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Mexican Citrus Drenched Pork Chops over Butternut Squash and Potatoes

Mexican Citrus Drenched Pork Chops over Butternut Squash and Potatoes

Closely adapted from Pati Jinich; skin-on chicken thighs would also work well in this dish. Using canned fire roasted tomatoes cuts down on time and steps (and works better in the winter where I live), but if you prefer, broil 1 lb ripe, freshly picked tomatoes until charred on each side and then core and chop when cooled.

This recipe could easily be cut in half and cooked in a smaller deep skillet.

Course Entree
Cuisine Mexican
Servings 8 people


  • 8 thick cut pork chops
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 3-4 T vegetable oil (I prefer avocado)
  • 2 medium white or yellow onions, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 t dried Mexican oregano
  • 1/2 t dried thyme
  • 1 t ground cumin
  • 1/4 t Ceylon cinnamon (see note)
  • 1/2 t ground chipotle powder
  • 1 1/2 t grated piloncillo or packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 15-oz can fire roasted tomatoes
  • 1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 2 T freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into chunks
  • 1-1 1/2 lbs tiny baby potatoes (if you have larger potatoes you can cut them into chunks instead, but be sure to use thin-skinned boiling varieties)
  • cilantro sprigs for garnish


  1. Rub the pork chops with freshly ground black pepper and kosher sea salt. Let sit for 10-20 minutes.

  2. Heat the oil in a large, deep skillet--I have a straight-sided 14-inch stainless steel that is perfect for these kinds of dishes. Brown the pork chops over medium-high heat, 4-5 minutes per side. Do them in batches so they do not steam, and remove them to a large bowl and set aside when done.

  3. Reduce the heat to medium and add the onions with a pinch of salt. If browning the chops has left any spots ready to scorch and burn, add a splash of water with the onions. Scrape all of the browned bits off of the bottom of the pan while you caramelize the onions.

  4. After about 5 minutes, when the onions are starting to brown at the edges, add the garlic. Continue to cook, stirring, for another 1-2 minutes.

  5. Add the oregano and thyme, crumbling them into the pan by rubbing between your clean palms (this well help release their oils). Stir and then add the cumin, cinnamon, chipotle powder and brown sugar. Mix into the dish thoroughly and let it cook for about 30 seconds, to roast the spices and bring out their flavor.

  6. Add the fire roasted tomatoes and citrus juices. Cover partially and cook for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally. The sauce should be simmering briskly and thickening a bit--if it starts boiling wildly, reduce the heat some. 

  7. Add the butternut squash and potatoes and stir. Cover partially again, once again at a simmer, and cook for 4-5 minutes.

  8. Reduce the heat to medium low and nestle the pork chops over the sauce and veggies. Be sure to drizzle any accumulated juices from browning the meat into the dish.

  9. Cover the dish and cook, over medium low or low (my cook top runs quite hot, so low worked better for me--you want a gentle simmer), for 30 minutes. Flip the pork chops over halfway through. After 30 minutes, the squash and potatoes should be tender and the pork should register at least 150 F. The sauce will be soupy but much thicker.

  10. Remove the pork chops to a platter. Increase the heat to medium or medium-low and simmer the sauce briskly for 3-4 minutes. The sauce will thicken further. Taste for salt.

  11. Serve hot, garnished with cilantro sprigs.

Recipe Notes

This dish is a prime example of when the kind of cinnamon you use matters. Cassia, or the basic "cinnamon" sold as cinnamon in American stores, will be way too harsh and pungent for this dish. You want the soft fruitiness of true cinnamon, usually labeled as Ceylon cinnamon.