temperature of at least 140 degrees.
Once they are done cooking, move the fried tenderloins to a plate lined with paper towels and allow to drain for 1-2 minutes.
Assemble your pork sandwich
At Kitty's Cafe, their tempura pork sandwich is triple stacked and then topped with shredded lettuce, tomato, and a little hot sauce. This it how we prefer to serve it as well. If your pork cutlets were on the thicker side you may choose to just use 1 or 2 pieces of tempura pork per sandwich.
It is best to serve the tempura pork as soon as it has drained and cooled enough to eat because tempura batter can begin to get soggy if it is left sitting to long.
What to serve with Pork Tenderloin Sandwiches
Pork tenderloins sandwiches pair well with other classic diner fare like crispy French Fries, tater tots, onion rings, or mashed potatoes. Grilled or fried vegetables are also always a great addition to the meal.
Need more recipe ideas using pork. Check out our growing list of recipes where "the other white meat" is the star of the show.
- Blackstone Griddle Italian Pork Milanese
- Kansas City Tomahawk Style Pork Chops
- Smoked Pork Crown Roast
- Kalua Pork: Hawaiian Pulled Pork
- Barbeque Char Siu
- Smoked Pork Burnt Ends
- Authentic Schwenkbraten: German Swinging Pork
Leftover tempura pork does not reheat especially well and is best eaten right after making it. Reheated tempura tends to end up soggy and sad. If you are forced to reheat the tempura pork, your best bet is to fry the pork a second time or reheat it in an air fryer or convection oven.
Frequently Asked Questions
Kitty's Cafe in Kansas City was named one of the best restaurants in America by the New York Times, in large part due to its no-frills, deep-fried tempura pork tenderloin sandwich. If you are lucky enough to eat there, remember that they are cash only.
Originating in Japan, tempura is food that is battered and then fried. The batter is typically light, airy, and crunchy.
Using a carbonated liquid like soda water or seltzer helps make for an airy and crunchy tempura. Not only does it improve aeration of the batter by providing tiny air pockets, but it also lessens gluten formation which prevents a bready batter. Use of baking powder, cornstarch, and baking soda also help aid in achieving a light and crispy tempura batter.
Cold tempura batter lessens the amount of oil being absorbed. You want a hot oil meeting a cold batter to shock and crisp the batter. If your batter is too warm or your oil is too cold, you can end up with a soggy batter.
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Tempura Fried Pork Tenderloin Sandwich
- 2 Pounds Boneless Pork Loin Chops thin as possible
- 1.5 Cups All-Purpose Flour
- ½ Cup Cornstarch
- 2 teaspoons Baking Powder
- 2 teaspoons Salt
- ½ teaspoon Baking Soda
- 2 teaspoons Ranch Seasoning
- 2 Cups Club Soda Cold
- 1 Egg Beaten
- You want your pork cutlets as thin as possible. If they are over ¼ inch thick, place between 2 pieces of parchment paper and pound thin with a meat mallet.
- Lightly season the pork with salt and pepper, to taste.
Make the tempura batter
- Add the dry ingredients to a medium sized bowl and mix to combine.
- In a second bowl beat together the egg and cold club soda. Add the mixture to the bowl with the dry ingredients and mix to make a smooth batter.
- Dip the pork cutlets in the batter and fry in batches as described below.
Frying the tempura pork
- Heat oil to 350 degrees. Fry the tempura pork tenderloin cutlets for 90 seconds then flip and cook an additional 90 seconds. Cook in 30 second intervals as needed to reach desired color and an internal temp of at least 140 degrees.
- Move to a paper towel covered plate and allow to drain for 1-2 minutes.
Assemble the sandwich
- Place tomato on the lower bun and top with 2 pieces of tempura fried pork tenderloin. Top with shredded or chopped lettuce and drizzle with hot sauce as desired.